Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 Ultralight Rucksack Review

Extensively tested and reviewed by Trek Scotland throughout May to September in the Cairngorms, Glen Affric, and surrounding mountainous areas.

Gossamer Gear have built up quite a following for their ultralight packs in recent years so we were very happy to receive the news that the Gorilla 40 would be making its way to our base in the Cairngorms. Dubbed as “the guru of lightness”, Gossamer Gear’s founder Glen Van Peski has built his reputation on creating ultra-lightweight products that have a focus on aiding trekkers throughout the world’s long-distance trails.

We received the Gorilla 40 with the medium sized hip belt included. Please note that the belt may need to be purchased separately so it would be best to check before buying. The folks at Ultralight Outdoor Gear provide the hip belt at an additional cost of £1. We would advise against purchasing the Gorilla 40 without the belt for reasons which we will go into further in this review.

The pack body in a medium size comes in at a mere 521 grams and if you were to remove the frame and SitLight pad this could be brought down by a further 145 grams. If your goal is purely weight saving you could take this pack down to a seriously low weight. For us, the weight of a pack needs some balance with comfort so for our regular use we had the full pack body plus the additional belt which came in at 865 grams. Our desired weight for a pack of this size would be around the 1kg mark. The Gorilla 40 is well below this, and for a pack that also includes a frame this is quite impressive.

You would expect this weight saving to result in the use of thin fabrics with a low amount of stitching, in which a lot of care will be needed to maintain a workable condition. This certainly isn’t the case when it comes to the main body of the pack which, has a tough 70/100 denier Robic ripstop nylon. This tough outer also adds a decent element of water/dirt resistance - although shouldn’t be considered as waterproof. You can certainly see Gossamer Gear’s approach to creating packs that need to be relied upon whilst on the trail, and whilst using the Gorilla 40 in a multitude of Scottish environments, very little signs of wear have shown in areas that adopt this tougher fabric.

Where Gossamer Gear have noticeably shaved the weight is the areas made up of mesh, including a large front pocket. Mesh is great for stuffing in items that need to dry out or be quick to hand. The downside, as with all mesh pockets, is they inevitably wear more easily over time. Extra care is needed for these areas, and already signs of wear are noticeable on our test pack. On the other hand, the large front and side mesh pockets are very generous in size and we found many items can be stored with easy access when required.

The main compartment is accessible from the only entry point at the top of the pack. Gossamer Gear have taken the decision to revert back to their old-style lid. This is another weight saving element where the top of the pack is one big opening which, when folded and secured with a couple of buckles, takes the shape of a regular lid. Included on the lid is a very spacious side opening zip pocket. This is great for keeping items that need to be tucked away securely but also accessible. We really like the idea behind this innovative approach but unfortunately, we do have a few issues surrounding this choice. The main issue is that placing items in the main compartment is more difficult than we are used to. It’s not easy to access it due to the increased number of buckles, and if you have any bulkier items stored in the lid pocket it wants to fold over and close in on itself, making it much slower to insert or remove items. For the weight conscious user this is just one of those niggles that will be accepted in return for a lighter load. As guides and photographers, it is more likely we need to be in and out of our packs many times throughout the day and over time this became quite a nuisance.

A decent amount of padding in the form of Air-mesh fabric on shoulder straps and hip belt is a bit of a surprise for a pack designed with weight saving in mind. This is no problem for us as the increased padding makes for a very comfortable pack. Although with no extra straps for adjustment on the shoulders to take the option of removing the frame resulted in uneven weight distribution and we would only advise removing the frame whilst carrying the bare minimum of equipment. For multi-day use we found the Gorilla 40 to be a comfortable pack for carrying lightweight gear for use in all seasons outside of winter. If you do want to pack in those extra items be sure not to overload the Gorilla 40, it can quickly become unbalanced and start to dig in around the shoulders.

A great feature of the Gorilla 40 is the SitLight pad. Not only does it make for a comfortable wear with decent airflow but it can be easily removed and used as a mat for camp or stopping for a break. The extra pockets included on the hip-belt are again, very generous in size, with items such as a GPS unit, compass, fire lighting equipment, midge net and a head torch all easily accommodated.

There are the usual extras found within most modern packs including attachments for walking poles or an ice axe. Full side and top compression straps also help to give the Gorilla even stability.

Our Verdict

There is a lot to like about the Gorilla 40. Strip it down to the bare bones and you can have a pack for extended expeditions at under 500 grams. Our working weight came in at 865 grams including the frame and hip belt as we found this balanced the weight-to-comfort ratio more suitably for our needs. It has an abundance of space including large pockets to the front and sides of the pack, with plenty of space to fit enough gear and provisions to see you throughout most seasons. The SitLight mat is a great feature, offering great comfort and airflow whilst doubling up as a seat for resting in camp or stopping for a quick bite to eat. Although Gossamer Gear have saved weight by utilising large amounts of delicate mesh fabric, the main build has not been compromised with a tough 70/100 denier Robic ripstop nylon which is also not far off being waterproof. The padding around the shoulders and hip belt is also well built and offer decent support, unfortunately a lack of adjustment points around the shoulders means the Gorilla 40 is not a pack you would want to overload. Gossamer gear has built up a reputation of designing packs for minimalist packing and if you are within this bracket you will find the Gorilla 40 to be a perfect fit. As guides who may often carry additional safety and/or photography equipment, we found we were often close to overloading the Gorilla 40 without packing too many extra items. The lid also became a bit of an issue we just couldn’t get used to. With this in mind, it would be hard for us to justify spending a large amount of money on a pack that would only get used a handful of times throughout the year.

Trek Scotland is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...

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