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GoLite Vision Backpack REVIEW

A panel loading internal frame pack with a small volume and very low profile that offers comfort with excellent organizational features.


by Will Rietveld | 2005-08-23 03:00:00-06

GoLite Vision Backpack REVIEW


At 1950 cubic inches (32 L), the Vision is the smallest backpack in GoLite’s Unlimited Series, which is focused on using advanced materials to provide full suspension weight-carrying capacity with maximum comfort and minimum weight. The GoLite Vision weighs 30 ounces (850 g), has tough SilLite HP and X-Pac fabrics, water-resistant zippers, and a corrugated polystyrene framesheet with integrated aluminum stays.

What's Good

  • Panel loading
  • Three outside mesh pockets provide adequate convenient storage
  • Lightweight yet durable
  • Water-resistant zippers
  • Water bottles reachable (barely) with the pack on

What's Not So Good

  • Panel zipper is only half height
  • Insufficient hip and lumbar padding
  • Minimal attachment points


Backpack 2005 GoLite Vision
Style Internal frame, panel loading
Volume 1950 ci (32 L) size L
Weight 1 lb 14.1 oz (853 g) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 1 lb 14 oz (850 g)
Fabrics Main pack body is SilLite HG (40d polyester with silicone outside coating and polyurethane inside coating ); front pocket and bottom are Dimension Polyant X-Pac (a three-layer fabric consisting of a 50d ripstop polyester inner layer, a 1000d polyester mesh middle layer, and a 40d ripstop polyester outer layer with DWR). Shoulder strap and lumbar padding are EXΔ Brock Foam (non-absorptive polyethylene closed-cell foam). Backpad is foam spacer mesh. Side pockets are nylon mesh with an elastic binding
Features Unlimited Suspension System, water-resistant zippered panel on front, two side mesh pockets, bellowed front pocket with water-resistant zipper, hard mesh hipbelt, 3 L internal hydration sleeve and ports, haul loop, two ice axe loops with Velcro retention straps, side compression straps, load lifter straps, sternum strap, four accessory loops.
Volume to Weight Ratio 64.8 ci/oz size L (based on 1950 ci and a measured weight of 30.1 oz)
Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity 15 lb (9 kg) BPL estimated
Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio 7.9 (based on 15 lb and a measured weight of 1.9 lb)
MSRP $120


I found the GoLite Vision backpack to be a bit of a dichotomy. On the one hand, its corrugated polystyrene framesheet with integrated aluminum stays gives it the ability to carry serious weight, but the pack’s inadequate lumbar and hipbelt padding limit its comfortable load carrying capacity to about 15 pounds. I carried the Vision on a number of snowshoe day trips, day hikes, and peak ascents and found it to be a versatile internal frame pack capable of carrying a sizeable load. Overall, I found the Vision to be a versatile day-use pack suitable for a wide variety of purposes.

The Vision’s Unlimited Suspension System consists of a corrugated polystyrene framesheet with five incorporated thin aluminum stays, Brock foam padded shoulder straps and lumbar pad, and spacer mesh back padding. The framesheet slips into a pocket in the back of the pack and is easily removed for lighter loads. It weighs 6.5 ounces (size L). The original shape of the framesheet was pretty flat. I found that it could easily be bent on the edge of a counter (warming it up with a heat gun helps) to match the contour of my back, which gave the pack a much better fit.

The harness system includes load-lifter straps to pull the top of the pack against your back, and a sternum strap that is very easy to adjust and connect. The hipbelt is a simple affair made of hard mesh. Although it is lightweight and ventilates well, I was disappointed that the Vision does not have any hipbelt pockets.

Padding in the lumbar region and on the shoulder straps is EXΔ Brock Foam (a non-absorptive polyethylene closed-cell foam). The contact surface is Schoeller Dryskin Extreme stretch-woven fabric for wicking away moisture. The backpad is foam spacer mesh. Overall, I found the shoulder strap and backpanel padding to be adequate, but the thin lumbar padding and lack of hipbelt padding were not adequate to comfortably carry heavy loads.

GoLite does not specify a weight limit for the Vision. It shares the same framesheet (which is intended for carrying serious weight with maximum comfort) as other members of the Unlimited Series, but it lacks the comfortable lumbar and hipbelt padding found in the other members of the series. In our review of the Infinity Pack, also in the Unlimited Series, we gave it a high rating for load carrying comfort. In contrast, the Vision has a framesheet capable of carrying a 30 pound load, and effectively transferring weight to the hips, but doesn’t provide the padding to carry it comfortably.

This was especially noticeable in my weight-carrying tests. With 20-35 pounds of concentrated weight (sand bags and bottles of water) in the pack, the Vision effectively transferred weight to my hips, but the thin lumbar padding made the framesheet feel like a board against my lower back and the unpadded hipbelt straps cut into my waist. In my stepped down tests, I arrived at 15 pounds as the maximum comfortable weight-carrying capacity for this pack.

The GoLite Vision has thin lumbar padding and no padding on the hipbelt (top left), making it inadequate for carrying the dense, heavy climbing loads this pack is intended for. The Vision’s framesheet is a corrugated polystyrene panel with five incorporated thin aluminum stays (top right). It can be bent on the edge of a counter to match the curvature of your back. There’s a large front pocket (bottom left) with a full-height water-resistant zipper. Angled side mesh pockets (bottom right) allow water bottles to be reached (barely) with the pack on. The shoulder strap attaches to the back of the hard mesh hipbelt.

When completely filled, the Vision is a slender pack, measuring about 26.5 inches high, 11 inches wide at the bottom and 9 inches wide at the top, and 8 inches thick at the bottom and 6.5 inches thick at the top.

Although the Vision is a panel loader, it would be more accurate to say it's semi-panel loading. The panel is only half-height, so one has to dig down to access the contents in the bottom half of the pack. The Vision is one of the few packs we have tested that allows access to water bottles with the pack on. The side mesh pockets are angled forward just enough to allow a water bottle to be pulled out and re-inserted. I found it to be a bit of a stretch, but doable.

When I tried to attach snowshoes to the outside of the Vision, I ran into a general lack of attachment points. There are two short daisy chains on the upper sides of the front pocket. I used two accessory straps to tie the snowshoes to the daisy chains at the top and to the ice axe loops at the bottom. This was not a very sturdy arrangement at the top because the weight was supported only by fabric, and the arrangement was less than ideal because the snowshoes blocked access to the front pocket.

What's Unique

The Vision’s innovative corrugated plastic framesheet with integrated thin aluminum stays weighs only 6.5 ounces and really transfers weight. It can readily be molded to your back for a custom fit. It’s also easily removed to provide a lightweight frameless pack.

Recommendations for Improvement

Although the Vision is capable of carrying heavy loads, it needs more weight-carrying comfort. I would like to see much thicker padding in the lumbar region and adequate padding added to the hipbelt.

There are also a few convenience improvements that could be made. It would be nice to have a three-quarter or full-height panel zipper for easier access to pack contents, better attachment points on the front for carrying snowshoes or other gear, side mesh pockets that had more angle to make water bottle access a little easier, and hipbelt pockets for easy access to smaller items.


"GoLite Vision Backpack REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2005-08-23 03:00:00-06.