Gear Shakedown: the Gossamer Gear G4 Pack

wooden sherpas
One of our goals was to assess what worked and what didn’t with our gear systems – clothing, cooking, shelter, sleep, packing and safety – after having experimented and revised them over the last 2200 miles. We had limited backpacking experience before the AT, so our gear configuration was based on research, educated guesses, suppositions and hearsay. We’re still alive, so it mostly worked out, I guess…

Packs
The Gossamer Gear G4 turned out to be a great sub 1lb pack at a super affordable price. It took a minute to figure out the best way to pack it – none of the ultralight gear we used came with user instructions – but the G4 turned out to be comfortable and durable. As long as you’re not looking for a extra features, hidden compartments, compression straps and whatnot the G4 is versatile and easy to use.

We never carried more than 30lbs per resupply – only tipping the scales above 25lbs for our first 3 resupplies, which were for between 7 and 10 days. We found the G4 was most effective at under 25lbs, which allowed us to carry between 10-12lb base-weight, about 6 days of food, and a liter of water.

The simplicity and price of the G4 was appealing. Sara’s G4 was 15.2oz, and NKO’s weighed in at only 14.5 oz after removing the optional waistbelt. This meant that with 2lbs of food per-person-per-day (pppd) we could carry 6 days of food, and 1/2 liter of water, at between 23 – 25lb. The most important thing for us was learning to resupply more often – we started the trip trying to stay out of town for 7 – 10 days at a time, but quickly found that towns were easy to get to and experiencing town time was an essential part of the Appalachian Trail experience.

As with much of the ultralight gear we experimented with on this trip, a bit of ingenuity makes up for fewer features:
– walking with 1/2 liter of ’emergency’ water in the pack, and keeping 1 liter of water in hand. Simply carrying drinking water made us more aware of how much we had and kept us hydrated. It also kept 2.2 lb/liter off our backs.
– Carring the pack on one shoulder during hot ascents provided great ventilation, especially after eating through a day or two of food weight.
– The deep mesh side pockets were annoying at first. We soon learned it’s easier to loosen a shoulder strap and swing the pack around on one shoulder while still walking – in this case, the higher mesh pockets ensured that nothing fell out during this maneuver. This ended up working great, and seemed like we had easier access to our everyday gear than many of the homies with more conventional packs.

The issues with the pack:
– The top loop and tiedown strap assembly failed on both our packs at 800 miles – not a big deal since we had a sewing kit, but funny that they both failed within 50 miles of each other carrying basically the same loads.
– The actual pack straps needed more tooth. The same nylon strap materiel was used throughout the pack, but we found it slipped almost constantly, especially at loads over 15lb. While we enjoyed being able to easily adjust our pack straps, it was frustrating to continually try and keep the pack positioned with even a nominal load.

Overall, we found these pack met our needs nicely. Many people were surprised we were carrying such small packs and light weight, but it proved essential for hiking comfortably over long distances. The quality of materials and manufacture were, for the most part, superb, and we’re both looking forward to trying more of the Gossamer Gear products on our future outings.

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