A while back, I ordered a G4 pack from Gossamer Gear. I’d taken it on a couple of overnighters, but no ‘big hikes’. But recently, I went on a three day backpacking trip on a section of the AT and was excited to see how it did.
My previous pack was a big ol’ huge Sierra Designs Revival 65. It weighed nearly 4 pounds, which now, seems ridiculous.( A friend of mine carries a 6 pound pack, so I guess it wasn’t as heavy as it could be.) However, I started having back pain (from an old tornado injury) and realized I really needed to lighten my pack weight. I started looking around for UL packs and found the Gossamer Gear G4. I was on a tight budget and GG was running some kind of holiday special where I could save some sweet moolah that particular weekend, so I was able to get the G4, with a hip belt, for under $100.
I suppose the G4 is ‘entry level’ as far as Gossamer Gear packs go. It kinda has that ‘homemade’ look to it. Actually, you can find patterns on the interweb to built your own G4 pack, for cheap. (I could perform successful sinus surgery easier than I could operate a sewing machine, so I just bought one.) I really wanted the Gorilla pack, but it would have been quite a bit more, so I happily settled for the G4. It found the box waiting on me at the Post Office a few days later. I picked up the package and wondered if someone had mailed me a can of pork ‘n’ beans, since the box was so small. I opened it up to find the pack crushed down to a really tiny size. Since there was no internal frame or loads of hard foam padding to bulk it up, it was easy to crush it down.
The material felt very thin and I wondered about how durable it would be. Well, so far, it hasn’t ripped, but with ultralight gear, you can’t treat it as harshly as you would a heavier pack. You have to treat it with a little more care. Sacrificing durability is sometimes a tradeoff of having a lightweight pack.
Construction for most of the pack is 70D urethane coated ripstop nylon. Certain parts are made of 210D urethane coated double wall ripstop nylon. There are three very large, strong mesh pockets on the back and sides. This pack has about as much mesh as Lady Gaga‘s wardrobe on any given day. (That’s a lot.)
On the side that goes up against your back, there are two mesh ‘pad holder’ pockets that let you stick a section of foam padding in there to give it some structure. I cut a piece of my ThermaRest Ridgerest foam pad off to use as a seat cushion and it fit in there nicely. (FYI, do the opposite of what’s shown in this picture and put the heat reflecting side AWAY from you, if you use a Ridgerest pad I like do. I must have packed up in a hurry and didn’t realize what I was doing. My back was a bit sweaty because of this little oversight.)
I ordered a Large pack which weighs right at 17 ounces. I ordered a size Large hip belt, too, which added another 4 ounces to it. So, without any additional accessories added on, I’m at 21 ounces without anything packed inside. The pack holds 4000 cubic inches or 66L. 3200 c.i., or 52L, in main body compartment and 800 c.i. in the exterior mesh pockets (combined). (My old Revival 65 pack held 65 Liters, so I really didn’t have to lose any pack space by going to a lighter pack. Win!)
GG says it’ll carry 30lbs max. I’m guessing it pops apart like a novelty can of snakes when you hit 31lbs. On my recent AT hike, I carried right at 19 pounds comfortably. Not too much on the shoulders, nor did it feel uncomfortable on the waist at all.
Sizing info from Gossamer Gear’s site is as follows:
Small (13″ – 16″ torso) (33 – 43 cm.)
Medium (16″ – 20″ torso) (41 – 51 cm.)
Large (20″ – 24″ torso) (51 – 61 cm.)
The hip belt is held on with a Velcro straps on the front and back of the belt. It stays on there pretty good and it’s not easy to get it off once it’s secured. The belt is padded with thin foam strips that you insert yourself, if you want them padded. As I mentioned, my belt is sized Large, which works great, since my waist is 36 inches. I read a review about this pack that noted the hip belt allows the pack to pivot a bit, and that’s true, but it also allows it to shift around a bit. I haven’t had any problems with 19-20lb loads being unmanageable, however. My first thoughts after loading it up with 3 days worth of gear was ‘Sure seems bulky’.
Shoulder straps are padded with foam but you cant remove the foam like you can with the hip belt. There are loops on the upper straps that let you feed a drinking tube through, if you’re carrying a hydration bladder. I used them to clip a 20 oz. water bottle through with my Aqua Clips. I think I’ll use some shock cord to help stabilize them, however. Also, there are two small plastic loops on each strap for attaching things. I’m gonna use one set for looping some shock cord through to help stabilize my water bottles.
The sternum strap is removable and the buckle for the strap has a little ‘emergency’ whistle built in. I think that’s pretty common for most all packs now, though.
There is a lacing system on the back of the pack that also comes with a shock cord and two locks. This is also pretty good for using as a ‘clothesline’ if you want to hang damp clothes out to dry as you walk. I suppose this shock cord ‘compression’ system works alright for compressing the stuff in the mesh pockets, but that’s about it. I’m used to having several heavy duty compression straps located all over the place to tighten everything down, but with this pack…well, there aren’t really any. Well, there’s one on the roll top to help keep it closed and squash everything down, but that’s about it. Again, I found that my pack was really bulky and bulging like Chris Christie wearing Capilene base layers. However, I believe that smarter packing methods would fix this. Perhaps I should do some reading on the subject:
I think that I could reduce some of that bulk by not using a stuff sack and just putting my sleeping bag down inside my pack liner, then stuffing some clothes on top. In retrospect, I think a lot of my bulk came from just bad packing (Operator error). I stuck my ‘quick grab items’ in the mesh pockets, but I also stuffed my tent in the largest pocket. I was thinking that it’d be a good idea to have it there in case I needed to set it up quickly in the rain. I would have it handy in case I needed to set up in the rain. Instead, it (along with my Dri Ducks rain gear stuffed alongside it) increased the ‘bulgitude factor’ and made it harder to get a pack cover to stay on properly.
Also, I added on a GG belt pocket, which I loved. Made it really easy to grab a Clif bar and my camera out on a moments notice. I plan to get another one. I’d like to have a pocket to go on one of the shoulder straps, but I’m not sure I want to give up one of my water bottles. I guess I could drop one of the 1L Platypus soft bottles I carried and just use a Platypus Hoser instead.
I feel like I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll shut up now. In a nutshell, I really like this pack. I just think that it’ll take a few more outings to find out what works best for me and how to arrange my gear within it to get everything just right.