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Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review

Lower volume ultralight backpack with removable stays and other components - so you can set up the pack for individual trips and personal preferences to your heart's content.

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

It’s rare to review a product with only minor flaws, and for those exceptional products, we reserve our Highly Recommended rating. The Gorilla is a perfect size for ultralight backpacking, for a wide range of trip lengths. Many of its components are removable, so it can readily be set up for individual trips and user preferences. This versatile pack can be stripped down to a 15.6-ounce frameless backpack for light loads, or built up to comfortably carry 25-plus-pound loads when needed. For the ultralight backpacker, this is one pack that will do it all.

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by Will Rietveld |

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review - 1
The new Gorilla backpack is Gossamer Gear's latest and greatest - 2800 cubic inches and 24.5 ounces (size Large). It's constructed of durable fabrics and mesh and has a new contoured removable aluminum frame.


I still have my original Gossamer Gear G4 frameless backpack. It has a few holes in the bottom from scraping over rocks, but it's still a perfectly good pack. Fast forward to the new Gossamer Gorilla pack, and you will notice some familiar features - front and side mesh pockets, rolltop closure, wide shoulder straps, sleeping pad sleeve, and you can still stuff socks for padding in the shoulder straps and hipbelt if you want. Conceptually, Gossamer Gear packs have not changed, but there are huge improvements in the details that make them a whole lot better. The new Gorilla backpack, with its durable fabrics and removable curved aluminum frame, is state-of-the-art Gossamer Gear. (And you can still purchase a new G4 if you need a replacement.)

Gossamer Gear introduced an ultralight removable frame in their Mariposa backpack back in 2004, consisting of two straight carbon fiber stays (0.9 ounce/pair) inserted into sleeves on the backpanel. The Mariposa could be used either as a frameless backpack or with the stays inserted to increase its load carrying capacity. The concept was a big advancement at the time (an ultralight frameless or internal frame backpack ALL IN ONE!), but the straight stays were less than ideal for pack fit and load-carrying comfort. After experimenting with several prototypes, they developed a curved aluminum stay (3.4 ounces) that fits into the same sleeves on the backpanel. I have tested both versions and can unequivocally say that the curved stay, along with other improvements incorporated into the Gorilla pack, are a big improvement. This pack is near perfection!


The new Gossamer Gear Gorilla is designed to be as versatile as possible. The pack comes in three sizes (S, M, L) and three hipbelt sizes are available. The pack body is the same for all pack sizes; the shoulder straps are simply sewn on at different heights to create different pack torso lengths. Many components (frame, hipbelt, sternum strap, shoulder strap and hipbelt padding, bungie system) of the pack are removable, so the user can choose the components he/she wants to use. Accessory hipbelt pockets are available for hikers who want to add them.

The Gorilla (2800 cubic inches, 23.2 ounces size Medium) is the second lightest internal frame backpack available. The lightest is the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus (3600 cubic inches, 22.3 ounces size Medium), which is constructed of lighter fabrics and has the same stay (yes, the stay is interchangeable, and older Mariposas can be easily retrofitted).

The key factors that differentiate the Gorilla (besides its lower volume) are more durable fabrics (210 denier PU coated ripstop body and durable stretch nylon pockets) and removable curved stay. The revised Miniposa (14.5 ounces size Medium) has the same dimensions and feature set, but it is constructed of silnylon and does not have a stay. The difference in weight between the two packs is 7.8 ounces, which is the weight added to the Gorilla by the removable frame and durable fabrics.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review - 2
Views of the Gossamer Gear Gorilla: The front view (top left) shows the pack's large front pocket made of durable stretch nylon. There are six loops in the side seams to attach a bungie system (not shown). The backpanel view (top right) shows the pack's wide shoulder straps and backpanel sleeve to hold a sleeping pad. The hipbelt pocket on the left is my camera case, and the right pocket is a Gossamer Gear add-on hipbelt pocket ($15). A side view (bottom left) shows a lower mesh pocket designed to make water bottles reachable. And the top view (bottom right) shows the pack's drawcord closure and top compression strap.

Suspension System and Features

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review - 3
Gossamer Gear's new curved stay (left) is made of aluminum tubing and weighs 3.4 ounces. It easily slips into sleeves sewn on the inside of the pack's backpanel (right). A silnylon hydration sleeve is visible inside the pack.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review - 4
Like other Gossamer Gear packs, the Gorilla has a mesh sleeve on the backpanel (left) that allows the user to insert a sleeping pad for padding. The mesh used in the sleeve is much improved over previous versions. Shoulder straps (center) measure nearly four inches wide from edge to edge, have removable closed cell foam padding, and are faced with 3D wicking mesh on the inside. The removable hipbelt (right, 4.1 ounces size Medium) is a similar width and construction.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review - 5
The new stretch nylon pockets on the Gorilla are really stretchy and very durable. The bottoms of the three exterior pockets (one front, two side) are 210 denier ripstop nylon for increased durability.

Note that the Gorilla pack does not have a torso length adjustment, so it's important to measure your torso length and choose the correct pack size. Hipbelt sizes are based on hiker girth. The only pack fit adjustment on the Gorilla is the shoulder strap length; the pack does not have load lifter straps or hipbelt stabilizer straps.

Field Testing

I tested the Gorilla on a number of on-trail and off-trail summer backpacking trips in the southern Rockies, carrying weights ranging from 10 to 25 pounds. For one quick overnight trip, I stripped the Gorilla down to a 15.6 ounce minimalist frameless backpack (I did leave the 0.4 ounce shoulder strap pads in) and carried 12.5 pounds. I also tested the pack fully equipped on walks near home with weights ranging from 25 to 35 pounds to determine its comfortable weight carrying capacity.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review - 6
Fully loaded Gorilla pack with 21 pounds (left), and the same pack used on a day trip from a base camp (right).

My immediate (and continuing) impressions of the Gorilla are as follows:

  • For me, the pack volume is perfect for ultralight backpacking (same for the Miniposa). It has the right amount of room for my ultralight gear kit, plus room for food, water, and fuel for up to eight days.
  • The construction is excellent. Stitching is close and tight, and there are adequate reinforcements in stress areas.
  • The new curved aluminum stay is golden! I really like the pack's fit.
  • I love the pack's wide shoulder straps for distributing weight, and the 3D mesh backing resists sliding on my shoulders.
  • The new stretch nylon exterior pockets really stretch out and will hold a lot of gear, and they're very durable. Outside pockets on some packs are tight and hard to get items in and out, but not so on the Gorilla.
  • The backpanel sleeping pad sleeve is much improved; it has stretch nylon panels on the side and 3D wicking fabric face, and it doesn't stretch out of shape and bleed dye like the mesh used on the old Miniposa.
  • The side pockets are shorter and angled to make a water bottle reachable with the pack on, but I use a hydration system, so I would prefer taller side pockets that would hold more (can't satisfy everyone!).
  • It's easy to access the hydration sleeve, and it's very easy to pass a drink tube through a port and down a shoulder strap.
  • The Gorilla functions well as a daypack for going on a day hike from a base camp
  • I really like the durable fabrics; this pack is built to last. The added weight is about 4.3 ounces.
  • The hipbelt requires some effort to remove because it has a Velcro patch on both sides. It's much easier to put back on.
  • Likewise, the sternum requires some effort to remove and replace. A screw driver helps.
  • The stay is very easy to remove and replace. The curvature can be changed by bending it over something round, but I found the pre-bent curvature just fine.

The heavier loads I carried with the Gorilla were 21 pounds on a base camping trip with my wife, and 25 pounds on another trip where I carried a friend's ridiculous 7-pound tent to help reduce his 40-pound-plus load (we talked a lot about how to reduce his pack weight!). I found the Gorilla, with all of its components, surprisingly comfortable carrying these weights. The wide shoulder straps really function well to distribute weight, so I did not have any shoulder strap pain at all, and tightening the hipbelt worked as expected to transfer weight to my hips.

From my weighted pack tests I conclude that the maximum weight carrying capacity (for me) for the Gorilla is about 30 pounds, and the comfortable weight carrying capacity is around 25 pounds. The stay in the Gorilla pack simply resides in sleeves on the backpanel. It is not anchored to the hipbelt at all, so there is no structural connection to support the weight. My opinion is that 25 pounds is a comfortable maximum weight for this pack, but it can easily carry up to 30 pounds when needed.

The Gorilla can be stripped down to a frameless backpack weighing 15.6 ounces (with 0.4 ounce shoulder strap padding left in). It requires some effort to remove the hipbelt and sternum strap, but once it's accomplished, pack weight can be reduced by half a pound. The Gorilla is delightful to carry frameless with a light load; the wide shoulder straps distribute weight very well, and the 3D mesh backing minimizes sliding on the shoulders.


The following table compares packs currently available that have removable stays, allowing the pack to be used either frameless or with an internal frame. Note: information is manufacturer data for a size Medium pack.

Pack Total Weight With Stays Volume (cubic inches) Fabric Stay Description Stay Weight (ounces) Adjustable Torso Cost (US$)
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 23.2 2800 210d ripstop Contoured aluminum tubing 3.4 No 165
Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus 22.3 3600 70d ripstop Contoured aluminum tubing 3.4 No 160
Six Moon Designs Starlite 30.0 4200 210d Dyneema 2 flat curved aluminum 5.0 Yes 175
Six Moon Designs Traveler 31.0 3800 210d Dyneema 2 flat curved aluminum 5.0 Yes 190

Note that all comparable backpacks have a much larger volume than the Gorilla, so the Gorilla is in a class by itself. If you are looking for a smaller volume backpack with removable stays, the Gorilla is the only one available. If you need more volume for lightweight backpacking or bulkier loads, you have a choice of three pack models that have removable stays. Of those, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus is the lightest by 8 ounces, but it does not have an adjustable torso.


Some readers may wonder why a 2800 cubic inch backpack needs a frame at all. The general rule of thumb is that a frameless backpack is comfortable to carry with loads less than 20 pounds. Of course that number will vary a bit up or down depending on hiker size and strength. For carrying more than 20 pounds, an internal frame backpack is recommended, and the sturdiness (and weight) of the pack will increase as the load increases. The Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack is extremely versatile because it can be used as a frameless backpack up to about 20 pounds, and the lightweight stay can be added to comfortably carry loads up to 25 pounds, or more. With food, water, and fuel, my pack weight is usually in the 17- to 21-pound range, occasionally higher for longer trips, so I find the frame to be a benefit on most of my trips.

Another potential issue may be the need for heavier, more durable fabrics in an ultralight backpack. There are definitely lighter packs available for ultralight backpacking, but they are strictly frameless backpacks. A removable frame backpack requires stronger fabrics to avoid damage from the stays wearing through or seams blowing out when the pack is under stress from heavier loads.

More durable fabrics also extend the life of the backpack considerably. The initial trend in ultralight frameless backpacks was to make them as light as possible, which meant really light fabrics like spinnaker and cuben fiber. And, yes, it is nice to have a super light pack for the times you want to backpack as light as possible. However, the current trend is to balance lightweight and durability, as evidenced by many of the current backpack models offered by Gossamer Gear, Six Moon Designs, Ultralight Adventure Equipment, and Mountain Laurel Designs. Pack designers and users have realized that incorporating durable fabrics into a pack does not increase weight that much, but it vastly increases durability and longevity. If you subscribe to that rationale, the Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack is an excellent choice.

Since I most frequently carry loads in the 17- to 21-pound range, I was inclined to use the Gorilla with all of its components because they simply work well together to provide a very comfortable pack that carries a moderate load very well. I personally found all of the features on the Gorilla worth their weight, except the bungie system, which I don't find very useful, but it's easily added when it's needed. The 1.6-ounce SitLight pad provided with the pack is also very useful as a backpanel pad, if you don't use a sleeping pad that is compatible with the pad sleeve (like the Big Agnes Clearview pad or Therm-a-Rest NeoAir pad). The bottom line is the Gorilla comes with a full complement of features, and most of them are removable, so you can set up the pack to match the trip and your personal preferences to your heart's content. Or, if you simply use the pack the way it comes out of the box, it's still very light and very comfortable to carry with moderate loads.



2009 Gossamer Gear Gorilla (


Removable internal frame, top loading, roll down top with top compression strap


2800 cu in (46 L) total
2,400 cu in (39 L) in main pack body and extension collar
400 cu in (6.5 L) in front and side pockets


Size L tested, includes pack, frame, shoulder and hipbelt pads, bungie attachment system.
Measured weight: 24.5 oz (695 g)
Manufacturer specification: 24.2 oz (686 g)

  Sizes Available

Unisex S, M, L; 3 hipbelt sizes

  Torso Fit Range

Small: fits torsos 13-17 in (33-43 cm)
Medium: fits torsos 16-20 in (41-51 cm)
Large: fits torsos 20-24 in (51-61 cm)


210d PU coated ripstop nylon, 30d silnylon, 4.5 oz/yd2 stretch nylon

  Frame Material

6061 aluminum tubing


Durable fabrics, removable curved aluminum stay, removable hipbelt available in 3 sizes, removable/adjustable sternum strap with whistle buckle, removable padding in shoulder straps and hipbelt, removable front bungie system, sleeping pad sleeve on backpanel, one front and two side stretch nylon pockets with 210d ripstop nylon on bottom, twp side compression straps, Y-top compression strap, extension collar, drawcord closure, 3D wicking fabric on inside of shoulder straps and hipbelt and on the backpanel, hydration sleeve with two hose ports, ice axe loop, haul loop

  Volume To Weight Ratio

114.3 cu in/oz (based on 2800 cu in and measured weight of 24.5 oz)

  Maximum Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

25 lb estimated comfortable load for an average person carrying the pack all day

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

16.3 (based on 25 lb and a measured weight of 1.53 lb)




Pack with curved aluminum stay and hipbelt, closed cell foam pads for hipbelt and shoulder straps, bungie system, SitLight pad for backpanel

What's Good

  • Lightest lower volume removable frame backpack available.
  • Pack volume is just right for ultralight backpacking.
  • Three pack sizes and three hipbelt sizes to fit most hikers.
  • Removable stays allow use as a frameless or internal frame pack.
  • Many components are removable, allowing the user to set up the pack for individual trips or personal preference.
  • Durable fabrics and mesh.
  • Contoured tubular frame is very lightweight and fits well.
  • Stretch nylon pockets are very durable and stretch easily to hold a lot of gear.
  • Fits well (if you choose the correct size).
  • Comfortably carries moderate loads.

What's Not So Good

  • No backpanel ventilation.
  • Frame not anchored to hipbelt.
  • Shoulder straps may be too wide for some hikers.
  • Grosgrain loop on frontpanel interferes with tightening the top strap.

Recommendations For Improvement

  • None, the Gorilla pack is as ideal as it gets.


"Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-10-13 00:10:00-06.


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Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review
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Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/25/2010 22:14:18 MDT Print View

The canister, being much heavier, will carry better inside than on top. Any pad, being light, though bulky, will do just fine on top.

What canister are you looking at?

Look Here to gain some other perspectives. The Ohm is similar in size to the Gorilla.

Edited by greg23 on 04/25/2010 22:18:38 MDT.

Andrei Tudor
(andrei_tudor) - M
Re: Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/26/2010 10:28:26 MDT Print View


Great thread, thanks for the link. I was about to give up on this pack, but I will now reconsider.

Bear canister - I was looking at the BearVault BV500, but I might actually get the Ursack S29. I have no experience with bear canisters, and very little with ultra light backpacking, and I'm not sure how many days worth of food I can fit in the Ursack (10.5L). Hopefully it will be enough for 9 days.

I use a Tarptent Moment for shelter. If I keep it in the stuff sack it came with, it looks like I might be able to carry it in one of the side pockets, and use the compression strap at the top to secure the other end. Alternatively, I can just take it out of the stuff sack and put it in the rear mesh pocket. It looks big enough for that.

Trekking poles - again, I'm a bit at a loss here. I plan to use adjustable poles, I suppose the side pocket / top compression strap combo could work.

Food - for 9 days, I will probably need around 15-16 lbs of food. Adding water, fuel and the rest of my gear (which is not all ultralight), I will be pushing 32-33 lbs. This seems to be at the upper end of the Gorilla carrying capacity. I was thinking of getting the hip belt / shoulder strap pockets and put some of the heavy / small stuff in there, which will take some of the weight off my back, but still leave me with 30 lbs. Has anyone tried the Gorilla with this weight?

I'm just throwing random ideas around, because I'm new to this, and I need to figure things out on paper before I commit and buy. Buying and returning is not a very good option for me either, I live in Canada, so shipping and customs for each package adds up to quite a lot.

Comments anyone?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/26/2010 10:46:48 MDT Print View



Where are the trips? Are black bears a problem? Grizz? Will you be camping in "popular spots" prone to bears problems, or in off-trail "seldom if ever used" places?

"I'm not sure how many days worth of food I can fit in the Ursack."

It certainly depends on your food "style". And using an OP sack inside (recommended) reduces what you can get in there, due to the OP closure. Also, your first day doesn't need to go in.

I struggle to get 8 days in a Ursack. For more than 7 or 8 days I now take 2 Ursacks, and split the food. It's adds weight, but makes packing Much easier.

Edited by greg23 on 04/26/2010 11:01:11 MDT.

Andrei Tudor
(andrei_tudor) - M
Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/26/2010 11:20:19 MDT Print View

My next trip is in Yukon, Kluane National Park, which is south of Alaska. Both grizzly and black bears. I wouldn't say they are a big problem in the area, and the camping will be entirely off trail - wilderness, to be exact. While that makes a bear encounter less likely, it also leaves me stranded if I lose my food, and I'm 3 days away from the exit point.

If you can only get 8 days into an Ursack, I can't expect to do any better. You seem to have been doing this for a while, and I'm just starting. However, after 2-3 days I will have consumed enough to fit all of my food inside, and during the first 3 days, whatever fits inside will be enough for me to bail out if I lose the rest.

Thanks for the answers, they help a lot.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/26/2010 11:27:47 MDT Print View

Yep...I'd give a canister a strong consideration!

As for experience...I've got None in that country. But there are others lurking about who have plenty. Hopefully they will chime in.

Edited by greg23 on 04/26/2010 11:34:25 MDT.

Brad Fisher

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: Re: Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/26/2010 17:37:14 MDT Print View

I'm going to try the BV500 with my Gorilla this summer in the Sierra's for 7 days. I'm going to carry the canister empty on top using the Y straps (probably add some velcro to both). Food should fit fine in the pack with my gear, but will not have to deal with the bulk of the canister inside or heavy canister on top. Got the idea from some nice folks on this site.

Andrei Tudor
(andrei_tudor) - M
Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/26/2010 20:31:17 MDT Print View


That sounds a lot like what I'm planning. What do you figure your pack will weigh, everything included? I'm trying to find someone who has used this pack with around 30 lbs, to see how it carries with this weight. I know +30 lbs is a long shot on these forums, but you never know...

Andrei Tudor
(andrei_tudor) - M
Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/26/2010 20:32:53 MDT Print View

The velcro sounds like a pretty good idea, by the way...

Brad Fisher

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/27/2010 08:23:30 MDT Print View

I'm between 30 and 31 pounds with 7 days of food. Base weight is around 14 pounds with the BV 450. I'm trying to see if two of us can get our food in 1 BV450 and 1 BV500.

I'm carrying a few extras like reading materials and probably have extra with some of my supplies (sunblock, TP, lighters, food, etc). My longest trip to date is 4 days, so this is new territory. I will learn from the trip and adjust accordingly.

I'm going the first week of August, so the weather will allow me to carry less clothes. For example:
- Rain gear: only bringing rain jacket (Marmot Mica)
- Layers: Golite short sleeve, thin smartwool long sleeve, Montbell EX
- Might bring one extra short sleeve shirt. On the list now
- Trail running shorts and a light pair of long pants to wear over them

i will carry my Marmot Hydrogen (30 degree) and that should be plenty with my layers. Based on past experience.

I will cook with the Caldera Keg and use the caddy for mug and freezer bag cooking.

Based on past use I should have room in the Gorilla for everything. I haven't carried over 20 lbs in the Gorilla, so I'm expecting the first couple of days to have some discomfort. Every day will get better and lighter.

That's the plan today, but I have several more months to adjust. I will also check the weather the day before flying out and adjust accordingly.

Have a great trip.

Andrei Tudor
(andrei_tudor) - M
Re: Re: Re: Full length sleeping pad with Gorilla? on 04/28/2010 11:44:10 MDT Print View


Thanks for the info. Unfortunately, my trip got scrapped. I will be buying the Gorilla anyway, it looks like I might be able to squeeze in a shorter trip (5 days) later in the year. For 5 days I shouldn't have any issues with either space or weight.

Andrei Tudor
(andrei_tudor) - M
Gorilla sizing on 04/28/2010 13:20:58 MDT Print View

I have a torso size of 19.5", so according to the sizing chart, I should be getting the Medium. However, I have been trying some Osprey Aether packs on, and the Large seemed to fit better. Their Medium is supposed to be good up to 20.5", and the Gorilla Medium only goes up to 20". Has anyone tried both packs? Is it a good idea to size the Gorilla based on how the Osprey fit?

Frank Steele
(knarfster) - F

Locale: Arizona
Re: Back ventilation... on 05/14/2010 17:05:42 MDT Print View

"No pack you wear is going to prevent your back from sweating, I don't care how fancy it is or what it's made out of."

Of course it won't prevent your back from sweating, its what happens with that sweat thats important. I have owned a GoLite Jam2, Litespeed and a GG virga, and none of them comes close to the air circulation of my Exos (which replaced an Atmos). Sure you are going to sweat, but the Exos allows the sweat to evaporate (thus cooling me off, important here in Arizona) The other packs didn't.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Contradiction? on 05/18/2010 14:37:47 MDT Print View

Per write up above:

What's Not So Good

* No backpanel ventilation.
* Frame not anchored to hipbelt.
* Shoulder straps may be too wide for some hikers.
* Grosgrain loop on frontpanel interferes with tightening the top strap.

Recommendations For Improvement

* None, the Gorilla pack is as ideal as it gets.

So which is it? 4 "not so good" points or a pack that's as ideal as it gets?

Looking at the 4 points, the wide shoulder straps are a subjective issue -- but points 1,2 and 4 read like improvement points to me. Are they? Or are they not?

Edited by ben2world on 05/18/2010 14:38:43 MDT.

David Moore
(jdmoore) - F
With Bearikade on 08/29/2011 13:07:04 MDT Print View

Hey there,

Does anyone have any experience of using the Bearikade Expedition with this pack? Thinking of buying this for a trip into the Sierras next year.


Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: With Bearikade on 08/29/2011 13:11:16 MDT Print View

Ceph Lotus
(Cephalotus) - MLife

Locale: California
Gorilla has better mesh than Mariposa Plus on 09/02/2011 17:02:41 MDT Print View

The latest Gorilla has a finer mesh on its exterior pockets than the Mariposa Plus, which stretches more and doesn't snag on bushes, branches, etc. as easily. I've heard Gossamer Gear will be switching over to this finer mesh on all their packs, but that probably won't happen until 2012.