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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Golite Quest Pack > Owner Review by Cheryl McMurray

GOLITE QUEST WOMEN'S BACKPACK 
OWNER REVIEW BY CHERYL MCMURRAY
February, 2010


PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY

Name:  Cheryl McMurray
Age:  50
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Weight:  145 lb (66.6 kg)
Torso Length:  18.5 in (47 cm)
Email Address:  cherylmcmurray2ATgmailDOTcom
City, State, Country:  Garden Grove, California, U.S.

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I've been backpacking and hiking for four years, mostly on weekends year around.  Overnight trips are usually long weekend trips in the Eastern Sierras with 32 lb to 40 lb (15 kg to 18 kg) loads depending on the season.  One class two rock climb with a day pack is common.   Day hikes are 10 to 15 mi (16 km to 24 km) in the San Gabriel Mountains with loads of 15 lb to 20 lb (7 kg to 9 kg).  I'm a tent style camper and have experienced snow, freezing temperatures, winds (once was gale force), light rain, but mostly fair weather.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: GoLite
Manufacture URL: http://www.golite.com
Year of Manufacture:  2009
Manufacturer's Measurements:  4000 in^3 (65 l)
Size:  Medium  17.5 in to 19.5 in (44 cm to 50 cm) torso length
Maximum Load Capacity:  45 lb (20 kg)
Listed Weight 2 lb 15 oz (1.3 kg)
Actual Weight:  2 lb 14 oz (1.3 kg)
MSRP: $175.00 US

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The Quest is an all season backpack from GoLite's backcountry series made with Velocity fabric that is 100% nylon, very durable, and coated with a DWR treatment making it water resistant.  It features a Compactor system that enables one to use it as a daypack reducing the volume from 4000 in^3 (65 l) to 1300 in^3 (21 l).  The design of the pack is very simple consisting of: 

*An adjustable hip-belt with two stretch mesh pockets
*Internal stretch mesh hydration sleeve with right or left hydration tube ports
*Large front pocket
*Two side compression straps on each side with quick release buckles
*Side compression straps release and join to opposite side for carrying a snowboard, snowshoes, etc
*Removable lid with a top pocket zipper
*Contoured back panel and framesheet with two aluminum stays
*Two side mesh pockets with elastic top binding for easy access
*Two ice axe loops with light weight elastic cord and pack hook system for closure

INITIAL OBSERVATIONS

The pack was quite flat when it arrived as the hip belt and shoulder straps do not have a rigid structure and fold fairly flat under the pack.  The shoulder straps have a thick padding of about .25 in (.6 cm) thick with a mesh material covering the back side.  The hip belt padding is about 1 in (2.5 cm) thick with a very slight V shape to cup the hip bone.  I ordered the Cornflower/Sapphire color in a  medium size and was pleased with the color which is a two-toned blue with black pockets.  I have an 18.5 in (47 cm) torso and the pack fits me well.  I like the size of the hip belt pockets which are quite large and somewhat stretchy and each pocket has a smaller stash pocket for items like spare batteries.  The material seems very light but not too delicate.  The haul strap is thin but seems sturdy enough, however time will tell if it holds up under the loads.  The pack has nice zipper pulls and the elastic cord hook system is nice for securing an ice axe. 

Lift handle Pocket inside hip belt pocket
Haul strap
Small stash pocket in hip belt pocket

I like the compression strap that goes over the top cinch cord to further stablize the load.  I have the side compression straps pictured below when they are attached to the opposite side for carrying snowshoes or snowboard but with a full pack I don't see enough room for successfully doing this.  The side
pockets seem a bit shallow so I'm not sure I would trust them for use with a water bottle but taller items might work well as they can be secured under the compression straps. 

Lower strap attached for snowshoe carry Upper compression strap attached for snowshoe carry
Lower strap attached
for carrying snowboard
Upper strap attached for
carrying snowboard

The hydration pocket extends all the way to the bottom of the pack and the framesheet seems stiff with a slight contour for the lumbar area which I'm hoping will handle weights comfortably up to at least 40 lb (18 kg) comfortably.  The front pocket is large enough for carrying items that are needed during the day, the lid pocket has enough room for a map, compass, and snacks and the shoulder strap sports a nice whistle (not sure why it comes positioned down).  The sternum strap attaches directly into a clip on the shoulder strap that makes it easy to connect with one hand.

Overall I like the size and the simplicity of the pack's design.  I will be using it as a backpack pack as well utilizing the Compactor system for day hiking.  The day hike outings involve rock scramble so I'm hoping that the fabric material will be durable enough to hold up by exercising a little extra care.

FIELD TEST INFORMATION

I tested this backpack on five trips in Joshua Tree National Park, San Gorgoino Wilderness, and the Eastern Sierras all in California with sixteen days of total use.  I will report on its performance as a fully loaded backpack and it's performance as a day pack.

Trip #1
Location: Joshua Tree National Park
Distance: 5 mi (8 km) backpack (cross country, slight uphill), 9 mi (14 km) day hike (cross country)
Elevation: 3,700 ft to 5,400 ft (1,150 m to 1,650 m)
Weather: Sunny with some intermittent wind
Temperature: 34 F  to 82 F (1 C to 28 C)
Load Weight: 40 lb (18 kg) backpack, 19 lb (8.6 kg) day hike

Trip #2
Location: San Gorgonio Wilderness
Distance: 10 mi (16 km) backpack (trail), 11 mi (18 km) day hike (trail & cross country)
Elevation: 6,200 ft to 11,500 ft (1,900 m to 3,500 m)
Weather:  Partly cloudy to sunny with some winds
Temperature: 50s F to 80 F (13 C to 27 C)
Load Weight: 33 lb (15 kg) backpack, 17 lb (7.7 kg) day hike

Trip #3
Location: Eastern Sierra's near Lone Pine, California
Distance: 22 mi (35 km) backpack (trail), 7 mi (11 km) day hike (slab, rock, talus and scree)
Elevation: 10,000 ft to 13,500 ft (3,050 m to 4,100 m)
Weather: Afternoon thunderstorms and light rain
Temperature: 48 F to 70 F (9 C to 21 C)
Load Weight: 35 lb (16 kg) backpack, 20 lb (9 kg) day hike

Trip #4
Location: Eastern Sierra's near Independence, California
Distance: 12 mi (19 km) backpack (trail),  12 mi (19 km) day hike (trail, rock, talus, scree)
Elevation: 9,200 ft to 12,900 ft (2,800 m to 3,900 m)
Weather: Light rain/sleet (first day), sunny (rest of the trip)
Temperature: 28 F to 75 F (-2 C to 24 C)
Load Weight: 35 lb (16 kg) backpack, 18 lb (8 kg) day hike

Trip #5
Location: Eastern Sierra's near Big Pine, California
Distance: 12 mi (19 km) backpack (trail), 3.5 mi (5.5 km) day hike (rock, talus, scree)
Elevation: 7,700 ft to 13,500 ft (2,350 m to 4,100 m)
Weather: Sunny, clear skies
Temperature: 46 F to 78 F (8 C to 26 C)
Load Weight: 33 lb (15 kg) backpack, 19 lb (8.6 kg) day hike


OBSERVATIONS

AS A BACKPACK

How The Pack Is Packed

The gear inside the main body of the pack includes sleeping bag, stuff sack of clothing, full bear canister (Bearikade Scout), solo tent, camp shoes, sleeping pad, personals bag, stove/cooking pot and water filter.  Inside the front pocket I have my first aid kit, 17 oz (.5 l) Platypus of wine to share, coffee cup,  pack cover, tent stakes and SPOT unit.  Although this pack has a hydration sleeve inside, I never use it with a fully loaded pack for fear of the bladder springing a leak from the pressure of other items that need to go inside so I always store my 70 oz (2 l) hydration bladder in the side pocket using the side compresion straps to secure it in place.  My tent poles and sit pad go into the other pocket on the opposite side strapped in as well.  The top pocket holds my lunch and snacks for the day along with an iPod and wallet.  My GPS gets strapped on the front shoulder strap and the hip belt pockets are great for my camera and a small amount of snacks to get to quickly.  The small elastic pocket inside each hip belt pocket is perfect for my spare camera battery and spare AA GPS batteries.

Comfort and Performance

The first trip that I did with this pack was the desert trip where I needed to pack in all of my water (shown below).  The only item I was able to leave home from the list above was my water filter but I had to add 4 extra liters (130 oz) of water bringing my total weight up to 40 lb (18 kg).  The backpack into camp was only 2.5 mi (4 km) but I noticed immediately that the shoulder straps were putting a lot of pressure on my shoulders and the hip belt was bothering my pelvic bone on both sides.  I tried multiple readjustments that helped give me relief for a brief time but it began to bother me again quickly.  I was hoping that it was just the extreme weight that I had to carry in it however, the maximum load stated for this pack on the website is 45 lb (20.4 kg).  When I packed up at the end of the trip to head out my load was reduced to about 30 lb (13.5 kg) and although I noticed the weight difference on my back, was still unimpressed with the fact that my comfort level had not changed much.

Backpack 40 lb loadBackpack 35 lb camp shoes and helmet outside pack
Desert trip hauling all of my water weighing 40 lb (18 kg)
35 lb (16 kg) load with helmet and camp shoes strapped to the outside

The next trip was to the San Gorgonio Wilderness in which I backpacked 5 mi (8 km) into camp, all uphill.  I was able to reduce my weight to 33 lbs this time and although the comfort of the pack was better, I still found myself constantly readjusting it to find that "sweet spot".  I could only find it briefly before having to readjust it again.  The discomfort areas were the same as the desert trip only not as severe because of the reduced weight. 

At this point I am a little disappointed with the pack's performance in the area of comfort but am hopeful that maybe it just needs a break-in period.  The next trip was up in the Eastern Sierra's with an 11 mi (18 km) backpack into camp and since I was leading the trip I needed to bring a few extra items thus raising my total pack weight to 35 lb (16 kg).  I needed to strap my camp shoes outside this time which worked very well along with a helmet.  I do love the way everything fits so easily in this pack and its simple yet useful side strap features.  Unfortunately on this trip the discomfort issues were not any different than the last two trips.  There was mild redness at the spots of irritation, but that went away quickly once the pack was removed. 

After hanging the pack up for my next two trips, discouraged by the discomfort issues, my stubborn side won and I decided to give it one more try.  After pondering the problem, I thought that maybe the full hydration bladder on one side could be causing an imbalance, thus producing the issues.  This next trip was also in the Eastern Sierra's near Independence California.  This was a four day trip so a little extra food was needed.  I ended up leaving home a few expendable items so that my total pack weight did not exceed 35 lb (16 kg).  This time I kept the sternum strap loosened up all the way yet still connected (something I had not tried yet) which brought the shoulder straps more towards the outer shoulder area and I noticed that it became much more comfortable.  I also balanced the weight in the side pockets to avoid the imbalance due to the hydration bladder which also helped with the comfort of the shoulders.  The hip belt was also noticeably more comfortable and in fact I could say at this point that the pack felt good.  We had some rain/sleet backpacking into the lakes so as a precaution I put my pack cover on.  What little moisture that did get on the pack up to that point did not soak through so although I would not hike in constant rain without a cover, it does seem to resist water long enough to get the cover on.

Since my optimism was returning but not complete, I took the pack on one more trip.  This was also up in the Sierra's near Big Pine, California.  It was a 6 mi (10 km) backpack, all uphill, up to a lake where I camped before my day hike the next day.  The pack weight was around 33 lb (15 kg) and I packed in the usual way that I listed above but was careful to balance the weight of the hydration bladder with a close but similar weight in the pocket on the other side.  I adjusted the sternum strap loosened all the way but connected and once again experienced a comfortable pack.  It is possible that the trick of the sternum strap adjustment, better weight balance, and a possible break-in period are the ingredients to comfort with this pack.

The only strap feature that I have been unsuccessful at utilizing is to take the side straps and connect them to the strap on the other side around the front of the pack for storing extra gear.  I tried to pack my foam sit pad under the straps and although I was able to get them to secure it, as it is soft and pliable, I could not access the front pocket unless I removed it which was just too inconvenient.   The website states that snowshoes or a snowboard can be stored in this position but I don't see how that is possible with a full pack.  I think the straps would have to extend longer.

AS A DAY PACK

How The Pack Is Packed

One of the features of this pack is to be able to use it as a day hiking pack thus keeping me from having to pack an extra summit pack for peak bagging.  The first thing that must be done to the pack is to connect the Compactor hook and loop at the bottom of the pack.  This reduces the pack volume from 4000 in^3 (65 l) to 1300 in^3 (21 l).  Photos below show the features of the Compactor system.

Compactor system unhooked Compactor system hooked
Compactor system unhooked
Compactor system hooked for a dayhike

I usually end up with about 17 lb (7.7 kg) of gear for a day hike.  This time instead of putting the hydration bladder in the side pocket I inserted it into the hydration sleeve inside the main compartment.  Since there is far less inside the pack I don't worry about too much pressure on the bladder.  This also puts the weight in a more central location closer to my back which improves the weight balance.  If I need more water I put an extra liter in the main compartment along with spare clothes I may need on the summit if it is cool or windy.  I keep any items I may need quickly like first aid kit, gloves, and rain jacket in the front pocket.  My snacks and lunch go into the top pocket.  I then cinch the side straps to compact the pack more and stabilize the load.

Comfort and Performance

During the Joshua Tree trip which required 40 lb (18 kg) of gear packed in I was finally glad to reduce the weight to about 15 lb (6.8 kg) for a nice short day hike.  I was confident that the pack would perform much better with the lighter load but soon became disappointed.  Although I had no issues with the shoulder straps at this load weight the hip belt continued to give me issues at the area of my pelvic bone that sticks out on each side.  It required frequent adjustment and the relief each adjustment gave me was only temporary.  The next day was a longer day hike and the results were similar with the same annoying issues with the hip belt.

The next trip in the San Bernardino Mountains involved an all day hike climbing three peaks with cross country talus and scree travel.  I did notice that some hip belt adjustment was required but became less noticeable.  

The trip in the Eastern Sierra's that I led involved a day hike with slab, rock, talus, and scree.  All of the differing movements and positions that I was required to do in order to get up to this peak seemed to make any issues that I have had with this pack previously somewhat non-existent.  I may have been more concerned with the thunderstorms threatening us which may have taken my mind off of anything else minor.

After a two trip break from using this pack I used it on a four day trip in the Sierra's during which I did two serious day hikes.  The first one involved loose rock and talus along with some minor class three moves.  This is the trip  which became the turning point for the pack.  Any comfort issues that I've had with it during the first three trips seemed to be gone.  It has become more comfortable requiring very little readjustment along the way.  

One thing that I've always liked about this pack are the features.  I keep most of my small items and items I might need frequently in the front pocket and my lunch and snacks in the top pocket.  During many of the peak climbs it becomes necessary to store my hiking poles and they can be quickly stored in the side pocket and secured with both side straps.  The hip belt pockets have become a favorite for my camera and some immediate snacks.  The bulkier items like my insulating layer and clothing items I may need at summits fit easily in the main storage area, and are easily found because of the ability to compress this pack smaller.  I like to keep things organized and this pack makes it very easy to do that.

As a day pack Coming down from a summit
As a daypack
Decending a summit

Compress as a day pack, poles improperly stored As a day pack poles properly stored
Poles improperly stowed which caused small holes in the pocket
Poles properly stowed with the handles down

Durability

This pack has been on five trips with ten days of backpacking use and six days of day hiking use totaling 16 days of use.  I have noticed that the majority of the wear on this pack is from my day hikes that involve all sorts of rock terrain.  Since I'm not the most graceful person coming down from some of these peaks, I have been known to resort to all points of contact which involves me sitting and sliding down a rock or two thus dragging the bottom of the pack occasionally.  I also found that when I stored my hiking poles with the points down into the pocket, small holes developed from rubbing on the rocks so I began storing them with the handles down and that worked much better.  The only wear on the pack is some scrapes on the front pocket and bottom of the pack (shown below).  All of the straps and buckles have held up well along with the haul strap which I use to hoist the pack on my back.


Front pocket with scrapes Bottom of pack with scrapes

Wear on front pocket Wear on pack bottom


SUMMARY

My appreciation of this pack has been a work in progress.  I love the simple design of the pack with minimal but very useful features and pockets.  It is extremely easy to pack and organize my gear.  The front pocket is quite large holding more than I would expect and love the large hip belt pockets with the smaller stash pocket in each.  The packs 4000 in^3 (65 l) capacity holds everything I need for the summer backpacking season and easily compresses down to a size useful for day hiking.  

Considering what I have put the pack through on the day hike outings and given the lighter material used, it has held up well with only visible scrapes.  The two holes in the side pocket were my fault for putting the tip end of the poles in first and dragging the pack on some rocks as I descended.    

I would not give this pack the highest marks for comfort on the first three trips but after improving the load balance and opening up the sternum strap to bring the shoulder straps more towards the outer part of the shoulders the comfort of the pack has increased greatly.  It is possible, also, that there has been a break-in period for this pack since it produced hip belt comfort issues on the first few day hikes with light loads but now has improved greatly.  This pack is rated for a 45 lb (20.4 kg) load but I found 40 lbs (18 kg) was even too much.  I was able to find an acceptable comfort weight of 35 lb (16 kg) but 30 lb (14 kg) was actually better reflecting my backpacking exit weight.

THINGS I LIKE

Color
Hip belt pockets and inner stash pockets
Simple design
Size of front pocket
Easy to pack and organize
Ability to compress it into a day pack

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

I found it frustrating to find the comfort zone
Material is durable but easily scratched
Side pockets are shallow and require the side straps to secure taller items
Side straps should be longer to accommodate storing snowshoe size items on the front of the pack

I do recommend this pack based on its simple but useful features and the fact that I was finally able to comfortably wear the pack.


Read more reviews of GoLite gear
Read more gear reviews by Cheryl McMurray

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Golite Quest Pack > Owner Review by Cheryl McMurray



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