The demise of GoLite has been written about quite a bit. I even wrote a little bit about it towards the end of last year.
GoLite may have lost it ways towards the end, but when they did things right, it worked well:
- The early GoLite Jams were an excellent packs that were functional, light, pretty durable and the right size for many different types of excursions.
- The Shangri-La series of tarps were pretty bomber, spacious and versatile
- The Tumalo was a good all-purpose rain shell that, again, was not terribly expensive.
And there are others, too. I just used the items above personally.
And now that it is winter and doing the appropriate backcountry winter activities, I am again using another GoLite product: The Bitterroot.
A true winter puffy, the version I have is 850 fill, 5.3 ounces of down fill and weighs a touch over 13 oz. It has a lot of other fancy names in the description such as water-resistant “Pertex Quantum GL fabric” that means it is a light fabric that resists a small bit of snow while on break or in camp.
The Bitterroot is not as robust as my old beater down coat, but it is not meant to fill the same niche. The Bitterroot is light, warm and very packable. Perfect for ski tours or winter backpacking.
The sizing is large enough for layering but not so baggy so that it is not efficient. In other words, the right balance expected out of a winter coat.
Overall, it is a well made garment that does the job well.
Aesthetically it has what I half-kidding call a “Boulder Hipster Look“. It is shiny and sleek and makes an interesting contrast to the my usual ski touring attire. I prefer more subdued clothing; a past partner seems to rather like it on me. Other people also seem to like the coat…if not so much how it looks on me. 🙂
If there any complaints, it is that there is no draw-string to cinch the hood. Unusual for a real winter coat of this type. Supposedly sized for a quick on-and-off when belaying in cold and dry climates while wearing a helmet, a draw string would still have been nice.
In reality, be it because my bald noggin is big, the shape of the hood itself, the winter hat I am wearing or a combo of all the items I just listed, the hood seems to cinch up fairly well when the Bitterroot is zippered up all the way. Not ideal…but not a deal breaker either.
On what is my third season of (hopefully) a good amount of winter backcountry use, the coat itself still looks good. No noticeable amount of feathers leaking. The thread is still intact and the fabric itself is not worn.
But here’s the best thing about this wonderful, warm, functional and light coat: it cost me $150 on sale. Similar coats cost up to $250 or even $300.
The Bitterroot is an example of something GoLite did correctly.
If GoLite had not focused on expensive brick and mortar stores in addition to trying to sell button down Oxford shirts, they may have still been around.
There is a niche to be filled between very expensive high-end gear and the functional gear that is more fashion oriented (esp for something that is not fashionable such as rain gear or winter backcountry clothing).
GoLite filled this niche at times. Champagne gear at beer prices was an earlier motto for them.
There is a slight chance GoLite may be resurrected some day.
If they can make the new equivalent of a Jam, or Shangri-La or the Bitterroot, they will no longer be a “throw back” but an innovator again. Or at least a solid choice.
In the mean time, I’ll enjoy my thermos of hot chocolate while wearing my Bitterroot.