A recent comment on my gear list page brought to my attention that the latest Jam (v3) Pack from GoLite is now a whopping 1 lbs 15oz.
Erm… aren’t we going the wrong way? Let’s review the progression:
Jam v1: 1lb 5oz (21oz) (Circa 2003)
Jam v2: 1 lb 10oz (26oz) (Circa 2007)
Jam v3: 1 lb 15oz (31oz) (Circa 2010)
Surely a leading-edge ultralight backpacking company would be making huge technological leaps each year? Shaving ounces OFF their fabrics, straps, padding etc. and striving for a better product…
GoLite appears to be suffering from what (for lack of an existing label) I’ll call “The Ray Effect”. The Ray Effect is an observation made by Ray Jardine in his book Beyond Backpacking.
Ray observes that gear gets heavier the more successful an outdoor company becomes. The more successful a company, the more likely they are to get exposure at big stores – like REI and Walmart (Yes GoLite sells to the mega store). These big stores carry “no questions asked” return policies and their customers often take advantage of the perk. A little tear in your pack a year or two later? No problem – REI takes it back. So what do you get if you cross a fragile, needing to be cared for ultralight fabric with a mainstream consumer with high durability expectations? High volumes of returns – where the product gets sent back to the original manufacturer. Their reaction? Make the product more durable. More durable equals heavier, but more profits.
So sadly, one of my favorite ultralight backpacking pioneers of the last decade has lost their way. Fortunately, however, there are other outstanding startups pioneering in their place.
My next backpack will be the ULA Conduit weighing in a scant 17oz (1 lb 1oz), it’s almost a pound lighter than the Jam3 and just as functional.
Go ULA! I hope I never see you at REI.