Granite Gear makes packs, bags, duffel bags, etc: things to put gear in. The company has recently changed hands, so we were dealing with an enthusiastic new owner. Like many other small companies, the packs have a distinctive appearance. We gathered that some packs are being upgraded and may have changed slightly or be about to change from what we have tested. However, I doubt that there will be huge differences.
Granite Gear Escape AC 60 Pack
|Escape AC 60||Above average||Adjustable torso length|
The design of this pack's bag part is not that out of the ordinary, but the harness is very interesting, so we'll deal with that part first. In short, it has an adjustable harness based on a tough, moulded sheet of plastic. The adjustment for torso length is done by unhooking the shoulder strap from one slot and hooking it into another slot. It's sufficiently novel that I have included a detail shot of the adjustment mechanism in the photos. In the photo the right hand shoulder strap has been unhooked and you can see the metal buckle which acts as the anchor.
Getting to this adjustment is not easy, but once you figure out that the top of the plastic sheet is concealed by some fabric held in place by hook&loop fastening, you are on your way. You do have to disconnect quite a few straps along the way - the first one or two times anyhow. You also probably need to remove the floating lid, which is an exercise in itself. Once you have access to the panel, you can set the torso length to a number of values, as determined by the slots you can see. Just what the top slots (set wide apart) are for I am not sure - someone the size of a grizzly bear maybe! Having moved the metal buckle into the next slot, you then have to reassemble the harness system. It isn't that hard to do, and the ability to match the torso length to your body is good. It would help if they included an instruction sheet with each pack though.
Granite Gear Escape AC 60, 1.48 kg (3.26 lb), 49 L (3000 cuin), Short, Regular. *In addition, there are interchangeable Men's and Women's hip belts in sizes Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large.
The padding on the back looks like some Doctor Scholes massage foot bed foam covered by someone's black see-through negligee - but the mesh is actually quite strong and the padding is comfortable. The shoulder straps and hip belt are quite comfortable too. Note that there is a range of hip belts sizes and you can exchange them. The adjustment straps on the shoulder straps are long... very long. The sternum strap is long enough too - and you will need to use it with this pack. There is no stupid whistle on the sternum strap. The load-lifter straps work well, and have excellent thumb loops at the ends. You can see how I am 'resting' my arms using them. I like doing this, and it does help a bit with the balance of any pack.
Now for the bag part. This too is a little odd-ball. The bag itself is fairly standard, but all the bits around it are different. Where most packs have webbing straps, the Escape AC 60 has cord, with cord adjusters and buckles. Yes, the cord can be adjusted the same as webbing. Does the use of cord cut any weight? I doubt it very much. It works about the same, but I would be just as happy with light grosgrain myself. Anyhow, there are quite a few of these bits of cord around the pack.
What's not obvious is that the bottom of the bag can expand a bit, so you need to pack carefully to make sure the bottom end is filled up. Since the capacity is rather less than claimed, you need to use every bit of space there. The throat is of medium length - certainly adequate. There is a conventional webbing strap to go over the throat under the lid. There is a zipped sleeve for a hydration system inside - the hose has to go through a hole at the top of the sleeve. The sleeve would be useful for reserve maps maybe, or as a deep security pocket.
The pack does have two ice axe loops at the bottom, but no dedicated straps at the top to hold the shaft. Perhaps you could wind the lid straps (cords) around the shaft to hold it up. There are several other attachment points scattered around the body of the pack as well.
There is a back pocket with a central vertical waterproof zip. Exactly why it has to be waterproof is not clear, as the black sides of the back pocket are stretch mesh. Why the zip has to be vertical is not clear either: it does mean things can fall out when you undo the zip fully. It's quite a large back pocket too. More curious is the little pocket below the back pocket. It too has a zip closure, but the zip is at the bottom of the pocket. Surely an invitation to disaster - things would fall out? It turns out that this little pocket, which has a key-clip inside, is meant for holding a pack-cover (an optional extra). Not so curious after all! The side pockets are a double layer affair: there is a fabric pocket with a light mesh one outside it. The opening of the mesh pocket is tilted forwards: 'quick-draw water bottles' maybe. The fabric pockets seem capacious when the main bag is empty, but there is little room left once the main bag is full. Why manufacturers even bother with these flat side pockets puzzles me.
In keeping with the central zip on the back pocket, the lid also has a central zip, right on top. Fortunately it is a waterproof zip (if you trust such things) as there is no cover over it. The position on top does make some sense though: you get good access inside the pocket without things falling out. There is a key clip in there, but no security pocket.
The pack held all the Test Gear load in the main bag, but it was close to full. I was also able to get most of my gear for a (real) Wollemi trip into it except for 40 m of rope and slings, but it is not a big pack by any means. The pack rode fine in the field, once I got the torso length set and all the other adjustments to suit me.
Granite Gear Vapor Flash Ki Pack
|Vapor Flash Ki||Average||Neat, but heavy|
This Vapor Flash Ki is a Women's pack: the Vapor Flash is a Men's pack, slightly larger in volume. The website claims a 48 L capacity for the Short model, which is what we tested. The hip belt comes in four sizes: Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large.
No doubt about it: this pack looks neat. The strips of tougher fabric down each back corner, combined with the compression straps, provide very useful strengthening. The colour was also rather nice. The torso length is fixed, but the hip belt is removable, although that is not obvious at first. Removing the hip belt is easy once you realise the padding on each wing sort of locks the hip belt in place. That 'lock' is reinforced by webbing and buckles at the sides.
Granite Gear Vapor Flash Ki, 1.38 kg (3.03 lb) , 37 L (2200 cuin), Short, Regular.
We were able to get most of the Test Gear inside the main bag provided the rolled-up mat was strapped on the outside. In other words, the volume is rather small: we measured just 37 L in the main bag and lid. There is no back pocket. Well, if you are travelling ultralight it may well have enough capacity, but an ordinary lightweight walker might have some trouble.
The floating lid is a bit strange. It could go up a bit if you really filled the throat section of the main bag, but it is threaded onto the load-lifter straps, and it can't be raised very far unless you unthread it from those straps. Doing so looked impossible at first, as the ends of the straps seem to have a strip of hook&loop fastening tape sewn across the webbing. That simply would not go through the buckles. However, eventually I found out that the hook&loop tape is double-sided and could be unstuck from the webbing. A bit confusing at first! Why was the hook&loop tape there anyhow? It lets you roll the excess webbing at the end of the straps up into a little ball and secure it. Um... frankly, why bother? Anyhow, if you do unthread the lid from the load-lifter straps you can raise the lid a bit - but it perches rather precariously on top, and I don't think this is a good arrangement. It's a nice looking pack, except that the lid design is not so hot when you want to fill the bag right up. Less than full - fine.
We tested a Short version. I found it too short for me, and Sue found it "not very long." I think the Regular version might have suited both of us better. This meant both of us found the 'carry' less than optimal: it was hard to get the pack onto the hip belt. However, in this case I think that this was due to the short torso length. It would suit a really petite woman, or better still a young girl. The colour scheme should appeal to either. Most people might find the Medium a better fit.
Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone Pack
|Nimbus Ozone||Above average||Adjustable torso length|
You would have to say this is a bit like a big brother to the Vapor Flash Ki - but without a lid. The back padding is similar, and so is the hip belt, except for a slightly different curvature. The difference will be due to the former being a Women's pack while this is not - the website says "Women's belts are sculpted to fit the increased angle of women's hips." You have to burrow under the bottom of the pack to undo the hook&loop flap covering the big screw which anchors the hip belt. Yes, this one uses engineering stuff!
Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone, 1.48 kg (3.26 lb) , 53 L (3200 cuin), Short. *The only size is called Short, but it didn't really seem that way to me. In addition, there are Men's and Women's hip belts in sizes Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large, plus shoulder straps in Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large.
The torso length is adjustable over a range of 100 mm (4 in), with the aid of a screwdriver. The straps are bolted to a plastic back panel. The mechanism for adjusting is a bit complex, but you shouldn't have to adjust it more than once or twice. In addition, while you are adjusting the torso length, you can also exchange the shoulder straps themselves. When you make an adjustment you have to move a horizontal padded reinforcing bar which sits behind the plastic back panel. How you could lose this bar I don't know, but the company sells spares! Having an adjustable torso length gets brownie points, but whether the different shoulder straps are really required is something I don't know. I guess they wouldn't sell them if they didn't find them useful or popular.
With all the straps and screws involved in adjusting this pack, you are going to need an Owner's Manual to work out how to drive it all. In this case the pack does come with a twenty-page Owners Manual, with good explanations and pictures. OK, some of the pages are about other packs in the range, but there are a solid twelve pages of technical stuff here for this pack!
The back is reinforced with a pretty solid plastic panel. If you didn't know better, you might think the top edge had metal reinforcing as well, but it's just plastic. While the bag fabric is quite light, there is some weight and stiffness in this harness. It showed however in the carry: it felt light.
Without a lid, this pack has to rely on a roll-top. The length is generous. The light fabric used is reinforced with those two blue stripes down the back and a number of webbing compression straps which can actually go right around from back panel to back panel, in three sections. There are two ice axe loops at the bottom of the pack, and the upper side compression straps are held with side-release buckles: they can hold the shafts in place.
There are large side-pockets of stretch-mesh, and a compression strap across the middle of each one. They should hold medium sized things and tent poles well, but don't put tiny things in them - there are little 'drain' holes at the bottom. The holes may be for letting water out. There's a short bladder pocket inside which will have to do for a security pocket, and a key clip at the top of the frame. No hip belt pockets are fitted, although there's webbing on the hip belt for attachment, and no stupid whistle on the sternum strap.
This is a mini-review in the 2010 Lightweight Internal Frame Pack State of the Market Report. The articles in this series are as follows (mini-reviews can be found in Part 2), and a subscription to our site is needed to read them.