Janet carrying the new GoLite Peak Backpack at an alpine lake in the southern Rockies.
GoLite has revised its UltraLite frameless backpack line for spring 2010. The Ion pack was replaced by the new Peak, and the Jam (no longer the Jam 2) and Pinnacle have received a few upgrades.
The Peak pack (which is the focus of this review) was a new model for spring 2010. Its specified 2200 cubic inch (36 L, size Medium) volume is on the small side, even for ultralight backpacking. It has the same volume as the Gossamer Gear Murmur pack (7.9 ounces/224 g), which is considered a super-ultralight backpack for hikers who carry an extremely low base weight and low volume. So, is the Peak a day pack, a capable ultralight backpack, or both?
|Year/Model||2010 GoLite Peak (www.golite.com/)|
|Style||Frameless backpack with removable foam backpanel and hipbelt, top loading, roll down top with top compression strap|
|Volume||Small 2075 cu in (34 L)
Medium 2200 cu in (36 L)
Large 2319 cu in (38 L)
|Weight||Sizes Large and Small tested.
Measured weight: 28.1 oz (797 g) size L and 25.9 oz (734 g) size S
Manufacturer specification: 26 oz (737 g) size M
|Sizes Available||Unisex S, M, L|
|Torso Fit Range||Small fits torsos 15.5 to 17.5 in (39-44 cm)
Medium fits torsos 17.5 to 19.5 in (44-50 cm)
Large fits torsos 19.5 to 21.5 in (50-55 cm)
|Fabrics||Recycled 210d nylon gridstop + Dyneema; high-void polyester mesh|
|Features||Durable fabrics, removable hipbelt, adjustable sternum strap with whistle buckle, removable backpanel foam padding, 1 large zippered front pocket with storm flap, 2 stretch nylon side pockets, 2 stretch nylon zippered hipbelt pockets with stretch nylon sleeve inside, 4 side compression straps, 2 tool loops, extension collar, drawcord closure and top compression strap, 3-D wicking fabric on inside of shoulder straps and hipbelt and backpanel, stretch nylon hydration sleeve with 2 hose ports, 2 ice axe loops, haul loop, Compaktor system to reduce volume|
|Volume to Weight Ratio||82.5 cu in/oz (based on 2319 cu in and measured weight of 28.1 oz, size Large)|
|Maximum Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity||20 lb (9.1 kg) estimated comfortable load for an average person carrying the pack all day|
|Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio||11.4 (based on 20 lb and a measured weight of 1.76 lb)|
GoLite’s new (spring 2010) UltraLite backpack series consists (left to right) of the Peak (2200 cubic inches/36 L), Jam (3050 cubic inches/50 L), and Pinnacle (4392 cubic inches/72 L). All are frameless backpacks with a stiff foam backpanel.
The Peak backpack is built to last - the body is 210 denier Dyneema Gridstop, and the pockets are durable stretch nylon. It’s also full-featured, with a total of five pockets and numerous other features (see Specifications). It has a removable stiff closed-cell foam backpanel insert (weight is about 1.5 oz/43 g, depending on pack size), and the hipbelt wings are also removable. Removing these items reduces pack weight by about 6.3 ounces (179 g), to about 20 ounces (567 g) for size Medium, but most users would probably not do so because it would eliminate the hipbelt pockets and vertical rigidity.
Views of the GoLite Peak: The front view (top left) shows the pack’s distinctive large front pocket and durable Dyneema Gridstop fabric. The backpanel (top right) has a strip of 3-D mesh for ventilation, and is backed by a removable closed-cell foam pad in its own sleeve. Each side (bottom left) has a stretch nylon pocket designed to make water bottles reachable. And the top view (bottom right) shows the pack’s drawcord and rolldown closure with top compression strap.
The shoulder straps (left) are 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) wide and faced with 3-D mesh on the inside. The large front pocket (middle) has a regular zipper with two pulls, protected by a storm flap.
The previous Jam 2 and Pinnacle packs had a water-resistant zipper on the front pocket and no storm flap. The curved WR zipper was a bit stiff to operate. The revised packs and new Peak now have a regular zipper with two pulls, plus a storm flap, which operates more smoothly.
The Peak’s hipbelt has two good-sized pockets (left). The hipbelt wings are easily removable (right).
The zippered stretch nylon hipbelt pockets on the UltraLite packs are very well designed and easily hold a digital camera or an assortment of smaller items. Note that there is an inner stretch pocket inside.
Note that the Peak does not have a torso length adjustment, so it’s important to measure your torso length and choose the correct pack size. The only pack fit adjustment is the shoulder strap length; the pack does not have load lifter straps or hipbelt stabilizer straps.
Fully loaded Jam pack (left) with 27.8 pounds/12.6 kg and Peak pack (right) with 14.6 pounds/6.6 kg on a six-day spring backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
GoLite Peak used as a day pack by Janet (left) in a Utah slot canyon, and by Will (right) while backcountry skiing.
We used the Peak pack as both a day pack and backpack during ten months of testing. Janet used it as a backpack the most because size Small fits her well, and it’s sized well for the approximate 15-pound (6.8-kg) load she normally carries. Will used the Peak a lot as a day pack on a variety of trips, but less as a backpack because he usually requires a pack with more volume to carry shared gear. Toward the end of our testing period, Will used the Peak on a couple of solo backpacking trips to evaluate how well the Peak performed with an ultralight low volume gear kit.
We found the Peak to be versatile as both a day pack and as a backpack using ultralight gear. Several readers have inquired about backpacks that are nearly waterproof; the Peak is one we would recommend. Due to its design and materials, the Peak is very water-resistant, making it a good choice for wet conditions. The larger Jam and Pinnacle are a good choice for winter trips, as long as the carry weight is reasonable.
We especially liked the Peak’s hipbelt pockets, which are big enough to hold a digital camera or an assortment of smaller items, as well as the large zippered front pocket that provides convenient access to everything we need on the trail.
For Will, the Peak became an immediate favorite for cool and cold weather day trips. It has plenty of volume to carry the clothing needed to adjust layers throughout the day. It performs especially well for backcountry skiing - clothing, food, and thermos inside, smaller items easily accessible in the large front pocket, and skins in one of the stretch side pockets.
The Peak became a favorite backpack for Janet because it’s available in a size Small which fits her well, and it has the right volume for the amount of gear and weight she carries. As mentioned, the Peak is too small for Will when he carries all the shared gear (shelter, stove, fuel, food), so he opts for the Jam (as shown in the photo below) because it is right-sized and capable of carrying the weight.
Updated GoLite Jam pack with 28 pounds (12.7 kg) on a spring backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. I found it remarkable that the Jam, a frameless backpack, can comfortably carry that amount of weight.
Equally remarkable, the Pinnacle is a real load hauler. This photo shows the Pinnacle loaded with all of my igloo gear. I’m packing it out at the end of the season.
Finally, to answer the question - is the Peak a capable ultralight backpack? - the answer is a resounding yes! Solo hiking with the Peak loaded with ultralight gear weighing 16 pounds (7.3 kg) - including food, water, and fuel for two days - the Peak easily carried the volume and the weight. I used the size Large Peak, which has a volume of 38 liters, and everything fit into the main pack body plus pockets. It’s about the same size as the old GoLite Breeze. I did not need the extension collar, but hikers carrying a size Small or Medium Peak may need it to hold all their gear.
Will’s size Large Peak backpack loaded with 16 pounds (7.3 kg) of ultralight gear plus food, water, and fuel on an overnight backpack. The pack has room to spare; I didn’t even use the extension collar. The Peak has the capacity to carry gear and food for a four-day backpack.
The Peak carries a load remarkably well owing to its padded shoulder harness, hip-hugging hipbelt wings, and its stiff closed-cell foam backpanel insert which gives the pack some vertical rigidity. It transfers weight to the hips well and the backpanel hugs my back. In my opinion, the maximum comfortable carry load for the Peak is 20 pounds, but that figure will depend on how strong your shoulders are.
Our overall impressions of the Peak are as follows:
- The pack volume is perfect for ultralight backpacking. It has the right amount of room for an ultralight gear kit, plus food, water, and fuel for up to four days.
- The pack is well designed, made of durable materials, and has loads of features.
- We love the pack’s large zippered front pocket; it provides convenient access to most items needed on the trail without having to enter the main body of the pack.
- It’s also a plus that the pack is available in three sizes to make it easier to get a proper fit. The pack does not have any torso adjustment, so choosing the correct pack size is important.
- The stretch nylon hipbelt pockets are some of the best to be found.
- The stretch nylon side pockets will stretch out and hold a lot of gear, and they’re very durable. For hikers who carry water bottles, these pockets hold water bottles well, and bottles are reachable with the pack on.
- The closed-cell foam backpanel insert provides good padding with little added weight, and increases the vertical rigidity of the pack.
- Using a hydration bladder in the hydration sleeve works well on day trips, but for backpacking it’s hard to refill the bladder without partially unloading the pack.
- The Peak functions as well as a daypack as it does as a backpack.
- The hipbelt wings hug the hips well, help to support heavier loads, and are easily removed for light loads (but you lose the hipbelt pockets).
- The revised Jam is a bigger version of the same pack. The hipbelt wings are more substantial and are not removable.
- The revised Pinnacle pack is a larger version of the Jam; it has loads of volume and excels for higher volume/moderate weight loads.
It’s hard to compare apples to apples when it comes to frameless backpacks because they vary so much in design, materials, and sizing. Although the new GoLite Peak and revised Jam and Pinnacle are a bit on the heavy side for frameless backpacks, they compensate for the extra weight in their durability, fit, comfort, and load-carrying capacity. For example, I found the frameless Jam pack will comfortably carry the same load as the Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack with its lightweight stay. The shoulder harness, fit, padding, and wide hipbelt wings enable the Peak to comfortably carry a little more weight than a similar-sized Spartan pack.
In addition to its comfort and weight carrying capacity, the distinctive attributes we like about the Peak are: its versatility (it can be used as a day pack as well as a backpack), its large front zippered fabric pocket, and its excellent hipbelt pockets. It’s also very water-resistant (except for the side pockets), so it can be carried in snow or rain without getting the contents wet. Overall, the Peak is very likable, and it’s a good value at US$125.
- Highly versatile - equally usable as a day pack or backpack
- Three pack sizes to fit most hikers
- Removable backpanel padding and hipbelt
- Durable fabrics and mesh
- Excellent hipbelt pockets
- Large zippered fabric front pocket for convenient access to items needed on the trail
- Stretch nylon side 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
- Heavier than other packs with the same volume
Recommendations For Improvement