Granite Gear Escape AC 60, Granite Gear Vapor Flash Ki, and Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone Packs

Mini-review for the 2010 State of the Market Report on Internal Frame Backpacks.

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by Roger Caffin | 2010-09-28 00:00:00-06

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

Pack Rating Qualifications
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, Granite Gear Vapor Flash Ki, and Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone Packs - 1
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

Pack Rating Qualifications
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 Escape AC 60, Granite Gear Vapor Flash Ki, and Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone Packs - 2
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

Pack Rating Qualifications
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 Escape AC 60, Granite Gear Vapor Flash Ki, and Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone Packs - 3
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.

  • Part 1A covers the very basics and lists all the packs in the survey.
  • Part 1B covers the frame and harness which carry the pack itself.
  • Part 1C covers the main bag and all the other pockets, plus the all-important question of comfort.
  • Part 2 in this series covers the individual packs tested.

Citation

"Granite Gear Escape AC 60, Granite Gear Vapor Flash Ki, and Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone Packs," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/granite_gear_escape_vapor_flash_ki_nimbus_ozone.html, 2010-09-28 00:00:00-06.

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Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 2: The Packs
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Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
External Frame Packs? on 10/18/2010 20:47:02 MDT Print View

Thanks for a nice review Roger.

Perhaps outside the scope of this review, but since the subject of external frame packs has come up: do you have any recommendations for lightweight, commercially available, external frame packs that capture your "H - frame" idea?

Back in the old days, my external frame pack and hip belt could shift almost all the weight onto my iliac crests, or alternatively, onto the greater trochanters.

I find now, with increasing age, a decreased tolerance for prolonged heavy loading of the L5-S1 disk, and the SI joints. Anything much over 20 lbs all day, no matter how it's distributed over the shoulders or the lumbar area, starts to hurt.

Some of the individual pack reviews and comments above suggest some of these packs come close, but it sounds like you think the external frame is better at overall comfort - issues of durability, fragility and standing up to heavy brush aside.

Am I on the right track here? Any advice. How can I get most of the load back on the sides of my hips - the iliac crests - and still go lightweight?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/20/2010 23:43:42 MDT Print View

Hi Coin

Sorry, but I don't have a simple answer for you. I think I noted somewhere in the review that my hips are rather narrow, such that many hip belts do not work very well on me. For this reason I have always preferred to carry the load on my back. This does *not* mean 'on my shoulders'.

With my design I find the load does go through the mesh on the back of the pack to the full area of my back. Frankly, I am not really sure why this works so well, but it does work for me.

I am sure that it won't work for many other people, and that a solid hip belt will work better for them. In this sense, fitting a pack to a person is very much like fitting a pair of shoes. I sigh (for the same reason) when I see someone ask 'what shoes should I buy' and then read a reply that they should buy SuperDucksMultiWeb shoes.

However ... I will offer the following advice - which is also in the Review somewhere. Try to buy a pack which matches your torso length, but do not buy a pack with a torso length which is too short. Better to have a pack torso length slightly longer than your torso length: that will throw the load onto your hips more effectively.

Even better: pick a pack in the right size with an adjustable torso length. Then fine tune over several trips how it fits you. Yes, I definitely give brownie points to packs with an adjustable torso length.

I also give brownie points to packs with a solid stiff harness or frame. Frameless packs are all very well if my total load is under 6 -8 kg. Over that the weight of the harness is far outweighed by the added comfort it brings. Now, I know this comment will attract numerous responses contradicting me and saying how wonderful a frameless pack is. Well, as with shoes ...

Can an external frame pack (like mine) stand up the 'heavy brush'? Chuckle. Trust me, the scrub in the Australian Blue Mountains (and in SW Tasmania) is definitely world class.

A commercial equivalent? Sorry - at this stage I cannot make a recommendation, because I don't know.

Cheers

Cameron Semple
(camS) - F

Locale: Brisbane, Australia
Shadow on 10/21/2010 06:43:52 MDT Print View

I had a look at a Shadow this evening at a local distributor. I liked the clean, no frills look. Didn't have time to load it up though. You mentioned the thick webbing used on the hip belt. I found it virtually impossible to tighten the belt once fitted. The webbing was so rough that it wouldn't pull through easily. Combined with the older style of pulling the straps out rather than into the middle.

Any ideas when the 2011 line of packs will be available? The Umbra looks interesting.

Edited by camS on 10/21/2010 06:45:49 MDT.

Alan Bradley
(ahbradley)
small manufacturers / osprey atmos on 10/21/2010 15:46:43 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):
Would any of the ultralight small manufacturers be interested in making your external frame sacks.

The osprey atmos 50/65 has a kind of all back mesh (for ventilation) but I think the gap between back and pack is bigger. I didnt like the shooulder straps.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: small manufacturers / osprey atmos on 10/21/2010 20:58:46 MDT Print View

> Would any of the ultralight small manufacturers be interested in
> making your external frame sacks.

I would be delighted if someone did want to.

Cheers

Alan Bradley
(ahbradley)
osprey exos possible equiv to Roger (Caffins) MYOG external frame on 10/22/2010 04:55:27 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):

Actually, from reviews, the osprey exos 46/58 looks better than the atmos, as still has kind of all back mesh (for ventilation) but the gap between back and pack seems smaller, and the rucsac storage looks less curved.

Perhaps you could borrow one and compare it (not using waist belt) against your external frame pack.

Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
External Frame Packs? on 10/24/2010 09:12:13 MDT Print View

Thanks Roger.

Yes, like finding well fitting shoes. But I did find those (wider), so I keep my optimism for finding the perfect pack for heavier loads. Thanks for the reminder/emphasis on torso length (longer for me).

The Aarn packs, and LuxerLite pack seem hopeful. Discussions of these packs over the last 5 years give lots of opinions both ways. I would love to hear from owners/users of these packs what they still think of them now.

Any other packs in this general class - lightweight with enough frame to transfer all the weight to my hips if I want to - that anyone thinks I should also consider? Any packs in the review above come close for a long torso?

Thanks.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: osprey exos possible equiv to Roger (Caffins) MYOG external frame on 10/24/2010 15:35:08 MDT Print View

Hi Alan

The survey covered both the Exos 46 and the Exos 58. Nice packs.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/24/2010 15:38:09 MDT Print View

Hi Coin

The survey lists the available pack sizes. I was testing Medium in just about everything, but many of them have a Large model available.

Which one to choose? Ahhh... Very personal. 'Every body is subtly different ...' as they say on the planes.

Cheers

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/25/2010 12:46:16 MDT Print View

"The Aarn packs, and LuxerLite pack seem hopeful. Discussions of these packs over the last 5 years give lots of opinions both ways. I would love to hear from owners/users of these packs what they still think of them now."

I have used both of these, and in both cases they are nice packs, but I ended up using them without the front pockets. They just didn't work for me. however, if you like front pockets, I find the LuxuryLite pocket (and frame) to be more functional and cooler. I also ditched the LuxuryLite cylinders and modifies a GoLite Gust to attach to the frame. Excellent volume and comfortable carrying. Note: the LuxuryLite pocket restricts you vision more than the Aarn. Also note, I have both of these for sale. If you are interested, shoot me a PM and we can negotiate a price.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
frogs ... on 10/26/2010 06:24:59 MDT Print View

just a note for others that the french site i-trekkings has done a similar test with packs in roughly the same weight and volume range

note how the Decathlon Forclaz 50 Ultralight scored very high in comfort and on score/price while being the cheapest and lightest pack

just shows you what can be done ..

just use google translater on the links below



http://www.i-trekkings.net/bibliotheque/articles/tests/sacados/Test-sacados_comparatif.pdf


http://www.i-trekkings.net/Xdossiers/dossiers.php?val=29_comparatif+sac+dos+30++50+litres

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/26/2010 06:28:48 MDT.

Alan Bradley
(ahbradley)
exos 58 usage with no load thru hip belt on 10/27/2010 15:08:48 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):

I checked the articles 1A-C,2 butt did not find a mention of testing the exos 58 with no load bearing via the hip belt i.e. a comparison against the way your your external frame myog pack is used.

Do you still have one for a hip-beltless comparison against your external frame pack.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: exos 58 usage with no load thru hip belt on 12/16/2010 20:22:34 MST Print View

Hi Alan

Sorry, this dropped off the radar for a while.
Unfortunately no: the Exos packs were farmed out to Australian readers.

Cheers

Eric Botshon
(Ebotshon) - F
Exos 46 on 07/12/2011 10:36:03 MDT Print View

The review mentioned that the osprey pack was closer to 40 than 46 liters.

Any chance this test was done with a size small pack instead of the medium? The smal torso length pack is smaller than the stated 46.

Willem knopper
(willem65) - MLife
Exos Frame on 09/08/2011 15:41:10 MDT Print View

I have tried the Exos and I find them to be to very ridged, the pack does not move with you (back) at all. I personally think they are really just a fancy external frame pack. I did like the idea of the air flow but was just very disappointed how it restricted your movement especially if you were to use it doing any walking other than on the flat.

Regards

Phillip Damiano
(Phillipsart)

Locale: Australia
Jansport Big Bear on 03/22/2012 21:42:44 MDT Print View

Roger mentioned in one of his comments here:
(Yes, we kept a few, for specific functions. The rest have been passed on to Australian & NZ BPL members (kept the postage down) for further field testing. I expect that they will provide some Reader Reviews in due course).

I'm one of those Australian BPL member, I've recently acquired one of the Jansport Big Bear 63 prototype packs of Roger.
The pack has only been in my possession for a few weeks now, tested on day hikes including some rock climbing.
The Harness is very comfortable and the material is very durable. I've tested this on a Off-track hike recently with very thick vegetation. I got scratches over me, the pack survived with no scratches.

I'm yet to test it out as a Overnight hike, but I can't see it causing any problems there. It's a nice pack. I do like the colour that the prototype pack was supplied in with the orange trims.

This is an on going review, I will keep you's updated on my findings on my next overnight hike, which is not for another 3 weeks from today. In a couple days, I've got a day hike I'm planning on, I will pack all my overnight hiking gear into the pack for a test to see how the pack feels with some weight in it. My base weight is just under the 8Kg. I'll add a few litres of water to that, making a total weight of 11kg.

So far, I like the pack. It's not exactly on the ultra light weight at just under 1.5kg but it does have a good frame and harness.Jansport Big Bear Prototype Pack

Edited by Phillipsart on 03/22/2012 21:51:42 MDT.

Phillip Damiano
(Phillipsart)

Locale: Australia
Re: Jansport Big Bear on 03/24/2012 19:33:34 MDT Print View

Packed my hiking gear into the Jansport Big Bear pack yesterday and went for a walk around the block with apx 12kg load. Pack is comfortable, enough room for 5 or 6 days of food. No complaints.

Will be continuing wearing the pack with my gear on daily hikes for the next couple of weeks as training for an upcoming 3 day overnight hike in some steep terrain.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"Pocket Man" on 06/14/2012 21:41:39 MDT Print View

I own an older - and IMHO better - version of the REI Flash 60. It's the REI Cruise UL 60 (2nd model). That pack absolutely NEEDED side pockets. Fortunately REI had "aftermarket" pockets at that time, but no longer.

I like side pockets because they store stuff I may need quickly like 1st aid kit, water treatment kit, toilet kit, potty kit, and things I don't want inside my pack
Like stove stuff including fuel. (For ex., ESBIT tabs smell fishy -like two other things I know of. ;O)

My REI pockets add 400 cu. in. each and make the pack "complete" in my dinosaur mind. Yeah, I'm a geezer and like exterior pockets. As another poster said of the Ospey EXOS that front "shovel" pocket is nice and can hold that wet tent, etc. Same goes for my Cruise UL 60 - which should really be called the "UL 50" - sorta like many post-recession 401-K funds should really be called "201-K" funds.

SPIRIDON Papapetroy
(spotlight) - F
Osprey Exos on 09/09/2012 21:15:47 MDT Print View

Has anyone had pain in the part of the body where the lower part of the frame touches it. I am a bit worried because it doesn't have any padding.