The Long Trail is really tough on ultralight backpacks that have a lot of external mesh pockets. I’ve already snagged a few pockets this year on protruding branches and roots, tearing holes in them, that can leak critical gear if they are not promptly mended. To counter this issue, I decided to try find a more streamlined ultralight backpack with fewer external mesh pockets than the ones I currently own.
Much to the amusement of my wife, I purchased my 8th backpack. I decided to try the Golite Pinnacle, a 4500 ci backpack (medium) weighing 25 oz., with the following features:
- Top loading pack with cord lock closure
- Large front pocket with waterproof zipper
- Built-in padded framesheet
- Air mesh shoulder straps with adjustable load lifters, sternum strap and unpadded hip belt
- Hydration ports on both sides of pack
- Two angled side pockets with elastic binding, optimal for watter bottles
- Two side and top compression straps
- Very tough Dyneema 720 denier ripstop nylon
In order to test the Pinnacle, I loaded it up with the gear I’m planning on taking on my next Long Trail section hike, a 4-5 day trek across difficult terrain near the Vermont-Canadian border. With the onset of autumn, I’m expecting to carry a base load of 13 lbs with an additional 10-12 lbs of food, fuel and water.
The first items I loaded were my rain jacket, rain pants and pack cover. I like to keep these handy, so I loaded them in the front pocket where they’ll be easily accessible. Next, I loaded up my water filter and my tarp into the side bottle pockets. These are enclosed with a very fine, tough elastic mesh fabric which looks like it will rebuff snags and drain easily. Finally, I loaded up the rest of my base gear (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, first aid/repair kit, and sleeping clothes), before picking up the pack and working with the harness system and hip belts to adjust them.
I fiddled with the Pinnacle for a while and tried a number of different gear loading strategies, but found that bottom of the pack has a tendency curl outwards away from the bottom of my back (see bottom, 2nd photo), rather than flush with it. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it prevents good load transfer to the hip girdle.
I loaded the same gear into my Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus and my Six Moon Designs Starlite and discovered something that I’d never realized before before in backpack design. The framesheet system in both of these packs ensures flat alignment between your back and the pack using a hiker-provided foam sleeping pad. A sleeping pad like the Gossamer Gear Nightlight or a Therm-a-rest Z-lite provides far more rigidity than the Pinnacle’s built-in pad because it’s 2-3 times thicker. For loads above 30 lbs, these packs also provide carbon fiber or aluminum stays to provide even more rigidity.
Rather than returning this backpack, I decided that I needed a lot more experimentation in order to lean how to use it properly. I finally got to that in the spring of 2009 and found that I like this pack A LOT!. Check out my latest product review on it, called GoLite Pinnacle Backpack – a Second Look.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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