Hands-on Gear Review

Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's Review

Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60
By: Briana Valorosi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 6, 2015
Price:  $240 List  |  $239.95 at REI
Pros:  Lightweight, lidless design, durable material
Cons:  Suspension lacking, single compartment makes for more difficult organization
Manufacturer:   Granite Gear
60
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 24% 4
  • Weight - 23% 9
  • Suspension - 23% 5
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8
  • Adjustability - 15% 4
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Our Verdict

Perfect for long distance backpacking, the Granite Gear Blaze A.C is a lightweight backpack that offers the simplest design of all the backpacks we reviewed. With only one compartment, a lidless design, and no other enclosed pockets, this pack is ideal for the backpacker going light and fast. We love how easy this backpack is to use- no hassling with adjustments or organization issues- just pack it all in and go! We should mention that some sort of organization, like using stuff sacks to separate gear, definitely lends to the enjoyment of this simple backpack. The women's specific hip angling is similar to the Gregory Deva 60's pre-curved harness (although not as pronounced as the Deva) and the ACT Lite 60's shaped hip fins. Constructed of a reputable durable material, rip-stop nylon and nylon Cordura, the Blaze stretches out to hold all of your necessary gear or maintains its smaller shape when packing light.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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Updates Since the Model We Tested
The Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 has gotten a few updates! See below for a quote from Granite Gear.

"The only change that we've made on the Blaze is the material used on the frame sheet. Originally we used a very rigid plastic called ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. We had some cracking issues, so we changed it to a less rigid, but still VERY sturdy plastic called Polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is lighter and a bit more flexible. However, you still do not see any deflection even at the maximum 40lb load rating."

-Granite Gear

It isn't so different from the bag that we tested and so we think our review below will still give you a pretty good feeling for the Blaze A.C. 60.

Hands-on Review


The Blaze A.C. offers the lightweight backpacker a minimalistic design that allows you to focus on the scenery instead of pockets and excess straps.

Performance Comparison


The Granite Gear Blaze was well suited for our hike on the John Muir Trail  although it doesn't provide enough suspension support to carry mid to heavy-weight loads. The stretch fabric along the kangaroo pocket and side pockets allow for expansion when st
The Granite Gear Blaze was well suited for our hike on the John Muir Trail, although it doesn't provide enough suspension support to carry mid to heavy-weight loads. The stretch fabric along the kangaroo pocket and side pockets allow for expansion when st

Comfort


The Blaze is one of the least comfortable packs in our review due to its back panel design and firm padding. The padding on the shoulder straps and waist belt are comfortable yet stiff. The Blaze works best with weight loads under 20 lbs (approximately). We noticed that the comfort diminishes as weight increases. The back frame is rigid, which lessens the overall comfort of the backpack, although it is removable, and if the interior of the backpack is packed mindfully, it would be a considerable option to remove the frame for the sake of comfort and weight. A.C. is Granite Gear's Air Current Suspension System, which is supposed to allow airflow throughout the back frame by way of patterned contours. Although we did not experience an excessive amount of sweating against the back, the A.C. design does not noticeably create more airflow. Comfort considerations also alter with the intention behind backpacking distances so, if looking to enjoy longer distances and/or very short trips with lighter weight, the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. is a good option. In comparison to our award winning Aura AG pack, for a slightly lower investment, you gain padding, airflow, and excellent overall comfort for light and fast backpacking.

Weight


As the lightest backpack in the review, the Blaze A.C. is 2lbs, 14oz. All of the other packs in our review exceed three pounds. At the expense of a few ounces gained, packs like the Aura AG and the Viva are exceptionally higher in comfort and versatility. But for the comfort to weight ratio, the Blaze is a good option. Choosing a lightweight pack comes with the compromise of not being able to comfortably carry heavy loads. The Osprey Aura AG is a uniquely happy marriage of light weight and load capacity.

Suspension


The Granite Gear Blaze A.C. offers a unique Air Current Suspension system that has a removable frame. We didn't find this suspension to be particularly comfortable, although under a lighter load, the suspension holds up well. The adjustment points behind the shoulders and at the hips were great for distributing the pack weight. The suspension design is simple and adequate.

Ease of Use and Organization


Along with simplicity comes incredible ease of use. There is no fuss with adjustment points or excessive straps or complicated customizing with this backpack. We didn't miss the extra pockets or separate sleeping bag compartment either. Unsophisticated! The lidless design makes packing up easy, just roll the excess material over and then use the crossing straps to tighten down. The Deuter ACT Lite 60 - Women's is a comparably easy to use backpack, as well as the Osprey Aura AG. All three backpacks offer simple designs, few pockets, and easy to use straps.

The Granite Gear Blaze is unique with its lidless design. The main compartment can be packed more or less full and then cinched down and strapped closed.
The Granite Gear Blaze is unique with its lidless design. The main compartment can be packed more or less full and then cinched down and strapped closed.

One pocket! How does Granite Gear do it? We were skeptical about going on a multi-day backpacking trip with a single compartment, but found that with adequate pre-planning and the utilization of stuff sacks, we were happy with the simple organizational design that is much different from other packs such as the Kelty Coyote, with many pockets. The Blaze A.C. has an enclosed interior pocket that is designed for a hydration system, but we found this pocket to be best for our phone, journal, glasses, and other small miscellaneous items that could have otherwise gotten lost in the main compartment. There is a bungee system on the front that is convenient for strapping a tent, and a stretch mesh fabric pocket that is not fully enclosed, but is tight enough to stuff with a camera and extra layers. The one feature we definitely miss here are waist belt pockets. The Kelty Coyote 70 - Women's has very large and fully enclosed waist belt pockets that make the Blaze A.C. seem lacking in this department. Overall, the simple design forced us to pre-plan and organize our gear, but once we did, the simplicity left more time to enjoy the hiking and less navigating of pockets and storage.

The Blaze features a lidless design (a compatible lid may be purchased separately from Granite Gear)  which uses a cinching system to enclose the main compartment and then crossed buckling straps to secure the backpack closed. (This is a top down view.)
The Blaze features a lidless design (a compatible lid may be purchased separately from Granite Gear), which uses a cinching system to enclose the main compartment and then crossed buckling straps to secure the backpack closed. (This is a top down view.)

Adjustability


This pack has few adjustability options that are plenty sufficient for fitting the backpack. Granite Gear offers the Blaze A.C. with multiple hip belt and torso length sizes so as to accurately fit the backpack frame and waist belt, which leaves only tightening options on the shoulder straps, waist belt, and top. The simplicity is refreshing, and quite opposite to the Arc'teryx Bora's many adjustment points.

Best Application


The Blaze is ideal for the lightweight focused backpacker. It serves well for long distance hikes, such as thru-hikes, when a minimalist design is desired. Because of the stability with lighter loads, the Blaze also serves well for long day hikes or single night trips.

Value


Since this simple pack has such a narrow application as lightweight backpacking, the value is not very good for the Blaze A.C. At $240, it is more expensive than the Editors' Choice awarded backpack, the Osprey Aura AG, yet offers none of the versatility, comfort, or organizational features.

Conclusion


With an expanding main compartment and no other enclosed compartments, the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. is a simple backpack that allows you to focus on the hiking and scenery. With women's' specific shoulder straps and waist belt, the Blaze A.C. is comfortable under light loads and able to efficiently carry for hundreds of miles. While not the best value considering the features offered, we found the simplicity refreshing, and with proper pre-organization of gear the lack of pockets can be overlooked.

Accessories


Multiple sized hip belt are available - small, medium, large, extra large

Two size torso lengths - short, regular

Briana Valorosi

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: February 27, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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  • 5
 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 50%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Backpacker

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   Feb 27, 2016 - 06:12pm
Sarge · Backpacker · Lancaster PA

I'm wondering whether Briana's review was for the Ki female version of this pack. While I agree that the internal frame is rigid and can be a tad noticeable after a long day on trail, I didn't find it per se uncomfortable. I'm unsure whether mine, purchased in the Spring 2015, has the newer polycarbonate frame.

I hiked the 160 mile Collegiate Peaks Loop in Colorado last summer with the Blaze 60. Total weight averaged between 32-34 pounds with food and water. I found both the shoulder and hip belts comfortable, with the hip belt doing its job of supporting half the weight. I really liked the wide width of the hip belt.

Dislikes: I'm a fan of hip belt pockets, which this pack doesn't have, but putting two on from other companies was no problem. I also disliked somewhat the narrowness of the long front pocket. And, typically, the side pockets are hard to reach for a water bottle.

All in all, this pack seems bombproof, is comfortable with loads up to mid 30s, and customer service is helpful and pleasant. It's simplistic design makes it easy putting in and taking stuff out of the main compartment. I don't use a water bladder somI didn't use the inside pocket designed for that. I came across a retired firefighter half way through his CT hike using the Blaze 60. He, too, found it a very good backpack.

I can, and do, recommend it, at least the mens' version.


version.



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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