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The North Face Griffin 65 Review

The Griffin 65 is loaded with features and boasts one of the best suspension systems for ultimate load distribution.
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Price:  $300 List | $299.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Long zipper front access, self equalizing load lifters, swiveling hip belt, on-the-go-adjustment
Cons:  Complex layers of features, heavy
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Adam Paashaus ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 5, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 16
  • Suspension and Comfort - 45% 8
  • Weight - 20% 3
  • Features and Ease of Use - 20% 6
  • Adjustability - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The North Face Griffin 65 is a great pack that is loaded with unique features like a removable flying-squirrel summit pack, zippered main compartment access, and hip belt pockets. It carries a moderate load surprisingly well, with its high-tech harness, and moves well with the body. While the packs' suspension evenly distributes the load extremely well, the pack itself is one of the heaviest in our test. If you need something to carry loads up to 45 pounds, this is one to take a long hard look at, but if you tend to carry lightweight items or want a simple design, this pack may be overkill.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Long zipper front access, self equalizing load lifters, swiveling hip belt, on-the-go-adjustmentLight-weight, comfortable with heavy loads, perfect pocket combinationLight-weight, comfortable, supportive, functional feature setAwesome pockets, excellent ventilation, general comfortPacked full of features, great pockets, comfortable and solid ergonomic design
Cons Complex layers of features, heavyTiny buckles hard to operate with glovesNo lid, back-panel lacks ventilationNot supportive for loads over 40 poundsSlightly on the heavier side, not the best for super heavy loads
Bottom Line The **Griffin 65** is loaded with features and boasts one of the best suspension systems for ultimate load distribution.The Blaze 60 is a super-lightweight load hauler, that is both comfortable and full of awesome features.The ULA Catalyst blends excellent carrying comfort with arguably the best-executed set of features, all in a light-weight package.The Atmos 65 AG has earned its spot as a cult classic in the backpacking world due to having a great breathable suspension and other great user friendly features.An extremely comfortable and feature-rich design that handles heavy loads, while only being marginally heavier than average.
Rating Categories The North Face Griffin 65 Granite Gear Blaze 60 Catalyst Osprey Atmos 65 AG Osprey Aether AG 60
Suspension And Comfort (45%)
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Weight (20%)
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Features And Ease Of Use (20%)
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Specs The North Face... Granite Gear Blaze... Catalyst Osprey Atmos 65 AG Osprey Aether AG 60
Measured Weight (pounds) 5.1 lbs 3 lbs 3 lbs 4.54 lbs 5.13 lbs
Volume (liters) 65 L 60 L 75 L 65 L 60 L
Access Top, front Top Top Top + sleeping bag compartment Top + side access zipper + sleeping bag compartment
Hydration Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Materials 210D IronLite Nylon 100D robic nylon w/ DWR coating 400 Robic fabric Main body: 100D X 630D Nylon Dobby
Accent: 210D High Tenacity Nylon, Bottom: 420HD Nylon
Main body: 210D Nylon Dobby
Accent: 210D High Tenacity Nylon, Bottom: 500D Nylon
Sleeping bag Compartment No No No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face is no stranger to making backpacks. This pack has some unique features that set it apart from the rest of the field.

Performance Comparison


We had a great experience using the Griffin on the Long Trail in Vermont.
We had a great experience using the Griffin on the Long Trail in Vermont.

Suspension and Comfort



We were pleasantly surprised by how well this suspension worked. The hip belt swivels freely to support the weight while allowing natural movement.


The shoulder harness can adjust on-the-go to fit different sized torsos, and the load lifters are self equalizing, allowing them to transfer weight freely regardless of body position.


We found the back panel and hip belt to be breathable and comfortable for all but the heaviest loads, and we loved how the weight always felt completely distributed.

Weight



While this pack has a lot going for it, it also has a few drawbacks. First and foremost, the pack is downright heavy. Weighing in at just over five pounds, a pack of this weight should be able to carry super heavy loads, but instead, this one maxes out around forty-five pounds before the suspension starts to lose support.

Features and Ease of Use



The Griffin seems to have it all: A removable flying squirrel summit pack for quick trips from camp to bag a peak, a zippered top lid that is easy to use, stretchy side pockets that work well for most types of water bottles, a power-mesh stuff-it pocket for when you don't use the detachable summit pack, and zippered hip belt pockets to keep small items handy.

The hip belt pockets are made with a stretchy mesh for storing small items like snacks, but the contoured shape and internal structure made it an uninviting location for a phone or other larger items. This pack also sports a long top town access zipper making it quick and easy to unzip and get something out of the bottom. Zipping a full backpack back up doesn't work so well. The cinching main compartment access is great and has two easy-to-find handles to pull it open.


While this pack has features out the wazoo, getting used to the system takes some time. The removable flying squirrel pack was handy for hauling water bottles to and from the spring, but its location covers the super useful mesh stuff pocket and interfered with the top lids' straps. We eventually removed the extra pack and left it home because we found we preferred to maintain access to the huge stretchy stuff-it pocket.

When we had both the flying squirrel summit pack and the top lid attached  the straps and buckles all seemed to get in the way of each other.
When we had both the flying squirrel summit pack and the top lid attached, the straps and buckles all seemed to get in the way of each other.

Adjustabillity



The Griffin comes in two sizes (sm/med and LG/xl), and each one has a good amount of adjustability. The torso, waist belt, and the load lift adjustments are all made to be adjusted on-the-fly. We enjoyed this feature because it let you fine-tune adjustments without losing the memory of how the previous adjustment felt. Everything is done in real-time. This pack is not the most adjustable, however, the way it executes making the adjustments is truly unique.

The torso adjustment is located down by the right hip. You can use this to adjust on-the-fly and getting the right fit is at your control anytime.
The torso adjustment is located down by the right hip. You can use this to adjust on-the-fly and getting the right fit is at your control anytime.

Value


This pack has tons of good features, and with its high-tech weight distributing suspension, it carries loads admirably. There is no disputing this is one capable and awesome pack. If you are a gear-junkie who likes techy innovation, this pack may just be perfect and have a high value. No other pack has the same weight distributing feel, however, there are quite a few full-featured, lighter-weight packs that carry loads just as well, for a fraction of the price.

Conclusion



The Griffin is a techy pack that hosts a slew of great features, most notably, the suspension, which perfectly equalizes the load regardless of body position, for a great carrying experience. The pack is quite "busy", with straps, buckles, and compartments that are somewhat confusing at first. We found that, by eliminating a modular feature or two, we were able to make this a user-friendly pack with a usable feature set and great ergonomics.

Is the self equalizing  active suspension going to revolutionize backpacks forever? Not likely since they popped up in certain packs years ago  but this pack executes it perfectly.
Is the self equalizing, active suspension going to revolutionize backpacks forever? Not likely since they popped up in certain packs years ago, but this pack executes it perfectly.


Adam Paashaus