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Granite Gear Blaze 60 - Women's Review

The Blaze does the unthinkable with the combination of a lightweight pack that can haul heavy loads and still feel comfortable.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $270 List | $269.95 at REI
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
By Meg Atteberry ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 5, 2019
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 16
  • Comfort and Suspension - 45% 8
  • Organizational systems - 20% 6
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Adjustability - 15% 5

Our Verdict

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.


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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $269.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros Huge main compartment, customizable compression straps, super lightweight, comfortable with heavy loads.Comfortable, supportive suspension, simple design, large pockets, durable, customization from manufacturerDurable, comfortable even with heavier loads, streamlined features, great attachment points at outside of pack, integrated rain coverComfortable, plush padding, wide range of fitting options and adjustments, good number of pockets, easy-to-remove top lid,Comfortable, lightweight, good set of features, large stow pockets
Cons Dark material makes pack contents difficult to see, hip belt difficult to adjust, rigid padding might not last over time.Non-ventilated back panel, less organizational featuresMain compartment is a little narrow, water bottle holster is awkward, requires thoughtful packingLarge, spring loaded waist band is hard to get into, suspension can feel bulky, expensive, hip belt can sag uncomfortably on some usersSimple suspension, lacks support
Bottom Line The Blaze does the unthinkable with the combination of a lightweight pack that can haul heavy loads and still feel comfortable.The ULA Circuit is a durable bag with all the right pockets and suspension that will keep your back, hips, and shoulders comfortable all day.The Kyte 46 is a small, but mighty pack, built for a more advanced user. The comfortable wear allows you to tackle rough terrain with ease.This pack has stood the test year after year with its robust feature set, comfortable straps, and a strong yet light suspension featuring an incredibly ventilated back panel.The Octal 55 is light, simple, and still provides for tons of storage space.
Rating Categories Blaze 60 Circuit Osprey Kyte 46 Osprey Aura AG 65 Gregory Octal 55
Comfort And Suspension (45%)
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8
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Weight (20%)
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Adjustability (15%)
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Specs Blaze 60 Circuit Osprey Kyte 46 Osprey Aura AG 65 Gregory Octal 55
Measured Weight (pounds) (medium) 2.63 lbs 2.68 lbs 3.42 lbs 4.65 lbs 2.58 lbs
Volumes Available (liters) 60 68 35, 45 50, 65 45, 55
Organization: Compartments Lid, front pocket, main compartment Side pockets, front pocket, hip belt pockets, main compartment Lid, mesh side pockets, hip belt pockets, lid pocket, front mesh pocket, internal sleeping bag pocket, main compartment Lid, front pocket, side pockets, dual front pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment Lid, front shove-it pocket, main compartment
Access Top Top Top, bottom Top, side, bottom Top
Hydration Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rain Cover Included No No Yes No Yes
Women's Specific Features Women's Specific fit & sizing S-Curve Shoulder Straps Women's specific fit Women's specific fit Women's specific fit
Sleeping bag Compartment No No Yes Yes No
Bear Can Compatible yes Yes - Vertical tight fit Yes Tight fit
Main Materials 210D HD nylon 500 Cordura 210D x 630D Nylon Nylon Nylon
Sizes Available Short, Regular S, M, L, XL, Kids XS/S, M/L XS,S,M XS,S,M
Warranty Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime Limited lifetime

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.

Performance Comparison



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.

The Blaze 60 performed well with our big haul test  keeping our shoulders and hips cozy mile after mile. Here it is packed with a two-person tent  extra sleeping pad  ice axe  climbing helmet  rope  and bear can.
The Blaze 60 performed well with our big haul test, keeping our shoulders and hips cozy mile after mile. Here it is packed with a two-person tent, extra sleeping pad, ice axe, climbing helmet, rope, and bear can.

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 trampoline style back panels do.

The frame itself sits low enough that unless the pack is fully loaded, it sits out of the way of your head. This feature is one reason why we preferred the comfort of the Blaze over 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.

We loved taking the Blaze 60 out into desert canyons.
We loved taking the Blaze 60 out into desert canyons.

Weight


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.

Taking a weighted-down Blaze over rough terrain brought us to amazing places.
Taking a weighted-down Blaze over rough terrain brought us to amazing places.

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.

Organizational Systems


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.

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.

The Blaze 60 has straps all around the pack for fitting bulkier items. Some of these straps are removable for easy customization.
The Blaze 60 has straps all around the pack for fitting bulkier items. Some of these straps are removable for easy customization.

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.

If you plan on carrying a water bladder with the Blaze 60 you might want to get a magnetic attachment to keep the water hose out of your way when hiking.
If you plan on carrying a water bladder with the Blaze 60 you might want to get a magnetic attachment to keep the water hose out of your way when hiking.

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.

Adjustability


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.

The unique torso height adjustment on the Blaze 60 keeps the base weight to a minimum on the pack  while still allowing for ample adjustment.
The unique torso height adjustment on the Blaze 60 keeps the base weight to a minimum on the pack, while still allowing for ample adjustment.

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.

The Blaze is an award-winning pack for its ability to carry loads over vast distances.
The Blaze is an award-winning pack for its ability to carry loads over vast distances.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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