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.