Granite Gear Virga 2 Review
Cons: No frame, poor comfort for medium loads
Manufacturer: Granite Gear
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Granite Gear Virga 2
|Price||$139.95 at Amazon||$270 List||$260 List||$225 List||$145 List|
|Pros||Very light, large volume, versatile compression system||Durable, comfortable, well-designed pockets, carries light and heavy loads well||Lightweight, carries light and medium loads well, adaptable, perfect feature set, more durable than most||Carries both light and heavier loads in comfort, large side pockets, very durable construction||Simple design, inexpensive, durable|
|Cons||No frame, poor comfort for medium loads||Large capacity makes it less versatile||A little small for a bear canister||Relatively heavy, delicate carbon frame rods||Foam pad falls out easily, shoulder straps lack support|
|Bottom Line||Lacks a frame, pockets, and a lid, but fits the bill for an extremely lightweight, simple pack||As an all around great pack, it can carry large and light loads with ease, has plenty of external storage options, and is super comfortable||One of our top picks and scored highly in all metrics, it's comfortable, versatile, and has just enough features||This pack is a popular ultralight pack for good reason; it has plenty of outside storage, is made of durable fabrics, and carries both 15 and 30 pound loads with ease||Combines simplicity, a reasonable price tag, and a good feature set|
|Rating Categories||Granite Gear Virga 2||Gossamer Gear Mariposa||Gossamer Gear Gorilla||Ultralight Adventure Equipme...||Ultralight Adventure Equipme...|
|Weight To Volume Ratio (35%)|
|Comfort To Carry (25%)|
|Specs||Granite Gear Virga 2||Gossamer Gear...||Gossamer Gear...||Ultralight...||Ultralight...|
|Measured Weight||18.5 oz||30.5 oz||31.5 oz||31.4 oz||24 oz|
|Stripped Weight||18.5 oz||30.5 oz||27.5 oz||20.4 oz||23 oz|
|Claimed Volume||50-58 L||60 L||40 L||63 L||54 L|
|Measured Main Pack Volume||41 L||48 L||38 L||41 L||45 L|
|Measured Volume Total (minus hip belt and shoulder strap pockets)||49 L||64 L||53 L||48 L||53 L|
|Measured Volume Stripped (minus hip belt, shoulder pockets, and removable lids)||49 L||59 L||48 L||48 L||53 L|
|Average Weight-to-Volume Ratio (grams/Liter)||10 g/L||14 g/L||13.5 g/L||14.5 g/L||12.8 g/L|
|Carrying Comfort 15 pounds||Good||Great||Great||Great||Great|
|Carrying Comfort 30 pounds||Poor||Great||Great||Great||Poor|
|Frame Type||None (foam pad)||Foam pad/ removable stay||Foam pad/removable stay||Simple Frame - 1.2 oz carbon fiber / Delrin active suspension hoop||Removable foam pad|
|Fabric||Cordura||70 & 100 denier Robic nylon||70 & 100 denier robic nylon||ULA 210 Robic nylon||210 Robic nylon, 400d Robic Bottom Panel|
|Main Pack Pockets||3||4||3||3||3|
|Hip Belt Pockets||None||2||2||Two||2|
|Single Hip Belt Pocket Capacity||N/a||4||4 cliff bars||8 Clif Bars||2 cliff bars|
|Shoulder Strap Pockets||No||No||No||No||No|
|Whistle on Sternum Strap||None||No||Yes||No||No|
|Internal Hydration Sleeve||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Bag Sizes/Torso Lengths Available||Long, short, regular||S, M, L||S, M, L||S, M, L, XL||S, M, L, XL|
|Mix and Match Hip Belt Sizes||No||S, M, L||S, M, L||S, M, L, XL||S, M, L, XL|
|Can Easily Strip Off Frame and Hip Belt||No||Good||Good||Yes||No|
|BearVault BV500 Compatibility||Ok||Good||Ok||Just OK||Ok|
|Lid (aka Brain)||No||No||Yes||No||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.
This product is made in three torso sizes; we tested a regular model.
Total Weight with all modular components = 1 lb 2.6 ozThis pack has no removable components.
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
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.
The photo below shows the Mybecca Foam we line the inside with.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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