Golite Pinnacle Backpack Review

Golite Pinnacle Backpack
Golite Pinnacle Backpack

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.

Golite Pinnacle - Suspension
Golite Pinnacle – Suspension

Ok, so here’s the stuff that I like about this pack that you can only find out with experimentation.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
Golite Pinnacle - Compression Straps
Golite Pinnacle – Compression Straps

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.

Rear Compression System
Rear Compression System

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.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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  1. I have the same pack and I love it. I also took it up to the Whites. Ice Ax, snowshoes, packed it to the limit. Durable, held up great. I only wish the bottom straps were elastic to hold a thermarest. It was misleading to me also. I never thought it would hold so much gear. It does.

  2. I think Golite should include a dvd with their packs that explains what they were designed for and how to use them in different conditions. It can't be easy designing a pack like this for the mass market, and astonishingly, some of the best capabilities of the packs are undocumented in any of their product literature. Maybe this is an opportunity for thebackpacker.tv to show Golite what video can be used for.

  3. For what length trips are you using this pack for?

  4. Currently, 10-20 mile long day hikes in challenging terrain with potentially adverse weather conditions where I carry most of the gear I would need for an unexpected night out. I will probably expand that to 1-2 day trips, but mainly for shoulder season hikes (early spring and late fall). The problem is that I have too many other backpacks that I also like for late spring and summer use,and much longer trips.

  5. How does this compare to the Jam2? I have a Jam2 at home, and I like it well enough, but do have some minor qualms with it (hip pouches, etc)

  6. My wife is writing a review of her Jam 2 now, which should get posted in a few days. But in a nutshell, the Jam 2 is almost identical to the Pinnacle, but has a smaller volume. The 2009 Jam 2 also comes with hip pouches. It's really perfect for her, since I get to carry the real heavy stuff. :-)

  7. It is a surprisingly good bit of kit. Simple and effective in its performance. Puts a smile on my face when I have used it.

  8. I think the Golite packs are due for a major redesign.  Why carry a book bag when you can get packs that weigh almost the same but with an energy saving frame – i.e. ULA OHM, <a href="http://www.rei.com/search?search=osprey&cat=8000&jxBrand=Osprey&hist=query%2Cosprey^jxBrand%2COsprey">Osprey Exos, etc.  The Pinnacle is way too big to be able to take enough UL gear to fill it without getting close to 30 pounds.  At 30 pounds it is doable but not comfortable in comparison to a framed pack.   Those who say they are, are simply full of it.

  9. I'm not familiar with the ULA packs, but the Osprey has what is called a trampoline frame. There are some disadvantages to this type of support system – namely that it pulls the pack away from your shoulders shifting your center of gravity away from your core.

  10. FYI – I see that Golite has their redesigned 2010 packs on their site now.

    Dan, do you have any thoughts about the Exos? I am leaning towards either the Exos or the newly designed Atmos for my next backpack. Thanks.

    – David

  11. Post-Script – Phil, the new Osprey packs have reduced the distance that the pack is away from your back by half.

    – David

  12. Earlylite – I've been lurking and loving your site for months. Thanks for sharing!

    You are using the medium Pinnacle? What's your torso measurement?

    For my 19" torso I bought a large Jam from REI based on the BPL threads indicating the packs fit shorter than spec. I love the pack — most comfortable thing I've ever carried — but question whether sizing's right.

    My hips are minimal, and I have to really crank the hipbelt tight to keep it from sliding down and chopping my stride. I have that problem with most every pack I've ever used, though.

    I plan to order a Pinnacle next day or two while they're on sale (need more capacity than my Jam for next weekend's possibly ill-advised AT trip from Sam's Gap to Davenport Gap).

  13. My torso is 18.5" and I have the medium. If you have a hip pad length issue, maybe you should consider a women's model – don't know, but maybe the sizing is for a slimmer body.

  14. Hi Earlylite, I was wondering, is the volume difference between the pinnacle and the Jam strictly attributed a longer rolltop on the pinnacle? or is the greater volume spread evenly throughout the pack? I see some pinnacles on clearance every now and then, that are cheaper than Jams…was thinking about modding the pinnacle (removing lots from the rolltop) so that its essentially the same capacity as a jam. Thanks in advance!

  15. Hello, i'm new and i'm looking for a good starter pack, in order not to change it next month.

    what about the pinacle vs Mariposa Plus vs Gorilla ultralight…I know the pinacle can get more stuff(72l) but that it can be reduce to 50l…and i don't care about much weight if it can contain more stuff. Do you think it's better to start with a smaller bag like the gorilla or the Jam2…, or the pinacle can be the bag for every needs ?



  16. It's best to buy your gear first and your backpack last so you know how much volume you actually need. However, yhe pinnacle is nice because it can adjust in size so flexibly.

  17. I ordered a 2010 model this week and am excited to run it ragged this summer! Wondering if you've done any modifications over the last year? I'd like to use this as a year round pack, so was considering adding daisy chain to both sides (allowing addition of a crampon sack during winter etc…). Seems like once folks learn to pack a frameless, they are quite impressed. Im looking forward to being part of that group!

  18. There are compression straps on the side where you can hang a lot of gear in winter. You could conceivably just hang a crampon off each side. I think you'll like the pack once you figure out how to distribute the weight. Interesting that you call this frameless – it does have a built in pad which provides some shape – so it's not completely an empty sack. Let me know how you like it!

  19. I haven't modified the pack. Daisy chains rock. You should send me a photo after you've done it.

  20. I met "Maverick" while hiking the Grand Canyon three and a half years ago and he was using the Pinnacle. He told me if he had one pack to use the rest of his life, the Pinnacle would be it. I figured someone who'd done a couple hundred R2R hikes in his 80s must know what he was talking about and I bought a Pinnacle shortly thereafter and it is my favorite pack ever. My brother liked it and bought one, my sister in law did likewise, a friend who hiked with us in Glacier loved it and obtained one, etc.

    I purchased the newer, redesigned model at an REI garage sale a few months ago. The new one has pockets and padding on the hip belt and a slightly redesigned chest strap with whistle. The garage sale pack is a medium, my older one is a large. I personally like the older one better. It is a few ounces lighter. I use the medium as a day pack when day hiking with family. That pack was used on a PCT through hike and held up to that quite well. It's a little worn in a couple places but nothing major.

    I have used a 3L bladder in both packs, although I getting a bit weary of bladders and leaning more to large Ozarka bottles. I can't always tell how much water is left in the bladder and I've had a few leak in the past.

    I used the GoLite Speed pack before I got the Pinnacle. The Pinnacle has about half again the capacity, a 10 lb. greater load rating, padded shoulder straps and weighs the same. Since I started hiking in Big Bend in winter with my young grandson, I had to carry more gear and water and increase my load to about 30 lb. starting out. The Speed could barely handle it and was very uncomfortable at that weight. The Pinnacle is rated to 40 lb. and thirty at the beginning of a hike hasn't been an issue for me

  21. Im aware of the straps. When hauling up mixed alpine routes Id rather not be donating loose hanging gear to the Mountain Gods. Thus my question about your mods. Ive tested 4 packs all winter and this is my go to. The daisy chain is the only addition i can think of. Thanks for the site, nice work.

  22. I’m “David” from the March 30, 2011 post above. I just noticed GoLite has the Pinnacle on sale for $79.00 on their website. They must be closing them out. If I didn’t already own two, I’d buy one. The price they’re offering it at is just a few bucks more than what I paid at REI’s garage sale for my second pack.

    • I’m tempted by this pack, but have a question. I’m not an ultra- but a pretty-light backpacker, and do a yearly trek in Grand Canyon. There it’s often necessary to haul a large load of water for dry camps. This usually involves 7-8 liters = 14-16 lbs, which can easily push a pack to 50 lbs and beyond, if at the start of a long hike. What are the chances this GoLite can handle that kind of weight when needed?

  23. Is this the same pack that’s now at $60 on their website? Called W’s Pinnicle. $60?, what gives?

  24. The W’s Pinnacle is the women’s Pinnacle and is supposed to be cut a bit differently than the men’s Pinnacle. The small, medium, and large sizes are also a little smaller than the corresponding men’s sizes.

    I think the Pinnacle is rated to 40 lb. I top out at 30 even when hauling extra water, however, if I ever get to do that Tapeats Creek/Deer Creek hike I want to do in the Grand Canyon, I’ll have to carry a couple gallons extra to stash by the trail on the way down. Although it would definitely be “not good” to try to load 50 lb. in the pack, I’d think it could be done if only for the first day going downhill.

    My only experience with maxing out GoLite packs on weight was with my GoLite Speed pack, which was rated to 30 lb. When carrying extra water and my grandson’s gear, it was extremely uncomfortable at 30 lb., cutting into my shoulders, whereas at 80% of that (24 lb.) it felt great. The Pinnacle, rated at 40 lb. feels fine at 30 (75%). I imagine at 40 or more, it would start to feel like a maxed out Speed pack.

    • I think that’s what I needed to know. Last time on the Deer Creek/Thunder River circuit we went down with a gallon each to cache, plus water for the first night’s dry camp. I guess we were packing about 60 lbs each. My Osprey rated at about 40 lbs did fine. In Grand Canyon, with its water demands, ultralight is highly qualified. You need packs that can be overloaded.

  25. I did not see the Pinnacle on their website anymore, did they discontinue it. I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on the Quest 50l. Its not the lightest pack but at $90 it looks like a great deal on a quality, feature rich bag. I could be very wrong though.

  26. GoLite told me the Jam 70 is a slightly updated and rebranded Pinnacle.

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