GoLite Jam 70L Backpack Review

On the Quick

Weight: 1lb 15oz
Capacity: 70l
Design: Frameless
Totally Carrying Weight: 30lb Maximum
MSRP: $129.99
Available From: http://www.golite.com

Whenever someone asks me about how they can start getting their pack lighter, I first ask them what kind of pack they have. In my opinion, ultralighting starts with the pack. Your average pack weighs roughly three and a half pounds. That’s a lot of weight to carry just to carry more weight. If you’re serious about losing those pounds, the first step is to consider going frameless and the Golite 70L Jam Pack can help you achieve that.

Golite Jam Full Front Side

I first purchased my Golite a year ago after looking through a half a dozen other competitors (the Granite Gear Crown V.C. came in at a very close second and is worth comparing). Weight is always my first and foremost factor. The Golite comes in at 1 pound 15 ounces (A far cry from the 3.6 pounds I was carrying with my Osprey!). It isn’t as light as its sister bags; the Jam 50L (1 pound 14 ounces) or Jam 35L (1 pound 11 ounces); but it’s all about the space and the Jam 70L is where you want to be if you plan on doing anything more than a quick overnight.

Golite Jam 70 Full Back

The design of the Jam Pack is relatively simple. The main compartment is 70 liters (as the name implies) and has a roll top so it can expand or be rolled down depending on the amount of gear your hauling. There is room in the main compartment for a 3 liter hydration system of your choice and two ports at the top so your drinking line can come out either side.  There is also a hook at the top, presumably to hook your bladder to – however my Platypus bladder’s top doesn’t fit into the thin hook design.  I’m not sure if they had another system in mind here or whether this is just a frustrating minor flaw.

Golite Roll Top Down

Roll top closed

Golite Rolltop Up

Roll top expanded

Golite Main Compartment

Interior main compartment. Note the top plastic hook

It has two stretch pockets on either side large enough to carry two water bottles. On the front is the main zipper pocket where I tend to stick anything I need regular access to such as headlamp, gloves, hat, etc. There’s also a key hook inside the zipper compartment, which is great if you’re notorious for losing your keys like I am. Lastly there are two mini pockets on either side of the hipbelt. Personally I’ve given some thought to removing these to lighten the weight as I rarely use them.

Golite Jam Side Pocket

Side stretch pocket

Golite Front Pocket

Zipper front compartment

The pack features several compression straps, which Golite calls its ComPACKtor system. Each side features two straps that can be cinched in to compress the bag at the side or they are also designed with male to female ends that can stretch across the entirety of the pack in order to compress the full length of the bag. The last compression strap is at the top designed to crush down the roll top depending on how much gear you’re hauling.

Golite Side Compression Straps

Side compression straps. Note extra long length of straps that can be trimmed to reduce weight

Golite Compression Hook

Side compression hooks

Golite Bottom

Bottom of pack with ice hook loops and bottom compression hook

The Golite is also frameless. This is a huge weight advantage but isn’t without its problems. The Jam Pack only features a thin removable foam back pad. While this adds a touch of comfort to the pack when it’s on, it does little in terms of rigidness. In a frameless pack the number one thing is how you pack it. If you pack incorrectly the contents are likely to slip down the pack as you’re hiking and basically become a heavy ball at the bottom. You also run the risk of having a pointy object jabbing you in the back – all the more reason to pay close attention to what’s going where inside your bag.

Golite Back Medium

Golite Back CU

Back mesh for breathability

For myself, I take my sleeping pad and run it down the back of the pack, which creates a ‘frame’ and a base to start with. From there it’s all about weight distribution. I tend to take my sleeping bag and crush it into the bottom of the pack (I never carry my sleeping bag in a sack or compression sack unless I’m going to be somewhere it might rain. Then it’s in an ultralight waterproof compression sack). After I put in a few more pieces I may not need until camp, like long underwear, pillow, etc, it’s time for the heaviest items. This includes all consumables that aren’t going to be eaten on the trail, my cooking kit and my tent. At the top of the pack I put other lighter items I might need access to depending on the trip. The only heavy item I put toward the top is my water purifier.

Golite Jam 70 Waist Straps

Waist straps

The Jam Pack is made from Dyneema fabric. As taken from Golite’s site: “Dyneema® The fabric of choice for our standard-setting UltraLite Series packs, our exclusive Dyneema® Gridstop weave combines 100% nylon base yarn with Dyneema fibers to deliver the strongest, lightest, performance pack fabric ever produced. Dyneema fibers have a strength-to-weight ratio that is 15 times better than high tensile steel, making this fabric incredibly difficult to tear.” Now while they say it’s incredibly difficult to tear and I’ve been lucky enough to not tear the pack anywhere, I have some serious scuff-marks on the bottom from where the pack slid against rocks while I was climbing.  I’ve heard from others that theirs has taken a beating and is still going strong but for me, the jury is still out.  The stretchy pockets, however, aren’t as durable and one of mine already has small holes in it.

Golite Mini Pocket

Side hip pockets.

There are a few important elements to note with the Jam Pack.  The maximum weight is 30 lbs.  This is meant for ultralight backpacking. If you’re carrying the extra weight or “luxury items,” this pack isn’t for you. As with any pack, sizing is very important, but it might be even more so given that this is a frameless model. When in doubt, try on a pack at an outdoor store before you buy – and always trust how it feels.

Lastly, while weight is always the number one factor to me, price is always right up there, too.  The key to Golite’s success is that they sell their products at wholesale prices, which easily makes what could be a $300 pack much more affordable to the consumer.

Pros:

  • Ultralight
  • Well Constructed
  • 70 Liters (more than enough room)
  • Reversible Compression Straps
  • Cost

Cons:

  • Frameless takes time getting use to
  • Some additional weight added in terms of straps and pockets.  All can be removed with a pair of scissors.

Overall:

I’m pretty pleased with my Golite pack.  So far, it’s served me well.  This isn’t a pack for the causal hiker as it take some getting used to and you have to be extra-conscious of what you pack, but for backpackers looking to lighten their load this is a perfect place to start.

 

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