Looking at the calendar this morning, I realized it was time for a new gear rant. It’s funny how much changes in a year: a year ago in this space I rambled on for twenty sentences about…my REI Galaxy Pack?!? My REI Cruise 60 “UL” pack?!? WTF?
These days, I’m a fully converted exacto knife-wielding gram counter, and rather than explore the relative “merits” of a 4 lb. 11 oz backcracking behemoth vs. a 3 lb. 2 oz. “ultralight” alternative, I’m going to look at a more pertinent backpack comparison: the 1 lb. 6 oz. 2008 GoLite Jam2 pack vs. the 1 lb. 10 oz. 2009 GoLite Jam2 pack.
In an age where I’m trying to not only save every precious ounce but every precious dollar, why would I even consider spending $125 for a newer version of a pack I bought less than a year ago? I mean, for $105 sure – that’s only four hundred and twenty quarters after all – but it’s going to take some serious upgrades to get me to add 4 ounces for that extra 20 bucks.
The 2009 Jam2 does indeed include some improvements worthy of consideration:
- “…new foam padding in the back for support
- Brock™ foam padding in the spacer mesh shoulder straps for long-lasting comfort
- More storage options exist with the addition of hipbelt mesh pockets, granting easy access to food and essentials without ever having to take off the pack
- Store larger items you want quick access to in the large front pocket and two side angled stretch mesh pockets.
- Reduce excess pack room as your trip goes on by utilizing the two side compression straps and the comPACKtor system.
Let’s start with the first item: Ploss provided a verbal (loser) trail report about his experience on Ruckel yesterday sporting a Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat in lieu of the stock back padding provided in the 2008 Jam2. It’s unclear from the descriptions alone how much the 2009 padding differs from the 2008, but given that Ploss gave his Z-Seat upgrade a thumbs up in conjunction w/heavy compression, new foam padding seems unlikley to be necessary for me, either.
I’ve been pretty happy w/the Jam2’s shoulder straps – really have had no complaints in terms of comfort, and since my maximum pack weight should be 23 lbs. at most with a week’s worth of food and a liter+ of water, do I need better strap padding? What is Brock™ foam?
Brock Foam is a softer foam. EPS, like in bicycle helmets, is a harder foam. The softer foam is better for smaller impacts, like generally cruising around the mountain. A harder foam is better for one big impact, like dropping cliffs. After one big hit on EPS foam, the cells crush completely, and should be thrown out. Brock foam recovers from impacts, and such, can take multiple hits better.
Okie dokie. Better? Maybe? Let’s move on to the hipbelt mesh pockets which had been something I really thought would be a useful improvement – one of the things I actually really do appreciate about the REI Cruise 60. But then I bought the Simblissity UnSlack Pack:
This thing arrived on Saturday, and is killer. Weighs 1.1 oz on my new digital scale and has more than enough storage space for my new camera, a bar or two, a 0.2 oz. dutch key, and anything else I might need. Let’s say I piled said 6 oz. camera, two 2 oz. Lara bars, a 0.5 oz. lip balm and…my SteriPEN Adventurer into it…which would easily fit…I’d have about 15 oz. (420 g) of easily accessible kit and grub at my immediate disposal. This would seem to negate the need for hip belt pockets.
The last two bullet points pertain to key features already found on the 2008 variety Jam2, namely the mesh side pockets and comPACKtor system, both of which are key. Water bottles are easily reachable from the mesh pockets, and the compression system provides for maximum weight distribution and frameless comfort when packing your UL gear sensibly; Ploss reported that by using the compression system to its fullest he was able to carry about 5 days’ worth of food comfortably at the bottom of his pack yesterday, allowing him to avoid over-compressing his BPL Pro 90 quilt.
Conclusions: even though I have a sick, sick gear addiction it’s clear that while the 2009 GoLite Jam2 pack is well worth your consideration if you don’t already own one (go buy one now), it probably doesn’t offer enough for me to buy a whole new one and risk getting my effing @$$ kicked by the wife who would clearly and understandably not understand why I need two Jam2s. For once, taking twenty minutes to think through this potential upgrade served me well, and while I had intended to post this later in the day, I’m going to be locked up in the four o’clock hour and simply didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to pad April’s post numbers, which you can peruse over on the left right hand side of the blog.