I bought a Golite Pinnacle Backpack last September because a lot of my hiking and blogging friends had great things to say about it. I was also looking for a pack with less external mesh that would be more resilient to tearing or snagging in bushwhacking situations and on rougher trails.
When I first got my Pinnacle, I found it difficult adjust and to pack comfortably. But the Pinnacle is a deceptively well designed pack and it was difficult for me to appreciate just how clever it is without using it. Whenever you try or buy a backpack you need to experiment with it. Everyone’s body shape and gear mix are different and sometimes you need to do a lot of experimentation to figure to how to make a pack work for your specific needs.
This spring, I began to use the Pinnacle extensively with a variety of different loads on moderate and difficult mountain and desert terrain. Now that I understand it’s strengths and how to adjust it, I like the Pinnacle a lot better. In fact, it has become my pack of choice for hikes when I need to carry a lot of extra safety gear and layers on mid-to-high elevation ascents in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. When you hike in the Whites, you always need to be prepared for adverse conditions.
If you’re not familiar with the Golite Pinnacle, it’s a 4500 cubic inch ultralight backpack that weights 25 oz. in a size medium. It provides two pockets for gear storage: a cavernous main compartment and a large outer pocket on the back with a waterproof zipper. The pack itself if not waterproof, but is made with tough Dyneema 720 denier ripstop nylon which is resistant to snags and tearing on bushwhacks. The main compartment is accessed through a roll top closure, a standard design to cut down on weight with ultralight packs, and there are two compression straps (top and bottom) on each side of the pack.
The Pinnacle has a sewn in pad that is used as a lightweight frame sheet, a hydration pocket that can accommodate a 2 liter bladder, and left and right hydration ports. It also has two angled mesh side pockets with elastic binding, which are perfect for holding water bottles. The shoulder and hip harness system comes with air mesh shoulder straps with adjustable load lifters, a sternum strap and unpadded hip belt.
Ok, so here’s the stuff that I like about this pack that you can only find out with experimentation.
- The pack body is fairly narrow and long. This gives you a lot better control over the lateral stability of the pack if it’s heavily loaded because there’s good contact between it and your back.
- The compression system is great for strapping external gear to your pack, like snowshoes (below), or a sleeping pad. However, if the pack is not heavily loaded you should not tighten the compression straps too much because the frame sheet will collapse upon itself and pull the middle of the pack away from your back. This in turn increases the load on your shoulders which can be uncomfortable.
- The load lifters really only work if the pack is very full and the top section of the main compartment is over your shoulders. The reason is that the load lifters are connected to the fabric of the pack and not to the frame sheet.
- You can adjust the sternum strap vertically if it is too high on your upper chest. Simply detach it and reconnect it to a lower lever on the shoulder straps’ outer webbing.
- Although this pack has a hydration pocket, it’s not large enough for a larger platypus bladder, like the 3+ L size that I prefer. If the pack could speak, it would tell you to pack your water in the mesh pockets using reused 1 L soda water bottles. My solution is to pack slightly less water in my platypus.
- Not having pockets on the hip straps is a minor inconvenience. This has been fixed in the 2009 model of the Pinnacle and the pockets are quite functional.
One nice feature not mentioned above: There is an extra compression system at the bottom of the pack, that I only noticed because it’s on my wife’s Golite Jam 2, the smaller version of the Golite Pinnacle. When the pack is lightly loaded, it is possible to reduce the width of the bottom of the pack by folding fabric loops attached to the front bottom to hooks on the rear bottom (shown below). This is nice when you’re not carrying much because it raises the pack’s center of gravity, giving you better weight control. I don’t think I’ve seen this feature on any other pack. It’s very clever.
So, after an extensive period of experimentation with the Golite Pinnacle, I agree that this is indeed a nice pack and I plan to use mine extensively in the coming year. Also, at $149, this is a steal. It is difficult find a pack with this much volume and these features at such an outstanding price point.
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