I've had the old, black and gold, Virga for six or seven years. I don't get out as much as many backpackinglighters. Mostly one- or two-nighters, though I just returned from seven nights in Lassen National Park and on the southern leg of the John Muir Trail.
I'm not quite an ultralighter. My usual base weight is around 11 pounds. Get rid of my heavy camera, I suppose, and I'd be there.
Over all these years of changing gear to lighten loads, my Virga is the one piece of gear I've never considered replacing. It is very comfortable on me. I have, and need, a long model.
Some points, working from top to bottom:
-- It is a huge extension collar. This used to bother me, and I've considered shortening it, but I realized one day that I'd simply gotten used to it. And it came in handy on Mt. Whitney, when I was able to easily carry some items for a group member suffering from altitude sickness. I have shortened the closure straps and removed the collar's tightening cord and cordlock to save a bit of weight. By the way, I often use the collar as something as a top pocket by tucking an item into the fold as I roll up the collar (I hope that makes sense).
-- I've replaced the side and front compression straps with very light shock cord of the rubber-bands-for-girls'-hair variety. Instead of cinching everything down, I let my sleeping bag, tent and down sweater expand, or I squeeze them down, as needed, so the pack is always "full." Those familiar with Mike Clelland's book know this as "the cloud." This is one great idea I actually arrived at on my own, and it's worked well for me.
-- Despite being a slob in many areas of my life, I like a tidy, sleek backpack. I do not want more pockets on the Virga. You can get a lot in those side pockets by the way, especially with a soft, cloudy tent and sleeping bag in the bottom of the pack.
-- I've trimmed the load-lifter straps, shoulder straps, sternum strap and hip belt straps.
-- I've used rolled-up closed-cell pads, folded Z-Rest pads and folded inflatable pads inside the Virga. They've all worked very nicely. I currently use a large NeoAir, despite the incredible expense. I do like how the large NeoAir, at 25 inches wide, makes a 25-inch tall framesheet. I usually leave a puff of air in the mattress, which helps stiffen it up when the pack is full.
-- I don't want a padded hip belt. It's not at all necessary on the Virga, unless you are carrying more weight than it's designed for. I might even cut the ends of the belt narrower, allowing for use of a smaller, lighter buckle.
-- I have sewn a Gossamer Gear pocket onto my hipbelt, for carrying my camera.
One small complaint about Granite Gear: When I saw the long Virga on clearance, I asked GG customer service if the Virga was being discontinued. The nice lady said no, it's not. Now I read that the long version is being discontinued. Why didn't she tell me that? And yes, it bums me out a bit to think that the maker of the pack I've been talking up and recommending to other (especially tall) backpackers for all these years feels it's better off without my business, just because I'm tall (and not freakishly tall, just kinda tall).
Here is my Virga at Trail Crest, partway up the Mt. Whitney trail. I used the blue Zip-Sack as a day pack for the final leg to the summit.
I'm also happy to report that the Virga withstands morning frost.