The Granite Gear Blaze 60 challenges the idea that a lightweight pack can't handle heavy loads. Not only is the Blaze one of the lightest models we tested, but it is also one of the most voluminous. This pack got outstanding marks for how comfortable it is when loaded down. We still think it's a bit of a unicorn, but the unique, removable back panel design trims down on weight while still offering the necessary support for heavy hauls. We loved how simple this pack is, along with the several small compression straps that configure it in different ways to secure even the oddest of items. We wish that the pack came in a lighter color, so things inside were easier to see.
Granite Gear Blaze 60 - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Huge main compartment, customizable compression straps, super lightweight, comfortable with heavy loads.
Cons: Dark material makes pack contents difficult to see, hip belt difficult to adjust, rigid padding might not last over time.
Manufacturer: Granite Gear
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Blaze 60 is a lightweight workhorse, perfectly suited for the long-distance trekker or expedition hauler. Beginners with bulkier gear will also appreciate the roomy main compartment, ideally suited to hold everything you need and then some.
Comfort and Suspension
Superior comfort and support allow a pack to carry big, burly loads. The Blaze combines weight-saving efficiency with support in the right places to create a lightweight pack that can handle the burden of the burliest expeditions. The back panel is a combination of hard, sturdy plastic (a throwback to the early 2000s, but better) with a molded-foam back padding that offers comfort, ventilation, and support. We were a bit skeptical at first since the combination appears to look a bit bulky and goofy, but once you put on the pack, you quickly appreciate the stiffer foam support system.
A few broad-shouldered women complained that the pack pinched their shoulders a little bit, so this may not be the pack for you if you have a broader upper build. The foam padding feels slightly stiff, and a bit cheap (we aren't too convinced that it will hold up over many years), but it is immediately evident once you have the pack on that the rigid foam is intended to give you the support you need. The hip belt is adjustable (and even removable if you want to convert this pack into a lightweight pack for easy day hikes). However, we found it almost impossible to remove and extremely difficult to adjust. You should only have to adjust the hip belt once, but if you want to remove it, good luck.
Overall the hip belt felt cozy against all sorts of different shaped hips, and we appreciated how balanced we felt while scrambling over rough desert terrain with this pack fully loaded. The hard foam panel doesn't keep sweat at bay the way that Osprey packs do, but it kept us drier than the Terra and REI Flash.
Unlike the AirContact Lite the frame of this pack doesn't have to sit high (if you fill it up, the brain expands, and the pack will be tall). This feature is one reason why we preferred the comfort of the Blaze of the AirContact Lite, which we kept bonking our head on the tall frame of the AirContact Lite during uphill grinds. Range of movement is essential with any pack, and the Blaze did an excellent job keeping the frame below our necks but still giving us the proper support. Despite our initial thoughts based on looks, this pack is a fantastic workhorse that certainly delivers comfort in all the right places.
What sets this pack apart from our other heavy haulers is the weight. At an astonishing 2.63 pounds, this pack also fits into the ultra-lightweight category. Even though it isn't the lightest pack in our lineup, it's the ability to haul weight and weigh nothing gives this pack high marks in the weight category.
We asked a thru-hiker to give this pack a whirl, and they were impressed with its ability to perform well on the comfort scale while keeping weight trimmed up. Gram counters will appreciate the removable elements of this pack. The brain easily detaches, you can remove a few clips (or cut them to suit your needs). The hip belt is also supposedly removable, but after 20 minutes of trying, we couldn't get the hip belt out of its sleeve. The AirContact Lite not only weighs well over a pound more, but it also has fewer removable options.
The custom-made material for this bag didn't feel cheap or flimsy but certainly adds to the lightweight nature of the bag. The Blaze survived some brutal scrambling over sandstone and showed no wear from the abrasive rock.
When you open the main compartment of the Blaze 60 you can see just how cavernous it is. The Blaze offered the largest main compartment in our ping-pong ball volume test by a mile, holding a whopping 1,128 ping pong balls. What we loved about the Blaze is its ability to expand. Beginner backpackers with a bulkier kit and those engaged in epics or heavy loads will love the roomy main compartment. The Blaze was one of a few packs in our test that could comfortably handle an entire two-person tent, an ax, helmet, rope, a bear can, and an extra sleeping pad with room to spare. Both the Aura AG 65 and the AirContact Lite are the only other packs that could comfortably handle a large amount of gear and still have ample room to spare.
The pack keeps pockets only to what you need. Two large, hip belt pockets are the perfect place to stash your essentials, while the top brain can handle plenty of additional items. The exterior side pockets are enormous; we were able to load an entire two and half person tent in one side. They also cinch down quickly if they aren't as full, making them useful for water bottles, tent poles, and extra layers.
The wide range of compression straps can be customized to fit anything you may need. You can criss-cross the straps for added support. The brain of this pack expands upwards by a significant amount, allowing you to pack it full or keep it slim. The only less-useful feature is the mesh pocket in front. The narrow profile of the mesh pocket makes it difficult to store much more than a bathroom kit and a quick layer.
Packing this pack is a breeze if you utilize the minimalist features properly. Advanced users will love the simplicity and beginners will enjoy the roomy side and hip pockets for quick access to trail essentials. The dark colors of the pack make seeing into the main compartment difficult in bright conditions, so be sure to pack what you need for the day using the many compression straps and roomy side pockets to avoid having to rummage through a dark bag.
The one feature we wish this pack had is a horizontal strap for a water bladder line. Unfortunately, the Blaze is the only pack in our review with this oversight. If you don't have a magnetic clip on your water bladder, expect the hose to flop around, hit your neck and bug you.
Lastly, the pack lacks bottom access to trim weight. However, there is a side access zipper that goes well towards the bottom, making getting to the bottom of the bag more comfortable. However, you can't use this feature if you are using the compression straps, as the straps get in the way.
The Blaze offers a range of adjustability options for the more advanced user. Since three compression straps are surrounding the pack, people who have their system dialed in can go ahead and custom cut straps to suit their needs. More novice backpackers will like the range of options as they get to understand how their kit fits into the pack. We thought that the excessive straps might snag on trees and be a nuisance, but when cinched properly, we found that the straps stayed out of the trees and didn't hold us back.
The Blaze's torso height adjustment is different than any other pack we tested, with clips instead of a slider. We liked that the lengths are embossed into the plastic, so we could pick the correct height without having to guess. However, it lacks the infinite level of adjustability found in the majority of packs we tested, which is due to the lightweight nature of the model.
Other adjustability options on the pack include the waist belt length, which we found to be extremely cumbersome and difficult to manage. The good news is you should only have to do this once. If you're looking for a pack with an extendable hip belt that's a little easier to wrangle, check out our Editors' Choice winner, the Osprey Aura AG 65.
Although we did not use any sustainability metrics to rate our packs, we want to include this information for the eco-conscious buyer. Granite Gear does not offer any transparency on the sustainability of their materials or manufacturing process. Most of the packs we tested seemed to use minimal plastic and smaller tags for their packs. Granite Gear had the most plastic and the largest tags.
Granite Gear does offer warranty repairs and component exchanges. However, you should read the fine print. Other companies like REI and Osprey do a better job at providing repairs and replacement parts. Since the Blaze has several removable parts, it is possible to replace some elements of the pack, instead of trashing it and opting for a brand new one.
The Granite Gear Blaze 60 is an excellent option for the seasoned long-haul backpacker. Or, the backpacker who likes to combine other hobbies such as climbing or mountaineering will appreciate the ability of this pack to handle the load without adding additional weight. Beginner backpackers with bulky kits will also enjoy the ability of the Blaze to handle bigger backpacking setups. Since the pack can easily be cinched down, this pack can grow with you and serve multiple purposes.
At just under $300, it is slightly more expensive than most of the packs we tested, but not by much. Considering how well it handles heavy loads and how little it weighs, the increase in cost is certainly justifiable. There are less expensive packs in our review, but you will sacrifice volume, weight, or comfort.
Granite Gear carved out a niche of its own with the Blaze. No other pack on the market can haul heavy loads and keep the pack weight trimmed down. The simple design of this pack means it has fewer bells and whistles and adjustability options, but it does deliver almost everything you would want in a pack, with the ability for advanced users to customize it even further. Beginners and advanced backpackers who are looking for the room and support they need will enjoy the Blaze.
— Meg Atteberry