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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Golite Quest Pack > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron
GoLite Quest Woman's Backpack
Initial Report: Mar 13 2007
Field Report: May 26 2007
Long Term Report: Jul 23 2007
Image from GoLite website
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Height: 1.7 m (5' 8")
Weight: 68 kg (150 lb)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA
Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 16 oz (0.5 L) of water. I have recently starting getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.
Material: Velocity fabric and aluminum stays
Volume: 4000 cu. in. (65 L) / 1300 cu. in. (21 L) (for the medium)
Weight (as stated): 3 lb (1360 g)
Weight (measured): 2.9 lb (1313 g)
Colours Available: Iris (purple) and Lip (red)
Sizes Available: small and medium
March 13th 2007
I received the GoLite Quest in the Lip colour, which is a nice bright red. The pack is actually red with yellow/green highlights. The top section, the detailing around the front pocket and the top of the belt pockets are in yellow/green with the rest of the pack in red. I chose to get the medium pack as I measured my back at the recommended points and fell into the medium range with about an 18.5 in (47 cm) spine measurement. As I did this measurement myself I may have missed a little. The GoLite Quest is dubbed as an all season backpack and as such has extra long webbing on the side clips. There are small loops at the back of the pack near the hip belt and long loops hanging off the front bottom of the pack to accommodate wider items too. Both sets of side clips are set up such that they can be mated to each other on the same side or to the ones on the opposite side. The belt and should straps are padded. The chest strap can be slid up or down on webbing sliders, and the belt has small, expandable mesh pockets. The pockets are sewn in such a way as to remain pleated out of the way until filled with items. There are two pockets on the side of the pack, one large pocket on the front of the pack and a lid pocket. The lid pocket is removable and allows for a weight savings of about 3.3 oz (95 g). The volume of this pack is 4000 cu. in. (65 L) but with the side compression straps can be compacted down to 1300 cu. in. (21 L). The pack comes with a moldable framesheet and adjustable aluminum stays. The outer zippers are rubberized to keep weather out. The pack comes with a hydration sleeve capable of handling a 101 oz (3 L) bladder and two ports, one on each side, to accommodate the hose. There is also a small clip located inside just above the hydration sleeve to clip items or bladders to. Just above the hydration sleeve is a Velcro-type closure with access to the framesheet and the aluminum stays. The aluminum stays are encased in a webbing pocket with a Velcro-type fastener over the top.
The pack looks much bigger than I expected and when I first put the empty pack on, the pack seemed to come up higher than I expected too. As I have not carried a 4000 cu. in. (65 L) backpack in a while, likely it is simply that my perceptions are off, especially since I carry a daypack everyday to work. The pack felt nice to wear with nothing in it. The fit felt good and the belt and shoulder straps fit. When I tightened the belt, there was very little free webbing left, I have some contraction room to play with but not much. The length of the pack might be a little bigger than I need. As such I found that I let the pack sit a little lower on my hips then were I normally wear it, which is around my waist. As the aluminum stays are adjustable, I will look into how to adjust them and how much of a difference it makes to the fit. The shoulder straps padding seems a little on the thin side. I didn't have any trouble adjusting the chest strap up or down. The chest strap clip comes with an integrated whistle. Interestingly, the mouthpiece of the whistle points down. This means I will have to twist the clip up 180 degrees before I can use the whistle.
The ComPACKtor system is well designed. The two parts of the clips on one side will mate with the two clip parts on the other side. This flexibility will allow me to carry a light pack load while being able to strap something bulky to the outside of the pack. I will be looking into how well the pack can hold onto snowshoes and hiking poles. The ComPACKtor system looks like it will work well with a light load. As the straps are quite generous it might also work well with a larger load, I will be looking into this over the testing period.
Out of the box, the pack seemed to fit well. I am interested in how well the pack will wear and feel with a full load in it. The framesheet seemed to fit well to my back and the hip belt fit snug and comfortably around my waist. The pack felt like it came up rather higher up my back, more so then I am used too. With extra height comes the potential for top heavy loads. I am not sure how the aluminum stays can be adjusted but I will be looking into it as I use the pack. I don't normally use pack with top pockets, and will likely use the pack both with and without the pocket. The top of the pack without the pocket does not seem to be very weather proof. The top simply cinches closed and there is very little material to properly roll down to prevent water seepage. I found that the top lid was difficult to remove. The webbing straps had been folded over once and sewn at the ends leaving two layers of webbing to push through the plastic buckle. The ends of the webbing straps had been melted to prevent unravelling which added a little to the thickness. I had so much trouble with one side that I had to pull out the screw driver on my pocket knife to push the webbing through the buckle. I don't anticipate having to remove the lid on a regular basis, but I hope that use over time will make removal easier.
I expect to take the Quest backpack on a few day hikes to check for comfort levels with varying loads before doing overnight hikes. I will mostly be in the DC, Maryland and Virginia areas. I expect to encounter snow, rain and hopefully lots of nice weather. I anticipate my weight load to be about 40 lbs (18 kg) over the tail end of winter into spring then lightening up to 25 lb (11 kg) over the summer. The claimed comfort load on this pack is 45 lb (20 kg) so I will try carrying this level of weight to determine how comfortable the pack is.
So far, I have found that this pack has a lot of room especially when I look at my older pack. I find I am at a point in my backpacking where I have a set amount of gear that I know I will bring on every trip and that I know will fit into my pack. I find I have no problems fitting all of my required gear into this pack. With room left over I am seeing more luxury like items making their way into the pack. The front and top pockets help with organizing smaller and much used items. I have found that while the side pocket is handy for holding a 32 oz (1 L) Nalgene bottle, bending over with a full bottle in the side pocket is a little dangerous. I don't normally bend over when wearing a pack but I did and almost had a full water bottle hit me in the foot. A glancing blow off my arm saved my foot and sent the water bottle shooting off to the side. The pocket isn't as deep as I would like and as such the bottle was able to slide out easily when I bent down. As the side strap is located right beside the lid loop, I could secure the bottle with the buckle but was then unable to easily access the bottle without taking off the pack. I tend to use a 135 oz (4 L) platypus which I have found does not fit easily into the bladder pocket. I found that I had to fold my bladder up a little to get it to fit in the pocket. I have since acquired a new 68 oz (2 L) platypus that I will try on my next trip out. I have found that the top lifting handle is rather small. I find that since it can be hard to find and not easily grasped that I simply reach for the left shoulder strap and swing the pack up with that. With a light load I don't feel so bad doing that, but with a heavier load, I fear I might put too much stress on the straps. I will be keeping an eye on that strap for any signs of wear caused by swing the pack from it.
The pack handles very well with minimal weight in it and was comfortable up to 27 lb (12 kg). I have used the comPACKtor once on a day hike with snowshoes strapped to the outside of the pack and found it was well designed. The pack is very spacious while being able to compact up nicely under a minimum load. I do find that the handle to lift the pack with, at the back of the neck, is quite small and sometimes hard to grab. I prefer a handle that is a little bigger and thicker. The side pockets are rather shallow and don't contain 32 oz (1 L) Nalgene bottles very well. The side hip belt pockets are great for containing little items that are needed on a regular basis while moving. They are easy to get into and don't interfere with the comfort of the hip belt. The top pocket is generous, as is the front pocket. Both pockets have a water-proof zipper. The water bladder pocket is a little narrow for my large platypus but was nice and deep. There is also a clip located above the pocket for hanging the bladder from.
I initially took the top pocket off to determine how difficult it was to remove and how much it weighed. I have since put the lid back on and it was just as hard to get on as it was to take off. Short of removing the stitching on the folded over webbing, I think the lid is going to stay on for awhile. With a lighter load I do like the flexibility of removing the extra weight but right now, it isn't worth the fight. Leaving the lid in place also serves another purpose. The top of the pack has a drawcord closure and a buckle, but the top of the pack is not long enough to roll under several times before buckling the top of the pack. As such, I do not feel comfortable walking around in the rain with so little protection on the top. The lid serves to keep any potential water out of the pack and out of my sleeping bag. The front pocket is nice and deep but for all that depth, I notice that when I tighten the side straps, it pulls the pocket tight and sometimes makes gaining access to small items at the bottom a little difficult. This hasn't been much of a problem as I normally store items that I need when I first hit camp in that pocket so I can loosen or unbuckle the side straps for easier access.
I have taken this pack out on two overnight trips out on the Appalachian Trail near Front Royal, Virginia and one very short day hike out in the Canaan Valley in West Virginia.
This short day hike was about 3 miles in the Canaan Valley and the weather was cold, about 40 F (4 C). I was hoping for snow and had snowshoes strapped to the pack. Total pack weight was about 12 lbs (5.4 kg). The terrain was relatively smooth with an elevation gain of about 1500 ft (457 m). While the temperature dropped a little with elevation gain there was no snow to be had.
The first overnight hike was under dry conditions with the temperatures around 65-70 F (18-21 C). Total elevation gain was 1000 ft (304 m) with a distance of 6 miles (9.6 km). Total pack weight was about 27 lbs (12 kg). There was little leaf cover as the leaves were just barely peeking out.
Since the expected temperatures on this first trip were going to be low, I packed in an extra sleeping bag, and extra clothes. This brought my weight up to about 27 lbs (12 kg). I found the small pockets on the hip belt were the ideal size for the storage of my digital camera and my head lamp. I started with a large Nalgene bottle in one of the side pockets but later swapped it out for a lighter Gatorade bottle that I buckled down to the strap to prevent falling. I was also able to attach my poles to the outside of the pack for transportation. The loops at the bottom of the pack are quite generous. I was able to put both pole tips into one loop easily. I did find that the bungee attachment further up was also quite generous for two poles but getting the bungee cord to hook into the hook or pull out of the hook was not easy. It definitely required two hands, one to hold the hook and the other to pull on the bungee pull tab.
The second overnight hike saw some rain fall. Mostly it was drizzling and dripping from the trees. The pack experienced about 2.5 hours of drizzling conditions. Total elevation gain was about 1500 ft (457 m) with a distance of 12 mi (19.3 km). Total pack weight was about 21 lbs (9.5 kg).
This trip out was supposed to be in warmer weather, so I left behind the extra sleeping bag and thermals and froze myself to sleep that night. This trip saw some drizzle and on again, off again rain. The pack kept the rain out nicely, and I noticed no leaking into the pack. I was a little worried for my digital camera in the hip belt pocket as the pockets are mesh on the sides with nylon on the top. In the drizzle, the camera was dry when I pulled it out for a picture, I didn't have a chance to test out a heavier rain as that happened later in camp. This particular trip saw about 21 lbs (9.5 kg) of weight. The pack rode well on my hips but I did experience some shoulder pain. I will be experimenting with leaving the shoulder straps a little looser to see if I had them too tight. The shoulder straps also seem to come in quite close to my neck as if for a narrower shouldered person. It doesn't cause any problems and I will look into loosening the chest strap. In looking at the chest strap closer, I noticed that it is possible to exchange sides. As the whistle currently points downwards, which seems useless, I will look into flipping the chest strap around such that the whistle faces up which will be easier to use if the need should ever arise.
This overnight hike saw good weather. Total elevation gain was about 2500 ft (762 m) with a distance of 17 mi (27.4 km). Total pack weight was about 30 lbs (13.6 kg). The weather was great during the day with a high of about 75 F (24 C), the night time temperatures dropped to about 60 F (15 C). I had packed a couple of extra layers in order to boost the weight to test heavier loads and was glad I had. The pack sat comfortably on my shoulders and hip and easily handled the extra bulky clothes I had shoved in the bottom and sides of the pack. The compression straps really helped cinch the load tight to the framesheet and allowing me to feel well balanced.
This overnight trip was a two night trip. The weather was very nice over the three days with no rain but the bugs were out in full force. The temperatures were in the high 80's F (28 C) with the night time temperatures dropping to about 65 F (18 C). Total elevation gain was 2000 ft (610 m). The trip was along a section of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia to Harper's Ferry. I convinced a friend to join me and as part of the deal I carried most of the gear to again test comfort at high weights. I was packing about 38 lb (17.2 kg) the first night. The pack was heavy and definitely slowed me down but I did not have any pressure points or pain. My shoulders were stiff the next morning but I was otherwise good with the extra weight. The pack easily handles two sleeping bags, a large two person tent, stove with large pot, clothes, and more than half of the food. Again, the cinch straps ensured the load was tight with no shifting and I didn't feel too off balance. The height of the pack helped keep the weight more over my hips and shoulders than from sticking out behind me.
This was an easy backpacking trip with a 3 mi (4.8 km) round trip to introduce some friends to backpacking. The trip had a total elevation gain of 1000ft (305 m). I packed in about 18 lb (8 kg). The summer weather allowed for a nice light load. The pack compressed very nicely and kept everything in place.
This pack has really been a great pack. I find it a bit too big for my summer hiking but with the spring backpacking trips, the pack performed admirably not only with the load but with the bulky items and extra sleeping bag. I haven't really had a chance to fully use the comPACKtor system. The one time I did use it, it was nice and handy. It worked very well in a day trip type situation with snowshoes strapped on. While I do not see myself continuing to use the pack as a summer pack, I do anticipate my using it in the fall and winter with the colder weather. I like that this is a pack capable of handling a heavy load comfortably while weighing in at 3 lb (1.4 kg) I have definitely come to love the small pockets integrated into the hipbelt. I liked having little items in handy reach like bug dope, a small baggie of gorp and my head lamp.
For the few points that I have complained about on this pack, it has been a well designed and sturdy pack. I have enjoyed using it and it has been easy to wear. The double compression straps allow me to pack a tight pack that feels one with my movements. I have not experienced any major top heaviness that I have with an over loaded or badly loaded pack. The shoulder straps are comfortable and the hip belt rests right were I need it. I have not seen any sign of wear on the pack. The bottom of the pack, were much of the wear occurs is also in great shape. The pack also performed very well in a light drizzle without a pack cover. Only items in the side mesh pockets were a little wet as was expected. Items in the hip pockets actually remained dry.
My chief complaint about this pack is how difficult the lid is to remove from the pack. When it comes to pinching an ounce for long haul trips, this is generally the first thing I remove. I have only attempted to remove it once and fought with it tooth and nail. Putting the lid back on was no easy task either. The design of the buckle that the straps fit into makes for a snug fit of the webbing. I have never noticed any shifting of the webbing through the buckle so the fold at the end of the strap is merely decorative and not necessary. By removing that extra line of stitching, the lid will be easier to remove as needed.
My second complaint is the side mesh pockets. While I generally hike with a water bladder, I have taken to carrying a 32 oz (1 L) bottle with me for mixing up flavoured drinks. I prefer to store my flavoured water in easy reach and side mesh pockets generally fit the bill. In this case, they did not fit the bill. The pockets didn't handle the old 32 oz (1 L) Gatorade bottle very well nor the thinner Nalgene bottle I switched out to. In the end, I stashed the bottle in the pack and shoved other goodies in the pockets, snacks, maps, and bandannas. It works well but not my normal intended use of such pockets.
My last complaint, while minor did bother me enough to mention it. I really like to have a good sturdy handle with which to grasp the pack for lifting. The top handle on the Quest is rather thin and not very substantial and a little hard to grab. While it is minor, I would like to see a slightly larger and thicker handle. This is mostly my preference. I always pick my pack up by the top handle and swing it up onto my left shoulder before getting my harms into the handles.
This concludes my report series on the GoLite Quest backpack. Thank you for following this report series. I thank BGT and GoLite for giving me the chance to explore and play with the GoLite Quest.
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