The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Granite Gear Virga 2 Review

For the ultimate lightweight pack, this pack steals the show with its entirely frameless design and streamlined set of features
Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $140 List | $139.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Very light, large volume, versatile compression system
Cons:  No frame, poor comfort for medium loads
Manufacturer:   Granite Gear
By Jane Jackson & Brandon Lampley  ⋅  Apr 30, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 14
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio - 35% 10
  • Comfort to Carry - 25% 5
  • Features - 20% 6
  • Adaptability - 10% 6
  • Durability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Granite Gear Virga 2 is unique in that it is an absolutely frameless pack. Weighing in at 18.6 ounces, it is also one of the lightest packs we tested. In the not distant past, many ultralight backpackers carried a simple closed-cell foam sleeping pad as part of their hiking/sleeping system. Placed inside the Virga 2 to form a barrel-like frame, a foam pad is key to loading this pack as intended. A "back-sized piece" of the Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite is the perfect complement but does add another ounce or two. Calculated at 10 g/L max and stripped, this pack earned one of the best overall average weight-to-volume scores. With a main compartment volume of 40 liters when lined with a 48" Ridge Rest pad, the Virga 2 is perfectly sized for week-long ultralight trips. If you're a closed-cell foam sleeping pad devotee, this is a perfect pack.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Granite Gear Virga 2 is the lightest pack we tested, and the only one with no frame of any sort. It is the definition of simplicity. No hip belt pockets, and a minimal but perfectly functional set of main pack pockets and compression straps.

Performance Comparison


Packing up the Virga 2 on a desert outing.
Packing up the Virga 2 on a desert outing.

Weight-to-Volume Ratio


This product is made in three torso sizes; we tested a regular model.

Weight Bottom Line

Total Weight with all modular components = 1 lb 2.6 oz

This pack has no removable components.

Large side pockets and an average size front pocket make up this model's exterior storage. You can see the opening in the side pocket that allows the compression strap to function inside. All packs should use this feature.
Large side pockets and an average size front pocket make up this model's exterior storage. You can see the opening in the side pocket that allows the compression strap to function inside. All packs should use this feature.

OGL Measured Volume Bottom Line:

We measured the volume of the Virga with a 48" RidgeRest closed-cell foam pad rolled around the perimeter of the interior to form a barrel-like frame. This is the best use mode of this pack.

Total Volume = 49 L
Main Bag = 41 L
Front Pocket = 3 L
Side Pockets = 5 L

Calculated at 10 g/L max and stripped, this pack earned the best overall average weight-to-volume score. However, these calculations were done without the added weight of the closed cell foam pad.

Load Carrying Comfort


This ultralight backpack is a bit of a throwback to the days when rolling a closed cell foam pad inside to form a "frame" was a common practice. Some ultralight hikers still prefer this style. If you are one of them, we found the Virga very comfortable, earning a "Great" rating, for carrying 15 pounds. On the other hand, we found it did not carry 30 pounds well. In fact, it was one of only three packs we describe as "Poor" for carrying these more substantial loads. The pack's lack of support and cushion in the shoulder straps caused pain and irritation on the shoulders after only a few hours on the trail. For a pack with more support and comfort, weight will be compromised.

All packed up in the Virga with our winter kit and five days of food. We don't recommend a load this heavy for this pack. It functions best with loads in the teens.
All packed up in the Virga with our winter kit and five days of food. We don't recommend a load this heavy for this pack. It functions best with loads in the teens.

The photo below shows the Mybecca Foam we line the inside with.

Adding a small piece of foam to the Virga made it more comfortable to carry  gave us a camp seat cushion  pillow stuffing and an emergency sleeping pad if our inflatable pad leaked.
Adding a small piece of foam to the Virga made it more comfortable to carry, gave us a camp seat cushion, pillow stuffing and an emergency sleeping pad if our inflatable pad leaked.

Features


This frameless pack is pure minimalism: no frame, a simple roll-top closure, and minimally padded shoulder straps and waist belt. Large stretch pockets on the front and sides offer a lot of external storage, and the compression straps work well. Unlike some models in this review, the side compression can run inside the side pockets, allowing compression while still allowing you to access your water bottle. While this pack does not have an internal sleeve to hold a hydration bladder, it does have one of the nicest hang loops - it's large with an attached toggle. A single-center port lets you route your drinking hose over either shoulder.

The side pockets are deeper than most on this model. Although the waist belt has no pockets  modular ones are available from Granite Gear.
The side pockets are deeper than most on this model. Although the waist belt has no pockets, modular ones are available from Granite Gear.

Adaptability


Adaptability is not the strong suit of this pack, but the lashing and compression systems create good external carry options. With a rolled foam pad inside, we find the pack functions best if you always have the pad fill the entire main bag. We carried light loads in this pack without using a pad as a barrel frame. It performed well enough and was easily reduced in volume without the internal pad. That said, we think use with a pad at full volume is far and away the best use. Fully featured packs with a removable frame are much more adaptable.

Durability


With a reputation for building durable packs, Granite Gear does a good job keeping the Virga durable but very light. Heavier Cordura fabric has been used for high wear areas like the pack bottom, and the stretch mesh pocket fabric appears to be more durable than others. As long as you don't try to carry heavy loads that will overwhelm the suspension system, this pack should last a long, long time.

With no support  the seams of this pack will take the brunt of wear and tear if its used for heavy loads often.
With no support, the seams of this pack will take the brunt of wear and tear if its used for heavy loads often.

Value


This product is more affordable than most others we tested. But, it fits a very small niche in the ultralight world. If you travel very light with a simple sleeping pad and want a high volume frameless pack, the Virga is a great deal.

Conclusion


The Granite Gear Virga 2 is one of the specialty ultralight backpacks we tested. It is completely frameless, and designed for folks to place a closed-cell foam pad inside to form a barrel-like "frame."

It's impressive how a 65-liter pack can pack down to the size of a 2-liter bladder. The Virga 2 is hard to compete with in this regard.
It's impressive how a 65-liter pack can pack down to the size of a 2-liter bladder. The Virga 2 is hard to compete with in this regard.

Sizing, Accessories, & Other Versions


The Virga 2 is made in three torso sizes with an attached waist belt: short, regular, and long. Modular hip belt and shoulder strap pockets are available for this pack.

Jane Jackson & Brandon Lampley