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I’ve Hiked Thousands of Miles with Dozens of Packs, and This Is My Go-To for Most Trips

I started backpacking in 2011 and have since hiked thousands of miles wearing backpacks in every category, from substantial, ultrapadded ones to superlight styles with no structure or support. As someone who splits her time between mellow canyon hikes in Death Valley National Park and 2,000-mile thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail, I wound up gravitating toward packs that fall somewhere between heavy-duty and minimalist. But most of the dozens I tried eventually revealed some sort of compromise. Some, while very light, ended up sacrificing support, like internal framing or a hipbelt, making them uncomfortable on longer journeys and severely limiting how much I could pack. Others that offered more features wound up weighing five pounds empty, with flapping webbing and chunky buckles adding to their bulk.

My interest in backpacking and researching backpacks isn’t just personal: Like other lucky people, I was able to turn a hobby into a career in the outdoor industry, and I’ve worked as an editor and writer for media companies covering the space. This time on the clock — coupled with my time on the trails — familiarized me with smaller brands like Gossamer Gear, the maker of the Mariposa pack I saw on lots of folks when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015. Popular among seasoned hikers and backpackers, Gossamer Gear manages to remain off the radars of more-commercial outdoor retailers: You won’t find its packs, tents, or hiking poles at REI. About a year and a half ago, it released the G4-20 — a reboot of its original G4 pack, which is beloved by an older generation of backpackers — so I requested a sample for one of the gear reviewers I worked with to test. A closer look revealed it fit the specs I was personally looking for in a backpack (smaller capacity, padded back, spacious hip-belt pockets, lightweight), and when my reviewer came back with glowing praise after giving it a whirl, I decided to request another sample to try for myself. Hundreds of miles later, my G4-20 pack barely shows any signs of wear and has proven so functional and comfortable that few, if any, treks have me strapping on something else.

Find the complete article written by Maggie Slepian here.

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December 3, 2023

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