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GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW

GoLite makes some significant improvements on an old favorite – without increasing the weight!


Overall Rating: Recommended

For an ultralight frameless backpack, you basically have a choice between a very lightweight (but less durable) silnylon or spinnaker pack that weighs as little as 6-8 ounces, or a more durable pack like the Jam2 that weighs 0.75 pound more. The choice is yours, and the features and comfort of the GoLite Jam2 just made that choice a lot more difficult.

Durability is a consideration for many backpackers. The Jam2 is suitable for bushwhacking, while silnylon and spinnaker packs are not. The Jam2 will have greater longevity.

The GoLite Jam2 is somewhat comparable with the Ultralight Adventure Equipment Conduit pack. The Conduit has a similar volume and is also made of durable Dyneema Gridstop fabric. The main difference is that the Conduit has mesh pockets on the front and sides, which are less durable and not water-resistant compared to the Jam2’s large fabric front pocket and stretch-woven nylon side pockets. And the Circuit costs $25 more.

Overall, the Jam2 is a pack that one can fall in love with. It’s just the right size for summer ultralight backpacking, is very comfortable to carry, very durable, and its feature set is refined.

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by Will Rietveld |

GoLite Jam<sup>2</sup> Backpack REVIEW


GoLite has redesigned their entire pack line for 2007, replacing 28 previous packs with a new line consisting of 9 packs. And all but one (the Ion) are available in men’s and women’s specific sizes. The Jam2 pack is the midsize model in their new Venture Series of frameless backpacks, and is an upgrade of the very popular Jam pack. What are the changes, and is the Jam2 really better than its predecessor?

What’s Good

  • Large front pocket with water-resistant zipper
  • Slightly more volume than the Jam
  • 3-liter hydration sleeve
  • Side compression straps connect to opposite side
  • Lightweight durable fabrics make it suitable for bushwhacking
  • Transfers weight to the hips very well

What’s Not So Good

  • Heavier than a silnylon or spinnaker pack with the same volume
  • Side compression straps do not connect in the middle to attach gear to the front of the pack



GoLite 2007 Jam2


Frameless, top loading, drawstring and rolldown closure with top compression strap


Size L tested 3200 ci (52 L)


1 lb 6.1 oz (627 g) measured weight, size L; manufacturer’s specification 1 lb 5 oz (595 g), size M

  Sizes Available

Men’s M,L; Women’s S,M

  Torso Fit Range

Men’s M fits 17.5 to 19.5 inch torsos, men’s L fits 19.5 to 21.5 inch torsos; women’s S fits 15.5 to 17.5 inch torsos, women’s M fits 17.5 to 19.5 inch torsos


210d Dyneema Gridstop polyurethane-coated nylon


Large gusseted fabric front pocket with water-resistant zipper, two side stretch nylon/Spandex side pockets, two compression straps on each side that connect to the opposite side, 3-liter interior hydration sleeve, 9-inch extension collar, two bungee tool loops, Compaktor System for volume reduction, two ice axe loops, haul loop, sternum strap

  Volume To Weight Ratio

144.8 ci/oz size M/L (based on 3200 ci and a measured weight of 22.1 oz)

  Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

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

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

14.5 (based on 20 lb and a measured weight of 1.38 lb)


$100 US


There’s an old saying - don’t mess with success - and GoLite recognized that with the Jam when they consolidated their backpack line. They renamed it the Jam2 and gave it a number of upgrades that make it even better than the original. And (just for us) they kept the weight the same - it still weighs 21 ounces in size Medium.

GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW - 1
Manufacturer photos of the original Jam pack (left) and the new Jam2 (right).

The more significant changes in the new Jam2 pack are as follows:

  • 250 cubic inches more volume (size M is now 3000 cubic inches)
  • Internal 3-liter hydration sleeve with two hose ports
  • Side compression straps have quick release buckles and are longer so will accommodate a rolled foam pad, and they will connect to the opposite side
  • Shoulder straps have an angled attachment, and are more contoured and padded with spacer mesh
  • Slightly taller and longer hipbelt wings
  • Side pockets are a durable stretch nylon/Spandex fabric and angled for easier access with the pack on
  • Bungee tool loops replace the Velcro loops
  • Water-resistant zipper on the front pocket
  • Compaktor System to reduce pack volume to 1300 cubic inches

GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW - 2
Views of the Jam2. The front of the pack (top left) is dominated by a huge fabric pocket with water-repellent zipper. Each side (top right) has two long compression straps and a stretch pocket. Shoulder straps have an angled attachment (bottom left). The top (bottom right) is a simple drawcord and roll-down closure with a compression strap.

Suspension System

GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW - 3
The shoulder straps (left) on the Jam2 are mounted at an angle at the top, and are more contoured and better ventilated than the previous Jam. There’s a removable 0.25-inch thick closed-cell foam pad behind the backpanel. The hipbelt (right) is a simple fabric wing and webbing belt.

The Jam2 in size Large fit me (6 feet, 170 pounds) very well. It’s shaped to fit the contour of my back and is remarkably comfortable to carry with loads up to 20 pounds. Although I personally did not find the shoulder straps to be adequately padded to comfortably carry loads over 20 pounds, hikers with stronger shoulders might. With the pack stuffed full to create a virtual frame, I am impressed by how well the Jam2 transfers weight to the hips. The simple fabric hipbelt wing and webbing belt are perfectly comfortable, without the need for extra padding.

Features and Utility

GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW - 4
GoLite’s new Compaktor System is a novel idea to adjust pack volume. By connecting a pair of clips to loops at the bottom of the pack, the volume can be reduced to 1300 cubic inches. Remarkable!

GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW - 5
Four side compression straps (top left) serve to further adjust pack volume and stabilize smaller loads (shown here with the Compaktor System hooked). Further, the side compression straps have quick release buckles and the straps are long enough to connect to the opposite side (top right). This creates a straight-jacket compression system that seriously compacts and stabilizes the pack. The long compression straps will accommodate attaching larger items to the side of the pack (bottom left), like a full-length RidgeRest pad. However, the gender on the buckles does not work out to connect in the middle (bottom right) to attach gear to the front of the pack. Reversing the gender of the buckles on one side would enable the connection.

The side pockets are a durable stretch nylon/Lycra fabric, and are angled for easier access to water bottles with the pack on. However, the compression straps immediately above the side pockets interfere with re-inserting a water bottle (see photo below). A simple solution is to unclip the compression strap.

GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW - 6
The Jam2 adds a 3-liter interior hydration sleeve with two hose ports (left). I personally prefer to use the hydration sleeve for my sleeping pad and carry a short 2-liter Platypus hydration system in a side pocket (right), which is more convenient to access than the interior sleeve.

Unlike other ultralight frameless backpacks, the Jam2 is made of durable Dyneema Gridstop fabric and has durable pockets, which make it suitable for bushwhacking. It’s also very water-repellent (except for the side pockets), which I tested in rain and snow showers in the field. The large gusseted front pocket is advantageous over a mesh pocket because it keeps your gear dry, and has a full-width water-resistant zipper to provide easy access.

GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW - 7
To find out how water-repellent the Jam2 is, I tested it under the shower. The water-resistant zipper and PU coating on the inside of the fabric stopped most of the water, but the front pocket leaked a little through a gap between the two zipper pulls and the side seams leaked some. The latter can be eliminated by seam sealing. The fabric surface, shoulder straps, and webbing straps wetted, so the pack did gain a little weight.

What’s Unique

The Jam2 is a 3200 ci pack weighing less than a pound and a half with a wonderful large gusseted front gear pocket that is highly water-resistant and easy to access. Also GoLite’s new Compaktor System is simple and elegant, and works very effectively in combination with its four side compression straps to reduce pack volume and stabilize smaller loads.

Recommendations for Improvement

Reverse the gender of the compression strap buckles on one side so they can be released and connected at the center with the straps on the other side. This would add utility by allowing larger gear items to be attached the front of the pack.


"GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2007-02-06 03:00:00-07.


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GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW
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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/06/2007 21:42:19 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/07/2007 04:13:28 MST Print View

Those compression straps are long.

Could a pad, like the GG NightLight Pad (sectioned torso-length or longer), or the Z-Rest (Z-lite, y'all know which one - it's that orange one that folds accordion style) be placed on the back of the pack and the compression straps brought around the BACK (instead of the FRONT like in the pics to compact the pack) to hold the Pad in place. If so, this would provide mega-cushioning to the wearer's back (it might NOT be necessary with the Jam^2???), and would free up pack volume if the user is NOT forming a v-frame by making a larger cylinder out of their sleep pad.

If i understood the Review, buckle gender won't be an issue here as it's essentially no different than when forming the Kompactor system, i.e. the straps still need to cross over and attach to the other side. The question here is, "Will they reach?"

Just a thought. Anyone have one of these packs & can comment.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/07/2007 17:07:40 MST Print View

I wonder why the bottom of the pack still has the same fabric as the sides and top? I've done a lot of bushwhacking with an older GoLite pack (the Gust), and have had to replace the bottom three times when it developed enormous holes. This looks like a similar fabric to me. If they're targeting a crowd who wants a little more durability, they might add a couple ounces and put heavier fabric where it's needed.

Also, the shower test makes a nice picture, but it'd be more useful after the pack's been beat around for a month or two. Most backpacks come with some sort of water-resistance that looks good when it's new, but is precisely useless as soon as the pack is used at all. Is this any different?

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Re: Re: GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/07/2007 19:54:41 MST Print View

PJ, in reponse to your question about the compression straps reaching around the back of the pack, I tried it with a NightLight pad and they are just too short. The pack would have to be half full thickness-wise and the backpanel pad removed for them to connect. The gender doesn't match in that direction either, so its a matter of one side connecting to the other, rather than connecting in the middle.

However, one could rig up an extension strap, with the correct genders, to connect the straps in the middle on the or back of the pack.

Hope this helps. Will

John Recktenwald
(johnrecktenwald) - F

Locale: Alaska
mostly better but I'm keeping my Jam 1 on 02/07/2007 22:09:03 MST Print View

I can't imagine why they would replace the excellent tool retention Velcros with bungees. I'm at a loss to understand why they dropped the short daisy chain in the center which was perfect for crampons. I know this pack appears in their backpacking section and not their Alpine section but it is a great Alpine pack.

The compression system looks like a significant improvement. Do the side pockets accommodate insulators for water bottles better than the Jam 1?

The real winner in the series looks like the Pinnacle which solves all the shortcomings of the Gust which I no longer use. I suspect I'll be getting one of these. A review please? Thanks

Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
My goodness!!!! on 02/07/2007 22:19:48 MST Print View

Did I just see a picture of Will's ass?

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: My goodness!!!! on 02/07/2007 22:36:51 MST Print View

Will has taken "clothing worn to a new level.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/08/2007 03:21:27 MST Print View

Will, i realized that they won't connect together as you had made that clear in your excellent Review. I was hoping that since they were long enough to Kompact around the front, that they might reach around the back. Your idea of an extension strap sounds good, but maybe the whole idea is unecessary if the Jam^2 already has nice back padding.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/08/2007 10:22:14 MST Print View

I expected the hip wings to be longer judging from the pictures seen before I ordered the pack. After receiving my Jam2 I inquired of GoLite and it confirmed that the hip wings were shortened on the production pack because an evaluator had complained that they were too long. I can see where a high energy 18 year old evaluator with a 28” waist may want a smaller hip belt, but what about some of us (I recognize I may be alone here) older folks with a wider girth? GoLite also said that the wing length is the same on all sizes.

It never occurred to me that the compression straps might be used to wrap around the front of the pack but now that it has been raised, I experienced this problem on a pack several years ago and my wife solved it by sewing added lengths of strap which worked fine. Yes, I too miss the daisy chain which I am use to on the Trek. All things considered though, I really like this pack and look forward to carrying it.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/13/2007 13:34:22 MST Print View

I love my old Jam backpack. I think it is the best combination of lightweight and durability. I don't use it in winter due to what I feel is the weight carrying threshold that is limited by the rather meager design of the shoulder straps. The new Jam2 model seams to have upgraded this feature which probably makes it the perfect pack IMHO.

I too regret the loss of the daisy chain loops which I use extensively for everything from a clothes line to attaching my crocs. Please put them back GoLite!

Phil Stetz
(pstetz) - F
Re: GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/13/2007 20:35:57 MST Print View

Oh, my! Will, why are you wearing a hat for ... you're in the shower! Great review though!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: GoLite Jam2 Backpack REVIEW on 02/17/2007 18:09:44 MST Print View

He's wearing a BACKPACK-- what's the big deal about a hat after that? :)

I use a lawn sprinkler to test packs and tents. I hang the pack on a patio chair and avoid such ordeals-- and public humilation. My neighbor has asked what kind of fertilizer I prefer with hiking gear. I told him that was a marketing issue :)

I use a Jam and like it, but a little more space wouldn't bother me-- especially for winter clothes.

Edited by dwambaugh on 02/17/2007 18:11:35 MST.

todd matthews
(seaofclouds) - F
right pack for two weeks in new zealand? on 03/11/2008 02:54:03 MDT Print View

i've had my eye on this pack for a while now, and for upcoming travels to australia and new zealand. once arriving in new zealand, i'll be doing a few four day treks with my brother who will help share the load. in between each trek, laundry is on the agenda, as well as getting to the next trek.

i'm having trouble deciding between this pack and the gregory z55. though the gregory isn't as light, it's very comfortable. two very different packs, i realize, but thought i'd get an idea here. if the golite had the suspension of the gregory, i'd be sold immediately. are there other options from different brands that are a better bet?

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
new zealand pack on 03/11/2008 03:43:03 MDT Print View

whilst in New Zealand buy an Aarn body pack Different again but scientifically more efficient

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: right pack for two weeks in new zealand? on 03/11/2008 14:46:20 MDT Print View

Are you planning on mainly staying in huts, or tarping/tenting? Makes a difference to the volume you may other words, if you're just doing some of the "Great Walks" and staying in the huts, you won't need to carry shelter, mat or stove. It's the ultimate in UL if you don't mind the company and cost!

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Butt shot on 05/24/2009 00:11:49 MDT Print View

You know you're hardcore ultralight when tossing on a pair of boxers for a public photo shoot is too heavy :)