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. With a simple suspension, it doesn't pretend to be fancier than it is but is well-built to easily support heavy loads. Beginners with bulkier gear will also appreciate the roomy main compartment and exterior straps, 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 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, some ventilation, and support. It looks super basic, but we quickly learned that a pack doesn't need to look expensive to work well.
The Blaze's suspension can support heavy loads around 45 pounds and more, which is great for climbing expeditions, winter trips, women carrying gear for clients or children. The molded plastic frame is strong and is securely attached to the pack, so the weight is transferred to the hips. The foam-padded back panel is, as you would expect, significantly less breathable than the trampoline mesh styles. This is a trade-off to be able to carry the load closer to your body, which typically allows more comfortably carrying of heavier packs, so be prepared to appreciate the breeze drying your sweaty back when you put the Blaze down.
Even though the pack, when fully loaded, is very tall, the frame itself sits low enough that you won't bonk your head when gazing longingly towards the top of a long climb.
We noted that the load lifter straps are positioned fairly low compared to many models we tested. This meant that in testers who measured towards the top of the pack's torso length range, more of the weight had to rest on the shoulders. If your torso is 17" or so, you may consider bumping up to the regular size rather than the short even though Granite Gear's scale indicates that the short is for torsos 15"-18".
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, but most women found the straps to be adequately flexible to accommodate different shoulder shapes.
Overall the hip belt felt cushy against most testers hips but can curve up into the belly for some. We love that the hip belt is adjustable and even removable if you want to convert this pack into a lightweight pack for easy day hikes. The adjustment is invisible, and without prior reading, you'd never know it was there. Removing it to adjust isn't the easiest as you have to jam your hand behind the lumbar padding and pry apart velcro while pulling the belt out, but in theory, this only has to be done once.
We gave the Blaze some of the highest marks for its large, easily accessible pockets, removable lid, and compression straps galore. When you open the main compartment of the Blaze 60 you can see just how cavernous it is. One thing 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.
The pack keeps pockets only to what you need. Two large, hip belt pockets are the perfect place to stash your essentials and can easily accommodate a phone, 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 and two 1-liter Nalgene bottles in the other. 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 lid of this pack expands upwards by a significant amount, allowing you to pack it full or keep it slim. The mesh pocket in front is large, stretchy, and deep but, if you also want to use the straps on the front of the pack, you won't be able to get much in and out of the pocket.
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 exterior 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. You can't use this feature if you are using the compression straps, as the straps get in the way. Closing it up when the Blaze is tightly packed can be difficult.
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 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.
There are only a few packs in our test that weigh less than the Blaze. However, many packs offer significantly more breathability on the back panel. If the comfort is top notch for you in the Blaze and you plan to haul heavier loads than 30 pounds, you may be happy you sacrificed the breathability.
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.
The Blaze scores high in adjustability for its 4" torso length range, and 16" hip belt padding range. We also appreciated the multitude of compression straps for cinching down a lightly loaded pack or strapping on more gear for a big expedition.
Beginning backpackers will appreciate the ability to strap on extra gear as they get their kits dialed. 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. One thing to note though, the ability to bring more doesn't mean you should bring more.
The Blaze's torso height adjustment uses 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.
The hip belt extension is a bit cumbersome and difficult to manage but offers larger women the ability to actually have a padded belt where you want it rather than having their hips cut into by webbing. This option is also perfect for especially thin women or teens who have trouble finding a pack that can fit both their torso length and waist at the same time. The belt ranges from 26" to 46".
The Blaze 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 we tested can haul such heavy loads and keep the pack weight trimmed down. The Blaze doesn't tout fancy features or look like your high end, modern pack, but it humbly hauls your load with ease and has every pocket and strap you could need. Beginners and advanced backpackers who are looking for the room and support they need for substantial loads will enjoy the Blaze.
— Elizabeth Paashaus