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GoLite Rodeo Backpack REVIEW

Lightweight and versatile snow sports pack with nice features, but falls short in some areas.


by Will Rietveld | 2006-03-07 03:00:00-07

GoLite Rodeo Backpack REVIEW


New for 2006, the frameless GoLite Rodeo at 1500 cubic inches (23 liters) is labeled as a snowboard pack. It has a snowboard sleeve and MP3 player holder, which makes it rock for snowboarders, but it’s versatile enough for a lot of other uses. How does the Rodeo rate as a general snow sports pack, or year-around pack?

What’s Good

  • Lightest snow sports pack we know of
  • Two panel-loading compartments
  • Case for MP3 player or ultra compact digital camera
  • Zippered water-resistant hipbelt pockets
  • Sheds rain and snow
  • Pockets for valuables, goggles, shovel
  • Sleeve for avalanche probe or shovel handle
  • Excellent construction and durable
  • Versatile enough to use as a general-purpose daypack

What’s Not So Good

  • Limited volume for extended winter day trips
  • Limited weight carrying capacity because of its frameless design and thin/soft shoulder straps and hipbelt
  • Hydration system only, no water bottle pockets
  • No ski loops (but skis can be carried on the sides)
  • Hipbelt pockets are not easily accessible





2006 Rodeo


Frameless, panel loading, snow sports pack


Size L tested, 1500 ci (23 L)


1 lb 14.5 oz (865 g) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 1 lb 12 oz (790 g)


Main pack body is Arrowhead Cordura polyurethane-coated nylon, top pocket and hipbelt pockets are SilLite HG, front is 420d Cordura twill, bottom is X-pac composite


Contoured air-channel mesh backpanel, contoured shoulder harness with detachable neoprene MP3 holder, two side compression straps, snowboard sleeve, water-resistant zipper on main compartment, zipper shovel pocket with probe/shovel handle sleeve, webbing hipbelt with hip padding, two zippered hipbelt pockets, top secure storage pocket, side tool holders and loops, internal hydration sleeve, fleece-lined internal pocket for goggles

  Volume To Weight Ratio

49.2 ci/oz size L (based on 1500 ci and a measured weight of 30.5 oz)

  Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

15 lb (6.8 kg) estimated maximum comfortable load an average person can carry all day

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

7.9 (based on a 15 lb load and measured weight of 1.91 lb)




Since the GoLite Rodeo pack has a snowboard sleeve, it would be easy to label it as strictly a snowboard pack. But that would be unfair. For one thing, the snowboard sleeve is easily detached with four side-release buckles, yielding a versatile pack with two panel compartments on the front. For another, other gear (such as skis, snowshoes, a gear bag, or whatever) can easily be attached to the frontpanel instead of a snowboard. In my testing process, I approached the Rodeo with an open mind to see what it could or could not do well.

GoLite Rodeo Snow Sport Backpack REVIEW - 1
The GoLite Rodeo is a 1500 cubic inch panel loading snow sports pack. The front (left photo) has a sleeve for attaching a snowboard, snowshoes, or shovel. The sides (right photo) have a small pocket and hold-down loop for carrying poles.

The Rodeo is essentially a frameless backpack. It does have a 1/8-inch thick flexible foam framesheet that provides a little rigidity, but it is not capable of transferring weight to the hipbelt by itself. For weight transfer to occur, the pack body needs to be stuffed tight with gear to create a “virtual frame” that transfers weight to the hips through its rigidity.

Four contoured mesh-faced foam panels sewn to the backpanel provide padding and channels for ventilation. The contoured shoulder straps are wide (2.5 inches) but they are thin (1/4-inch) and soft, which is good and bad. Their width helps to distribute weight, but their thinness and softness are not conducive to carrying heavier loads. Similarly, the hipbelt consists of two short lightly padded wings attached to a 1.5-inch mesh belt. Since the Rodeo does not have an internal frame, pack weight is split between the shoulder harness and hipbelt, and its weight carrying capacity depends on your ability to carry weight on your shoulders.

GoLite Rodeo Snow Sport Backpack REVIEW - 2
The Rodeo has a thin foam backpanel (top left) with contoured padding attached. Shoulder straps (top right) are wide but thin and soft. The hipbelt consists of short thinly padded wings and webbing.

The Rodeo has several features that make it a specialized winter sports pack, but do not interfere with it functioning as a good general purpose daypack. There are two panel-loading main compartments. The inner compartment is mainly used to stow clothing and has a water-resistant zipper to keep moisture out. It has a hydration sleeve and a fleece-lined pocket for goggles inside. The outer compartment has a sleeve inside for an avalanche probe or shovel handle. A snow shovel with a detachable handle will fit inside, plus a few small clothing items.

Outside pockets on the Rodeo are a mixed bag. There is a zippered security pocket at the top of the pack, a good place for valuables. On one of the shoulder straps there is a neoprene foam pocket for an MP3 player or ultra compact digital camera (anything larger is a tight fit). I found the location good for convenience and keeping the electronics out of the snow when I set the pack down. Each hipbelt wing has an attached zippered water-resistant pocket to conveniently stow smaller items. However, when the pack is on, the hipbelt pockets are located under your elbows, so they are not easy to access. Each side of the pack has a small tool pocket and hold-down, which can be used for ski or trekking poles.

GoLite Rodeo Snow Sport Backpack REVIEW - 3
An exploded view (top left) of the Rodeo shows its two panel-loading compartments plus a panel for attaching gear to the outside. A water-resistant security pocket at the top (top right) has ample room for valuables and/or small items. The hipbelt pockets (middle left) are water-resistant and roomy, but not very easy to reach under the elbows. GoLite includes a shoulder strap mounted padded case (middle right) for an MP3 player or small digital camera. Inside the main compartment resides a fleece-lined pocket (bottom left) for goggles or glasses. The outside panel-loading pocket (bottom right) has a sleeve for a shovel handle (shown) or avalanche probe. The shovel blade can also be put in the pocket or carried assembled under the outside gear sleeve.

Note that hydration with the Rodeo pack is by hydration bladder only. There are no side pockets to carry water bottles. In the wintertime this approach actually works better - the hydration bladder is against your back to keep the water warmed, and an insulated sleeve on your delivery hose (not included) keeps water from freezing.

The most noticeable feature on the Rodeo is the snowboard sleeve on the frontpanel. Rather than a gear cradle, which is attached at the bottom, the sleeve is open on four sides and is attached with two straps and four quick-release buckles. I tested it with a snowboard, backcountry skis, and snowshoes and found that it handles a snowboard or snowshoes well. A snowboard slips under the sleeve, while snowshoes can either be secured to the face of the sleeve or under it. Each strap has two neoprene patches to grip items and prevent them from sliding.

GoLite Rodeo Snow Sport Backpack REVIEW - 4
Although the GoLite Rodeo is targeted as a snowboard pack, it will carry other snow conveyances reasonably well. Skis (left) are best attached on the sides under the panel straps, with the tips tied together in an A-frame to spread the tails. Snowshoes (center) can be attached under the outside panel or over it (as shown), leaving room for a snow shovel. The pack easily cradles a snowboard (right) and carries it well, although there is some tendency for the board to hit your calves.

Skis are best carried on the sides of the pack so they don’t interfere with walking. Since the pack does not have ski loops, I attached them under the panel straps on the sides of the pack. This arrangement worked, but was far from ideal because the skis blocked access to the panel-loading pack.

As far as roominess, I found the Rodeo’s 1500 cubic inches (23 L) adequate to pack my normal cold weather alpine day tripping gear, but it was a tight fit. I would prefer an extra 500 cubic inches, part of it in the form of two durable X-pac lower side pockets instead of the small pole pockets.

Besides volume limitations, I have some concerns about the comfortable weight carrying capacity of the Rodeo. The pack weight with my normal winter day trip gear, including food and water, is about 12 to 13 pounds. Attaching a snowboard or backcountry skis adds another 8 to 10 pounds, bringing the total weight up to about 20 to 22 pounds. That kind of weight goes beyond the comfortable load carrying capacity of this pack. In contrast to GoLite’s rating of 25 pounds, I feel that the maximum comfortable load for the Rodeo is around 15 pounds, 20 pounds at the most. The pack does not have a frame, and the shoulder straps and hipbelt are too thin and soft for comfortably carrying weight. It gets down to how much weight you can comfortably carry on your shoulders.

Bottom line, the Rodeo is a lightweight in more ways than one. Although it is the lightest snow sports pack we know of, it is short on volume and weight carrying capacity. Most snow sports packs have an internal frame and a more substantial suspension system for carrying weight, which also make them relatively heavy for their volume. The Rodeo is designed to attach a snowboard, but doesn’t really have the weight-carrying capacity to carry it plus normal snow sports and cold weather gear. But the Rodeo concept still has hope. Its present design is suitable for carrying lightweight snowshoes. If a lightweight frame (like the corrugated plastic frame in the GoLite Vision Pack) and a more substantial suspension system were added, the Rodeo could do the job and still weigh significantly less than many other snow sports packs.

So how versatile is the Rodeo? The snowboard sleeve easily detaches with four side-release buckles to yield a fairly normal year-around daypack. The top pocket and two panel compartments allow good organization and convenient access. Its volume and weight carrying capacity are about right to carry everything needed for an alpine day hike, or to carry gear for yourself and a companion. The main deficiency is side pockets; I would prefer to have two durable side pockets mounted low to provide a space for water bottles and frequently used gear.

GoLite Rodeo Snow Sport Backpack REVIEW - 5
Beyond snow sports, I carried the Rodeo (sans snowboard sleeve) on several dry weather day hikes, and found it to be a lightweight, comfortable, and versatile daypack. But I missed having side pockets. The balanced rock in the background is a common sight in southern Utah.

What’s Unique

The Rodeo is especially suited for carrying a snowboard, and it provides places to put specialized winter sports gear (avalanche beacon and probe, shovel, and goggles) to keep them handy.

Recommendations for Improvement

Although the Rodeo is lightweight and versatile, it falls short in the volume and weight carrying capacity needed for alpine day tripping carrying a snowboard or skis. Some specific recommendations are:

  • Increase the volume to about 2000 cubic inches to provide adequate room for bulky cold weather clothing
  • Add a lightweight removable framesheet (perhaps similar to the one in the Vision pack), and add more and stiffer padding to the shoulder straps and hipbelt
  • Add durable lower side pockets for water bottles or convenient storage
  • Move the hipbelt pockets from the side to the front to make them more convenient
  • Add ski loops to the lower sides to make the pack more suitable for carrying skis


"GoLite Rodeo Backpack REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-03-07 03:00:00-07.