Recently I pulled out some of my older equipment with the intent of evaluating its continued existence in the small collection of gear that resides in my cluttered garage. As you can imagine base pack weight has become a concern of mine and I really wanted to review some of the gear acquisitions I’ve made in the past with respect to my personal aspiration at reducing this trekking variable.
One of the first backpacks I pulled out, a Mountainsmith from my college days, weighs in at 5 lbs 8 oz (88 oz). I about cried at this point because the pack weight is near where I’d like my base to be. This was a comfortable pack which I used to believe was light. It probably was for its time and I’m sure it has lots of useful life left in it … just not on my back.
I picked up the GoLite Jam at Marmot Mountain Works a couple of weeks previously and since have had it out on a number of trail running excursions and a couple of overnight backpacking trips. At 1 lb 10 oz (26 oz) the pack is light enough to use for short, fast day trips. Without frame stays (which only add weight) it has the potential to be a very uncomfortable ride. However, if you build your pack up correctly using the contents to balance the weight and add a bit of rigidity you won’t ever notice the difference.
The materials used to build the bag seem to me exceptionally resilient and wear resistant. I’m not really sure what Dyneema® is, but it’s light and strong and I’m happy with it. The grey color doesn’t show dirt and so far no sweat marks have shown on the straps or the padding along the spine.
I’m very happy with the following features of the pack. They’re well thought out and I find them convenient out on the trail.
The comPACKtor™ system consists of two plastic buckles which can be connected to small loops built into the pack (lower blue arrow). The idea is that when closed the pack’s volume is reduced by a few hundred cubic inches. When open you’ve got the volume back when you need it.
The surplus weight which is the result of this volume control system is minor and the stitching at the anchor points seems to be strong and should last a long time. On fast, light trail running the reduction in pack volume makes it possible to avoid little bits of gear jumping around on those long descents. Very helpful.
The Ice Axe loops and gear slings are well thought out and only a fraction of the total weight again (upper blue arrow). I’ve used this to stow my trekking poles from time to time and I’ve been glad that this was added to the pack.
Axillary gear pouches have been provided on the belt as well as the behind the hips. They are made of a stretch material which means it’s easy to cram something in these spaces and know that it will remain there. The little product tags on the top ribbon of where my water bottle is stowed will be removed I’m sure.
The shoulder straps and back padding are very comfortable, breathe easily and don’t seem to accept stains. As you can see there are ports on either side of the pack top for a hydration system to be routed to a shoulder strap and a pouch with a hanger on the reverse side of the spine. I haven’t used this yet (rather I stuff my space blanket in this area), but it seems useful especially on winter or cold weather treks.
Things I don’t particularly like about the bag from the factory. First, what’s up with these zipper fobs? Someone went to a great deal of effort to size the zippers so they’re not too much extra weight on the whole pack and then I imagine someone else loaded up the silly fobs with a bunch of worthless plastic material because it looks “cool”? I’ll be replacing the fobs with knotted paraglider line soon, just enough to allow easy ingress/egress into the zippered areas.
Next up the buckles/anchors used to secure the breast strap to the shoulder straps are goofy and useless. The pack pivots at these two points as it rides while walking or running. This invariably results in the breast strap coming loose from the shoulder strap because the little plastic anchors work themselves off the mounting strap. I’m not certain I have an easy solution for this one yet, it may mean I just sew the breast strap on and do away with the plastic anchors. Who knows?
Finally, the compression straps on either side have had little use from as of yet. If pack use continues and I’m able to build my pack up for optimal load carrying/balance without making use of these straps they may also be cut.
Overall I really like this pack. Its super lightweight is its primary attraction. Materials selection has added value in my case and its comfortable with a large amount of space for food or travel weight packed well.