First published in The Trek.
Granite Gear Blaze 60
Granite Gear’s Blaze 60 isn’t the lightest pack around—but then, it’s not supposed to be. It’s designed for hikers who need to haul extra gear or make long food and water carries, but honestly, it rides pretty light on your hips and shoulders.
This pack is designed to handle loads up to 50 pounds, it easily accommodates a bear canister, and it works just fine with 20 pounds on board. The pack is comfortable, and clearly designed by people who have spent plenty of time on trail. It’s smartly detailed, with a lot of little features that experienced hikers will appreciate. For an extra pound or 20 ounces, you get versatility and great design.
- Granite Gear Blaze 60 pack
- Weight: 3 pounds (unisex regular torso)
- Capacity: 60 liters/3,660 cubic inches
- Recommended load: Up to 50 pounds
- MSRP: $269
Circumstances of Review
I used the Blaze 60 hiking in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, carrying loads between 20 and 40 pounds. I didn’t encounter any rain, and the terrain was mostly flat.
UPDATE: I recently carried this pack for 48 miles on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.
- Removable lid with cinch-roll-strap top.
- Extremely roomy side pockets.
- Deep front pocket for wet gear, tent poles, etc.
- Adjustable hip belt and torso length.
- Numerous small, tough outer straps.
The Blaze 60 is awash in well-designed, accessible pockets, including two roomy hip pockets, two side pockets to stow a water bottle, tent poles or camp shoes, and a deep stretch-woven front pocket (I always think of these as a “back” pocket—i.e., it’s on the outside, opposite straps).
The hip pockets are roomy (roughly 6.5x3x3 inches, or almost 60 cubic inches, per my measurement). The zippers have been treated with a durable water repellent, but I tested them and (as with most zippers) water will get through in a downpour. The zipper pulls are sturdy and tipped with rubber for easy handling.
The fabric side pockets are extremely roomy (close to 200 cubic inches, by my measurements) and feature both a stretchable cinch cord with lock and an adjustable outside strap to keep things snug and tight. Not only can you carry two one-liter Smart water bottles in each pocket, but you can also easily stow two tall Nalgene-diameter bottles on each side.
At 18×9 inches, the soft, stretch-nylon front pocket is a good place to stow anything from rain gear to a wet tent fly or even tent poles.
Up top, the roomy, floating lid offers even more space. But if you find you’ve got more than enough room, it’s easily removable. Which leads us to….
Cinch, Roll, and Buckle Top
I’m always a little suspicious of cinch-tops—when was having a hole atop a backpack ever a good idea? But even if you leave the lid at home, the Blaze 60 has a triple-protected system to close the 12-inch collar: pull the drawstring, tighten the cinch, roll the top in on itself, then secure with two adjustable nylon webbing straps, which can also snugly secure waterproof gear on top.
The pack features an abundance of thin, tough, adjustable nylon webbing straps—three on each side and three across the front pocket, allowing you to tightly secure outside loads, from snowshoes to a Z Lite sleeping pad and more.
Zipper Access to Main Compartment
One problem with my trusty old pack is the lack of easy access to the deep main compartment. The Blaze 60 is even deeper, but neatly addresses the issue with a DWR-treated zipper concealed beneath a nylon panel for further rain protection.
Pity the poor hiker who loses so much weight over the first few hundred miles that the hip belt no longer fits. The Blaze 60 takes care of that problem with an adjustable system with 16 inches of leeway on the hip belt—just de-Velcro, pull it out, and use the marked lengths to resize. The plastic “framesheet” features shoulder-strap slots marked in inches, so you can easily dial in the torso length.
One of the little things that my current pack doesn’t have: a small, plastic hook at the top of the main compartment to hang your water reservoir, so I didn’t have to jury-rig a carabiner.
Three pounds is probably too heavy for most lightweight or ultra-light hikers; that’s the tradeoff for zipper access to the main compartment, numerous straps, roomy pockets, and so on.
The mesh-covered, die-cut foam back is cut with air channels for ventilation, but the pack lacks the air-flow-permitting adjustability or curve of some other packs. In warm weather or when you are hiking hard, expect to sweat back there.
This is nifty, as I mentioned above. That said, unless you are carrying enough gear to make the top concave, there is a very real potential to collect several ounces of water in the concavity.
I found it almost impossible to keep something from knocking loudly against the hard plastic framesheet, which was annoying until I tuned it out. I never found the culprit, and despite many adjustments, I kept hearing the sound.
A nice feature. But if you routinely use a plastic liner (i.e., trash-compactor bag) in your pack to protect against moisture, it won’t be of any use.
My current pack weighs three pounds (more than the Blaze 60 with lid removed) so I’m not bothered by that. Despite a few minor cons, this pack offers all the features of my current pack, plus a few more. It’s comfortable and easy to adjust. It offers enormous capacity, there’s nothing that says you have to use it all—with all those straps, I was able to cinch down a 20-pound load and significantly reduce bulk. The material is tough and well-made, and the brown-themed version I tested won’t jar anyone’s eyeballs in the woods. This is an excellent, well-made pack with overall great design. I plan to cheat on my good ol’ reliable pack and use the Blaze 60 next time I head out on the trail.
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Disclosure: This product was donated for purpose of review.