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Granite Gear Wisp Backpack REVIEW

Technical day pack that keeps loads close (SUL'ers take note: you might be able to eke an overnight out this one...).


by Will Rietveld | 2005-06-28 03:00:00-06


Granite Gear Wisp Pack - 1
The Wisp fully loaded (except the top pocket), with a fleece jacket stuffed in the "helmet flap." It has five compression straps to adjust pack volume for different size loads.

The Granite Gear Wisp backpack is a lightweight, versatile technical day pack that is right-sized for many outdoor activities. It has a great shoulder harness and hipbelt with lots of adjustment and a good fit, as we would expect from Granite Gear. The pack fit snug to my body and carried all the gear I needed for day activities. A flap on the front of the pack is designed to carry a helmet, but can be used to carry a variety of other items, even snowshoes or crampons if the talons are padded. The Wisp has enough volume and carry capacity to use for ultralight backpacking. This pack relies on using a hydration system for water delivery - there are no outside mesh pockets to hold water bottles or assorted gear items. A top pocket over the drawstring closure and two hipbelt pockets provide some outside storage, but not enough. The hipbelt pockets are so tight that it is an effort to insert an energy bar, so some serious enlargement is needed. Overall, the Wisp is lightweight yet sturdy, and very versatile. With a few improvements to the outside pockets, it would be one of our favorites.

In Brief

  • Lightweight (1.5 pounds) 2,000 cubic inch technical day pack
  • Comfortable shoulder harness and hipbelt, with lots of adjustment
  • Very versatile and right-sized for numerous activities
  • Fits well and comfortably carries 20 pounds
  • Excellent load volume control
  • Hydration bladder only; no water bottle pockets
  • Hipbelt pockets need to be larger, and outside mesh pockets added


• Backpack Style

Frameless, top loading technical day pack

• Fabric Description

Bottom, front, and reinforcements are high tenacity 210d Cordura, 6.4 oz/yd2 (216 g/m2); pack body is high tenacity 70d Cordura Hybrid Silnylon (it's called "hybrid" because the fabric is both silicone impregnated and has a urethane coating), 2.4 oz/yd2 (81 g/m2)

• Sizes

One size fits torsos 18-22 in (46-56 cm)

• Volume

2000 ci (32.8 L)

• Weight

Bacpacking Light measured weight 1 lb 7.9 oz (0.68 kg); manufacturer specification 1 lb 8 oz (0.68 kg)

• Volume to Weight Ratio

83.7 ci/oz (based on 2000 ci for size regular, and Backpacking Light measured weight of 23.9 oz)

• Load Carrying Capacity

20 lb (9 kg) comfortable carrying capacity as determined by Backpacking Light; 25 lb (11 kg) comfortable carrying capacity claimed by manufacturer

• Carry Load to Pack Weight Performance Ratio

13.4 (based on 20 lb load capacity and Backpacking Light measured weight of 23.9 oz)

• Model Year



$90 US

Frame, Suspension, and Pack Load Carrying Performance

Granite Gear Wisp Pack - 2
The Wisp adjusts to fit 18-22 inch torso lengths by positioning the hipbelt, then adjusting the shoulder strap length, sternum strap, and load adjustors to a comfortable fit. All straps are plenty long to adjust the pack to a wide range of body proportions. The camera case shown is not a part of the pack.

The Granite Gear Wisp is a frameless technical day pack. It achieves a "virtual frame" when the fully expanded pack is tightened with five compression straps (two connected to the top of the helmet sleeve, two on the lower pack body, and one over the top). A filled 2-liter water bladder in the vertical hydration sleeve also adds some rigidity. The suspension consists of padded shoulder straps with load adjustor straps, a sternum strap, and a padded hipbelt.

At first glance the Granite Gear Wisp seems small, but it has the capacity and adjustability to swallow a lot of gear. I tested the Wisp with carry loads up to 26 pounds, and determined its maximum comfortable carry load capacity (for me) is 20 pounds, which is lower than the manufacturer's claimed load capacity of 25 pounds. Above about 20 pounds, the virtual frame collapsed and put too much weight on my shoulders. The loaded pack adjusted to fit snugly to my back, giving good stability and low center of gravity.

Usable Features and Ease of Use

Granite Gear calls the flap on the front of the pack a "helmet carrying flap." It is faced with a fine stretchy mesh and is open on the sides. It can just as easily be used to carry a shovel, snowshoes or crampons (with cleat protection), a jacket, or a stuff sack full of assorted gear. Compression straps at the top allow it to be tightly secured to the pack.

The Granite Gear Wisp internal zippered hydration sleeve is located vertically against the backpanel. The sleeve also contains a thin foam back pad. A 2-liter bladder fits in the sleeve, but it is cumbersome to insert without wadding the back pad. The back pad can easily be removed to eliminate this problem and save a little weight (0.9 ounce). A full water bladder makes the backpanel more rounded and extends the pack's center of gravity away from the body. There are no water bottle pockets or holders on this pack, so a hydration bladder is the only choice other than a hipbelt-mounted bottle sleeve.

The main compartment has a 7.5-inch extension collar with a drawstring closure. It is covered with a flat top pocket connected by two side-release buckles. When completely full, the pack is about 23 inches high, 12 inches wide, and 9 inches thick. It easily compresses down to accommodate smaller volume loads.

Granite Gear Wisp Pack - 3
Unfortunately, the hipbelt pockets are very shallow and tight, and will not accommodate more than an energy bar in each one. It would be wonderful if they were large enough to hold a digital camera and other assorted small items.

There are three outside pockets: a flat 10 inch by 10 inch top pocket, and two flat 6-inch hipbelt pockets. All have water-resistant zippers. There are two short daisy chains on the helmet sleeve and two webbing loops on the bottom corners.

I found the Wisp to be a very versatile pack and used it frequently for day hiking, trail running, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing. It is right-sized to carry the needed gear for these activities, along with plenty of warm clothing. While trail running, the Wisp stuck to my body. The Wisp has enough weight and volume carrying capacity for an overnight or weekend trip using ultralight gear.


The Granite Gear Wisp is constructed of lightweight durable fabrics, with heavier fabrics in all wear areas. All of the webbing straps are 0.75-inch wide, and all stress points are reinforced with heavy bar tacking. Most seams are double stitched, with the raw edges covered with a seam binding. The Wisp is solidly constructed and built to last. It is durable enough for bushwhacking and scrambling, but don't scrape it too hard against the granite!


The Wisp is a solidly constructed versatile pack. If fits well and comfortably carries a decent load. With an MSRP of $90, the Wisp is fairly priced.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • Add mesh water bottle pockets to the sides of the pack.
  • Enlarge the hipbelt pockets to make them more useful.
  • Add some depth to the top pocket to give it more capacity.


"Granite Gear Wisp Backpack REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2005-06-28 03:00:00-06.