Granite Gear Blaze 60 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Light-weight, comfortable with heavy loads, perfect pocket combination
Cons: Tiny buckles hard to operate with gloves
Manufacturer: Granite Gear
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Granite Gear Blaze 60 is one of the lightest packs in our test, yet it carries heavy loads phenomenally, and with all the right pockets in all the right places, this pack is a force to be reckoned with. It's no wonder that Granite Gear has had a good reputation with long-distance hikers going back quite a few years.
Suspension and Comfort
This pack has a tremendous suspension that can take on almost any load. Not only does the Air Current frame support a monster load, but it also has channels for warm air to escape, making it one of the more breathable back-panels in our test despite not having a trampoline style harness.
The foam used in the back-panel, lumbar area, and hip belts is firm to support the weight of a heavy pack but soft enough to be comfortable. The plastic frame sheet flexes easily to move well with your body, but resists buckling to a downward force, as a result, the pack feels solid on your back without any shifting or slouching.
We found that the hip belt does a good job of supporting a heavily loaded pack even without a beefy frame structure that some other hip belts use. The shoulder straps also do a great job of supporting the weight of a heavy pack, with the lack of any breathable plushy mesh, we found both the shoulder straps and the hip belt to be somewhat sweaty on warm days.
Weighing in at a scant three pounds, this is by far one of the lightest weight packs in our comparison. Normally, how much weight a pack will comfortably carry has a direct correlation to the pack-weight, heavier packs support heavier loads, however, with this pack, this isn't the case. This pack is a true workhorse when you need it, but on the other hand, a light, nimble featherweight pack when you don't.
Granite Gear does a great job of adding durability to the pack in places you need it, while keeping things otherwise simple to reduce excess weight. The Robic fabric is both lightweight and tear-resistant. This pack carries well whether you are loading it down with heavy climbing gear or you are heading out with a fresh resupply of food and water for a long desert crossing on the PCT.
Loaded with great features, the Granite Gear Blaze 60 is built with the avid hiker in mind and it shows. It packs in quite a few great features such as extra-large hip belt pockets, stretchy mesh stuff-it pocket, huge side water bottle pockets, removable top lid, a long, and a hidden front access zipper.
The hip belt pockets on this pack are among the most spacious in our lineup. We used them for a slew of things that we wanted to keep handy and available for the hike, like map & compass, bars, chapstick, headlamp, or even a large phone or small camera.
The side water bottle pockets are also enormous, easily fitting two Smartwater bottles each, and a shock cord cinches up the lip to keep everything inside from flopping around or falling out. The side pockets have so much space that we stored our 750ml ti-pot and a Smartwater bottle in one of them for a good portion of our testing.
The stretchy mesh front pocket is narrow at the top making accessing things inside a little tricky, but overall the pocket has a great capacity. We used it for stuffing our rain gear, pack cover, or light layers.
Three compression straps go across the front of the pack as well to keep the load tidy and are great for lashing anything from a closed-cell foam pad to bulky layers or wet socks. Each side of the pack also has three separate compression straps. Again, great for keeping the load secured, but also great for holding tent poles in place.
The top lid is simple with a single zippered pocket. While not the largest lid, it was handy for storing things like our toiletries bag, snacks, and our dity bag. For some trips when you don't need or want the lid, it can be easily removed and under the lid, the main compartment has a cinch and roll style closure with two crossing compression straps to lock down the top securely. The lid can also be used as a waist pack when combined with the waist belt or as a chest pack for even more access to things while you are on the go.
The long, hidden front access zipper runs up most of the front of the pack, to the side of the stretchy mesh pocket. We found this feature to be less than handy in most cases, but admittedly, this is mostly because we used a pack liner that restricted access to most everything inside, and usually, things we needed to have access to during the day, were kept in the top lid, stretchy pocket, strapped to the outside or in the top of the pack. However, some users will love this feature and we think it is well designed using a heavy gauge zipper.
The new A.C. (Air Current) Frame comes in three sizes for Short, Reg, Long torso lengths and each one has four separate shoulder strap attachment points which are simple to adjust to get the right fit. The hip belt is also able to expand or compress to fit waist sizes from 26" to 42".
We did find the RE-FIT waist belt to be difficult to remove and adjust because the hook and loop connection is hard to access and break free. All in all this pack has good adjustability and is very easy to get a great fit.
This pack isn't super cheap but it's also not outrageously priced. Considering how well this pack carries heavy loads and how little it weighs, not to mention all the great features it has, we feel that it's absolutely worth the asking price.
If you are looking for the lightest-weight pack available that can comfortably carry a pretty substantial load, there is no better choice than the Blaze 60, earning it this year's Editors' Choice award. This pack is in a class all by itself. Not only is it a solid workhorse of a pack, but it also has a great set of functional features useful to all different types of users, from new backpackers to seasoned section and thru-hikers.
— Adam Paashaus