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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > GoLite Odyssey Pack > Test Report by Ray Estrella

July 11, 2007



NAME: Raymond Estrella
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Huntington Beach California USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or fiancée Jenn.


The Product

Manufacturer: GoLite
Web site:
Product: Odyssey Pack
Year manufactured: 2007
MSRP: $ 200.00 (US)
Size: Large (also available in Medium)
Weight listed: 3 lb 10 oz (1.64 kg) Actual weight 3 lb 9.8 oz (1.63 kg)
Volume: 5800 cu in (95 L)
Weight limit recommended: 50 lb (23 kg)
Torso fit range: 19.5 to 21.5 in (50 to 55 cm)
Color: Tempest (also available in Crimson)
Warranty: (from company web site), "Our guarantee is simple: we want you to be happy with your GoLite product. We will replace any gear with a manufacturing defect for the lifetime of the product, free of charge."


Product Description

The GoLite Odyssey pack (hereafter referred to as the Odyssey or the pack) is a blue with grey trim top-loading pack positioned by the manufacturer for use for "backpacking, alpinism, mountaineering and adventure travel". (I fit the first three quite well.)

The Odyssey came in an impossibly thin box to be holding a pack of this size. Only 3 in (7.5 cm) thick and it had room to spare! A hang tag was attached that touts the wonders of the pack and GoLite in three languages.

The pack body is made of a type of nylon that GoLite is calling Velocity. It says that it is polyurethane coated and has a DWR application. It is a very dense, close weave, and the PU coating feels to be on the inside. I wonder if it will be waterproof as this is the same thing that is done to tent bottoms and flys. The grey material used for the trim and extension sleeve are a regular nylon rip-stop.

At the top of the pack body is the above mentioned 8 in (20 cm) grey extension sleeve. A cord runs around the top of the sleeve and through a cord lock, allowing the top to be drawn shut. Once shut a nylon strap goes over the top and clips in at the front allowing the pack to be snugged down.

At the bottom of the main pack body is a sleeping bag compartment that has a removable interior shelf. The shelf is held to the sides of the pack with four nylon buckles. The sleeping bag compartment can be accessed from the outside by way of a curved water-tight zipper.

A hydration sleeve sized to fit a 3 L (3 qt) hydration bladder is sewn inside of the pack against the frame-sheet. It is edged with elastic. Two ports allow the tube to be routed out of the pack on either side and down the shoulder straps through some reflective "tube guides". Just above the hydration sleeve at the top of the inner pack is a key-clip on a piece of webbing.

On either side of the pack at the bottom is a large pocket made of some black stretchy material. They are large enough to hold a large Nalgene bottle with no problem, with some room for extras.

On the face of the Odyssey is a large storage pocket. It measures 15 x 10 x 2.5 in (38 x 25 x 6 cm) and is closed with a water-tight zipper. The Golite logo is embroidered at the top of the pocket.
At the bottom of the pack are two ice axe or tool loops. Up on the pocket are the upper anchors for the ice axe. They are different than on any other pack I have owned. They are made of elastic cord that snaps into a clip-type keeper. The cord has a grab-patch sewn onto it to facilitate use with gloves on. (See pic to the side.) I think this is great! Many times I have fought with buckles or had Velcro keepers attach themselves to my fleece gloves in winter. I can't wait to try them for "real". Every zipper on the pack has a great plastic cord-pull added to the regular zipper-pulls. This is a very nice touch for winter (glove) use also.

There are two compression straps on each side of the pack body. The straps have releasable buckles that allow them to be stretched around to the other side to carry large items like a snowboard, or (what I will undoubtedly try) snowshoes. The way this works is the one side has a female swift-clip end on the strap, and a male is on the other side. They left plenty of extra length to allow the straps to reach each other. And as the upper and lower strap are configured this way it will make for a secure carry. As I presently always have to carry separate straps for this use, it just saved me a bit of weight. Cool!

There are two extra straps on the lower portion of the pack also. I assume that these are for a sleeping pad or something similar. They have fast-clip connectors for speedy access. They can also be used to compress my sleeping bag should I choose to use the lower compartment for that purpose sans stuff sack.

A removable top pocket/lid sits above the main pack body. It is accessed by a welded waterproof zipper. The lid closes the body of the pack by the use of two short straps that run from the upper side-compression straps up to connectors on the lid. From what I can tell the lid can not be used as a fanny pack as there are no straps that will cross my body. But at least it is a bit more weight off for a summit bid. The lid slides on a regular nylon buckle, not a quick-adjust type.

The stays of this pack are made of aluminum and sit in pockets attached to either side of the moldable frame-sheet. The plastic-type frame sheet has a U cut out of the top of it to allow my head to push into the space it makes. The whole works slides into an interior pocket inside the pack. It can be taken out for adjustment, but I will try it at the factory "setting" at first.


The contoured shoulder straps are made of Brock foam covered by "space mesh". (The same mesh covers the foam-filled back panel.) The shoulder straps have two adjustment straps on them. The ones at the top of the shoulder adjust the distance the pack body rides away from my body. The one at the lower end of the shoulder strap pulls the pack down onto my shoulders changing the balance of weight between hip and shoulders. A sternum strap crosses the between the shoulder straps. It is mounted on a sliding connection and has a built-in whistle. At the top of the back panel, centered between the shoulder straps is a grab-loop.

The adjustable webbing hip-belt is foam filled and has two good sized angled, bellowed mesh pockets that are secured by zippers. The belt closes with a Nifco (the maker of all the buckles) quick-connect buckle. It adjusts with straight-pull straps. The belt does not have much in the way of wrap-around contact with my hip.

The comPACKtor system makes it possible to tuck in unneeded space from the pack, taking the volume down to 1700 cu in (28 L) according to GoLite. (I do not think I agree with those numbers.) It is accomplished by attaching two little fixed hooks next to the tool loops to fixed loops at the bottom of the back panel. Here is a picture of it deployed.


This concludes the Initial Report for the Odyssey pack, the following is the reflections of the first two months of use.


Field Conditions

The Odyssey has been used in Minnesota for a snowshoe backpacking trip that turned into just a hike. (The snow melted.) Temps were in the upper 30s F (3 C) I was on about 3 in (8 cm) of icy or slushy snow. I do not know what the pack weight was.

It was used for a 2-day trip to Utah's Canyonlands National Park. The temps ranged from 35 to 70 F (2 to 21 C) Elevations ranged from 5200' to 5400' (1585 to 1646 m). It was in contact with a lot of sandstone and granite on this trip. Starting weight was 40 lb (18.1 kg).

I took the Odyssey up to San Jacinto for a last fling with winter. I set up at Mica camp above Tammarack Valley at 9300' (2835 m) elevation. The temps got down to 24 F (-4 C). I was on pine duff and dirt. Starting weight was 38 lb (17.2 kg). Trails were half snow covered and slushy on the trip up, horribly iced over on the hike back out.


So far I am enjoying this pack. It has a lot of room. Winter loads often are very large as the tents and bags are much bigger than their 3-season counterparts. On my solo trip in Minnesota I had no problem getting everything inside. I could have fit more even. On that trip I used the crossed straps to carry my snowshoes at the start. (I never did run into deep enough snow to use them.) This application is much more secure than the straps I used to run around my pack to hold them. They were held to the pack very well and never slid or twisted around, something that happens quite often the other way. Here is a picture just starting out showing the snowshoes on the back.

straps across

Attached to the upper strap is an Aquatherm insulated bottle holder. It is there because the side pockets of the Odyssey will not hold it. This is a problem that I have found with most packs that utilize a stretch material for the pockets.

The pack rode very well over my shell. As it warmed up (and I did too) I removed the shell and wore it over my mid-weight base layer.

In Utah's Canyonlands National Park I had a pretty good load as I had to carry water for two days and a 3-person tent. Starting out I was at 40 lb (18.1 kg) and noticed that the shoulder straps were not very comfortable. The hip belt, which I had reservations about at first with its small side wings, turned out to be stellar at this weight. I had no problem transferring the weight to the hip belt, and the small strap proved to be unnoticeable while hiking. No amount of adjusting made the shoulder straps more comfortable. (I have an 83 mile (134 km) hike coming up during the LTR phase of the test, maybe I will get used to it over a longer duration hike.) The second day the load was down to 32 lb (14.5 kg) and the difference was amazing. The entire pack was wonderful to carry. In fact I was so impressed with it I told Jenn that I may get the next size down of this pack series when the test is over.

On this trip even with two gallons of water and the extra gear, I came nowhere near filling it up. I put my Big Agnes Mystic sleeping bag in the lower compartment and had room to spare there, and had the entire extension sleeve plus some of the main compartment and entire outer pocket to spare. Here is a picture from this trip.

In search of slots

This trip really tested the durability of the Velocity fabric. On day two we found an unmarked slot canyon that we could not fit through. As I was intrigued by the sight of light at the end of it I decided to take off the pack and work my way up and over far enough to slide back down to go see if it was passable. Upon verifying that it was (barely) I came back and had Jenn hand me the packs which I then had to pull through the slot to where it widened enough for them to drop. It scraped the heck out of the Odyssey. At another section of the same slot we could not safely negotiate the climbing with a pack on so I climbed to a point where Jenn could just hand them to me where I then swung them and threw them as far as I could ahead of me. The Odyssey bounced off the rock and wedged itself in the slot. We had to reverse the trip to get back out. So the pack got quite the workout. I thoroughly expected it to be torn up and, as this is not the kind of use it is positioned for, was planning to apologize to GoLite for the rough treatment. But it handled it great. It is scuffed up a lot but nothing tore or abraded bad. (My body on the other hand did not fare so well.)

I used the hydration pocket on this trip. It worked very well. I liked the tube guides on the shoulder straps. They keep the tube from flopping around. I do wish that the inner bladder pocket were higher in the pack as it puts the weight further down than I like to have it.

During the climbing portion of our hike I put my trekking poles in the ice axe loops and used the bungee keepers. They work as well as I thought they would. Jenn was very impressed with them too. She has the woman's model of the Odyssey but has not used it at the time of this trip. (She is not a part of the test.) It was so much easier than the hook-and-loop strap and buckle system used on the pack that Jenn had along.

On the trip to San Jacinto I finally got to use most of the room in the pack. I used the sleeping bag compartment exclusively to hold my Sierra Designs Cirque 0 F (-18 C) sleeping bag. Taking up a big chunk of the upper real estate was the 4-season Hercules tent from the same company. (See test reports below.) With some items that very much fall into the luxury category (library book, reading glasses, 12 year-old Scotch and a Platypus container of frozen "good" water to drink it with…) I still could not get the weight over 38 lb (17.2 kg). The pack handled that with aplomb.

loaded up

But I did finally get to use the extension sleeve. I had it almost fully extended. And found my first real beef with the pack. The straps that allow adjustment of the top lid to float above the extension sleeve are the type that requires the strap to be fed through the buckle in two steps. Every pack I own with a floating top lid have buckles that allow them to be adjusted with either a single-handed pull on the strap (shortening) or a single finger pull of the tab-side of the buckle to loosen (lengthen) the strap. The buckle needed to accomplish this would weigh no more than the type that GoLite is using right now, and I hope that they consider changing to this type in the future.

I had no discomfort with the shoulder straps on the trip mentioned above. It seems so far that less than 40 lb (18.1 kg) seems to be the magic number for this pack. I have a spring hike coming up in the Sierra Nevada that should push this weight past what I have been using it for and will involve some major mileage and altitude gain. Come back in two months to see how the Odyssey fared in these conditions.

This concludes the Field Report, my thanks to BackpackGearTest and GoLite for the opportunity to test this pack.


Field Conditions

Since the Field Report I have used the Odyssey on the following backpacking trips.

1: A four-day 84-mile (135 km) loop-and-spur backpacking trip in Kings Canyon National Park. The starting pack weight was 44 lb (20 kg). The elevations from 5100' to 12300' (1554 to 3749 m) with 20000' (6096 m) of gain (and loss), and temperatures ranged from just below freezing to 91 F (33 C). I was on snow, ice, rock, scree and dirt. Here is a shot of it next to a huge wave by Mist Falls at the beginning of the trip.

wave at Mist Falls

2: A three-day 26-mile (42 km) loop backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park. The starting pack weight was 47 lb (21.32 kg) with temperatures from 37 to 82 F (3 to 28 C). The terrain consisted of packed dirt to exposed rock and scree fields, with some snow travel. The elevations ranged from 6790' to 10700' (2070 to 3261 m) with 5300' (1615 m) of gain (and loss).


This pack is somewhat of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for me. (See; The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson.) The trip in Kings Canyon is a case in point. The pack has been extremely comfortable when loaded under 40 lb (18.1 kg). It has not mattered how full volume-wise the pack is, but that weight has been the magic number. Because of bringing a lot of extra mountaineering gear (ice axe, snowshoes, crampons, etc.) I had the weight higher than it would normally have been. Within six hours I was feeling discomfort from the shoulder pads. I kept adjusting the pack to put more weight on my hips, but that stopped working by the next day when the hip belt began causing me a lot of pain. For the whole trip I played with the balance of Mr. Hyde.

At one point in the trip we had an 8.6 mile spur trail to take. Since I was going to be coming back to the same spot, and there was no pass to go over, I left all the snow gear and my bear canister near the trail junction. It felt absolutely great carrying Dr Jekyll with no discomfort whatsoever. I figured that I was at 30 lb (13.61 kg) for this time.

Another example is the side pockets. The stretchy material works very well to stuff a hat, gloves, snack or goggles in. I can reach it with no difficulty while the pack is on, and Dr Jekyll holds things like that quite securely. But that use is when I am using a hydration bladder for my drinking water. For my longer trips I like to use bottles so that I can fill them faster on the trail, and add powdered additives to my water. The stretch pockets do not work very well for this. Mr. Hyde throws my bottles out all the time when I sit the pack down or lean over. Once was very close to affecting my trip when I took the pack off to put on crampons at the north side of Mather Pass. As I sat the pack down a water bottle popped out and went sliding down the mountain. I was just able to twist around and grab it before it was gone for good. I could hear Mr. Hyde's frustrated sigh in his foiled attempt…

One byproduct of going extra light weight is the possibility of things being less durable. For the most part that has not been borne out with the Odyssey. The pack has held up to some rough treatment and conditions very well. But on the last morning of the Kings Canyon trip the hipbelt buckle failed. The lower prong of the male piece stopped engaging the female side, it would not spread out. This would make the buckle open at an angle, swiveling on the upper prong. To keep it from completely separating I could not tighten the belt as much as I wanted. I had over 6000' (1829 m) of body-jarring trail to descend that day and was forced to keep most of the weight on my very sore shoulders. I listened to Mr. Hyde's evil laughter all the way to the trailhead.

I sent an email to GoLite's Customer Service on Saturday, June 9th. On Tuesday June 12 they emailed me back saying that they put a new buckle in the mail. It got there a few days later. I put the new one on in a few minutes time and was good to go.

The last trip was in Grand Teton for a moderately hard hike with Jenn. I decided to turn the way-back machine on to the days of heavy packs and good eating for this trip. I carried a three person tent to give us plenty of room and brought a full cook set, hiking kitchen and good food to make for us. (I brought some adult beverages too.) I had a Bear Vault BV400 loaded with the grub. We had to carry ice axes and crampons for the pass, so the weight was up there again. This is the fullest the pack has ever been. Here is a picture from the trip.

Grand Tetons

Again the shoulder straps were uncomfortable within a couple hours of hiking. The belt worked fine with the new buckle, and it stayed working for the entire trip. As this was the first trip in a while without snowshoes strapped to the back I was able to keep my rain gear and pack cover in the back pocket. I really liked being able to access this stuff fast.

As much stuff as I had with me I still did not use all of the room in the pack. I probably had over half of the extension still available. This pack can swallow a lot of gear.

In conclusion I think that GoLite is on the right track here, but needs to work on a few things. I would suggest using better buckles. I would really like to see an easier-to-adjust buckle on the lid straps. The shoulder pads could use some tinkering in my opinion, and the side pockets need reworking to use reliably with bottles.

But I like the pack a lot. I love the weight of it. The durability is outstanding. The top lid is the perfect size for what I like to carry up there, and the comfort is fine when under 40 lb (18 kg). I thank GoLite and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to use the Odyssey pack.

Crossing creek in SEKI

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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