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Gear Review: Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack

Gear Review: Granite Gear Blaze 60 BackpackScore 93%Score 93%

Backpack
Granite Gear Blaze 60
$270, 60L/3,660 c.i., 3 lbs. 4 oz. (unisex regular)
Sizes: Unisex short, regular, and long, women’s short and regular
Moosejaw.com

How many pounds can a lightweight backpack carry comfortably? Granite Gear’s new Blaze 60 is pushing boundaries in that department. On a six-day, 74-mile backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon—including a hard, 15-mile, nearly 12-hour day hoofing most of the rugged Escalante Route—I carried the Blaze 60 with up to about 40 pounds inside. And that load, even in that terrain, felt clearly within this pack’s comfort zone. In fact, its low weight, superior compression, and versatile design make the Blaze 60 a legitimate short- and long-distance mule, elevating it into the realm of the best all-purpose backpacks on the market.

I rarely had much less than 30 pounds inside it on that Grand Canyon trek, because of the need to often carry four liters or more of water. Granite Gear claims the Blaze 60 carries 50 pounds comfortably; I didn’t push it that far, and 50 pounds is certainly a load that won’t feel comfortable to all backpackers. But personally, I’d feel confident stuffing well over 40 pounds into this sack.

Its new Air Current framesheet flexes slightly along the vertical axis, allowing the pack to move with your torso as you walk or bend, especially in steep or difficult terrain, without feeling like it’s the horse and you’re the cart. The dual-density shoulder harness felt good until around hour nine on our longest days—that’s pretty impressive performance—and it has a whistle on the buckle. The mesh-covered, ventilated back panel fits closely but also has numerous channels for air circulation, which kept the pack relatively cool against my back on days that rose into the 90s Fahrenheit in the canyon.

The Re-Fit hipbelt’s dual-density padding felt so comfortable I didn’t notice the weight on my hips even on the longest, most arduous days in the canyon. The hipbelt also adjusts to fit waists from 26 to 42 inches on the unisex model and 24 to 40 inches on the women’s. Pulling the hipbelt out of its slot in the frame to adjust it required a bit of wrestling to release it from the hook-and-loop attachment—a good thing, ensuring it won’t loosen in use—but then making the adjustment and putting the belt back in place took less than a minute.

 


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The Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon.
The Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon.

There’s hardly a human who wouldn’t find a Blaze 60 that fits well. The sizing encompasses a huge range of torso lengths and types, with three unisex sizes designed for men and some women with torsos from 15 to 24 inches, and two women’s-specific sizes for torsos 15 to 21 inches. Plus, four adjustment points on the framesheet, calibrated to torso size,let you reposition the shoulder straps by simply moving a small disc through a slot on each side, and I never had to readjust it.

The spacious main compartment has a wide top opening for visibility and easy loading and unloading. I fit six days’ of food, my clothing and share of team gear, personal stuff that included a camp chair, and often at least four liters of water inside the Blaze 60 without maxing out its capacity. The pack’s superior compression resizes it for smaller loads, with top, side, and front compression straps with buckles, the front straps holding a foam sleeping pad or similarly large piece of gear.

 

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The Granite Gear Blaze 60.
The Granite Gear Blaze 60.

The six external pockets include a spacious lid; side pockets large enough for a liter bottle and then some, with cord-lock closures to secure items; two hipbelt pockets with water-resistant zippers, each fitting a large smartphone with room to spare for bars; a deep, stretch-woven front pocket; and a removable floating lid with a water-resistant zipperthat converts to an chest pack clipped at two points over your shoulders. In that configuration, though, the lid pocket just hangs over your chest, a setup that’s convenient but really only practical with very little weight in the pocket. Also, clipping a foam pad or something similar under the front compression straps effectively eliminates access to the front pocket.

The fabric makes this one of the toughest packs on the market—especially for its weight—combining 100-denier Robic high-tenacity nylon with Granite Gear’s custom 210-denier Robic nylon UHMWPE triple ripstop (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) in load-bearing and high-impact areas like the bottom, lower sides, and parts of the front. The 210-denier Robic nylon has a strength-to-weight ratio 10 times that of steel. Plus, the main body of the pack is treated with a Barrier DWR (durable, water-resistant coating).

One minor complaint: The front panel zipper accessing the main compartment isn’t as well-positioned or convenient as panel zips found on other backpacks (like the exemplary Gregory Baltoro and Deva series) because it sits behind anything that’s attached under the front compression straps (I attached a foam pad). It also zips up from the bottom, which seems intended to prioritize pulling out a tent or sleeping bag from the bottom, but it’s a straight rather than an arcing zipper, so it doesn’t open widely enough to easily remove a large item like a tent. Zipping downward from the top or having a two-way zipper would seem more sensible. Ultimately, I didn’t use that zipper as much as I frequently use panel zippers on other packs.

Comparing it with some of the best backpacks available today illustrates the unique positioning of the Blaze 60 in the hierarchy of packs: It’s just six to 13 ounces heavier than the Gregory men’s Optic 58 and women’s Gregory Octal 55, the Osprey men’s Exos 58 and women’s Eja 58, the Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60, and the REI Flash 45, yet can handle up to about 10 pounds more than any of them. And it’s anywhere from a half-pound to 1.5 pounds lighter than packs designed to carry just several pounds more weight, like Osprey’s men’s Atmos AG 65 and women’s Aura AG 65, The North Face Banchee 65, the Arc’teryx Bora AR 50, and Gregory’s men’s Baltoro 65 and Deva 60.

That’s a balancing act worthy of Cirque du Soleil.

 

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The Verdict

At just a few ounces over three pounds, with the support and comfort to carry more than 40 pounds, and a smart design that allows it to carry any size load well, the Granite Gear Blaze 60 has emerged as a leading all-purpose, quiver-of-one pack for trips of any length.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a unisex Granite Gear Blaze 60 backpack at moosejaw.com or rei.com, or a women’s-specific Granite Gear Blaze 60 backpack at moosejaw.com or rei.com.

 

Tell me what you think.

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See all of my reviews of backpacks, ultralight backpacks, backpacking gear, and ultralight backpacking gear at The Big Outside.

See also my “Top 5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpacking Pack,” and my stories “Gear Review: The 10 Best Backpacking Packs” and “Ask Me: What’s the Best Ultralight Thru-Hiking Backpack?

Want to make your pack lighter and all of your backpacking trips more enjoyable? See my story A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking.” If you don’t have a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read part of that story for free, or click here to download that full story without having a paid membership.

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza

 

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Granite Gear Blaze 60

93%

The Verdict At just a few ounces over three pounds, with the support and comfort to carry more than 40 pounds, the Granite Gear Blaze 60 is a leading all-purpose pack for trips of any length.

Comfort/Support
100%
Fit
100%
Access
90%
Versatility
90%
Durability
90%
Value
90%

About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thanks for doing a review on this newly renovated backpack. I’ve got a question for you. In your review you stated “…but it’s a straight rather than an arcing zipper, so it doesn’t open widely enough to easily remove a large item like a tent.”

    With that in mind, I’m curious if one could use one of the outer side pockets to hold a tent (such as my Big Agnes UL2), or would that offset one’s balance to much with the weight?

    I’m having a tough time deciding between this pack (bought and returned the Crown2 because I felt the outer pockets were pointless because the main pack pushed into the pockets), the Osprey Atmos AG 65 and the Levity 60. I like the Opsrey having the multiple pockets (although I find that once you fill up the interior bag it pushes out and makes the extra pockets not as easily accessible, though nowhere as bad as the Crown2. The Levity feels good in the store at REI up to 32 lbs., when the frame edge started to push into my shoulder which makes sense because 30 lbs is the limit.

    I’m not a UL backpacker (base weight approx. 22 lbs.), but only really do 2-3 day trips at the very most.

    Thank you very much for your time.

    Jan Erik

    Reply
    • Michael Lanza

      Hi Jan,

      You’ve asked some informed questions, I can see you’re scrutinizing your choices closely. First of all, I would not put a tent in a side pocket, foremost because the best use of external pockets is to have what you want during the day within quick reach, but also because the tent would create an imbalance to one side. Items like your tent should be buried in your pack. I consider the panel zipper on the Blaze 60 a minor shortcoming; it’s less easy to remove larger items through that zipper, but not impossible (especially if you pull a few other things out first).

      Secondly, as you probably understand, you are comparing three quite different packs in terms of design and carrying capacity. The Osprey Levity is very much an ultralight pack, and I would not recommend choosing a pack whose max load capacity you anticipate always challenging. You might look at the Osprey Exos 58 as better matched to your needs before the Levity.

      The Blaze 60 falls between the two Osprey packs you mentioned in terms of pack weight and carrying capacity, and seems well suited to the typical load you describe carrying. I never had any problem fitting what I wanted to fit in its side pockets, even with the pack stuffed, which was often a liter bottle on one side and a pump water filter and other small stuff on the other side. They have good stretch and aren’t affected by the pack’s contents (as was true with the Crown 2).

      The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is a full pound-and-a-half heavier than the Blaze 60, but because it’s meant for loads typically 40 pounds or heavier, not light to moderate loads. It has better access to its large stretchy front pocket because it lacks the front compression of the Blaze 60, and its side pockets stretch well enough to be functional even when the pack is full. Its harness system is more unique in the way it wraps your hips and torso, which makes it feel significantly different from other packs.

      I hope that’s helpful. Good luck.

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Hello,
        And thank you for replying back so quickly.
        I took a look at the Exos 58 as well and felt the horizontal back panel seam pushing into my lower back as a another reviewer had noted. I also tried a ULA Circuit which also irritated me a bit in the lower lumbar region. With you saying about the Atmos …”but because it’s meant for loads typically 40 pounds or heavier, not light to moderate loads. ” I was thinking well with the Blaze having a 50 lbs load rating it would be even better than the Atmos in that regards(although I hope to not push anywhere North of 35 including water/food). I was also thinking because of compression of the Blaze I can use it more readily for day hikes (minus the fact that I know one can take the top off and use it for day hikes as well), compared to the Atmos although it would probably be fine too I guess. The Atmos does wrap around the torso strangely which is just something to get used to.

        Reply
        • Michael Lanza

          The Exos possibly just doesn’t fit you well. That’s why it’s always smart to try on packs with some weight in them before purchasing (unless you know the brand’s packs well already). About the Atmos, I meant it’s a heavier pack than the Blaze, so I’d recommend primarily for backpackers typically carrying around 35 to 45 or 50 pounds. The Blaze, being lighter, with good compression, can shrink to a weekend-trip size and still handle probably 45 pounds or more (if that weight is comfortable for the user).

          But I would not want to use either much as a daypack, except for short hikes from a camp on a backpacking trip. They’re too big for that.

          Reply

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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