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Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW

If you’re looking for a lightweight backpack to carry 25 to 35 pound loads, this is one you gotta check out. It rocks!

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by Will Rietveld | 2006-10-04 03:00:00-06

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW


Due in September 2006, the Nimbus Meridian joins Granite Gear’s Light Backpack series that is designed to carry a sizeable load with comfort. This pack is a thru-hikers’ delight, as demonstrated by Justin Lichter’s odyssey across North America, carrying it 8000 miles (so far). It’s also dead on for the lightweight backpacker. This remarkable pack is lighter than most of the competition in its class, yet it’s durable, loaded with usable features, and comfortably carries a substantial load.

What’s Good

  • Light weight for its volume and weight carrying capacity
  • Lightweight composite frame is flexible and effectively transfers weight
  • Suspension system easily adjusts for a perfect fit
  • Firm, comfortable shoulder harness and hipbelt
  • Soft foam backpanel covered with Schoeller Dynamic fabric
  • Top lid removes easily and converts to a fanny pack with its own waist belt
  • Top pocket is removable to reduce pack weight by 7.7 ounces
  • Lots of attachment options
  • Rugged Riri water-resistant zippers operate smoothly
  • Full-height zippered access to the main compartment
  • Lightweight yet durable fabrics

What’s Not So Good

  • Lower side compression straps wrap over the side pockets
  • No hipbelt pockets (but accessory pockets are available)



Granite Gear


2006 Nimbus Meridian


Internal frame, top loading, drawstring closure with top compression strap, floating top pocket


Size Regular Torso tested, 3800 ci (62 L)


3 lb 9.4 oz (1.63 kg) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 3 lb 8 oz (1.59 kg)


Main body is 210d PU-coated Cordura nylon and 70d silicone/urethane-coated hybrid nylon ripstop; pockets, backpanel, and inside of hipbelt are Schoeller Dynamic stretch-woven; Hypalon reinforcements


TopoFlex molded composite framesheet; shoulder strap height is fully adjustable with stainless steel screws and grommets


Floating top lid that converts to a fanny pack with its own waist belt, 10-inch extension collar with drawstring closure, four side and one top compression straps, full-height zippered access to the main compartment, Riri AquaZip zippers, two large stretch-woven side pockets, front cradle with two daisy chains and accessory straps, two ice axe loops, 3-liter hydration sleeve with tie-down system and two ports, haul loop, load lifters, hipbelt stabilizers, sternum strap, reflective strips on front and shoulder straps


A variety of accessory pockets are available that attach to the hipbelt, shoulder straps, and pack body

  Volume To Weight Ratio

67.9 ci/oz size Regular Torso (based on 3800 ci and a measured weight of 56 oz)

  Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

35 lb (16 kg) estimated comfortable load for an average person carrying the pack all day

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

9.7 (based on 35 lb and a measured weight of 3.6 lb)


$250 US


The new Nimbus Meridian combines many of Granite Gear’s proven load-carrying and comfort technologies with a new feature set, all focused on the needs of the serious thru-hiker or lightweight backpacker.

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack  REVIEW  -1
You might say that the Nimbus Meridian has already been around for a while! This is Justin Lichter’s pack, which has 8000 miles on it so far, and 2000 more to go (see Justin’s photo essay, "The Great Divide Trail" in Backpacking Light print magazine, issue number 3).

Before I get into the technical details, let’s get familiar with the Nimbus Meridian. At 3800 cubic inches and 3.6 pounds, it’s just the right size for a lightweight backpacker who wants to camp and eat well, or the thru-hiker who wants to extend the distance between re-supplies. The following photo gallery provides some close-up views so you can see the pack’s design and features.

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack  REVIEW  - 2
The Nimbus Meridian is a top-loader (top left) with a floating top pocket, but it has a full-height front zipper (left of center) that provides excellent access into the main pack body. The front has a large cradle for attaching a tent or other gear. The backpanel (top right) has thick soft padding covered with Schoeller Dynamic fabric that is water repellent. The shoulder straps and hipbelt are also well padded. The hipbelt pockets are an accessory (1.4 oz/45 ci/$19 each). Each side (bottom left) has a large stretch-woven pocket and two compression straps. The top view (bottom right) shows the pack’s extension collar rolled down and secured with a top compression strap. The top pocket easily detaches and has its own waist belt so it can be used as a fanny pack.


Frame and Suspension

It would be hard not to get a perfect fit with this pack. The Nimbus Meridian comes in two frame sizes (regular fits 18-22 inch torsos; short fits 14-18 inch torsos), each frame has five positions to adjust shoulder strap height, and there are four shoulder strap sizes and four hipbelt sizes available - for both men and women. Overall, this allows adjustment for torso lengths of 14 to 22 inches, chest circumference of 27 to 52 inches, and waist circumference of 26 to 42 inches.

As the name implies, this pack is based on Granite Gear’s Nimbus suspension system. Its molded composite (thermoplastic) framesheet is reinforced with vinyl ester and glass fibers. The thin framesheet is lightweight, vertically stiff, and laterally flexible. This means it will support a heavy load and transfer weight to the hipbelt, yet it is flexible enough to allow the load lifters to pull the load against your back and twist with your movements.

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack  REVIEW  - 3
Granite Gear’s Nimbus suspension system (top left, removed from the pack) uses a lightweight molded composite framesheet that is vertically stiff and laterally flexible. Shoulder straps are available in two widths: trim and wide. Five lines of holes in the framesheet (top right) allow the shoulder straps to be mounted at different heights and widths. The hipbelt attaches to the bottom of the framesheet. By selecting the proper pack size (regular or short) and hole set on the framesheet, the Nimbus suspension allows you perfectly match your torso length. The shoulder straps (bottom left) attach to a backing plate with stainless steel screws, and pivot freely when the screws are tight. With the framesheet in the pack (lower right), only the top is exposed; Hypalon flaps protect clothing from the screw heads.

I tested the Nimbus Meridian on lightweight backpacking trips over a 6-month period, carrying loads ranging from 22 to 32 pounds. It was extremely comfortable to carry under all conditions, with volume and weight-carrying capacity to spare. To see what it would do at the high end, I loaded the pack up with 2-liter bottles of water and day hiked with it with weight ranging from 45 to 30 pounds. It carried the freight and put the weight on my hips. Wide shoulder straps are available for carrying heavier loads. Although the Nimbus Meridian can comfortably carry more weight for a strong person, I estimated its comfortable load carrying capacity for an average person at 35 pounds.

Features and Utility

The Nimbus Meridian has excellent attachment capability, although it is not designed for winter trips (no shovel pocket, crampon pad, or ski loops). Compression straps or accessory straps are provided on the sides, front, and top pocket for attaching gear or extra pockets to the outside of the pack.

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack  REVIEW-4
It’s easy to attach gear to the outside of the Nimbus Meridian, using accessory straps on the top pocket or compression straps on the sides (left), or a cradle on the front (middle) with accessory straps. Granite Gear also offers a variety of detachable accessory pockets (right) that can be attached to numerous places on the pack.

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack  REVIEW-5
The Nimbus Meridian does not come with standard hipbelt pockets like many packs in its class, but Granite Gear does offer some really nice accessory pockets (left, 1.4 oz/45 ci/$19 each) that easily and solidly attach to the hipbelt. The pockets are padded and have a water-resistant zipper - perfect for your electro-gadgets or other small items you want handy and protected. The lower photo shows hipbelt and backpanel padding with Schoeller Dynamic surface fabric.

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack  REVIEW-6
Inside (left), there is a 3-liter hydration sleeve with an attached bungee system to stabilize the weight. I personally preferred to put my hydration bladder in a side pocket so it was more convenient to re-fill. I found the full-height frontpanel zipper (right) to be a really handy feature. It allowed me to conveniently access pack contents on the trail or in camp. I routinely used the pack as a pillow, and the zipper allowed me to easily arrange the contents to get the right height and softness.

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack  REVIEW-7
The top pocket easily detaches from the pack and functions as an excellent fanny pack (left). It has its own waist strap and stabilizer straps that store in a sleeve on the underside of the pocket. Two accessory straps allow attachment of a tent on top of the pack (shown earlier), or a gear bag to the front of the fanny pack (right). The zippers on the top pocket and frontpanel are Riri AquaZip, which are very durable and water-resistant.


I can easily say that the new Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian is my favorite lightweight internal frame medium volume backpack. It is made of lightweight durable fabrics, adjusts to achieve a perfect fit, has plenty of volume and attachment options, has a flexible frame and harness system that accommodates my movements, and comfortably carries a heavy load. With all these features and capability, it still weighs well under 4 pounds.

By comparison, the 2006 Osprey Aether 60 has similar volume and most of the features and utility of the Meridian, but it does not have frontpanel access or a convertible top pocket, and now weighs over 4 pounds. The Mountainsmith TrekLight AT-55 has similar volume, lots of outside pockets, and a capable suspension system, but its top pocket to fanny pack conversion is a bust and the pack weighs even more. The Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) Catalyst pack has similar volume and weighs 14 ounces less, but it lacks a top pocket, adjustable torso length, and zippered access to the main compartment. Overall, compared to the competition, the Nimbus Meridian offers a heck of a lot of features and usability, while still keeping weight at only 3.6 pounds. It costs $25-$50 more than the other packs mentioned, but it is still a good value considering its extra features and comfort.

What’s Unique

The Nimbus suspension system is lightweight, yet is still highly supportive and flexible, and allows direct torso length adjustment. With two framesheet sizes, five shoulder strap height adjustments, four shoulder strap sizes (plus an extra wide option), two shoulder strap widths, and four hipbelt sizes (for both men and women), the Nimbus Meridian will adjust to fit most anyone and carry heavy loads. Also, the Riri AquaZip zippers are a nice touch; they are both durable and water-resistant.

Recommendations for Improvement

For once, I have little to say in this section. The lower side compression straps tighten over the side pockets, but I did not find it to be a significant issue. I either left the straps loose or snugged them up over the filled pockets to retain the contents. However, the straps could be routed behind the pockets.


"Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW ," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-10-04 03:00:00-06.


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Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW
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Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW on 10/03/2006 20:48:39 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Great! on 10/03/2006 23:04:04 MDT Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 08:53:37 MDT.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
lid zipper on wrong side! on 10/04/2006 02:50:20 MDT Print View

Will, a couple questions about usage. I own the 60l Nimbus Ozone, and it is my most comfortable pack (of any size). And I am considering the new Meridian Vapor as my 'medium' pack. I've never heard anyone fault the suspension system on these packs. The room for improvement is on the other side of the frame. First question; glad to see GG including a lid, but they put the lid zipper on the 'wrong' side, where the contents can not be accessed while being worn. All zippered lids I have ever seen face the user, to allow frequently used goods to be taken out and replaced on the go. GG just negated that posibility with this strange choice of locaiton. Now that you have used the pack, any idea why they did that? Secondly; current design prohibits use of the stretch pockets if the pack is compressed. Any idea why they did not lower the upper edge of the pocket below the strap so both could be used at the same time? Any work-around for this? Thirdly; on the Ozone, some straps were way too long (load lifters), and others were way too short for external lashing (lower compression); webbing is cheap.. did they give us longer straps this time? Fourth, when GG top loaders are partially loaded, the one big sack becomes shapeless and loose; providing two more compression straps at the bottom of the pack could really tighten things up for when we carry a true LW load. So, how does it carry with a partial load? I hope it is not too late for GG to consider these things; the competition is not standing still. For example, Montbell already sells a pack equivalent to the meridian vapor, with vertical access zipper, removable lid (with zipper on the correct side), VERY comfortable suspension, for about a hundred bucks. Heavier, but cutting it down to the GG feature set gives a similar weight. I look forward to your comments; thanks for the great review.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW on 10/04/2006 05:51:31 MDT Print View

First a comments: I know a lot has been said about the compression straps running over the side pockets, making those almost useless to store things in, but the fact is GG never intended it to be used this way. I believe this is explained in a podcast on Practical Backpacking. It is something that doesn't bother me and I even prefer it this way since I only use sidepockets to store my tentpoles and hikingpoles.

Now a couple of questions I have myself:
1) is the 3800 cu in the volume of the main compartment with or with the extension collar? There is some confusion on other GG packs whether their stated volumes include the extension collar. GG says they do, some users have clearly indicated that no way the main body of a Vapor Trail packs 3600 cu in and that 2600 - 2900 cu in is more realistic. Does this count for the Nimbus Meridian (and coming Meridian Vapour) also?
2)how hard would it be to add a front meshpocket or shockcord system to the pack? And how could this be done?

The pack certainly looks nice although I would have preferred a more basic design without full length zipper or convertible top pocket and with a shockcord or meshpocket at the front.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Answers to GG Nimbus Meridian Questions on 10/04/2006 06:55:06 MDT Print View

Hi Brett and Tom. Hey, you guys are really aestute! I will try to answer all 6 of your questions in order:
1) TOP POCKET ZIPPER FACING OUT - that is a unique feature, and you can argue its utility either way. With it facing out, it is now easier for your hiking buddy to get something out of the pocket for you, but you can no longer reach it yourself with the pack on.

2) STRAPS OVER SIDE POCKETS - yep, that can be an annoyance. I just left the lower compression straps loose, so it didn't bother me. However, you have to tighten them up for smaller loads, and then using the pockets is severely compromised.

3) STRAP LENGTH - all of the straps are extra long. Many users would probably want to shorten some of them.

4) PARTIAL LOAD CAPABILITY - I didn't test the pack with a partial load. The 4 side compression straps should reduce the volume a lot. It would be nice if GG reversed the gender of the buckles on one side so the straps can connect to the opposite side and provide straightjacket compression.

5) PACK VOLUME - I don't have any way to measure it, but my opinion is that the 3800 ci is the main compartment exclusive of the extension collar. The NM is the same size pack as an Osprey Aether 60.

6) ADDING A MESH POCKET OR BUNGEE SYSTEM TO THE FRONT - I'm sure you can rig up something that is detachable, but adding a permanent pocket to the front would interfere a lot with other pack features. That would include the front zipper and cradle to attach gear to the front. If you want that feature, I suggest looking at the ULA Catalyst or Circuit.

I hope this helps to answer your questions. Best, Will.

Edited by WilliWabbit on 10/04/2006 07:03:28 MDT.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW on 10/04/2006 08:53:19 MDT Print View

Thanks Will,
that's a quick response. I was actually thinking of rigging a bungee system underneath the compression straps in a way that it can be used without interfering with those straps. Not being able to use the access zipper is not such a problem for me since I probably wouldn't use it. I guess what you're telling us also counts for the Meridian Vapour since it seems to be just the smaller version of the Nimbus Meridian with the backsystem of the Vapour Trail.

Anyway, taking use of the occasion, are there any plans to review the ULA Catalyst and/or GG Meridian Vapour? Both my wife and I are looking for a new internal framed pack for the long haul and I have a great difficulty in finding a pack that is light enough and fits at the same time(living in Europe can be a real nuissance if I look at the choice you guys have). Osprey Aether 60 is no longer an option since it doesn't fit us ans it's a bit heavy now. Now I've got 3 packs on my shortlist:
1) Nimbus Meridian (review helps a lot)
2) Meridian Vapor
3) ULA Catalyst

Reviews of these last 2 with lots of pictures would be very usefull :-)

BTW, just an idea but comparing the size of a reviewed pack with e.g. an Osprey aether 60 is a usefull feature (at least for me) since this pack can be more easily found and makes it easier to compare e.g. by showing a picure of both of them with the same load next to eachother. Personally, I prefer to put as much of my stuff inside to get a more compact profile. At this moment it's hard for me to find out if e.g. the ULA Catalyst is large enough for me if I use it like in the previous sentence and without using the full capacity of the mesh pockets.

Edited by Woubeir on 10/04/2006 08:55:48 MDT.

james clark

Locale: Southern California
Bear Canister compatability on 10/04/2006 17:34:20 MDT Print View

Does a bear canister fit sideways within the GG Nimbus Meridian?

In rsponse to Tom Van Wauive's question about the usable volume of the ULA Catalist: I just completed a 25 day Sierra trip with the Catalist. I was able to carry up to fifty pounds and all of my gear, including a bear canister, with very little difficulty utilizing part of the packs top extension.

Marius Bunes
(marius) - F
Alternative pack on 10/04/2006 22:50:48 MDT Print View

Hello Will Rietveld,
I've got another alternative pack in this weight/volume category:
Bergans Helium 55l.
It's a lightweight pack that now weighs 1,1kg (mfg wt). An early version is posted in the gear guide, with a weight of 1,65kg, same volume. Check it out at

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack REVIEW - ULA Catalyst sidenote on 10/05/2006 05:12:13 MDT Print View

how much of your gear did you have to pack in the mesh pockets? I prefer not to store anything in the sidepockets (except poles that is) and could perhaps store my raingear and windshell/softshell in the frontpocket but prefer to put the rest inside the pack. What kind of shelter/sleeping bag/cooking gear did you use?
I currently still carry half of an older 7 lbs. TNF Harriertent(which I want to replace as quickly as I can) and a Primus Gravity stove nested inside a 1,5L MSR Duralite (planning to change to new Primus Etapower pot).

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Bergans on 10/05/2006 16:13:42 MDT Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 08:52:21 MDT.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
More responses to Nimbus Meridian questions on 10/05/2006 16:25:02 MDT Print View

Hi all, my responses to your additional questions:
Tom: We don't have any immediate plans to review the Meridian Vapor and ULA Catalyst. Too many packs, too little time...

James: Yes, a bear canister will fit sideways in the NM.

Marius: The Bergans Helium 55L looks interesting and is definitely light.

What we need is an editor who tests only lightweight internal frame packs. They are really neat packs, and there seems to be a lot of interest in that area, but we can only manage to review a few of them.

Best, Will

Dave Master
(dave_master_edu) - M
Availability on 10/05/2006 23:58:58 MDT Print View

Is this pack available? The article mentions "Sept. 2006", yet I haven't found anyone that carries it. Thanx

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Availability on 10/06/2006 09:21:33 MDT Print View

james clark

Locale: Southern California
Response to ULA Catalyst question on 10/09/2006 14:28:08 MDT Print View

Tom Van Wauive: All my gear fit inside the Catalyst. I sometimes used the pockets for rain gear but didnt need to. I carried a Tarptent, overstuffed Western Mountaineering Alpinlite sleeping bag, Bearvalt canister, .9 ltr Ti evernew pot, Esbit stove and Ti windscreen. A word of caution about using the Catalyst. One can, and I did, damage the bottom of the pack where the stiffening rods are by sitting on one to many rocks and not getting up properly. Having said this, the stays remained in the pack and functioned for a week after I damaged the pack. The fault was mine, not the gear. I intend to repair the pack next month and continue to us it as my number one pack. Also, it is important to load this pack so that things can not poke you in the back as you move down the trail. JWFC..........

Bill B
(bill123) - MLife
Load Carrying Capacity on 12/15/2006 17:56:15 MST Print View

You rate the Nimbus Meridian at a 35lb carrying capacity, but the Nimbus Latitude and Ozone are rated at 40lbs. What makes the difference?

James Nelson
(bigmuddy) - F

Locale: Midwest
Hose port on 03/22/2007 07:57:37 MDT Print View

The one complaint I have is that the hose port for a water bladder, if you choose to carry it inside the pack, is too small for most bite valves to fit through. I had, with a tear in my eye, do some surgery to get it to work. Now I have a nice open hole in the top of my pack, such is life.

(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
Nimbus Meridian as a ski touring pack? on 01/22/2009 20:36:56 MST Print View

Can anyone comment on the Nimbus Meridian as a ski touring pack?