Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review

Will it light the trails on fire?

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

The Blaze A.C. 60 an excellent pack for the majority of ultralighters. A few minor ergonomic changes and perhaps slightly enhanced contouring of the shoulder harness and tiny tweaks in hipbelt sizing would make this durn near perfect.

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by Brad Groves |

Introduction

The Blaze A.C. 60 is not born of blazon fireworks or Las Vegas-style, in-your-face theatrics. Its appearance is relatively unassuming, though not unattractive... techy enough to look like a contemporary pack, but without standing out, the Blaze reminds me of a good spy’s ability to blend in. It performs well in the field, too, and looks its role: solid, light, utilitarian.

Specifications

Manufacturer Granite Gear
Model Blaze A.C. 60
Sizes Available Short, Regular (Torso) Small, Medium, Large, X-Large (Hipbelt)
Fabrics 100D Ripstop, 210D Nylon Cordura, Stretch Mesh Fabric
Features Full-height stretch mesh front pocket, Lineloc compression system, two stretch mesh side pockets, zippered bladder sleeve, two ice axe loops, interchangeable hipbelt, adjustable torso length, optional lid
Volume 60 liters / 3660 cubic inches
Weight Manufacturer 2 lbs 14 oz / 1.3 kg
Weight BPL 2 lbs 14.4 oz / 1.3 kg
Maximum Comfortable Carrying Capacity 35 lbs / 16 kg
MSRP $229.95

Checking out the Basics

The Blaze A.C. 60’s identity is clearly Granite Gear, with the twin vertical “fins” of robustly nubby nylon. Between those familiar fins is a new feature, however - a stretch mesh pocket running the full height, constrained by a Lineloc compression system in place of the familiar webbing. In fact, the whole pack compression uses Linelocs and cordage in place of traditional webbing and “Fastexery.” It is clean and streamlined, with paracord-esque cordage joining panels via compression points. There is a matching pair of stretch mesh side pockets of conventional depth as well, and a small quick-release Lineloc to allow compressing over or under/through the pocket.

GRANITE GEAR BLAZE A.C. 60: WILL IT LIGHT THE TRAILS ON FIRE? - 1
The trademark vertical “fins” and overall arrangement of the pack.

From the factory, the Blaze comes lid-less, a roll-topper with a sleeve that extends about a foot above the frame and main body of the pack. An optional top pocket is available for those of you who just have to have a lid, but I was quite happy with the pack sans lid. One compression strap crosses laterally over the top of the pack, and one crosses front to back. For a 12-inch extension above the frame, my initial impression was that the two straps wouldn’t provide enough load control, but field trials showed otherwise.

My torso length is 17.5 inches; given that most Regular (or Medium) frames start around an 18-inch torso length, I trial-fitted both a short and a regular frame. I found that the regular frame fit me better. I generally wear a 33- or 34-inch waist pant, and found that the size medium hipbelt fit me well. Actually, it seems like the Blaze A.C. 60 belt wraps around more than many other manufacturers, to the point that I briefly toyed with a size small hipbelt, but the medium was clearly the way to go for me. The only difference in the women’s Ki model is a women’s-specific hipbelt; both genders get the same shoulder harness (and rest of the pack). In all honesty, “back in the day” we used to make packs gender-specific by swapping the shoulder harness and hipbelt, and generally by selecting a shorter-torsoed pack for women. My point is that prior experience has shown it to be a practical way to fit and manufacture packs, with equal comfort and performance, and I openly embrace any such endeavors of simplification.

GRANITE GEAR BLAZE A.C. 60: WILL IT LIGHT THE TRAILS ON FIRE? - 2
Business-side fitment; note hipbelt wrap, shoulder harness, load lifters.

The shoulder harness worked well for me and proved extremely comfortable under a variety of loads and miles, but my decade or so of experience as a professional packfitter prompted some thoughts about the harness that I would recommend you consider when fitting the pack. The harness, while of excellent construction and state-of-the-market in finish quality, is not as curved as other harnesses on the more ‘traditional’ market, and the straps are perhaps a touch longer in use. As I said, I found the pack and harness quite comfortable, however, there is little strap curvature around the neck, and some people might experience a bit of rubbing there. This is of particular note because the way we typically adjust that neck opening during a fit is to raise or lower the harness. In fitting many, many people, I have found that the Granite Gear harness tends to fit a little too close, borderline pinching on some people, even when the straps cannot be lowered/the torso made shorter. Also, I’ve found that the clearance of the shoulder harness isn’t ideal for the exceptional variety of people Granite Gear intends to fit with their packs. I strongly encourage Granite Gear to consider developing slightly more anatomical and more sizes of harnesses. End soapbox.

The frame of the Blaze seems to provide a good amount of support for an ultralight pack. The back panel is a serpentine-ish molded foam sheet that inserts into a stretch mesh back panel. I’ll admit, I thought the air channels looked pretty gimmicky. I mean, c’mon. How well can they work? But on an early prototype I was testing, which was trial-fitted with stacked and glued foam, a few of the foam blocks shifted and on some stretches of trail I absentmindedly found myself thinking that my back seemed a bit hotter and wetter. The production model is rock-solid, one-piece construction that performs well and feels comfortable.

GRANITE GEAR BLAZE A.C. 60: WILL IT LIGHT THE TRAILS ON FIRE? - 3
The back panel proved to be quite comfortable, both in terms of physical contact and airflow.

Looking into the Finer Details

I noticed the lighter main-body fabric of the pack the first time I touched it. While distinctly nylon in feel, the material has a more substantial canvas kind of feel, too. I haven’t researched the materials science on this one, folks! But it feels like a more robust, inspiring material than Granite Gear’s ‘legacy’ packs. The next two things I noticed were tactile as well. The stretch mesh feels like it has an excellent balance of stretch, durability, breathability, retainability (of stuff in pockets), and weight. The Lineloc compression cords pull through somewhat stiffly, though they release easily with upward thumb pressure on the device. At first blush, it seems like the cordage has a bit too much bite when tightening, but with use it becomes apparent that it’s just right.

GRANITE GEAR BLAZE A.C. 60: WILL IT LIGHT THE TRAILS ON FIRE? - 4
The Lineloc compression system is secure, easy to use, and effective. Nope, it doesn’t adjust exactly like your familiar webbing system, but it should be an easy adjustment to make.

There is a zippered full-length, full-width sleeve if you are so inclined to carry a bladder inside the pack, along with two corresponding simple slash pass-throughs. I find it a lot less of a hassle to just strap the bladder on top of the pack. The top and bottom straps of each shoulder pad, and the crossing top compression straps, have ‘neat-freak bundlers,’ little plastic toggle and shock-cord thingies so you can roll up and secure your excess straps. I find the bundlers extraneous, and I’m not sure that many people would actually take the time to use them in the field. Mine will no doubt end up cut off.

Features-wise, however, the Granite Gear team did a delightful job of eliminating most of the usual excess. Aside from those features mentioned, there are two ice axe loops and, yep, that’s about it. (I consider a sternum strap standard on a shoulder harness, and personally wouldn’t consider removing one.)

Fire by Friction?

This pack’s not gonna start any fires on me! Time after time the pack just rode along, not particularly announcing its presence. That is a remarkable feat for a pack - quite a compliment. If you can just about forget the fact that you’re wearing a backpack, well, kudos to the pack! I am not a thru-hiker or an ultra-runner or a mile-monger of any kind, really, but even after 14-mile days, I was in no rush to ditch the pack.

I think the firm, comfortable, full-wrap hipbelt contributes significantly to the comfort. It seems to bear the weight of the frame quite well without developing hot spots. The frame proved plenty supportive for UL loads, and allowed for enough adjustment with load lifters to prevent shoulder soreness. My typical three-season baseweight is somewhere around ten pounds, but on one long weekend trip I brought all sorts of extra “fun” stuff… a chair, hammock, extra tarp, sparklers, a string of LED lights… and after my 13-year old pup decided she’d had enough of her dog pack, I piled her pack of food, pad, line, and doggie sundries into the extension sleeve. Even laden like the proverbial pack mule, I found that the pack not only handled the weight, but was comfortable. I’d guess that my heaviest carry has been around 30 pounds with this pack.

Given the height of the extension sleeve above the frame, I was pleasantly surprised by how secure and non-wobbly the pack was when stuffed to the brim. I anticipated having a giant lump bouncing on the back of my head with each step, but it stayed where it should, above the pack and away from me. Another pleasant surprise was the center stretch pocket. I’ve never been a fan of mesh pockets on the back of a pack, in large part because there is usually a lack of load control over the contents, but also because of the coarseness of the mesh we see in the UL world and, frankly, I’ve just had no need for them. My stuff is all organized in a few dry sacks, the tent or tarp generally just shoved into the corners of the pack. However, I found myself shoving rain gear in this front center pocket. Tossing in the sunglasses. Maybe a foam sit pad or a baggie of GORP. All this stuff is normally just right under the collar of my pack, or in the lid, but I found the slide-in stash convenient. The full height of the pocket offered good trail ‘security,’ and I still had good load control (even when I stuffed in the chair, etc.) with the three Lineloc compressors passing over the pocket. At one point, I shoved a 10x12 sil tarp in the pocket and cinched everything down… only to have the tarp balloon out from between the compression cords. It kind of made me wish for a wispy fabric panel to hold better compression along the length of the pocket, but for an object with as little mass as the tarp, such an alteration would be purely cosmetic.

Conclusion

The Blaze A.C. 60 is an excellent pack for those playing along the borders of ultralight - the majority of us. I found it adapted well to a wide variety of loads, those ranging from small daypack size (and weight) to consuming all available pack space. It provides plenty of support and weight transfer through a comfortable and efficient fit. The pack has necessary features, but few (if any) extraneous bits. The breathability of the back panel was a noticeable benefit. In all, I’ve come to think of the Blaze A.C. 60 as my ultralight workhorse and jack of all trades.

While I, and many others, find the fit to be comfortable, those who find the fit less than ideal will likely find the pack to be a bit more of a generic fit, perhaps reminiscent of a one size fits all tube sock. The analogy might not be particularly apt, but, like those socks, this pack will fit most people well. I would like to see the Granite Gear designers turn some of their efforts away from packbag design to harness and hipbelt design. It seems like the shape of the harness, in particular, needs to catch up with the increasingly contemporary designs and construction of the packs themselves. I hope that part of their consideration will include the relation of curvature as related to where the straps attach to the pack, and any effects on overall torso length. One other nitpicky aspect of design I would like to see the Granite Gear team approach is slightly longer framesheets. When carrying heavier loads, a longer (and correspondingly stiffer, thus likely heavier) framesheet would help with more efficient weight transfer. I think the design of the A.C. 60 is probably just ducky the way it is, but I would be interested in trying out the same thing with a slightly longer frame… I’d be surprised if it didn’t carry even more comfortably.

GRANITE GEAR BLAZE A.C. 60: WILL IT LIGHT THE TRAILS ON FIRE? - 5
Nice shot of the suspension… you can just see the edge of the framesheet, back panel vents, and harness wrap, load lifter angle, etc.

So how about it? What’s the bottom line on this pack? I like it. It carries remarkably well while remaining unobtrusive. Its minimalist but (mostly) functional features seem ideal for most ultralight to light backpackers, and I think the pack strikes an excellent balance between “rugged durability” and ultralight. I suspect that most readers would find this a good pack on the trail.

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge and is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to the manufacturer to review this product under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review ," by Brad Groves. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/granite_gear_blaze_ac_60_review.html, 2012-05-08 00:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review


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Maia
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/08/2012 12:14:35 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/08/2012 13:16:57 MDT Print View

I hope Addie is OK or at least on vacation!

Last week we heard from the Big Boss, and this week BPL evidently has the lovely Maia running the office! Great to hear from both of you!

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/08/2012 13:17:58 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/08/2012 14:43:16 MDT Print View

Nice pack except for the torso sizing. Each adjustment is about 2" from reality. I am a 19.5" torso but had to use 22" (the last hole) to get sufficient comfort.

Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
Granite Gear Crown pack review? on 05/08/2012 15:31:41 MDT Print View

Any chance of similar review of Granite Gear Crown pack? Maybe even comparison of the two?
Thank you.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Nice Review where's Addie? on 05/08/2012 17:19:27 MDT Print View

I like the review but what happened to Addie? Maia seems capable enough but I hope Addie stays around:)

Robert H
(roberth)
Re: Re: Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/08/2012 17:23:17 MDT Print View

It looks a bit Frankenstein! But hey, when did that stop any of us. Thanks for the review.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/09/2012 10:57:16 MDT Print View

Have been hoping to see an objective review of the 60. This has seemed to me like a great player as an option for a thru-hiker with only a handful of others. The addition of the vertical rear mesh pocket is a superb answer to something that has been missing from GG's packs for about a decade.

ps - Hi, Maia.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: GG Blaze A.C. 60 -- True BPL measured volume? on 05/09/2012 18:05:31 MDT Print View

Brad,

Nice review. Could you comment on how much BPL-method measured cubic inches there is in the main compartment of the pack? If you recall the massive review of packs done in the last 18 months, I think it was by Roger Caffin, they used packing peanuts and stuffed the pack full of such, then poured the peanuts in a cubic box that had lines drawn at each cubic foot full of space, thereby being able to tell how much cubic space there was. In that review, the GG Nimbus Ozone came out far short of its advertised cubic inches of volume. I'd like to know if Granite Gear has gone to a more accurate stated capacity.

Thanks.
Roleigh

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/10/2012 08:06:07 MDT Print View

I re-read this review and wonder why the pack wasn't weighed by BPL?

On a related note, if one requires more suspension (and a better one) they could buy a Nimbus Meridian and take off the top pocket which would get them to the same weight as the Blaze but without the front pocket.

Also, watch those linelocs carefully. The plastic ends pull off easily.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/10/2012 08:11:45 MDT Print View

David, I thought of that too. I miss the old Nimbus Ozone pack, the best pack GG ever made. It has a very long extension collar. Removing the lid from the Nimbus Meridian leaves you with a pack slightly heavier (a couple of ounces) than the Ozone but with hardly any extension collar, and there is nothing to protect the top of the pack from drizzle. It isn't anything as nice as the Nimbus Ozone.

My only complaint about the Ozone is that it truly is not a 62 liter pack as measured by BPL's methodology. It is about that of an Osprey Atmos 55 L pack. I took the amount of peanuts in the pack and they fit into the Atmos.

When one does a John Muir Trail hike and has to take the large Bearikade Expedition Canister pack size counts even though my base gear weight is 12.5 pounds (minus the bear canister).

Edited by marti124 on 05/10/2012 08:12:29 MDT.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/10/2012 17:13:09 MDT Print View

Hi, all-

First, BPL weight of the AC60 came in at 2 pounds 14.4 ounces. Sorry we didn't get the confirmed weight in there!

In my experience fitting GG packs I've found that the majority of people fit their "proper" frame size, or sometimes down an inch. Like anything, though, fit is dependent upon the individual.

I did not independently verify the volume of the pack. Frankly, that's a whole mess that even the industry cannot seem to agree on. "Standards" are not... and while I could use the method referenced above, its most significant relativity would be to other packs measured in precisely the same way. (Even with the foam peanut method, for example... do you just pour the peanuts in? Or do you "tamp" them in a little bit? How much? Do you measure the pressure of tamping for consistency? If you just pour them in, how do you ensure that all corners of the pack are equally filled? If you add any amount of pressure on the peanuts, how much do they deform? Do you add the same amount when they're then measured in the box? Loads (wait for it...) more questions like this.) One other oddity I've found in pack volume measurement is that some manufacturers include certain pocketry, while others don't. I hope we can get some more consistency in the industry.

Performance and comfort of the Blaze have been excellent, and the capacity for loads of widely varying size has been no less impressive.

At the moment I can't recall if the following point made it into the article: I couldn't find much to cut off the pack. Actually, I decided to just leave it stock. I'm not going to rip the frame out of a framed pack, or take out the foam pad from the back, or dump the hipbelt... those modifications just don't make sense to me on a pack like this. But I have no problem trimming excess strap, removing things like ice axe loops or hydration pockets and so on... and there wasn't really any of that to remove. Kudos to GG for that! At the same time, I wouldn't plan on stripping the factory weight of this pack much lower than it is.

David Lang
(idahobackpacker)

Locale: Northwest U.S.
Blaze AC 60 on 05/12/2012 01:10:47 MDT Print View

Both my fiance and I have this pack. We both just loved the design and fit of this pack. The padding is thick and comfortable, adjusting the suspension for torso length is easy, and you can comfortably carry this pack all day long.

The only thing that I have thought about doing to mine was trimming the excess length from the straps, as several of them are quite long. But I decided against it for now because I don't find it bothersome yet, and the weight savings would be minimal.

As stated in the review, this pack is well made, and IMO, a well thought out design. The lack of zippers is great. Nothing to get snagged up. The roll top design keeps gear securely in place, and the stretch pockets are a feature that I appreciate.

One last thing to note- the hydration pocket on this pack is useless because it is such a tight fit. I didn't really care, because I don't carry a bladder on the trail, but I thought I would mention it so that people considering this pack would be aware of that. I could barely fit my hand halfway down the sleeve.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Blaze AC 60 on 05/12/2012 08:24:37 MDT Print View

"Nothing to get snagged up."

I would disagree with this because of the side and front pockets. They are not very snag proof.

One comment about the front pocket. Once your main bag is full, the available volume of the front pocket is reduced considerably. I wish more pack makers would create front pockets that are separated from the main bag such that they are actually a pocket and not a strip of spandex. That way you could use the volume of the pocket to its fullest.

Kronos Master of Fate
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Review on 05/12/2012 09:49:02 MDT Print View

Wow, that is not an attractive pack. Looks like leftovers sewn together. What's with the straps over the pockets?

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re: Blaze AC 60 on 05/12/2012 10:03:13 MDT Print View

David's right about the pockets snagging. I tore a small hole in the side pocket of my Crown, which uses the same mesh for its pockets as the Blaze. I will say that the stretch mesh is pretty tough (for mesh). I was in some pretty nasty bush whacking, and I felt the snag and could have prevented it. But it is a weak point over fabric pockets.

shane sibert
(grinder) - F

Locale: P.N.W
Blaze AC 60 on 05/12/2012 10:37:26 MDT Print View

I have carried a Blaze since it's first introduction. I dig the suspension and the colors and think it is good pack, not as comfy as the nimbus ozone but close. I have experianced some abrasion wear to the mesh due to my tent poles.

The down side was the hydro pocket (the pocket is so tight, no way to get a platy in it)and the paracord plastic things at the end of the cord. So, I ordered from quest outfitters some plastic cord end caps which are MUCH better in function and appearance. The next thing I did was ordering some mesh similar to what is on the packs stretch pockests from Quest and then took the pack to a local seamstress and had her cut and sew the matertial into the hydration pocket so now my platy will just slide right in. Works fantastic with no weight penelty. Now the pack is just about steller!


blaze ac end capsblaze ac hydration pocket modified

Edited by grinder on 05/12/2012 10:39:27 MDT.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - M

Locale: NW Montana
Cool Mod on 05/12/2012 10:51:36 MDT Print View

That's a pretty cool mod. I forgot that the Blaze has the zipper in the hydration pocket too. Pretty unnecessary in my book.

Edited by GlacierRambler on 05/15/2012 12:50:50 MDT.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Blaze AC 60 on 05/15/2012 12:03:40 MDT Print View

I do carry a bladder on the trail, but can't remember the last time I used a hydration pocket. They're a pain to access and use! I've found it much, much easier to just strap my bladder under the lid or top straps. So on the Blaze, for example, I just lay the bladder cross-wise on top of the pack, then cinch the straps over it. When I'm carrying less water, super easy to stop at a stream or whatever, yank off the bladder, and fill up. Also no futzing with routing of hose.

Even with a full pack I could still shove a sil tarp and rain gear in the back pocket...

One thing I would consider removing, come to think of it, is the silly little velcro "organizer" things on the end of some straps. The idea is to take your excess strap, neatly roll it up, and secure it. They're unnecessary and a bit clutzy.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Blaze AC 60 on 05/15/2012 12:12:44 MDT Print View

"Even with a full pack I could still shove a sil tarp and rain gear in the back pocket..."

I will post a review at some point of the modular front pocket I have been testing for HMG (on my Porter). It is not affected at all by how you stuff the main bag.

David Lang
(idahobackpacker)

Locale: Northwest U.S.
Blaze AC 60 on 05/16/2012 03:19:19 MDT Print View

"I would disagree with this because of the side and front pockets. They are not very snag proof."

I was just stating that there were no zippers that would get snagged. The mesh pockets, as with any mesh material, can snag up pretty easily.