If you’ve purchased a backpack in the last three or four years, you probably have a very good pack. Even budget packs are better than most top of the line packs were 15 years ago. Unless you’re radically switching packing strategies from ultralight to kitchen sink or vice versa, there’s not much reason to think about upgrading.
The Granite Gear Blaze 60 though might be an exception.
I’ve been testing the pack for a couple months now, on many day hikes loaded with, well, anything I could cram in the pack to gauge its weight-hauling, and, finally on a couple overnighters including a recent butt-kicker in the Sierra that saw 13 mile days and lots of elevation gain.
This is the most well-rounded and versatile pack I’ve used in recent memory, one that deserves a serious look from anyone dipping a toe into new backpack land.
At first, the pack doesn’t look a whole lot different than GG’s flagship Crown2, a lightweight pack that we love and have previously recommended. But the Blaze is a more robust pack with a few hidden tricks that very quickly earned the top spot in my gear closet.
My Blaze (size long) weighs 3.1 pounds, nearly a pound more than the comparably sized Crown2, but that extra weight is more than made up for by the load-hauling this pack provides. I hiked two full days, roughly nine miles each, through Maric Country trails with 55 pounds loaded into the pack, not including water bottles. Though I did experience some minor creaking in the frame on the second day, the pack never felt overloaded, the weight stayed centered, and the load balanced perfectly by the thick, padded hipbelt.
GG packs tend to carry a bit higher on the back and this is a godsend when it comes to balancing a heavy load, at least for me. The Blaze centered its weight over my iliac crest (the tops of the hip bones) naturally and easily, and better than any pack I’ve ever worn. That is, I think partially due to the engineering of the pack, but also because the torso length is easily adjustable. Slots in the top section of the plastic framesheet (not removable) allow for easy movement of the shoulder straps up or down to suit your body shape.
This, combined with GG’s excellent ReFit hipbelt system, that allows the user to remove the belt and adjust the length quickly and easily, makes for the best carrying pack on the market. It carries weight more effectively than some burly framed Mystery Ranch packs I’ve used.
That’s the important stuff, but this pack has two very cool tricks up its sleeve that make it versatile and worth considering even in a sea of great packs. First, it has a relatively standard drawstring opening at the top that will swallow a car, but hidden along the front of the pack is a big vertical zipper that lets you get at the contents without digging from above. All packs should have this, I’ve been screaming from the rooftops about it for years.
Then, there’s the miracle floating lid. Like many lightweight packs, the top lid unclips if you don’t want to use it. Unlike any other pack I’ve used, the lid can be attached to the front of the shoulder straps to use as a chest pack to balance weight in a unique setup. I’d never thought about wanting this in a pack before, but it’s awesome once you get used to it.
Second, the lid attaches easily to the removed hipbelt and makes a big roomy fanny pack that’s so comfortable I may use it as a standalone fanny pack. This is a far easier system than top lids that turn into mini-backpacks. On my most recent multi-day trip once I made camp I popped the lid off, made it into a fanny pack, and hiked a couple miles up a stream to fly fish.
Everything else is standard. Big roomy water bottle pockets, a stretchy pocket running the front of the pack, a whistle on the chest strap. The ripstop outer material is much tougher than that used in the Crown2, and gives the pack a durable, four-season feel. Even though it weighs just three pounds.
This is my new go-to pack. I imagine it will be for a decade. It’s that good.
$270 • BUY
More packs we gush over
The Osprey Aether 60 weighs a full two pounds more than the GG Blaze, but carries weight similarly well and boasts a terrific floating lid that becomes a backpack. $290
The GG Crown2 is much lighter and a bit less expensive than the Blaze and is also a terrific pack. $200
Wanna be the coolest kid on the trail? ULA packs are legendary for their quality and their thru-hiker following. The Circuit is their mid-tier all-rounder. $255