Rondane Gear Part 2: Golite Jam

I'm getting there, albeit slowly. Todays (This weeks? This months?) installment is the Rucksack:
Golite Jam: This was another piece of kit that had a first run out in Rondane. I would normally be reluctant to field test a piece of kit so centrally important as a rucksack for the first time on such a trip but reviews of the Jam and the Pinnacle have been so universally positive, and my impression out of the box was so good, that I took a risk. Besides I was glad of the additional weight saving over my old pack (my Jam, a large, weighs in at 800g, 250g less than my Granite Gear Vapour Trail). Those who followed the trip report will already have a good idea of what I'm about to say. Since Rondane I've had mixed feelings about the pack. I like the bag very much but it won't be my weapon of choice for future trips where my start weight is over 10kg.
For me the bag is close to perfect. It has exactly the right capacity for my set-up for four to five days unsupported. I really like the split between the main compartment and the large rear pocket. The latter, although putting significant weight in it risks shifting the centre of gravity too far from the back, is ideal for wet gear that you may need to access quickly. The Jam has converted me to hip belt pockets too. The ideal place for all those bits an pieces that otherwise get lumped together into ditty bags and little stuff sacks that rattle around in the main compartment of, inevitably lidless and access poor, lightweight packs. The fabric is convincingly rugged and should take a lot of punishment. Golite have refrained, on the 2009 model, from using those none-waterproof, waterproof zips that have been so popular of late opting instead for a boringly reliable weather flap. I can place and extract a water bottle in the side pockets while the pack is on my back. I even think the thing looks nice. In fact, the only thing I don't like about the bag is the compression system (the comPACKtor system) which, whilst effective for compromising the volume of the main sack also bends the back panel out of shape, but I can live with that one flaw.

So, what's my problem with the carry? Simply put it just doesn't feel comfortable enough nor well balanced enough with a load of 12kg. I noticed, when packing prior to departure, that my load put a kink in the back pad. An extra layer of closed cell foam stuffed down the back panel was enough to solve the problem but I still wasn't happy that load was being adequately transferred to the hip belt. The Rondane trip, especially the more technical ground, confirmed this for me. I found my shoulders were doing too much of the work. I also missed top tension straps on the steeps. I realise that my opinion is at odds with others. Others, whose opinion I take very seriously, state maximum loads of 12 and 15kg for the Jam. I can't explain the discrepancy, perhaps it's my physiology, perhaps I've not mastered packing the Jam, I don't know. What I do know is that, on the third long day, the big pull over the endless boulder fields of Rondslottet and Vinjeronden, the pack was transformed into the best rucksack I'd ever thrown onto my back. That transformation was already well underway in the Langholet when I estimate I started the day with 10kg all-up.

My final conclusion is that, although there is much good about this pack (miraculously much for the price!) the weight saving and the convenience of the bag aren't enough to balance the equation in favour of the Jam. The Jam will get a run out again for shorter trips. If I ever loose another 2kg from my base weight (now running at around 5kg) it would be my first choice but that's unlikely to happen. Until then, the Granite Gear Vapour trail, with all its flaws (single compartment, lack of hip pockets, inaccessible side pockets, over-long roll top etc) will remain my pack of choice for big trips. A rucksacks primary function is to carry the load and the Vapour Trail simply does that better. At least on my back it does.


  1. Dave - thanks for this write up. I have used the GoLite Pinnacle in the past and plan to purchase a Jam in the near future. What appeals to me about the GoLite packs is their balance of weight/features/comfort and the scales tip just in their favour for me, especially at the price.

    I agree that the packs, by their very design, have a definite weight limit. The first day of my 4 day Hardanger trip wasn't the most comfortable as I adapted to a brand new, untested pack, fiddled with the straps and fit and realised that I'd packed too much stuff! Once I'd found the optimum strap configuration I found the pack very comfortable.

    The hip belt pockets and side pockets are brilliant. Perfect shape, size and position. The rear pocket I'm less happy with. I think GoLite should have gone for a stretchy mesh pocket for drying or carrying just a couple of items of clothing. I think there is a tendency to use it as additional volume to the main compartment and I agree that this can shift the centre of gravity away from the body too much. Maybe I just need to be stricter about what goes in that pocket!

    I've modded my Pinnacle quite a bit. I've removed the hydration sleeve, key ring thingy, Compak-tor thingys, one ice-axe attachment and cut about 3 feet of excess strap material off! I plan to do the same mods the the Jam.

    The quest for the perfect backpack continues! When someone offers a full custom service for backpacks then we'll all have access to the perfect backpack. If we can afford it! Until then the GoLite packs, with a little scissor work, represent the best value option for me.

  2. Holdfast-Yeah, I've wondered if my experience on the first long day was simply about getting used to the Jam and there might be something in that notion. Four days with a pack is pretty thin and perhaps not enough to arive at a fair conclusion. I can't see how the hip belt as-is can function properly under big loads whichever way I pack. Still I won't be shelving the pack, just being less ambitious with it for a while. Perhaps I'll change my opinion in time (that's what opinions are for right?) but for the time being I'll reach for the Granite Gear (I'll be doing some mods to see if I can address the niggles with that pack).

    I'm glad you get along with the pinnacle and if Martins experience is anything to go by you should get get along with the Jam too. Like I said, there's a lot good about these packs and if you're lucky enough that they suit you then they make for good, hard wearing, lightweight packs at a bargain price.

    Like the sound of your mods by the way. Will have to have a go at mine. First to go will be the comPaktor thingies!!

  3. The Pinnacle has thicker shoulder strap padding and the hipbelt seems a bit thicker. I always pack the Pinnacle and Jam tall and thin. Keeping the weight close as possible to my centre of gravity is key. I love the packs. I have used so many other packs but the Pinnacle is stunning and my number one for week plus walks. The Jam is a great over night pack. Plug away with it. Could work out well in the end. On weight I don't know the perfect answer. I found it OK with testing different loads up to 12Kilo. Others don't and some say more.

    Holdfast that is radical with all that trimming bits of. How much weight is saved of the pack now?

  4. Absolutely guys, certain packs suit certain body shapes and I have also only used my Pinnacle for a single four day trip, so my experience is limited. I'll be honest and admit that my OMM Villain is a slightly more comfortable pack under full load, but only by a tiny margin and it weighs a lot more. Also a couple of the design features on the Villain aren't as well done as the GoLite. Side pockets and hip belt pockets may seem like minor considerations but when you're wearing your pack all day it's these minor storage solutions that can prove to be decisive. These little pockets on the Pinnacle are just perfect. And for the price? I think the Jam and Pinnacle should be regulation issue to anyone heading down the lightweight backpacking path.

    As for the mods, some of them were no brainers. From what I could tell the Compak-tor thingies were to reduce the volume of your pack into a day-pack. Yeah, that was never going to happen so SNIP and they were gone. Same for the hydration sleeve, don't use one on backpacking trips so SNIP. Ice axe loops? Only need one, SNIP. Key-ring keeper? SNIP! Not sure how much I've saved in weight. When I unpack this week I'll weigh my hot-rodded Pinnacle. I reckon 3oz saved.

    Mike Clelland over at BPL shaved 200g off his Jam...


  5. Hi, Dave.

    Despite being on my second Jam, I cannot disagree with your comments. The Jam is good enough, but my heaviest packs are more comfortable. I used mine for a series of four day loops in the Pyrenees and it got the job done. I have never weighed it so cannot say what I would consider its maximum weight. For me, its comfort becomes an issue towards the end of very long days (> 25 miles) but the Jam goes a long way to making those days possible.

    With my battered, older Jam I use the pocket for tools and other sharp edged items while mountain biking. I'm not sure why Golite dropped from a 3 litre hose system to a 2 litre system because I can certainly get through 3 litres on a big day in a dry place. Once or twice, I've needed 6 litres.

    Chris Townsend said the Jam wasn't particularly waterproof. He will not have said that if he hadn't had water ingress. Perhaps I've been lucky because my second Jam has seen some very wet conditions and performed well - but it's the last model, not the one with belt pockets.

    You are also correct about what the compression straps do to the back panel. The Jam has faults but none so drastic as to make me feel I must buy a new pack, even though ULA owners rave about comfort and MLD owners go and on about the build quality.

    Best wishes, John

  6. John,

    Thanks for the comments. Some interesting observations in there. The bit about comfort at the end of a long day rings a bell. My most negative feelings about the JAM come from the end of a long, hot day which turned out to be more about scrambling than walking. I'm blaming the jam for throwing me a bit off balance and I think theres at least soem truth in that notion. The only way to find out for certain would be to go back and do teh same thing with another pack but that's not likely to happen for a while :-)

    "The Jam has faults but none so drastic as to make me feel I must buy a new pack"

    I might feel the same if I'd started out with the JAM but I've got the Granite Gear pack on my gear shelf already.

  7. With you all the way with the Vapour Trail. Had mine for about 5-6 years now, and have made one or two modifications on it along the way. depending on how long my walk is but easily carries up to 15=18 kgs. I am down to 10-12kgs +food and water. carries it no probs.

  8. Haydn, best pack I've ever owned. It's beginning to get a bit worn now (few holes in the bag) but I'll be very reluctant to retire it. Really not sue what I'd replace it with.



You should be aware that if you click on the adsense links in the sidebar of this blog then I will receive a small payment. Any income I make will go towards the cost of web hosting for this blog and the associated photographic sites. Thankyou!