The Backpack Light 50L ($149) is a frameless ultralight style backpack weighing 34.5 oz (L) sold by My Trail Company, which has started manufacturing the same backpacks and tents that GoLite sold before it went bankrupt in 2014. The Backpack Light 50L reviewed here is virtually identical to the Golite Jam 50, which was a popular ultralight backpack in its day. But there has been a lot of innovation in the ultralight and lightweight backpacking market in the past three years with the widespread of adoption of more durable fabrics, lightweight frames, better ventilation, women’s specific models, etc. So much so, it’s worth asking whether a backpack that hasn’t been noticeably changed in three+ years is as good a value today as it was then.
Let’s take a closer look at the Backpack Light 50L.
Specs At a Glance:
- Max Volume: 50 liters
- ComPackted Volume: 20 liters
- Mfg Max Rec. Load: 40 lbs (SectionHiker Rec. Max Load: 25 lbs)
- Pack Weight: 2 lb 2oz (on the SectionHiker scale)
- Color: Black
- Torso/Hip Belt Sizes sizes
- Small = 15.5-17.5″/ 25-48″
- Medium = 17.5-19.5″/ 29-52″
- Large = 19.5-21.5″ / Large = 33-56″
Main Compartment and Storage Capacity
The Backpack Pack Light 50L has a large main compartment for storing your gear which closes with a draw string on the top. The size of the main compartment can be compressed bringing the total pack volume down to 20L so the pack can also be used for day hiking. I explain this further below. I checked with My Trail Company and their 50L volume measurement includes the space in the extension collar that rises above the shoulder straps.
The inside of the main compartment has a separate hydration pocket with a center hook for hanging a water reservoir. There are two hydration hose ports as well, above and outside of the shoulder straps. The main compartment has a narrow pocket that holds a thin removable foam pad, which could be used to store maps, although they would be very hard to access if your pack is packed.
There’s also a zippered rear pocket, good for storing small or loose items like layers that you want easy access to during the day. It’s large enough to store a puffy jacket or your rain gear and smaller items. The rear pocket does not have a drain hole however and is not designed for storing wet gear.
The Backpack Light 50L has two side mesh water bottle pockets that have Dyneema reinforced fabric at their base, but are not very well protected on the sides. I’d advise you to be careful with these pockets because the mesh covering them isn’t that durable. The pockets are reachable while wearing the pack and I can get bottles out of them and back in again. The bottom side compression strap runs just above the opening of the side pocket, so it can get in the way of putting bottles back into the pack while walking if it’s not snugged flush against the pack. The side compression strap does not run through the side pocket or outside of it, a common feature on many other packs.
The hip belt has two zippered pockets, one on each side, that are faced with the same lightweight mesh used on the outside of the water bottle pockets. I’d caution you about the durability of these as well. Each pocket has a second inner pocket, also mesh, that you can use to store smaller items. The inner pockets are not zippered but held shut with elastic.
Compact 20L Mode
The Backpack Light 50L has a plastic hook and loop system at the base of the pack that lets shrink the volume of the main compartment, effectively bringing the back of the pack closer to the front. This is good when you want to carry less volume and to shift the contents of of pack closer to your back. I never use a backpack this small for day hiking, but it’s a nice to have, especially for traveling when you want a frameless pack that is easily resized for plane travel and day time touring.
External Attachment and Compression System
The pack has two ties of size compression straps that open with quick release buckles and are convenient for securing long items, like snowshoes to the side of the pack. The straps can also be run across the back of the pack, if you want to secure gear there, although this will make the zippered external rear pocket awkward to access.
There’s a top compression strap that runs over the top of the extension collar and provides very good top compression. You just need to be careful not to over tighten it because it can cause the back of the pack to barrel into your back. The same holds true with the side compression straps is you try to “jam” too much into the main compartment.
The Backpack Light 50L also has a pair of ice axe loops and two elastic shaft holders, a nice detail that’s missing from many packs.
Backpack Frame and Suspension
The Backpack Light 50L is basically a frameless pack. While there is a removable foam sheet behind the shoulder straps to protect your back from sharp objects in the interior, it’s quite flexible and provides very little structural support. The foam pad also stops at the top of the shoulder straps, while the load lifter straps are anchored above them on the fabric extension collar and not to a frame element. That’s really not the best spot for them to be effective, especially if the extension collar has a lot of slack in it and it’s not stuffed with gear.
The back of the pack is covered with a strip of spacer mesh to help wick away back sweat, but the pack rests flush against your back and doesn’t provide much airflow. There’s no lumbar padding, although non-adjustable hip belt stabilizer straps are sewn to the bottom corner of the pack at the same point where the shoulder straps connect, which dampen sway with heavy loads.
While the hip belt wings are sewn to the pack, they have big cutouts in them and buckle easily under quite moderate loads. I’d only rate this pack for a max load of 20-25 pounds and the company’s rating of 40 pounds defies explanation. The Backpack Light 50L would really benefit from plastic inserts where these holes are, to stiffen it up, and prevent hip belt collapse.
Both the shoulder pads and hip belt are very lightly padded with spacer mesh on the interior, to wick away perspiration. The hip belt has a thick plastic buckle and you pull back on the webbing to tighten. The shoulder straps have horizontal hose keeper straps, but lack any other attachment points for accessory gear and pockets. There is a whistle on the sternum strap clip, which sides up and down on a track.
The Backpack Light 50L is a pretty so-so backpack by today’s standards for lightweight backpacks and what was once a cutting edge ultralight backpack now seems dated. While My Trail Company disavows any relationship with GoLite, it’s pretty clear that the Backpack Light 50L is an almost exact replica of the GoLite Jam. My wife still owns and uses a Jam and the two packs are almost identical.
Ancient history aside, how does the Backpack Light 50L perform? I think it’s a comfortable pack for carrying up to 20-25 lbs loads that fill up the main compartment to about shoulder height. If you add much more weight, the back of the hip belt collapses because it has holes cut out of it to enhance ventilation, causing more load to shift the shoulders. If you tightly stuff the extension collar with bulky gear, the pack becomes increasingly ungainly to manage, and will barrel into your back because it’s essentially frameless. You might be able to up the weight you can carry a bit by rolling up a RidgeRest and using it as a virtual frame to increase the pack’s stiffness, but doing so will use a huge amount of interior space with marginal benefit.
I’d also be concerned about the durability of mesh side water bottle pockets and hip belt pockets. They would be much more durable if they were partially or completely covered with solid panels. As they are, I’d expect them to get torn up pretty fast when they contact the ground or aggressive vegetation. I’ve destroyed countless backpacks this way and they’re a reason why most lightweight backpack makers have switched to solid pockets on more vulnerable areas.
Net net, I think the Backpack Light 50L could be an immensely better pack with a few select design changes, but I’d give the current version a pass unless you get it at a discount. Even then, I’d recommend that you take a look at other budget-priced backpacks in the same $150 range, including the Osprey Talon 44, the Mountainsmith Scream 55, the Klymit Motion 60, and the Granite Gear Virga 2. The backpack market hasn’t stood still in the past three years and there are a lot more lightweight backpacks available today that have better frames and features than the Backpack Light 50L.
- Good for fairly light or low volume loads.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Main compartment barrels into your back when packed tightly.
- Hip belt collapses on pack under moderate loads over 25 pounds.
- No drain hole in rear pocket.
- Mesh water bottle pockets and hip belt pockets are poorly protected and prone to damage.
Disclosure: My Trail Company provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.
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