Gear Review: Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack

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
backcountry.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).

 

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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

Comfort/Support
Fit
Access
Features
Weight-to-Performance
Value

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.

4.5

BUY IT NOW

You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s Granite Gear Blaze 60 backpack at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com, or a women’s-specific Granite Gear Blaze 60 backpack at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com, or the short version of the Blaze 60 at moosejaw.com.

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

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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.

—Michael Lanza

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29 thoughts on “Gear Review: Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack”

  1. Hi Michael – a great review, very thorough. I am looking for a new pack, and see that the Blaze 60 and the Crown2 60 are very similar. The Blaze is a bit heavier, and has a higher load capacity, and a panel zipper. The Crown2 is a bit leess expensive. I have a 30-year-old pack, so anything will be an improvement. I want to pack light (not ultralight) and anticipate keeping my loads under 40 lbs. for sure, clsoer to 30 lbs. if I can. Are there any other differences between the two?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Scott,

      Thanks. You’ve hit upon some key differences between Granite Gear’s Blaze 60 and Crown2 60, but also, the Blaze 60 has adjustment points on the frame for dialing in the torso length fit. The Blaze is about half again as heavy as the Crown2, which is significant, while the Blaze also has more features and is designed to carry about 10 pounds more weight.

      I haven’t used the Crown2 60 yet, but I see it as an ultralight pack for backpackers who intend to routinely keep their load at a max of 30 to 35 pounds, while the Blaze 60 is for backpackers who will routinely carry 35 to 40+ pounds, although it has the compression to carry lighter loads (like in the last days of a trip). They each have feature sets appropriate for their intended uses.

      That’s how I’d choose between them—based on how you plan to use the pack. Good luck and thanks for the question.

      Reply
      • Hi Scott and Michael. I thru hiked the AT in 2018 with the Crown 2 60. It is a spacious and lightweight pack. It worked well for me up to 30 pounds. Anything near that or over would cause back and neck pain. For my PCT thru hike attempt in 2020 I used the Blaze. The frame on this backpack is amazing and I felt comfortable with weights from 25 to 40 pounds. It’s a more rugged version of the Crown 2. I do prefer the rolltop of the Crown 2 however and front zipper on the Blaze is pointless if you use a packliner.

        I got off the PCT at the request of the PCTA due to COVID but used both packs happily all summer in the White Mountains of NH when I returned home. Both are very good choices but I would consider how much you will carry. For 30 pounds and beyond I think the Blaze is the optimal choice.

        Reply
  2. Hi,

    In your opinion, do you think it’s possible to compress the Granite Gear Blaze 60 so it can be worn as a dayhiking backpack resembling 40 litres? You know, if you remove the top lid and maybe the hipbelt and tighten the compression straps.

    I’ve owned every Osprey pack going (Atmos, Exos, Stratos, Aether) and they’re either too big and bulky or too heavy, or not quite a good fit (Exos). So I need a change. I’ve narrowed my two perfect volume packs down to 40 litres (dayhike) and 60 litres (camping).

    I’ve been looking at the Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60, but it doesn’t have a front mesh pocket and the top zip access bothers me as it may let in a lot of rain.

    Basically, I love the look of the Blaze over the Flex Capacitor. The Blaze, I guess, would carry 35 pounds really well and if I can use it as a 60 and 40 litre, it would be 2 packs in one.

    Cheers,
    Rich

    Reply
    • Hi Rich,

      You ask a good question, and my short answer is yes, with caveats. The Blaze 60 definitely compresses well enough to reduce the capacity and body of the pack as much as you want, except, of course, for the height of the pack. It’s not as light as the Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor, but it’s not much bulkier, and it’s only about a pound heavier than some of the best daypacks out there.

      You can remove the lid and hipbelt, but the hipbelt is relatively low-volume for a backpack of this capacity, so it’s not absurdly over-sized when using the Blaze 60 as a daypack, and may be a more comfortable way to carry it as a daypack, depending on how much weight is inside.

      So yes, there are trade-offs to your strategy, but not crazy trade-offs. I’d do it. But for side hikes of more than, say, a couple of miles on a backpacking trip, I’d prefer to carry an ultralight daypack like two I recently reviewed, the Black Diamond Trail Blitz 12 and the REI Flash 18.

      Thanks for the question. I’d be curious to hear what you decide and how it works out.

      Reply
      • Okay, that’s music to my ears. My initial thoughts were the Osprey Talon 44 and Osprey Kestrel 68. Both would cost about the same as one GG Blaze 60. But that’s 2 backpacks to put in the car which doesn’t make sense to me if I can just have the one for both jobs. You know, carry my camping gear to my camp site then compress it for a day hike for water, food, waterproofs, insulated clothes, etc and extra room for family stuff.

        I’ve checked out the ULA Circuit, Sierra Designs Flex 40-60, HMG 2400 & 3400, Gregory Optic & Exos, Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 etc – The Lot!

        However, I like a backpack to have adjustable torso and shoulder straps (I disliked the Exos for this). I’m not ultralight so I don’t need a 1 pound pack. And from my experience, heavier packs tend to carry heavier loads more comfortably. The Blaze seems to be lighter than the Osprey heavyweights but not much heavier than these Dyneema packs. So, from my computer screen, it looks like – ‘The One’.

        I may order it next week based on what you’ve said.

        Thanks and happy trails. Rich.

        Reply
        • You’re welcome, Rich. I would add that the Osprey Talon is a quality daypack, and the Kestrel is a good backpack, but more affordable because it isn’t quite on par with the best backpacks in terms of comfort and performance, including the Blaze 60.

          But if you’re backpacking and want a daypack for side trips in the backcountry, the Talon 44 adds a lot of weight to your primary backpack, and won’t be easy to carry on the outside of a larger backpack. I agree with you that many of the other packs you’ve looked at are good ones, but not quite what you’re looking for, from what you’ve told me.

          Understanding the trade-offs, I think you’re making a choice that suits you. Good luck with it. Keep in touch.

          Reply
          • One last question, if you don’t mind. Sorry. Do you think the GG Blaze 60 would stand up to a bit of bushwhacking? You know – for a hammock & tarp setup in a woodland. Or do you think branches & brambles would tear this Robic Nylon to pieces? Would a Rain Cover be needed for added protection? My other option would be the Osprey Kestrel.

            Thanks. Rich.

          • I don’t mind at all, Rich. It depends, of course, on how severe the bushwhacking is. But the Blaze’s only really vulnerable fabric is the stretch material used in the deep front pocket (you can see it in some photos in this review; it’s covered up by a foam pad in other photos). As with many packs that have that type of front pocket, it’s not particularly durable and could tear on a sharp branch point. However, the side pockets and the rest of the pack body are made of more-durable pack fabric that I think would hold up well, and better than many lighter packs that also use lightweight, stretchy, potentially vulnerable material in side pockets.

            A very durable rain cover might help protect the front pocket, but some rain covers are light enough that they’d tear, too, and other might get yanked off easily when bushwhacking.

            Good luck.

      • Thanks Michael for a great review! I’ve read so many reviews on this pack and the Sierra Designs Flex but this one popped up in my search today on the first page for some reason and I think it’s the best I’ve read yet (I’ve also read your Flex Capacitor review now). There is something very appealing about having the Flex compress down to a rather small bag when only needing the 40L capacity as opposed to the Blaze 60 which will keep its height despite being compressed to manage a 40 or 50L volume. As Rich seems to be seeking something very similar to me, I’m hoping he can offer some first-hand experience! Cheers

        Reply
        • Hi Dan,

          Thanks for the nice compliment, I’m glad my review was helpful to you (and the best one you’ve read!). I agree the Flex Capacitor has the appeal of excellent compression. Plus, it’s about a half-pound lighter than the Blaze 60.

          However, to clarify a point: The Flex Capacitor’s compression, as you can see in photos of it, is entirely around the pack bag, not affecting the pack’s height dimension. Like any pack with a frame (as most packs have, including both of these), the frame is rigid and doesn’t compress. In fact, the Blaze 60, because of its traditional lid, arguably has better top compression. Still, the frame’s dimensions won’t change on either pack no matter how much you compress either.

          The Blaze 60 actually has excellent compression, as my review points out (and as is very typical of Granite Gear backpacks).

          I suggest also looking closely at the external features of the Blaze 60, compared to the minimalist external design of the Flex Capacitor. Those details make a big difference in the user experience.

          You can probably tell I’m a fan of the Blaze 60. Unless a half-pound makes a big difference to you, I’d say it’s superior in many ways to the Flex Capacitor.

          Reply
          • Thanks for the prompt response Michael! You make good points and the fact that the Blaze compresses as well as the SDs almost settles it. I get the feeling that the Blaze is a more durable bag as well and that is important to me. Regarding weight, it’s all a balancing act, but I never prioritise solely on weight. I take into account durability (for environmental reasons), comfort and cost as well as weight and the Blaze seems to strike that balance well.

            I have thought about Gregory Zulu’s 55/65 but get the feeling it’s a little more fragile. One that I forgot to mention earlier but that I have recently taken to is Exped’s 2020 Thunder – the main issue for me, that I can see, is that the options are a 50L or a 70L with nothing in between – not a deal breaker. The weight is an extra ~240g (8oz) but a load capacity of 24kg and roughly $50USD cheaper than the Blaze. You can have a look here if you like: http://www.exped.com/australia/en/product-category/backpacks/thunder-50-navy#prettyPhoto%5Bnode-nid-15411-field_details_img%5D/8/ … I’ve heard good things about it.

            Thanks again. I’m edging ever closer to making a decision! Ha

          • Hey Dan,

            You’re obviously giving this purchase quite a lot of hard thought. That’s the kind of thinking I put into choosing gear to review, to be honest, so I respect that. I also respect choosing gear that’s durable for environmental reasons. We should all strive to take care of our gear and make it last as long as possible.

            I’ve reviewed the Gregory Zulu 55, and it’s a nice pack with a very functional design at a good price, but I don’t list it among my top 10 backpacking packs. I haven’t used the updated Exped Thunder yet, but I previously reviewed the Thunder 50.

            You’ve narrowed your options to some good choices. I think I’d personally still lean toward the Blaze. Good luck! I’d be curious to hear what you decide on.

          • I have put way too much thought into it!! 🙂 I’ll be sure to let you know which pack I end up with. I’ve passed your website onto several people who are into the outdoors and take care in their gear choices. Keep up the good work!!

    • Rich! You asked, almost word for word, the question I’ve been seeking an answer to! I’ve posted the question on various other sites but yet to receive a response .

      I too am weighing up the Blaze 60 v the Flex Capacitor while looking for that one pack to do it all. I’m in Australia, which adds significantly to the cost (our weak dollar + delivery) and the Flex comes in around $100 ($70 USD) cheaper than the Blaze 60 with the best deals I’ve found. I’m also considering going with a cottage brand here in Australia but think it will get too pricey for me, unfortunately. Like you, I’ve explored ‘the lot’ when it comes to the packs and have been sitting on it for ages now, which isn’t so bad since we’ve been in lockdown, but I’d love to be ready to go when restrictions ease here! Currently I’d say, all things considered (incl cost), the Blaze 60 is probably a nose in front of the Flex Capacitor.

      Anyway, did you end up buying either of these packs? How have you found the compression side of things? I feel like often I’d have the pack only filled to the 50L mark as I have fairly light and compact gear, mostly, but am keen for that extra space for longer hikes or hikes during colder months when extra gear is required.

      If you’re able to offer any feedback from your own experience, I’d greatly appreciate it! Thanks, Dan

      Reply
    • I’m sure you’ve already made your decision, but anyways…I have the Flex Capacitor 60-75 liter and I’ve used it on day hikes. Any gear that you’re carrying goes to the bottom of the pack anyways (gravity) and you cinch it tight so it’s not a big deal. Granted the pack is overkill for a day hike and it looks kinda funny that way, but until I find a different day pack, it is what it is lol.
      I gotta admit the water bladder holder that they provide that can be used to attach to the outside as the mesh pocket is pretty chintzy.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the response Jan! I hear such positive feedback regarding the Flex (as I do the Blaze). I actually just found an old pack in the garage that is still in good shape, is lightweight and has a 50L capacity, so that potentially opens the door for the larger Flex. Will pull the trigger soon… surely…

        Reply
  3. From all that I have read this is a really sweet pack. I have not had a chance to use nor purchase it as of yet but maybe in the future I will.

    Reply
  4. 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
    • 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
      • 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
        • 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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