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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
Granite Gear Virga 2
Photo: Granite Gear
Best Buy Award
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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
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 15
  • 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

 
Granite Gear Virga 2
Awards Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $139.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$145 List$160 ListCheck Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$165 List
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Pros Very light, large volume, versatile compression systemSimple design, inexpensive, durableVery lightweight, relatively inexpensive, thoughtful designGreat for medium loads, inexpensive, thoughtful set of features, external storage and lashing optionsLightweight, useful pockets, comfortable for medium-sized loads
Cons No frame, poor comfort for medium loadsFoam pad falls out easily, shoulder straps lack supportDesigned for a specific use, lacks versatility, lacks durabilityHeavy, less durable than othersLacks durability of other models, lacks versatility because of small capacity
Bottom Line For the ultimate lightweight pack, this pack steals the show with its entirely frameless design and streamlined set of featuresA lightweight, simplified version of our favorite pack from this same company, making a durable, well-designed optionDesigned for the lightest travelers on the trail, with minimal features and lightweight materialsThis incredible pack has tons of features, carries medium-sized loads well, and is comfortable to bootThis small capacity, lightweight pack is great for mega lightweight overnight excursions
Rating Categories Granite Gear Virga 2 Ultralight Adventur... Gossamer Gear Murmur Osprey Exos 48 Gossamer Gear Kumo 36
Weight To Volume Ratio (35%)
10.0
8.0
10.0
4.0
8.0
Comfort To Carry (25%)
5.0
6.0
5.0
9.0
6.0
Features (20%)
6.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Adaptability (10%)
6.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
5.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
9.0
5.0
8.0
5.0
Specs Granite Gear Virga 2 Ultralight Adventur... Gossamer Gear Murmur Osprey Exos 48 Gossamer Gear Kumo 36
Measured Weight 18.5 oz 24 oz 12.5 oz 37.6 oz 21 oz
Stripped Weight 18.5 oz 23 oz 9 oz 33.9 oz 15.2 oz
Claimed Volume 50-58 L 54 L 36 L 48 L 36 L
Measured Main Pack Volume 41 L 45 L 29L 40 L 28 L
Measured Volume Total (minus hip belt and shoulder strap pockets) 49 L 53 L 40L 59 L 38 L
Measured Volume Stripped (minus hip belt, shoulder pockets, and removable lids) 49 L 53 L 40L 53 L 38 L
Average Weight-to-Volume Ratio (grams/Liter) 10 g/L 12.8 g/L 7.6 g/L 18.9 g/L 13.5 g/L
Carrying Comfort 15 pounds Good Great Great Good Great
Carrying Comfort 30 pounds Poor Poor Poor Great Poor
Frame Type None (foam pad) Removable foam pad Removable foam pad Tensioned Frame - AirSpeed SL Suspension Foam pad
Fabric Cordura 210 Robic nylon, 400d Robic Bottom Panel 30 & 70D rombic nylon 100D high tenacity nylon, 100D high tenacity ripstop nylon 100D Robic double diamond rip stop
Main Pack Pockets 3 3 3 3 3
Hip Belt Pockets None 2 2 None 2
Single Hip Belt Pocket Capacity N/a 2 cliff bars 2 cliff bars N/a 1 clif bar
Shoulder Strap Pockets No No No No 2
Whistle on Sternum Strap None No Yes Yes Yes
Internal Hydration Sleeve Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Bag Sizes/Torso Lengths Available Long, short, regular S, M, L, XL One Size S, M, L One size
Mix and Match Hip Belt Sizes No S, M, L, XL No No No
Can Easily Strip Off Frame and Hip Belt No No Yes No Yes
BearVault BV500 Compatibility Ok Ok No Just OK No
Lid (aka Brain) No No No Yes, Removable No

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.
Photo: Alexa Flower

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...
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.
Photo: Brandon Lampley

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. 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...
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.
Photo: Brandon Lampley

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...
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.
Photo: Chris McNamara

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

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

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...
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.
Photo: Alexa Flower

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