I Finally Found My Pack
I think I've finally found my pack.
Way back when I had a Gregory Wind River. Awesome for it's time, but I believe >10lbs? I've kept it to loan to others.
Then I hiked with an Osprey Aether 70. Awesome pack, but still a bit too heavy (5 lbs).
See, I took up photography. And I age each year (imagine that). The photo gear is shade under 10 lbs, so I simply had to reduce weight if I was going to keep solo backpacking into the high up places.
I started with my pack. I needed something that could handle not just my packing gear but also my photo gear. I wanted something that was less than 3 lbs but could still be comfortable with up to 40 lbs, and double as a peak bag (saving more weight).
Enter Granite Gear's Blaze A.C. 60. I love this pack.
COMFORT: More comfortable than my Aether 70 with 40lbs in it! I was concerned about this, but the Blaze handled it fine, and even sat closer to my back and more comfortably on my hips with that amount of weight. Even after miles of trails, steep terrain, significant off-trail hiking, I never started aching at all. It's more solid and sturdy than I thought it would be.
WEIGHT: 2.875 pounds (46 ounces). With this pack shaving over 2 pounds off my last pack, I've got my total weight WITH 10 lbs photo gear AND food AND water down to 33 lbs (doesn't include worn weight, like clothing, boots, etc.). It's light enough to use as a daypack as well as a peak-bagger for non-technical climbs (we're talking class 1, 2, and maybe a couple sketchy class 3 sections, but NOT technical climbs). Could it be used for technical? I bet it could, but I think there would be bags better suited for those situations. But for everything else, for what I do out of base camp, it's perfect because it's WAY more comfortable than a flimsy 18 liter pack with non-padded waist straps and hardly-padded shoulder straps. Plus you can pull out the waist belt and back pad if you really want to lighten it for a side excursion from base camp.
CAPACITY: 60 Liters. For me, it's more than enough. I've fit everything I need gear + photo gear into this for multi-day solo trips in inclement weather (think Colorado late fall). The water pocket holds my 3L Camelbak bladder, although I tend to put it in the outer middle stuff pocket for easier access. Did that with the Aether 70 as well.
POCKETS/ACCESS: Okay, so this was probably the biggest sacrifice. No, it doesn't have a ton of pockets. It's just one big pocket. But my style is to use stuff bags and such to separate gear in the pack. My Gregory had a front access panel which was nice I admit, but the way I pack things now, it's really not hard to access things when I've stoped for a rest. The stretchy side and "front" pockets hold a lot of stuff, more than you'd think. I could stuff a lot more into 'em than I do. The roll top is really nice, I like how it works and its minimalistic design. I do miss a top lid at times, but unrolling and re-rolling the closure is EASY. I did buy the Lineloc lid (got a great deal on it), but I haven't used it and might return it — it's 9 oz and I just don't know if it's worth adding the weight.
BUILD/QUALITY: So far, it's exceeded my expectations. I was skeptical of the material for the side pockets and the shoelace-like compression straps, but the system seems suprisingly durable. No problems yet. Are beefy compression straps with huge plastic buckles a bit easier? Yeah. But the difference is minimal, and I think it's worth the trade-off in weight savings. Plus they are easier to repair/replace in the field.
NO ZIPPERS: I think that's pretty cool.
THIS AND THAT: A backpack is, in a lot of ways, like shoes. Some fit well, some don't, regardless of price. For me, this pack has fit extremely well. I'm 6'0'' and my torso is probably a wee bit longer than it should be (my wife thinks I'm cute, so that's all that matters). I do notice that I have it adjusted pretty far, so not sure how this pack would fit for someone 6'6" with a long torso. I'd call Granite Gear and ask some questions in that situation.
All in all, a GREAT pack, 5 stars. I honestly haven't looked at another pack since getting this one, and probably never will at this point in my life. I'm sold.
GEAR: Get as light as you can, it's worth it. I've shaved probably 15 pounds off what I used to carry and didn't even know it. I even gambled and got a quilt (Enl1ghtenedEquipment Revelation X 20 degree wide with 30% overfill CHEAP!), and it's been amazing. I used to wake up cold all the time, not since getting the quilt. And I toss and turn at night. REI sells the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1, I got one and LOVE IT. Price is a bit high, but it's worth it. Got pounded by hail, snow, thunderstorms with high wind, and I was dry, had plently of room and it was, as they say, "bombproof." Anyway, point is, REDUCE WEIGHT. Without photo gear I'm down to 23 pounds in my pack (includes pack, food and water). I'm FREE!
Thru-hiking weight meets Camino comfort.
Based upon my 500-mile, 6-week journey up through Spain on the Via de la Plata, and all the training before-hand, I can say this pack excels at one thing very crucial to me: Fit. This pack is a dream to wear, with zero hot-spots once properly adjusted. I suppose any GG pack with an A.C. frame would fit the same, but I cannot verify. I had a maximum of 24 pounds in the pack, but by the end, found myself more comfortable with 18.
The straps are well-padded and comfortable. The waist-belt, while it did fit out of the box, was not quite the right fit for me (6' 220lb), and I opted for the XL size, and that did the trick. The waist-belt does a great job of supporting the load. It was barely on my shoulders once properly adjusted. I also appreciated the lashing system on the hip-belt and shoulder straps. I kept a slew of small pockets and gear lashed to the straps in easy reach at all times.
The pack is one giant stuff sack inside, with compression straps (lineloc cords) that help to stabilize the load. These lineloc cords have two disadvantages for me:
1. They loosen unexpectedly.
2. They are not the same thickness as paracord, which would be a huge plus for in-field repairs.
The above being said, do not buy the lineloc top lid for the pack. I tossed it less than 100 miles in. It constantly loosens, and unbalances the load. It is more of a hinderance than a help.
The lid on the top of the pack is great. When closed, rolled down, and strapped, the lid might as well be watertight. I did not feel badly for not having a zip closure at all. It also has the advantage of being able to better control load, as I can roll down the excess at the top of the pack, and compress the load better.
The outside of the pack has three mesh compartments. the two small compartments seem intended to hold water. The middle, larger pocket can hold various and sundry items that need to have ease of reach (remember this back is one big stuff sack). The mesh, while lightweight, is not durable in the least. I have multiple holes that have grown from small snags, and this material excels at snagging. That does not mean this pack is fragile - far from it. The cordura body of the pack is fantastically durable, in fact. It took some serious abuse from me over that 500 miles, and came through with only scuffs.
All in all, this is a great pack, and could be made better by changing just a few details.
Just got back from my first trip with the BLAZE and this pack is BOMB. 5 days 265 miles later on the SHT; Duluth to Canada, this pack was unbelievable. The funny thing is Two Harbors is where Granite Gear is made just 25 minutes north east of Duluth and I have never tried any of their packs before. Being a local I see them around, and finally tried it for a fast pack. What I liked about it is it is light and incredibly simple. The shoulders and waist belt are really comfortable. The waistbelt is thicker and has more padding than the Vapor which I like. The pack has no frills and the simple top load is very very pragmatic which I like. The only thing I really did not like about this pack is the back plate, because the shoulder straps are attached to it and I could not remove it, but it did not weigh all that much so I was not to concerned. The material and construction were dynamite. Really I can't say enough. The pack seated nicely with about 32 lbs of gear and food to begin with, and we ended with a pack weight of about 22 lbs losing 10 lbs in food over the 5 days. The shoulder pads never wore on my shoulders and the belt stayed pretty cool around the waist (two of my concerns always). The hydration sleeve worked well and adapted to a couple of different field bladders we were testing. I was really impressed with the volume of this pack. It is about a 55-57 liter pack in the regular and the volume felt like there was a lot of room left after I was all packed. I am 5'10" 165 and I fit perfectly in the medium belt and regular torso, keeping in mind that torso sizes vary considerably person to person.
After a long and careful evaluation I choose the Blaze for my backpacking needs. I picked one up from Backcountry.com a few weeks ago. I did 8 and 10 mile test hikes with about 15 lb. of gear. It was extremely comfortable, I mean extremely. I didn't even remember I was wearing a pack which is probably about the highest endorsement I could give for comfort. This past weekend I headed out to the Needles in southern Utah for 3 days. Nothing too strenuous, 5, 9 and 6 miles each day. Even with a ridiculous amount of water that we needed haul, the bag was still just so comfortable. It swallowed all my gear easily.
I have a Dana Design wet rib which I used on this trip to great effect. It is basically a small pouch and water bottle holder that attaches to the shoulder strap webbing and hangs around the waste. Great access to water, camera, munchies, etc. since the Blaze itself is pretty Spartan.
After unpacking upon my return, I noticed that each stretch area (two sides and back) had small holes. I didn't think I was particularly rough with our packs. It was stored in another duffle for air transit. A few times we needed to remove our packs and toss them up to the next level and then scramble up after them. Also given all the rock walls it was hard not for it to occasionally scrape against the sandstone.
One other note. The top has a tall collar, but it is not all usable. I tried to stack up all the empty water bottles. They fit inside the collar, but the cross cinch straps do not reach when the collar is fully extended.
Comfort - A+
Durability - handle with care.
Comfortable and Versatile
I was looking for a 3-4 day backpack with less weight than my Gregory pack. I considered a similar Ossprey pack, but the Blaze won as I wanted a more simple, adaptable pack. It also needed a simple way to lash a bear canister on, which typically is either akwardly hanging off a pack or buried and consuming space in the pack. The Blaze has a perfect place on top with 2 crossing straps.
Without monkeying much with the pack before the trip, it was very intuitive as far as adjusting the weight along the trail.
I would second the comment on the water bladder compartment. There is needlessly a zippered opening which is strangely very small and tight to fit a 2L bladder. This creates a real problem either to slide a full bladder in or try to fill the bladder once down in the pocket and risk spilling into the pack. I tried both options and they both suck.
The pack's best features would be the comfort of the hip and shoulder straps and simplicity. During the trip I used it as a day/summit pack needing to carry large volumes of water and it was extremely comfortable. In fact, I think it has now replaced my North Face day pack.
If you like pockets and zippers and a place for each bit of your gear, then you won't like this pack. I tend to separate my gear in waterproof stuff sacks, so a large, single opening is perfect.
The durability is to be determined, but so far I am impressed. Like any pack, sliding down on your back side or bush whacking through scrub, superficial scuffs are expected.
Overall, this is an amazing pack.
This pack combines light weight and simplicity with lots of options for attaching and storing items. I was working on reducing my bulk, so I went from an 82 liter pack that weighed over 5 lbs down to this one, and it has been great. It has forced me to think about where I can reduce the bulk in my equipment, so that has been a good motivator. I love the layout of the various pockets. The long one down the back is perfect for tent poles. I like to avoid hanging a bunch of loose stuff on the outside of the pack, and this works well. When I have everything stowed inside, the pack is a clean, snag-free load on my back that makes it easy to move through the woods. I also love the way it fits. When all the straps are tightened up, the pack fits like a glove and doesn't move around at all.
The one thing I can think of that could be better is access to the side pockets while the pack is on. The top of the pockets is pretty high, so I have never been able to figure out a way to reach them without taking the pack off.
I added Granite Gear hip belt pockets on both sides to deal with this, so that is no big issue. I like that everything including the optional top lid are customizable.
By the way, I found that the Granite Gear Bear Hugs bags help to manage the interior space when trying to fit a bear canister in the somewhat minimal space.
The Perfect Pack!
Both my fiance and I have this pack. We both just loved the design and fit of this pack. The padding is thick and comfortable, adjusting the suspension for torso length is easy, and you can comfortably carry this pack all day long.
I did decide to add a LineLoc lid, and a couple of Granite Gear external pockets to the suspension to hold my GPS and other small items. This added a little weight, but a lot of convenience. The only other thing that I have thought about doing to mine was trimming the excess length from the straps, as several of them are quite long. But I decided against it for now because I don't find it bothersome yet, and the weight savings would be minimal.
This pack is well made, and IMO, a well thought out design. The lack of zippers is great. Nothing to get snagged up. The roll top design keeps gear securely in place, and the stretch pockets are a feature that I appreciate.
One last thing to note- the hydration pocket on this pack is useless because it is such a tight fit. I didn't really care, because I don't carry a bladder on the trail, but I thought I would mention it so that people considering this pack would be aware of that. I could barely fit my hand halfway down the sleeve.
Simple design, simply the best.
I needed a pack that would lighten my load. I read through all of the reviews of the competing packs in this price range and weight. From the Arcteryx packs to the Opsrey Exos. This pack simply won out. Spartan is about the best word you can use to describe the pack. Just the basics. But don't let that fool you. The stretch pockets on the side and back are excellent for stuffing food down for easy access. I used the long stretch pocket in the back to hold my green trail maps nicely rolled up. The inside of the pack held all of my food, sleeping stuff, and stove etc. The only items on the outside of the pack were my one man tent and my sleeping pad. They strapped onto the top of the pack.
The pack is rigid yet extremely light. I carried 33 lbs in it on a 5 day backpacking trip into the Buckhorn wilderness in the Olympic National Park. The weight was perfect, I could cruise down the trail with minimal fatigue. It did take me about one mile of walking to completely adjust the pack to a comfortable level. Once set up you are set for many miles of trouble free hiking. The shoulder straps and waist belt have excellent padding.
This is the one to get. You will not be disappointed.
love this pack
I love this pack. I have bought a few packs, looked into building my own. After hundreds of miles on the trail with many packs I found the pack I will carry for as long as my feet keep walking. I am considering buying a second pack just in case they stop making this one. About a year ago I was searching for a lightweight pack. I walked into REI and picked up the women version of the Blaze 60. I liked the color, filled the pack with weight and walked around for about an hour. I am not saying the pack fit perfect, it didn't. It actually took about 3 5-9 day trips to break the pack in. I just returned from doing 78 miles in 5 days on isle royale. By the time I got off trail the pack and I where best friends. I backpack barefoot, or with merrel barefoot shoes. pack weight fully loaded was around 30 pounds with water. I hiked much faster than my trail buddies. Almost everyday I would get to camp about an hour or two before everyone else, I would put the pack down and jog back to carry my partners pack. In those walks back, carrying someone else pack really illustrated how good the blaze is. I would highly recommend this pack.
Great Lightweight Alternative
I purchased this as a lightweight alternative to my Gregory Denali Pro, which weighs more than twice as much empty. Both are extremely comfortable, extremely easy to adjust, and both fit perfectly. The GG, however, is preferable for weekend trips and hikes due to its light weight and the fact that the compression cords (no straps, too heavy) squeeze this bag down to the size of a day pack - with the benefit of a full suspension and highly adjustable straps and hip belt. The MOLLE straps on the hip belt offer options for carrying immediate reaction gear for those operating in non-permissive environments. The bag is plenty big for a Marmot Helium, Neoair, REI Half Dome 2 Plus, clothes, personal items, Esbit or Vargo Decagon stove with fuel, food and water. I have the Line-Loc lid on order not because I need more space, but just to have smaller items more accessible (it also converts to a fanny pack, but considering how light the pack is, this is a redundant feature). The side pockets aren't the sturdiest, so I'd keep my water bottles inside if bushwhacking, but overall, the pack seems plenty sturdy for general use. Certainly no lighter in materials than a Deuter. For those who like to travel ultralight without compromising on adjustability and comfort, it's a perfect choice.