I believe I have used this backpack enough to finally write a decent review for other gearacholics to read. I bought this backpack in September of 2011 and used it exactly two times before I had to have surgery on my leg and knee. There were few months delay of not using this pack as I recover from surgery. I have since recovered and gotten some more use out of it in several different seasons and trip styles. Disclaimer: I have used two other packs prior to purchasing this, so I do not have a lot of experiences to compare this pack to others.
The picture above was the first time I used this pack on a trip. It was a weekend trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October, and I loaded it with 28 pounds for three days. In comparison to the Kelty backpack that I used prior to this, this pack is very comfortable and fits my torso really well. I had the hip belt and should straps swapped (it was originally a woman’s model) at the store to fit me better. It’s extremely important that the pack fits you perfectly. No one’s body is the same. This pack may fit me well but to someone else it will not, therefore, it’s comfortable on me and the worst pack ever for someone else. The store I purchased it from added weight to the pack and let me walk around the store to see how it felt on me before I bought it. I bought it and was ready go backpacking.
With 28 pounds to haul, I had no shoulder soreness by the end of the trip that was related to the pack. I woke up with stiff left shoulder which I placed the blame on my sleep pad. Granite Gear claimed the maximum comfortable load for this pack is 35 pounds. The problem is, I don’t have 35 pounds worth of needs to carry on weekend trips. I really bought this pack for simplicity. It’s lightweight (2.14 pounds) and doesn’t have zippers. It’s just has one giant black hole that serves as the main compartment to stuffing your gears in. You may be wondering how gears stay organized like this, I use a lot of stuff sacks. Using stuff sacks as the organizers, all my gears are neatly stacked in the hole. I pack my sleeping bag at the bottom, then pad and shelter. On top of that I put my extra clothes if I have any, then food. Food is packed last in-case I need a snack break I won’t have to dig through the pack for it. On the outside, the pack has two stretchy side pockets that I use for my water bottle, water filter, and map. It also has a long pocket that goes the length of the pack. This pocket has small items in it, as well as my rain-fly for the pack and sometimes there be a wet tarp in it, or protein bars. This organization system seems to work for me but may not work for others. If you need a lot of pockets in addition to the main compartment, this pack is not for you. If you can live with my organization system, this pack is solid for you bearing it feels comfortable on you. You will noticed in the picture above, there are cords running across the pack. These cords are the pack’s compression system. If you have less gears you can tighten them to shrink the pack and vice versa.
I do have a major gripe with this pack, lack of lid. You will noticed in the picture there is no top lid. Granite Gear sells it as an accessory for $40 at retail. I hate this marketing move. I feel Granite Gear should have sold the pack with a lid and give people the choice to remove or include it base on trip. When this pack first came out, it was retailed at $200, I got it $10 less. A few months later Granite Gear introduced two more packs and those packs were retailed at $200. They Increased the Blaze to $229 and you would think for the price the freaking lid should have came with it! Mountain Hardwear makes a pack cheaper than this with a lid that is removable. Fortunately for Granite Gear, the store I was buying this pack from didn’t have that model, so I couldn’t try it on to see how it fitted me. On my weekend trips I could have used the lid for map storage, snack items, my keys, and id. If you are the kind of person that likes to carry a water bladder, this pack is probably not for you either. They added a pocket inside the main compartment to add a water bladder. The bladder I have does not really fit in that pocket. It not a very big, and when I open it I can barely get my hand inside the pocket. It’s not a major issue with me since I carry a water bottle, so beware of this if you’re the person that has to have a bladder or need it to carry a lot of water in places where water source is limited.
The bottom line is, if you need a simple-lightweight-no nonsense-pack, this is the one for you. If you need a feature loaded pack such as integrated rain-fly, top lid, various of small pockets, etc., this pack will not make the cut on your list. Looking back, I do love this pack and have no intention of getting rid of it. It’s lightweight, comfortable, simple, and I really like my organization and packing techniques for this pack. I wish I had the lid, although. I just have not gotten around to paying $40 for it. I might have liked a integrated rain-fly since I always put one over the pack when hanging it on the bear cable in the Smokies. I will not be purchasing Granite Gear’s rain-fly due to the price when I can make one cheaper and just as light. Also, if you’re a fashion person, the color scheme for this pack might be kind of wacky taste for you. Ha!
Thanks for reading.