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GoLite Peak Backpack Review

The frameless 36 L Peak backpack has been redesigned: we take an in-depth look, with commentary on the revised Jam and Pinnacle packs.


Overall Rating: Recommended

While it was hard to find a use for the now discontinued GoLite Ion pack, the new Peak backpack is very likeable and versatile. It serves equally well as a day pack and backpack. Yes, it does weigh more than comparable frameless packs, but it also carries a load more comfortably. We especially like its large zippered fabric front pocket and stretch nylon hipbelt pockets. On balance, it deserves our Recommended rating.

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by Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl |


GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 1
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 (
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 Peak Backpack Review - 2
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.

GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 3
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.

GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 4
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.

GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 5
The Peak’s hipbelt has two good-sized pockets (left). The hipbelt wings are easily removable (right).

GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 6
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.


GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 7
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 Backpack Review - 8
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.

GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 9
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.

GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 10
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.

GoLite Peak Backpack Review - 11
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.

What’s Good

  • 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

  • None


"GoLite Peak Backpack Review," by Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2011-01-04 00:10:00-07.


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GoLite Peak Backpack Review
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eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Feature creep on 01/06/2011 14:01:24 MST Print View


My point is that theres no reason why there cant be packs which are durable, fairly comfy an lightweight

i suspect most of the weight gains are from feature that quite a few people dont use .... Just like some ms bloatware

but we live in a marketing driven world where more features sell ...

I suspect that many of these UL packs that are made of dyneema gridstop would last quite a long time with quite a bit of use or even abuse ...

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Feature creep on 01/06/2011 14:09:22 MST Print View

Totally. But, there are committees and profit/loss geeks who spoil our fun :)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: not-so-ultralight on 01/06/2011 17:18:42 MST Print View

"Could be they are getting older too :)"

+1 Thanks for saving me the trouble, Dale. ;-)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Great discussion! on 01/06/2011 17:29:30 MST Print View

Eric, Dale, and Miguel,

Very good points made by all of you. I love a discussion that builds on a review to flesh it out. And thanks to Will for his usual fine review that launched this thread. This is one thing about BPL that really gives me a warm and fuzzy.

Like the rest of you, I do miss the input of RJ, AD, et al in those exciting days of yesteryear, but time moves on, and Will and Roger have done a darn good job of filling the gap, IMO.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re: re: golite peak backpack review on 01/06/2011 20:17:22 MST Print View

Could you comment on what changes have caused the huge increase in weight in the Jam/Peak line-up for 2010/11?

My understanding is that the Jam/Jam 2 was stable at about 21-22oz for a number of years until last year. About 1.5 years ago, GoLite switched back to the Jam name (from Jam 2) and made a number of changes that boosted the weight from ~22oz up to ~26oz. Mostly saliently, they added hipbelt pockets and additional padding/mesh in the back to improve ventilation so it was no longer just 210D Dyneema X against your back. IMO, the hipbelt pockets were a good idea, but the back ventilation wasn't worth the weight because it didn't feel very different.

6 months ago or so, GoLite released the current version of the Jam which again came with a significant weight increase from about 26oz up to a claimed 29oz. This weight increase was due to a bunch of smaller changes including heavier recycled fabrics, slightly larger back pocket and a new hipbelt design.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: golite peak backpack review on 01/08/2011 12:38:30 MST Print View

Personnaly, I think it is too heavy. At 29oz, it is too much.
I look at a Light weight pack at 32 oz and less.
I look at a UL pack at 16oz and less.
I look at a SUL pack at 8oz or less.

Soo, yes, it qualifies as a light weight pack. But, as Will and Janet point out, they are heavy for the volume. Despite the features, I think I will pass on these.

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
2010 Jam on 01/11/2011 00:17:36 MST Print View

I'm quite happy with my 2010 Jam and just got back from a trip with it (expect a report soon) and while I can't read the article since my membership expired I feel like I can still add to this discussion a bit. I didn't buy a peak because of the only minor weight difference for a significant reduction in volume and because of poor user reviews here concerning the shoulder straps. Had I been spending over $100 on a pack I would have gone with a MLD Super Burn or even ULA CDT.

I don't think the new Golite packs are bad; just over priced. And I wouldn't have bought mine if it wasn't marked down considerably. I've got a bit more trimming to do to it and but it currently weighs a hair over 27 ounces. As it was it accounted for nearly 2 pounds of my 8 pound base weight but for $85 I can't complain much.

Now some notes about the pack. I found the hip belt pockets to be sized perfectly for stowing a buff and an inhaler in one and aqua mire, carmex, some duct tape, and small vial of sunscreen in the other. I could do with a little less padding on the hip belt but it probably feels good to people in stores....

I was happy with the slightly larger rear pocket as it allowed me to keep my rain gear, map, stakes, gloves, windshirt, camera, etc. easily accessible and easy to find.

Just like on my test hikes with this pack I found the mesh back panel to be underwhelming. It doesn't seem to help at all and I sweat just as much as if I had plain Dyneema against my back.

The foam pad was nice on this trip since I would have had to carry something to go under my legs anyway. But it doesn't really need to have its own sleeve IMO. With the mesh, pad sleeve, and hydration sleeve there are 3 layers of fabric at some points in the back of this pack. It seems like you could just share a sleeve for the bladder and pad if you like to keep a bladder there - I know I don't. Anyway, three layers of fabric seems like a bit of over kill.