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GoLite Quest and GoLite Odyssey Packs

Mini-review for the 2010 State of the Market Report on Internal Frame Backpacks.

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by Roger Caffin | 2010-09-28 00:00:00-06

GoLite is of course a very well-known brand by now, especially at the lighter end of the market. They started out with a focus on really lightweight gear, but as they grew in size, they expanded their scope towards the mass-market a bit. Fortunately the Quest and Odyssey packs are still very light and close to the leading edge. The Men's Odyssey is easily the largest pack tested in this trial.

There is a cute little gotcha with the GoLite packs. The bottoms of these packs can be cinched down with two small loops which the new owner may not see at first - and they seem to come already done up. So remember to undo these if you want the full volume! (Yes, I missed them at the start.) Or do them up if you want to reduce the volume near the end of a trip and all your food has been eaten. This is especially useful with the Odysseys.

The measured values for weight were very close to the published values, but the measured values for pack volume were consistently down near only 80% of the published values. It may be that they measured the volume of the large back pocket and the lid pocket when the main bag was empty - that would allow a lot more volume, although it would not be realistic in the field.

The fabric used in all these packs was interesting. It has the handle of a knitted fabric, but it is woven. One could perhaps describe it as a sort of 210 denier Oxford. According to GoLite, the fabrics used recycled nylon. Anyhow, there is a very solid coating on the inside surface, and the fabric does seem to slide across sticks and rocks quite well.

The target market for these packs seem to be the middle of the range. The packs are not exactly cheap and not as rugged as some others - although they are not down at the silnylon-strength by any means. I think they could cope with quite a wide range of uses by quite a wide range of walkers. The Odyssey might find a special use in winter travel, when you have to carry a bit more clothing and sleeping gear. It should cope with the extra volume just fine.

GoLite Quest Pack

Pack Rating Qualifications
Quest (M) Above average Tough and light
Quest (W) Above average Tough and light

The Quest is one of the lighter GoLite frame packs, and quite close to the leading edge of the cottage industry in terms of volume per weight - but it isn't all that 'light' in absolute terms. However, the extra weight has been put to good use in stronger fabrics and solid back padding, as shown here. The internal frame consists of a thin but very stiff sheet of plastic reinforced by two flat strips of aluminium. The strips come pre-curved, but the curve can easily be modified to suit. What was interesting was that the Men's and Women's models, as delivered, felt very different from each other. The bottom end of the Women's frame (in the lumbar region) was definitely more curved than the Men's. I found the Men's comfortable but the Women's less so; Sue found the reverse (as might be expected). The width of the padding meant that we both got sweaty backs - but the weather was hot at the time.

GoLite Quest and GoLite Odyssey Packs - 1
GoLite Quest (Men's), 1.42 kg (3.12 lb), 57 L (3500 cuin), Medium, Large.

GoLite Quest and GoLite Odyssey Packs - 2
GoLite Quest (Women's), 1.29 kg (2.84 lb), 53 L (3200 cuin), Medium, Large. *Note that a Women's Medium Quest is smaller than the Men's Medium - about that of a Men's Small (which does not exist). In detail, the length of the whole back of the harness is about 540 mm (21.25 in) on the Men's Medium and 500 mm (19.7 in) on the Women's, with the extra length on the Men's being split equally between the height of the hip belt and the rest of the back padding.

When the main bag is full, it tends to bulge into the otherwise large-looking back pocket. I was able to get sitmats and the like in there fairly easily, but nothing particularly lumpy. If the main bag volume is too much, you can cinch the bottom of the bag down: there are those two little straps underneath which seriously restrict the volume of the bottom section. As mentioned above, the claimed volumes for both Quests seemed a bit high compared to many other packs: I had trouble getting all the Test Gear into the main bag on the 62 L Women's model, but that was measured at just 53 L. Exactly why the discrepancy I do not know - unless they measured the volume of the back pocket and the lid pocket with the main bag empty.

The design features a conventional floating lid of adequate size. The back lid straps are anchored half-way down the body, which seems adequate for a range of packings. The lid pocket has the same bulge problem restricting its volume, but it works OK.

The hip belt wings are rather solid things and have pockets, but once the hip belt was curved around my hips there wasn't much room in the pockets. The tips of the shoulder straps on the Men's model were a bit lumpy on me at the start of testing: a small fault. Sue did not notice this problem however, so it may depend on exactly where the tips are on your body. The sternum straps (with that silly whistle) only just reached across me, but they were OK on Sue. The wings of the hip belt are sewn to the main bag, and do not always contact your hips at the corners where they are attached. However, that does not seem to matter.

I know they have separate Men's and Women's models, but apart from the different colour of the trim, the way the aluminium struts are pre-bent, and the obvious different meanings of 'Medium,' I could not see a huge difference between them. I would suggest the prime criterion during selection should be getting the right torso length for you regardless of 'pack gender.'

GoLite Odyssey Pack

Pack Rating Qualifications
Odyssey (M) Recommended For those who need VOLUME
Odyssey (W) Recommended For those who need VOLUME

The first thing to note about these packs is that they are big on volume (albeit less than claimed). In fact it was a bit of a gamble that this might be so which allowed us to included them in the survey. Both units tested are 'Medium,' but continuing in the established tradition, the Women's Medium is smaller than the Men's Medium, though they are still fairly large. Fortunately, like the Quest packs, these have those two nifty little cinch straps underneath the main bag for reducing its volume. In the photo to the right of the Men's pack in the field, I have the bottom of the pack in its normal or expanded configuration, but that was at the start of the trip with lots of food. In the photo at the top we were on our way back (food mostly eaten), and I had cinched up the bottom of the pack to reduce its volume and get the weight higher on my back.

GoLite Quest and GoLite Odyssey Packs - 3
GoLite Odyssey (Men's), 1.59 kg (3.51 lb) *, 49 L (3000 cuin), Medium, Large.

GoLite Quest and GoLite Odyssey Packs - 4
GoLite Odyssey (Women's), 1.42 kg (3.13 lb), 64 L (3900 cuin), Medium, Large. *Note that Women's Medium is about the size of a Men's Small (which does not exist). The length of the whole back of the harness is about 540 mm (21.25 in) on the Men's Medium and 500 mm (19.7 in) on the Women's, with the extra length on the Men's harness being split equally between the height of the hip belt and the rest of the back padding. This is the same as for the Quest.

For some of the models in this review Sue and I found we could carry the same pack despite a difference in our respective torso lengths of about 3.5 cm (1.5 in). However, in this case Sue found the Men's medium was just a bit too long for her, but the Women's Medium was fine. Our torso difference matches the difference in torso lengths on these packs.

It would be fair to say that the Odyssey is close to being an enlarged Quest. Sure, the back pocket is different, and the Odyssey has a zip at the bottom, around a significant bulge there to give you access into the bottom of the bag, but otherwise - they are quite similar. This is perfectly reasonable.

I have to say that the zip access into the bottom of the main bag strikes me as pretty useless however. If I pack the main bag from the top first there is no way I can get more than a few handkerchiefs into the bottom afterwards. Yes, if I unzip the bottom of the bag when I set up camp I can get at the stuff at the bottom first - but that's not of great value to me. In bad weather, I leave the stuff I've stored at the bottom of my pack safely down there until I get my pack into the tent.

I am normally in the habit of tying the tent on top of the sealed throat and holding it in place with a strap over the throat. Of course, the lid over the top does help restrain the tent as well. In this case I was not really confident that the single strap provided would be reliable enough, although that may be because the main bag was never really full. In the event I did carry the tent like that, and it stayed in place. The lid helped.

This is a mini-review in the 2010 Lightweight Internal Frame Pack State of the Market Report. The articles in this series are as follows (mini-reviews can be found in Part 2), and a subscription to our site is needed to read them.

  • Part 1A covers the very basics and lists all the packs in the survey.
  • Part 1B covers the frame and harness which carry the pack itself.
  • Part 1C covers the main bag and all the other pockets, plus the all-important question of comfort.
  • Part 2 in this series covers the individual packs tested.


"GoLite Quest and GoLite Odyssey Packs," by Roger Caffin. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2010-09-28 00:00:00-06.


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Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 2: The Packs
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Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
External Frame Packs? on 10/18/2010 20:47:02 MDT Print View

Thanks for a nice review Roger.

Perhaps outside the scope of this review, but since the subject of external frame packs has come up: do you have any recommendations for lightweight, commercially available, external frame packs that capture your "H - frame" idea?

Back in the old days, my external frame pack and hip belt could shift almost all the weight onto my iliac crests, or alternatively, onto the greater trochanters.

I find now, with increasing age, a decreased tolerance for prolonged heavy loading of the L5-S1 disk, and the SI joints. Anything much over 20 lbs all day, no matter how it's distributed over the shoulders or the lumbar area, starts to hurt.

Some of the individual pack reviews and comments above suggest some of these packs come close, but it sounds like you think the external frame is better at overall comfort - issues of durability, fragility and standing up to heavy brush aside.

Am I on the right track here? Any advice. How can I get most of the load back on the sides of my hips - the iliac crests - and still go lightweight?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/20/2010 23:43:42 MDT Print View

Hi Coin

Sorry, but I don't have a simple answer for you. I think I noted somewhere in the review that my hips are rather narrow, such that many hip belts do not work very well on me. For this reason I have always preferred to carry the load on my back. This does *not* mean 'on my shoulders'.

With my design I find the load does go through the mesh on the back of the pack to the full area of my back. Frankly, I am not really sure why this works so well, but it does work for me.

I am sure that it won't work for many other people, and that a solid hip belt will work better for them. In this sense, fitting a pack to a person is very much like fitting a pair of shoes. I sigh (for the same reason) when I see someone ask 'what shoes should I buy' and then read a reply that they should buy SuperDucksMultiWeb shoes.

However ... I will offer the following advice - which is also in the Review somewhere. Try to buy a pack which matches your torso length, but do not buy a pack with a torso length which is too short. Better to have a pack torso length slightly longer than your torso length: that will throw the load onto your hips more effectively.

Even better: pick a pack in the right size with an adjustable torso length. Then fine tune over several trips how it fits you. Yes, I definitely give brownie points to packs with an adjustable torso length.

I also give brownie points to packs with a solid stiff harness or frame. Frameless packs are all very well if my total load is under 6 -8 kg. Over that the weight of the harness is far outweighed by the added comfort it brings. Now, I know this comment will attract numerous responses contradicting me and saying how wonderful a frameless pack is. Well, as with shoes ...

Can an external frame pack (like mine) stand up the 'heavy brush'? Chuckle. Trust me, the scrub in the Australian Blue Mountains (and in SW Tasmania) is definitely world class.

A commercial equivalent? Sorry - at this stage I cannot make a recommendation, because I don't know.


Cameron Semple
(camS) - F

Locale: Brisbane, Australia
Shadow on 10/21/2010 06:43:52 MDT Print View

I had a look at a Shadow this evening at a local distributor. I liked the clean, no frills look. Didn't have time to load it up though. You mentioned the thick webbing used on the hip belt. I found it virtually impossible to tighten the belt once fitted. The webbing was so rough that it wouldn't pull through easily. Combined with the older style of pulling the straps out rather than into the middle.

Any ideas when the 2011 line of packs will be available? The Umbra looks interesting.

Edited by camS on 10/21/2010 06:45:49 MDT.

al b
(ahbradley) - M
small manufacturers / osprey atmos on 10/21/2010 15:46:43 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):
Would any of the ultralight small manufacturers be interested in making your external frame sacks.

The osprey atmos 50/65 has a kind of all back mesh (for ventilation) but I think the gap between back and pack is bigger. I didnt like the shooulder straps.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: small manufacturers / osprey atmos on 10/21/2010 20:58:46 MDT Print View

> Would any of the ultralight small manufacturers be interested in
> making your external frame sacks.

I would be delighted if someone did want to.


al b
(ahbradley) - M
osprey exos possible equiv to Roger (Caffins) MYOG external frame on 10/22/2010 04:55:27 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):

Actually, from reviews, the osprey exos 46/58 looks better than the atmos, as still has kind of all back mesh (for ventilation) but the gap between back and pack seems smaller, and the rucsac storage looks less curved.

Perhaps you could borrow one and compare it (not using waist belt) against your external frame pack.

Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
External Frame Packs? on 10/24/2010 09:12:13 MDT Print View

Thanks Roger.

Yes, like finding well fitting shoes. But I did find those (wider), so I keep my optimism for finding the perfect pack for heavier loads. Thanks for the reminder/emphasis on torso length (longer for me).

The Aarn packs, and LuxerLite pack seem hopeful. Discussions of these packs over the last 5 years give lots of opinions both ways. I would love to hear from owners/users of these packs what they still think of them now.

Any other packs in this general class - lightweight with enough frame to transfer all the weight to my hips if I want to - that anyone thinks I should also consider? Any packs in the review above come close for a long torso?


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: osprey exos possible equiv to Roger (Caffins) MYOG external frame on 10/24/2010 15:35:08 MDT Print View

Hi Alan

The survey covered both the Exos 46 and the Exos 58. Nice packs.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/24/2010 15:38:09 MDT Print View

Hi Coin

The survey lists the available pack sizes. I was testing Medium in just about everything, but many of them have a Large model available.

Which one to choose? Ahhh... Very personal. 'Every body is subtly different ...' as they say on the planes.


Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/25/2010 12:46:16 MDT Print View

"The Aarn packs, and LuxerLite pack seem hopeful. Discussions of these packs over the last 5 years give lots of opinions both ways. I would love to hear from owners/users of these packs what they still think of them now."

I have used both of these, and in both cases they are nice packs, but I ended up using them without the front pockets. They just didn't work for me. however, if you like front pockets, I find the LuxuryLite pocket (and frame) to be more functional and cooler. I also ditched the LuxuryLite cylinders and modifies a GoLite Gust to attach to the frame. Excellent volume and comfortable carrying. Note: the LuxuryLite pocket restricts you vision more than the Aarn. Also note, I have both of these for sale. If you are interested, shoot me a PM and we can negotiate a price.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
frogs ... on 10/26/2010 06:24:59 MDT Print View

just a note for others that the french site i-trekkings has done a similar test with packs in roughly the same weight and volume range

note how the Decathlon Forclaz 50 Ultralight scored very high in comfort and on score/price while being the cheapest and lightest pack

just shows you what can be done ..

just use google translater on the links below

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/26/2010 06:28:48 MDT.

al b
(ahbradley) - M
exos 58 usage with no load thru hip belt on 10/27/2010 15:08:48 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):

I checked the articles 1A-C,2 butt did not find a mention of testing the exos 58 with no load bearing via the hip belt i.e. a comparison against the way your your external frame myog pack is used.

Do you still have one for a hip-beltless comparison against your external frame pack.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: exos 58 usage with no load thru hip belt on 12/16/2010 20:22:34 MST Print View

Hi Alan

Sorry, this dropped off the radar for a while.
Unfortunately no: the Exos packs were farmed out to Australian readers.


Eric Botshon
(Ebotshon) - F
Exos 46 on 07/12/2011 10:36:03 MDT Print View

The review mentioned that the osprey pack was closer to 40 than 46 liters.

Any chance this test was done with a size small pack instead of the medium? The smal torso length pack is smaller than the stated 46.

Willem knopper
(willem65) - MLife
Exos Frame on 09/08/2011 15:41:10 MDT Print View

I have tried the Exos and I find them to be to very ridged, the pack does not move with you (back) at all. I personally think they are really just a fancy external frame pack. I did like the idea of the air flow but was just very disappointed how it restricted your movement especially if you were to use it doing any walking other than on the flat.


Phillip Damiano

Locale: Australia
Jansport Big Bear on 03/22/2012 21:42:44 MDT Print View

Roger mentioned in one of his comments here:
(Yes, we kept a few, for specific functions. The rest have been passed on to Australian & NZ BPL members (kept the postage down) for further field testing. I expect that they will provide some Reader Reviews in due course).

I'm one of those Australian BPL member, I've recently acquired one of the Jansport Big Bear 63 prototype packs of Roger.
The pack has only been in my possession for a few weeks now, tested on day hikes including some rock climbing.
The Harness is very comfortable and the material is very durable. I've tested this on a Off-track hike recently with very thick vegetation. I got scratches over me, the pack survived with no scratches.

I'm yet to test it out as a Overnight hike, but I can't see it causing any problems there. It's a nice pack. I do like the colour that the prototype pack was supplied in with the orange trims.

This is an on going review, I will keep you's updated on my findings on my next overnight hike, which is not for another 3 weeks from today. In a couple days, I've got a day hike I'm planning on, I will pack all my overnight hiking gear into the pack for a test to see how the pack feels with some weight in it. My base weight is just under the 8Kg. I'll add a few litres of water to that, making a total weight of 11kg.

So far, I like the pack. It's not exactly on the ultra light weight at just under 1.5kg but it does have a good frame and harness.Jansport Big Bear Prototype Pack

Edited by Phillipsart on 03/22/2012 21:51:42 MDT.

Phillip Damiano

Locale: Australia
Re: Jansport Big Bear on 03/24/2012 19:33:34 MDT Print View

Packed my hiking gear into the Jansport Big Bear pack yesterday and went for a walk around the block with apx 12kg load. Pack is comfortable, enough room for 5 or 6 days of food. No complaints.

Will be continuing wearing the pack with my gear on daily hikes for the next couple of weeks as training for an upcoming 3 day overnight hike in some steep terrain.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"Pocket Man" on 06/14/2012 21:41:39 MDT Print View

I own an older - and IMHO better - version of the REI Flash 60. It's the REI Cruise UL 60 (2nd model). That pack absolutely NEEDED side pockets. Fortunately REI had "aftermarket" pockets at that time, but no longer.

I like side pockets because they store stuff I may need quickly like 1st aid kit, water treatment kit, toilet kit, potty kit, and things I don't want inside my pack
Like stove stuff including fuel. (For ex., ESBIT tabs smell fishy -like two other things I know of. ;O)

My REI pockets add 400 cu. in. each and make the pack "complete" in my dinosaur mind. Yeah, I'm a geezer and like exterior pockets. As another poster said of the Ospey EXOS that front "shovel" pocket is nice and can hold that wet tent, etc. Same goes for my Cruise UL 60 - which should really be called the "UL 50" - sorta like many post-recession 401-K funds should really be called "201-K" funds.

SPIRIDON Papapetroy
(spotlight) - F
Osprey Exos on 09/09/2012 21:15:47 MDT Print View

Has anyone had pain in the part of the body where the lower part of the frame touches it. I am a bit worried because it doesn't have any padding.

Phil Cawley
(Philc) - M
Lightweight Internal Frame Packs. on 04/08/2015 21:50:37 MDT Print View

Hi, First time I've ever made comment. In my mind (without a doubt!) everything considered Aarn Packs are the way to go! I've got four of them (one for nigh on every occasion!) and would NEVER consider going back to the old style! Try 'em and you'll use 'em. Phil.