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
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.
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 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).
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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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Granite Gear Blaze 60
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.
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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.