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Granite Gear Vapor Trail

in Backpacks - Internal Frame

Average Rating
4.19 / 5 (21 reviews)

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Mark Verber
( verber )

San Francisco Bay Area
Granite Gear Vapor Trail on 08/02/2005 08:38:15 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

Good weight / carry ability ratio. Super comfortable carry for loads less than 25lbs and comfortable with 25-35 lbs. Not the most convenient due to oversize extension collar is side pocket design. Material won't stand up to climbing... but there is now a slight heavier and more durable Alpine Vapor.

Price comparison from GearBuyer: Granite Gear Alpine Vapor priced at: $151.98
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Stephen Parmenter
( parmens )

Granite Gear Vapor Trail on 08/02/2005 17:32:35 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

Great capacity for a 2 lb pack. Easily the most comfortable pack that I have carried up to around 30 lbs. The side pockets are too tight and small to be very functional.

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Daniel Schmidt
( dschmidt )
vapor trail on 08/08/2005 10:49:31 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

First off, this pack weighs two pounds but is infinitely more comfortable than any 1 lb pack.
I found it to be very comfortable up to 20 lbs for high mile days but still tolerable up to 30 lbs for shorter trips. Plenty of volume. Comfortable hip belt and back pad. The silnylon upper is a little fragile. Straps will loosen throughout day and need to be retightened. I sent my pack in with some rips and they quickly fixed them and returned the pack no questions, no charge.

Glenn Roberts
( garkjr )

Southwestern Ohio
Best lightweight internal frame pack on 08/08/2005 20:59:44 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I reluctantly gave this pack a 5 rating; it deserves a 10. This is, hands down, the best internal framed lightweight pack I've ever used. The best feature is the backpad: wide, thick, comfortable. Combined with a framesheet, but no stays, this pack is like putting on a favorite jacket. I've heard some complaints that the backpad makes the pack too hot, but I've never found it to be any warmer than any other pack (including the Atmos series) - but it may be that, in the Ohio Valley area where I hike, it just gets too hot and humid to sense any difference between packs. (They're all hot on your back in 90 degree temperatures with 80% humidity!)

The hipbelt is lightly padded, but just right. The suspension is solid and supportive. The pack has plenty of room (I never fill mine up) and the compression system (6 straps around the sides and two on top) do an unparalleled job of controlling a load, even as it shrinks from day to day on a long trip. I've heard others say they find the outside pockets to be skimpy or awkwardly placed; I like them just fine. I can't comment on the unique "internal-external" hydration sleeve, between the pad and the back wall of the pack, since I haven't become a "hoser" yet. I have used the internal hydration pouch once or twice to hold an extra two quarts of water I was carrying to an overnight camp, and that worked well. It kept the extra weight high and close to my back, for a well-balanced carry.

An unexpected bonus that helps lighten my load is that the large backpad doubles as a sleeping pad extender. I simply put my pack at the foot end of my three-quarter length Prolite 3 or Prolite 4 sleeping pad and have the same effect as a full-length pad without the extra weight. This also neatly solves the problem of where to store the pack when you're using a solo-sized tent.

I've never had any durability issues with my Vapor Trail. I don't treat it hard, but I don't baby it, either.

I've also tried the Vapor Trail's frameless cousin, the Virga. However, in cooler weather or longer trips, I have trouble holding my load below the 20-pound capacity of the Virga. The Vapor Trail's 30-pound capacity is just right for the 17 - 23 pound loads I usually carry (depending on weather and trip length), and leaves me a margin for comfortably carrying 2 or 3 extra quarts of water if I have to. Right now, I use the Vapor Trail about half the time, and am getting better (with a few new pieces of gear) at consistently staying under 20 pounds - so ultimately, I may use the Virga more. But that doesn't detract from the Vapor Trail at all.

I've loaded my own gear into a few other similar packs in the store: a Gregory G and Z pack, and an Osprey Atmos 50. All were fine packs, but I found nothing in them to justify their extra weight (nearly a pound) over the Vapor Trail. Also, none of these packs remotely approached the Vapor Trail for comfort (and good luck trying to use the Atmos 50 as a pad extender.)

By the way, I second the use of the GG collapsible bowl (see Don's review below.) It also comes in handy when the only water is a seep, or a creek too small for using the filter inlet hose.

Edited by garkjr on 01/31/2008 08:12:52 MST.

Price comparison from GearBuyer: Osprey Atmos 50 - Men's priced at: $110.00 - $199.99
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Don Sommer
( don_sommer )
Vapor Trail Added Versatility Options on 09/21/2005 10:24:22 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

At 2 lbs. this pack has no equal for carrying capacity and comfort. I have no problems with top loading my gear into one large sack. Everything fits easily inside. I use a moderate sized fanny pack for a lid which gives me a nice way to get to the small gear easily (first aid, snacks, windshell, etc.). The fanny pack has daisy loops on it and secures down very handily with the top straps of the Vapor Trail. I also have collapsible GG water bucket (5 oz), that I use when I pump water (I’m lazy, I’d rather sit on a rock or log than squat near a trickling stream). When I’m not using it as a bucket to filter water, it comes in very handy as an extra outside compartment for anything I want to quickly access. It also ties nicely to the outside of the pack. I also like strapping my water bladder to the side of the pack, as it’s no hassle to carry and is very accessible when I need to refill it. Even though I’m adding those forbidden ounces to my load, for the versatility I get by using the fanny pack (for summiting, day hikes from base camp, etc) and having a bucket for odd jobs (pumping water, stowing gear, etc), and the extra easy access to trail stuff, I can’t find another pack that’s as easy to carry and as comfortable as the Vapor Trail. I also use it as an extension pad (under my legs) to supplement my torso pad. It’s a great system, and very user friendly.

Chad McClenathen
( cmcclenathen )
Great pack on 05/14/2006 09:38:00 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

An extremely comfortable and well designed pack. Started trip with 31 pounds and finished with approximately 25. The pack handled the loads easily and was so comfortable I honestly forgot it was there the vast majority of time. Outside access to water bladder makes refilling water a breeze, even in rain. I used the Granite gear lid and recommend it for small items. Be careful not to tighten the lid down too much. If you do, the lid attachments pull over the load lifter buckles making the pack difficult to adjust once on. The lid doesn't move if tightened a moderate amount. The compression straps make the pack easy to adjust as the days go by. I stored various items in the two outside pockets and found them adequate, and suggest you load items before you load the main pack. Once loaded, you can access the pockets by loosening the compression straps. I could not access the outside pockets once the pack is on, which is fine. All in all, a great pack.

Price comparison from GearBuyer: Granite Gear The Lid priced at: $28.95
Al Clemens
( al )
Vapor Trail on 09/27/2006 20:57:39 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Great pack! It's a minimalist top loader, with 2 pockets on the sides, no compartments inside (more useful space) or top lid. The compression system is where it excels, making it super versatile in controlling a wide range of load volume and weight. On a recent trip to Gannett Peak in the Winds I ran it as high #33 starting the 6 day trip, then around #10 for the daytrip away from camp bagging the peak. Some of the best padded hip belt and shoulder straps in it's weight class, combined with the compression system gives it excellent carrying comfort.

With the poorly placed lower compression straps and tight fabric, the side pockets are fine for energy bars, but useless for holding large items that you need to access regularly on the fly like water bottles. If you're a hydration pack user this is a moot point, the sleeve between the back pad and framesheet allows you to move a hydration pack in and out without opening the pack. Putting a hydration bladder in this slot gives the pack additonal virtual frame, as well as keeping the water weight as close to the body as possible for optimal balance. The straps on back come in handy for cinching down my bulky Ridgerest.

In the year and a half I've owned it, I've had one minor issue with a 1" rip in the seam between the extension collar and main body of the pack. Other than that, it's been tolerant of of a fair amount of off trail bushwacking on fishing trips and rock scrambles while peak bagging.

Due to it's minimalist nature and marginal access to side pockets, this pack obviously won't suit everybody's style. It suits me ideally, doubling as a day pack, as I frequently make all day trips away from camp carrying more gear than a top lid or small additional pack could.

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Elliott Wolin
( ewolin )

Hampton Roads, Virginia
Worked great for us on 10/30/2006 10:58:27 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

My son used this pack on a two week trek, max load 25 lbs, and was very happy. His only complaint was that it needed more outside pockets...perhaps I'll make a lid. Anyway he said it was very comfortable, rode well, and never gave him any problems.

Patrick Young
( lightingboy )

Great choice for a 1st time lightweight pack on 11/15/2006 13:03:20 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

This is my first ultra light/light weight pack. I came from an Arcteryx Bora 80 (8lbs.) and 4800 cu. My last trip in the Grand Canyon with that pack it weighed 46lbs.
By switching to the Vapor Trail (large) I lost 6lbs.and 900cu. from my back. I don't miss the space since I pack more conservativley now. My pack weight was 32lbs. on my trip in the Smokies.
I found the framesheet and padding more than adequate, in fact very comfortable. I wasn't ready to make the trasition to a frameless ruck and I think this packs volume, carrying capacity and weight is an excellent transitional pack. The shoulder straps are also very comfotable.
The only downside is the side pockets which are relegated to tent poles or other items that aren't needed immediately. I don't use them for water so it's not an issue(use a platypus res.) The compression is also great.
I did have to relearn how to pack since I came from a toploader/panelloader with a sleepingbag compartment. I look forward to several years of good use till I transition lighter.
I actually think it's a 4.75 rating because of the pockets.

Edited by lightingboy on 01/04/2007 17:22:27 MST.

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Craig Shelley
( craig_shelley )

Rocky Mountains
My favorite pack overall on 11/18/2006 22:26:41 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I've bought quite a few packs (frameless and internal frame) during the last two years. The Vapor trail is still my favorite. The weight for the Large is 1102 grams (quite a bit over the 2 lbs stated above) but still reasonable. I picked mine up cheap on eBay. They are frequently available there. I've been doing quite a bit of canyoneering and climbing with this pack in addition to pure backpacking trips over the last year and it is starting to show significant wear. But, it is quite durable compared to other packs I've purchased. I normally backpack in a wilderness off trail so I can be hard on packs too.

With regard to the side pockets, I find they are plenty big to keep all the items that I want to access quickly. I also like the compression strap at the top of the pocket. This way the pocket is closed at the top with the compression strap. Because I travel off trail I'm bending and twisting, etc. with the pack on. I don't loose items by having them fall out of the side pockets with this pack.

I also like the hydration pocket outside of the main pack compartment.

It's a great pack overall. If I could have just one of my many packs, this would definitely be my choice for comfort, durability, and value.

Brett Tucker
( blister-free )

Puertecito ruins
Carries well, but doesn't fly on 11/19/2006 10:37:30 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 3 / 5

This one doesn't quite reach cruising altitude for me.

To begin with, the Vapor Trail's extension collar is unfathomably tall, and doesn't lend much functionality to this pack, but serves primarily as sufficient extra fabric for a roll-down, drybag-style lid design. Never mind that a drybag design is - like all lid designs - of subjective and primarily aesthetic value.

The pack is marketed heavily toward AT thru-hikers, but is so devoid of organizational ability that I imagine many of them spend more time rummaging for misplaced gear than actually walking. For the weight and complexity of the three-webbing compression system along the front, a large external mesh pocket with elastic compression would be infinitely handier for hikers. (This silicone-nylon pack is intended for hikers, right?)

Of greater merit is the pack's suspension. Although the padded back panel is thick enough to double as a flotation device, I'm convinced Granite Gear is on to something here. Polyethylene frame sheets don't really match the shape of the human spine very well, but tend to contort under a load, leaving various gaps between the pack and wearer's back which can cause discomfort and set the stage for an injury. But mate a thick layer of cushy foam to the frame sheet and you've got - not ostentatious luxury - but something for your back's pressure points to sink into. Compress the load against your back, and behold - no irksome gaps or associated imbalances. Nicely done, and no matter that the frame sheet's shape isn't customizable.

Oh, one more thing. The size large harness is HUGE! This size offers good vertical length for tall hikers, but emaciated thru-hiker types are likely to be swallowed whole by the shoulder straps and hipbelt. I'm 6'3" - 190 lbs outside of fighting weight - and still manage to nearly run out the webbing on this harness. I should note that GG is a pleasure to talk to, and a size medium hipbelt was dispatched promptly upon request. But the lower end of the shoulder straps still run well behind my pits. I'm not even sure where they end, or who they're supporting back there.

Sometimes even three sizes don't fit all.

Edited by blister-free on 11/19/2006 18:15:18 MST.

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John Williams
( lamphead )

Southeastern US
Excellent Pack on 02/08/2007 22:44:36 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I carried the Vapor Trail 2174 miles this year on the AT. Here are my impressions:

First of all, the pack is incredibly comfortable. There did seem to be a point at which the pack was noticeably less comfortable (for me around 30 pounds) but great below that. The hipbelt was ample, back padding great and the shoulder straps comfortable enough. The load lifters don't do a lot but they are enough to shift the load. As far as fit, I used the large size (which I felt fit great - even for us emaciated thru hiker types) - I am 6'1" and 175 pounds.

As far as organization, my feelings are that the organization is the product of your experience. If you watch hikers, the number of external pockets are in inverse proportion to experience level (more experienced folks don't need them, want the extra weight and don't like the fact that you can't compress outside pockets.

A few reviewers knocked the spandex pockets on the outside of the pack. I can stuff a rain jacket and pack cover in one and have my fuel bottle, hat/gloves etc in the other. You don't really need a whole lot else in the outer pockets anyway. I got the accessory pocket that goes on the hipbelt as well for my camera and snacks.

Durability wise, you can't beat this pack. Mine still looks pretty new - even after 5.5 months on the trail.

I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone wanting a light pack without going to a cut down or non-existent hipbelt type pack. For two pounds, you just can't beat it!

John Williams

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David Thul
( thuldj )

Rocky Mountains
Love It on 03/21/2007 23:29:27 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

This is my go to pack when my Arc-teryx RT-35 can't hold all of my gear. I was sure I would never find anything as comfortable as the A-RT-35 but this pack certainly is. The foam back is supple and not overly hot in the summer.

I love the external sleeve for hydration, it makes things very easy. I cured the compression strap/pocket problem by simply cutting slits in the pocket fabric near the edges so the strap would run along the pack body underneath the elastic material, then singed them with a lighter and stitched them up like button holes. It works great! My tent poles are held directly against the pack side with room for a fuel bottle and sunscreen and anything else I may want to stuff in there. For me, this works great. I think I might also add a small patch of stronger fabric on the back center panel just above the ice axe loops, I tend to lay my pack on the ground in this spot and it has seen a little abrasion but has held up better than I thought it would.

My base pack load is usually 21 lbs with water and fuel and camera equipment, but without food so I usually come in just around the 30lb recommended weight, and even when "overweight" it is still a dream to wear (I tend to carry more than my share of the load when backpacking because I live at 9,500 ft and all my partners tell me "I have the advantage")


Steve .
( pappekak )

Inaccurate Waist Sizes on 05/09/2007 09:43:41 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 3 / 5

Overall a nice pack with the exception of the huge extension collar and the fact that the Men's Medium waist belt length significantly differs from what Granite Gear says it is.

Granite Gear specifies on their website that a Men's Medium waist belt works for a hip size of 30" - 34".

Below is a picture of a Men's Medium waist belt cinched to the minimum setting, which should work for hip size of 30" according to Granite Gear.

Note that the waist belt is around 34" long to the buckle stop. So the waist belt will accommodate size 34" and up.


Scenario for someone with a 33" waist:
1. buy pack
2. send Granite Gear waist belt
3. pay $8 exchange fee + shipping
4. wait 2-3 weeks after GG receives belt for processing.

I rate this pack a 3 only because the pack is confortable if you exchange waist belts.

5 - Highly Recommended
4 - Recommended
3 - Above Average
2 - Average
1 - Below Average

Edited by pappekak on 05/09/2007 09:48:15 MDT.

William Siemens
( alaskaman )
useless load lifters on 05/09/2007 18:08:56 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 3 / 5

I must bow to the enthusiastic acclaim for this pack - obviously its the complete answer for some. I find it frustrating. True, the shoulder straps are very well designed and comfortable. Nevertheless, I would like to transfer more of the weight to the comfy hip belt. But because the anchoring points of the load lifters are so low, you can't really do that. If you loosen the shoulder straps to put more of the weight on the hipbelt, the pack just moves away from your body, even with the load lifter straps fully tightened. If you have the extension collar really jam-packed, it helps to some extent. But I don't always have that much in there - and also there are no compression straps for the sleeve. I've tried to put more ridgid things in there, but other than the tarptent with its poles, I don't have much. So the stupid extension collar just moves toward the back of my head. I'm considering putting some sort of light wood slats or something in there, to stiffen the part above the framesheet. But right now, it is a pack unable to get much use out of the hipbelt. Might as well just use a really light pack, if all you're going to do is carry the weight on the shoulders. For that, the Vapor Trail is a pretty heavy pack.

Michele Mason
( bianchilvr )
GG Vapor Trail on 05/27/2007 18:22:41 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

Purchased in 2004
Size Small
Weight 2 pounds 2 oz

I have cut off excess straps, axe loops, etc, and this pack still weighs several ounces heavier than advertised. My pack was manufactured before these came with a hydration reservoir. I have taken this pack on multiple backpacking trips for nearly 3 years. The only time I don't use it is in winter, when I have too much gear and food to carry comfortably in the vapor trail. It's comfort limit for me is about 25 pounds.

What I like

Light for an internal
Comfortable hip belt and shoulder straps
Nice subtle color

I don't like

Hip belt slips
Side pockets are tight
Useless straps on the outside; one above each pocket, and two on the rear; would be better served by bungee criss-crosses if not going the pocket route, as things slip out of the straps
No extra pocket to put wet tent in (again, tent slips out of the straps, so they are useless for much)
Heavier than advertised

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Jon Rhoderick
( hotrhoddudeguy - M )

New England
Great but you've heard the problems. on 07/26/2007 00:17:13 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I trimmed the straps and melted the edges, I've lost a hipbelt buckle (probably partly due to an over aggressive trim job, hope i don't bulk up) and it still weighs 34 ounces, 2 over what they say it is untrimmed, but I'm being pedantic. If you want the lightest of the light, get the mariposa for half the weight and worry about the pack every time you put it down on the rocks. But this is my pack, and I think it'll be hugging me at some of the greater achievements that I have dreaming in my head. Oh yea and the colors are nice and subtle.

One of the great things about the pack is that you can increase its versatility with MYOG or granite gear outside pockets. I plan on getting the lid and one big outside pocket to shove the wet tent and gear in, and then also planning on shortening that horse neck size of an extension collar with some resewing. And yea yea the water bottle pockets are constricted, but they aren't going to have you moaning when the twigs tear mesh pockets, and if you keep those straps undone, then they look pretty large and will gobble up a bottle and the slope of them protects anything from falling out (not small stuff, theres a drain hole at the bottom).

One thing that is great about the pack, is that it carries better the more you put in it, when I put a couple tee shirts and a toothbrush in for going somewhere in civilization I feel like im carrying a featherweight version of a sack of potatoes, but with careful planning, its much more comfortable.

It will probably be my school pack next year, so if it can take that... then it will be an out and out 5 in my eyes.

Albert K.
( archer )

Northeastern U.S.
Returned It on 01/19/2008 13:45:58 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 2 / 5

I though this pack was OK for loads up to 23 lbs. Over that, the weak plastic frame sheet buckled.

At 30 lbs, I found it to be very uncomfortable.

I'm not sure why you would use a pack this big for short UL trips, and I didn't find it at all comfortable for my weeklong load, or even a weekend load with a bear canister for that matter.

The only real positives I saw were:
1. It has a nice compression system
2. It's light. The again, so is a plastic grocery sack.

David Chenault
( DaveC - M )

Crown of the Continent
Just simple enough, and versatile. on 12/06/2008 18:40:33 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I have an early Vapor Trail, '03 model I believe. Back when it only cost 100 bucks and didn't have the strange hydration port on the bottom of the extension sleeve.

Mine's been used periodically over the last four years for luxury overnights, winter short trips, and longer three-season outings. The majority of it's use was in the Grand Canyon on solo trips, and recently it's been resurrected as a ski pack.

The virtues are two-fold, the simple design, and the harness.

I find the straps to be exactly where they need to be, the side pockets useful for retaining poles of all sorts, and holding a map, snacks, and a camera accessibly. The extension collar is on the tall side, but it allows overstuffing of down parkas while still rolling a bit to stay weatherproof. I appreciate the total lack of zippers, though it is unforgiving for the organizationally deficient.

The harness system is just superlative. This is helped foremost by the fact that the medium size fits me perfectly; the load lifters are right in the right spot, etc. The shoulder straps are right where they should be, the hip belt canted properly. The foam used in my version (recent GG web photos look different) is cushy without being squishy, and holds up very well to prolonged use.

I like the adaptability of the pack. It cinches down well for small loads, and expands for huge ones. It does best with lots of light stuff (winter camping!) but I've used it to haul rock climbing gear around just fine. It carries skis very well indeed in the traditional A-frame style. The long skirt almost comes up to my waist, and could be handy in an emergency bivvy. Not that the pack's size would lend itself to not carrying a proper bivvy sack.

My only gripe is the fabric, and especially the lack of a double bottom. The nit-picking weight weanies may disagree, but my pack has numerous small abrasion holes patched with aquaseal and bits of ripstop, and I've like a fabric that's a bit more resistant. An upgrade to Dimension Polyant would be spectacular.

I give it a four because there are few things out there that really deserve a five. I've kept this pack in the quiver for 5 years now; 'nuf said.

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Juston Taul
( Junction )

Atlanta, GA
Not Bad... on 12/21/2009 11:52:08 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I chose this pack originally because I could get it from REI and knew I could return it if comfort or quality was an issue. I won't be returning it. I really enjoy this pack. I find it to work best when I keep overall weight below 25lbs. The extra thick pads are a dream. Quality of built seems top notch.

A few things I don't like. It's a little on the heavy side. I never weighed mine pre op... but they say 2lbs 5oz. The extension collar is too long for my use. I made it shorter. The side pockets become useless when synched down. There is a fix for that as well. I also removed the interior bladder sleeve that I don't use. Post op, after removing sleeves, and extension collars, and unbelievably long straps... I shaved off enough weight to make me happy. Lastly, the color. I hate the blue. I really really hate it. I haven't found a fix for it yet... black would be really nice.

After a little surgery, this pack has been great for me. It makes backpacking a pleasure again.

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