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May 20, 2009

GoLite Rush Pack Review

The first thing I did when I received my GoLite Rush pack in the mail was to check through the reminder of the box, as one particular component seemed conspicuous by its absence.

Finding nothing I had overlooked, I wrote an e-mail to the GoLite rep with a simple question: Where’s the fluid reservoir?

Her answer was equally simple: there isn’t one. But it’s the longer explanation that tells you what you need to know about the GoLite company in general, and the Rush pack in particular.

GoLite was founded in the late 1990s by a husband and wife who were active mountaineers and backpackers frustrated by the combined weight of all the gear necessary for multi-day expeditions. They now offer a full line of clothing, equipment, and footwear, and remain focused on one primary objective: creating technologically superior products that provide maximal performance for minimal weight. (There’s a fairly detailed company history on the GoLite website, complete with quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Ghandi. Clearly, they take this gear stuff pretty seriously.)

The company has expanded its scope to include trail runners, adventure racers, cross-country skiers, cyclists, and all manner of outdoor enthusiasts. One key factor in the success of GoLite products is their versatility: a single pack can be many things to many people. Or better yet, it can be many things to one person. And that gets to the longer answer of why the GoLite Rush doesn’t have its own hydration reservoir.

the Rush pack

Reflecting their origins as a backpacking company, GoLite has opted to stay out of the hydration reservoir business – but their packs can accommodate nearly any type of hydration setup the user would like. Almost any reservoir holding up to 3L of fluid will fit in the interior mesh sleeve of the Rush pack, which allows you to customize with whatever your favorite reservoir might be.

The hydration reservoir sleeve, with storage space in front. Your hydration tube can thread through outlets on either shoulder strap.

If you don’t want to deal with hydration reservoirs, the Rush has you covered there as well. On either side of the main storage area are water bottle holders, which is a great option if you want to load the pack with extra cargo in the space that a reservoir would normally fill. Or, if you really want to haul a lot of fluid, you can carry both a reservoir and bottles – which is exactly what I did on an all-day excursion last month.

You can't see the pack very well here - I just thought this picture was cool!

Remember how I said that 99% of the packs I saw at Yosemite were CamelBaks? Well, I was part of the 1% exception. When my wife and I hiked to Yosemite Point, I filled a 2L CamelBak reservoir with fluid for me, and carried two 24-oz water bottles for her. Sure, I felt a bit like a mule, but this setup was perfect for the conditions: our cargo didn’t consist of much more than a windbreaker and some food, but it was important for both of us to drink a lot of fluids throughout the day.

A better look at the pack: two water bottles, hydration reservoir tube over my right shoulder, and gear in every compartment. And I just noticed that my haircut is crooked in back. Crap.

Even with the pack loaded with fluids, the Rush provides a ton of storage space – in fact, its 900 cubic inch capacity is more than twice as much as any other pack in this review. Cargo can go in the same compartment as the hydration reservoir (separated by a thin border), or in the large center mesh pocket. Bigger pieces of gear can be stuffed in the center pocket and secured with the bungee straps above it; you can keep a whole jacket in this compartment if necessary, without any parts hanging loose from the pack.

Roomy center compartment with bungee cord to secure larger gear.

The Rush also has angled mesh pockets on either side of the waist strap where I stored a GPS device, batteries, and camera for the hike. The side pockets are very conveniently located for quick, repeated access to your gadgets.

Despite the added weight I was carrying, the Rush proved to be remarkably comfortable during a long day on the trail. The weight of the pack by itself is 1.25 lbs, and GoLite uses a material called “space mesh” on the back panel and shoulder straps to enhance air flow and comfort. Load control straps and a sternum strap on the front of the pack allow you to adjust the weight distribution to your preference.

In addition to hiking in Yosemite, I used this pack for several long trail runs as well, and I was just as impressed by its overall utility and comfort. One small issue I had while running was with the side pockets: while they are perfectly convenient for accessing items like gels or a camera, their placement interfered with my normal running form just a bit. The inside of my elbows frequently brushed against the outside of these pockets, and I found myself slightly adjusting with a wider arm carriage than usual. When the pockets are empty, it’s not an issue – but if the pockets are empty, they’re really not much good to you. This detail might just be due to my particular mechanics - or maybe I still have a few more layers of abdominal tissue than I should.

The only other drawback I can find with this pack is that – strange as it sounds - it might actually provide too much storage space. The Rush is marketed as a “fast and light” racing model, and it’s the smallest pack in GoLite’s product line. However, for ultrarunners who prefer a hydration pack with minimal excess bulk, 900 cubic inches of storage may be unnecessary and/or too bulky. On the other hand, if you’re planning an all-day excursion without refueling, or running an ultra with minimal aid station support, this pack is ideal for carrying fluids along with a lot of extra gear.

Summary bullets …

  • Excellent versatility. Use the Rush with a 2-liter fluid reservoir. Or a 3-liter one. Or with water bottles on the sides. Or with all of these. Or with none. Whatever your hydration needs are, this pack can accommodate them.
  • Outstanding cargo capacity compared to other packs in this category.
  • Given its overall size and cargo capacity, the pack is remarkably light.
  • Very comfortable for long-duration activity, even with large cargo loads.
  • The pack comes in gender-specific models as well as different sizes to ensure proper fit to various body types.
  • Side pockets may interfere slightly with running form.
  • Given that you’ll have to buy a hydration reservoir separately, the Rush ends up a bit more expensive than its competitors – but with multiple applications, probably worth it.
The Rush is a true multi-use pack that is equally suited for ultrarunning, day hiking (in fact, it received a top designation from Backpacker Magazine), adventure racing, mountain biking, or any outdoor endurance sport. If you’re looking for a single piece of gear to use in a variety of adventures, this would make an excellent choice.

The GoLite Rush typically retails for $70 from multiple vendors (if you use Wilderness Running Company, remember coupon code R&R10 for a 10% discount), and Zombie Runner currently has last year's models on sale for $50.

*If you’ve used this product, please agree, disagree, or share your experience in the comments below.

**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.


Journey to a Centum 5/20/09, 6:34 PM  

hmmmm... looks like something I should try. Visions of Plain 100 are going through my head. I like the bottle holders on a backpack vs the waist pack. I'm sure you could use the same water bottle pocket for bear spray if you happen to be in an area that has beasts like that wandering around.

I'm wondering if you extended the shoulder straps more it would allow the side/front pockets to ride lower and perhaps clear your arm swing. You're tall so maybe you already had maxed out the adjustment.

Thanks for the reveiw


Backofpack 5/20/09, 6:42 PM  

Funny, I was just going to shout down the hall for Eric to read this, and it turns out he just did!

I don't usually read product reviews, but this one caught my attention - because of the picture with the water bottles. That interests me too.

And, by the way, I think your haircut is fine, I'm sure your head is attached to your neck crookedly.

Jo Lynn 5/20/09, 8:48 PM  

THAT looks like the perfect pack for my husband to carry when we do Half Dome in August. Thanks for sharing. ;)

Trailrat 5/21/09, 5:50 AM  

I love GoLite gear! I use everything from thier clothes to backcountry shelters that set up with just hiking poles. Thier gear is just the best, especially when you can hit up the warehouse sale here in Boulder Colorado every year. I try and support local companies as much as possible. Great review!

Dave 5/21/09, 6:55 AM  

Looks like a great back for day treks with the Scouts...may have to get one...that's right another hydration system camoflauged under the guise that I need it for Scouts...yeah, that't the ticket.

RBR 5/25/09, 11:12 AM  

You do the best gear reviews! thank you!

And that is a VERY cool picture! My husband and I hiked Yosemite Falls back in 1994. I was only 24, but I had recently quit smoking and never did a lick of exercise. I thought I would DIE. I bet it would be much more fun now.

Deene 5/26/09, 2:02 PM  

i wait for the golite warehouse sales here.

Steve 5/28/09, 8:12 AM  

Just got one of these. There is a special sleeve for the hydration hose integrated into this pack. You can feed the tube through the bag and out of the sleeve on either shoulder strap--it's very nice, particularly if you have a real valve at the end of the hose. I point this out because the author is clearly not using it!

Michael Shane Helton 3/6/10, 9:03 PM  

I read Donald's initial pack comparison and bought the UD Wasp (which I really like). However, when Wilderness Running Company was running a special where I could get a Rush pack AND a 100oz Camelbak resevior for $30...I could't resist.

I did get a women's small, which I believe only has 600 capacity (versus the 900 in Mens large reviewed here) but I actually think it is perfect for running. I love the versatility of running with 1,2,3 bottles and/or a hydration pack.

My only complaint is that it only has 2 compartments for stuff.

Paige 3/29/10, 12:29 PM  

Thank you for these reviews! I read all of them and decided on this bag because of its versatility. I am a 5'6" female, but ended up getting the men's medium (I believe there are four sizes: Women's Small, Women's Medium, Men's Medium, Men's Small). The size chart on the GoLite website would have had me get the Women's Medium but I wanted the extra capacity.

It fits me just right and is really comfortable when running. The side pockets are easy to access while running and I haven't had any issues with my arms hitting them, even when full. I call it my running minivan, because I can fit anything I want into it. I'm not concerned about my times, so I often overpack water and snacks just in case.

worm 1/19/11, 4:19 PM  

does anyone know if the water bottles are accessible while on the move? trying to find a double bottle pack with bottles one can actually get to while running is difficult. thanks for any info.

Donald 1/19/11, 10:36 PM  

Worm: It's a bit of a reach, but I didn't really have a problem with accessing the bottles.

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