Granite Gear Blaze 60
Weight: 3 lbs. (women's regular)
Fabric: Robic nylon (100D & 210D)
What we like: Excellent mix of carrying comfort, organization, and weight.
What we don’t: Limited back ventilation; takes time to dial in the fit.
See the Granite Gear Blaze 60 See the Women's Blaze 60
Effectively balancing weight, features, and carrying comfort is a tall order, but Granite Gear’s Blaze 60 pack manages to do so with very few compromises. We took the recently updated women’s Blaze on a 35-mile backpacking trip along the Grand Canyon’s challenging Escalante Route and were impressed by its overall performance. Not only is the design exceptionally comfortable, adjustable, and fully featured, but it accomplishes this in a lightweight 3-pound package. Below we break down the Blaze’s carrying comfort, weight, organization, ventilation, durability, fit and sizing, and more. To see how the Blaze stacks up, see our article on the best backpacking packs.
Despite its decently lightweight build, the Granite Gear Blaze 60 is exceptionally comfortable. I’ll start off by admitting that I was initially concerned when I took the Blaze out of its packaging. My pack for the past few years has been the Osprey Aura 65, and I'm used to its heavily cushioned and supremely comfortable feel. And given the Blaze's flimsier-looking shoulder and hipbelt straps, it seemed unlikely that it could compete. But after some struggling with the torso and waist belt adjustability (more in “Fit and Sizing” below), I found a good fit. And even loaded down with four days’ worth of food, gear, extra layers, and a few liters of water, the pack carried surprisingly well. I didn’t experience any pressure points, never felt off-balance, and its padding comfortably hauled upwards of 35-40 pounds for multiple 10-mile days (the Blaze is rated for 50 pounds).
The Blaze 60 has a few components that can be removed to save weight and create a more streamlined pack, but take note that this might have an impact on carrying comfort. Starting at the top of the pack, the lid can be stripped entirely—a cinch-and-roll closure with cross webbing secures the top in its absence. The pack’s sternum strap can also be taken off, as well as the entire hipbelt with two attached pockets. While I can envision removing the top lid on short backpacking outings, I plan to continue using the pack’s full feature set on most trips given that it’s still impressively lightweight.
At 3 pounds for the women’s “regular” size that we tested, the Granite Gear Blaze 60 is right in line with the rest of its competition. True ultralight packs like the Zpacks Arc Blast 55 (1 pound 4.6 ounces) and Granite Gear’s own Crown2 60 (2 pounds 5.8 ounces) shave significant weight, but they come with notable compromises including reduced carrying comfort and durability. Better comparisons include the Osprey Eja 58 (2 pounds 8.5 ounces) and Gregory Maven 55 (3 pounds 5.9 ounces), although we still think the Blaze is the best all-rounder of the bunch. You can go heavier with the 4-pound-5.4-ounce Osprey Aura AG 65, but whether it’s worth shouldering the extra weight comes down to priorities (the Aura wins in ventilation and a glove-like fit, but the Blaze doesn't sacrifice much in organization or hauling capabilities). All told, the Blaze undercuts most similarly featured packs by a pound or more, which is a truly impressive feat.
Granite Gear thought of just about everything when it comes to organization with the Blaze, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a pack that executes it better at this weight. With a total of six external pockets including one on the top lid, two massive side pockets, a front mesh pocket, and two large hipbelt pockets, I had no trouble fitting my crucial gear in easy-to-reach spots. The top lid can be removed entirely or worn as a chest pack, the hipbelt pockets easily swallow my plus-sized smartphone, and the mesh pockets at the sides can each stow two 32-ounce water bottles (I stuffed a Nalgene and my Sea to Summit Comfort Light sleeping pad into one pocket with room to spare). The pack also features a standard hydration sleeve and port.
The main compartment can also be accessed via a hidden front zipper along the side of the mesh pocket—an incredibly convenient feature that we love to see on packs. This was especially helpful when we reached camp each night, as I could lay the back down flat, unzip the concealed front zipper, and reach in for my sleeping bag and down jacket without removing everything else above. Finally, there are plenty of front and side compression straps for securing extra gear to the outside, and they also serve to snug the pack down to fit the size of the load.
While the Blaze’s molded foam backpanel is supportive and comfortable, it runs much warmer than mesh-heavy designs. In fact, the Blaze’s lack of ventilation was almost immediately noticeable on the trail, even in moderate 50-degree temperatures. I’ve used Osprey packs for the last few years and have hardly noticed them on my back, but my experience with the Blaze was quite the opposite: after only a couple miles of hiking, my back was noticeably sweaty and the pack felt clammy against my body. I tend to run warm during aerobic activities, but even shedding layers couldn’t solve the lack of breathability. If you’re looking for the ultimate in ventilation, check out Osprey’s Aura AG: its Anti-Gravity mesh backpanel is best-in-class and we haven’t found a pack that breathes better.
Using a combination of 100- and 210-denier Robic nylon, the Blaze 60 is built to handle the rigors of backpacking. In fact, Granite Gear advertises that it’s their “most durable pack to date.” As we experienced while testing the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 and ULA Circuit 68, Robic nylon is an impressively robust and abrasion-resistant fabric. Although Dyneema packs like the Zpacks Arc Blast are often lighter, they are also more prone to punctures (they do excel in terms of tear resistance). The only snag I’ve faced thus far was on day three of our trip in the Grand Canyon, when my microspikes migrated to the bottom of my pack and punctured their own case before poking through the pack itself. That said, the main compartment was fully stuffed the remainder of the trip and the hole stayed tiny and almost unnoticeable even under considerable weight.
The Granite Gear Blaze 60 also has a DWR (durable water repellent) coating on its body and zippers along the hipbelt and lid. In conjunction with the tightly woven Robic nylon, this kept the contents of my pack dry even in sustained rain. However, it’s important to note that a DWR finish is not a substitute for proper waterproofing. Instead, you should use a pack cover or liner in heavy rain to protect your gear. That said, I was pleasantly surprised after a wet day of hiking that my Ziploc bags of electronics and other necessities in the top lid stayed completely dry on the outside—even my phone that I left unprotected in the hipbelt pocket was safe.
While the Blaze 60 is highly adjustable, it takes some practice (and patience) to nail the fit. In my experience, toggling the hipbelt and shoulder straps to adjust torso length and waist measurements was a painstaking process. Specifically, you have to reach behind the framesheet to remove and reinsert the shoulder strap clips, while the hipbelt requires pushing and pulling to slide back into place. However, once the fit was dialed in, I had no other complaints. The women’s Blaze 60 comes in short (15-18 inches) and regular (18-21 inches) torso length options, and with so much room for adjustment, most backpackers should be able to find a nice, snug fit.
Other Versions of the Granite Gear Blaze
We tested the women’s-specific Blaze 60, which is new for 2019 and complements the unisex model. The two share the same design, weight, feature set, and customization options, although the unisex pack does come in an additional long torso length size (21-24 inches; 3 pounds 1.6 ounces). We haven’t had firsthand experience with the unisex Blaze, but we imagine it offers a very similar fit. You also get more muted color options including plain black and tan, which some might prefer over the bright teal accents on the women’s pack.
What We Like
- Despite its low weight, the Blaze 60 hauls weight extremely well and is very comfortable mile after mile.
- Massive side pockets, a removable top lid, and hidden zipper across the front panel all add convenience and allow easy access to crucial gear while on the trail.
- The pack’s many compression straps allow you to snug the pack down to fit your load—whether you’re hauling half the pack’s capacity or maxing it out.
What We Don’t
- While the backpanel is nicely padded, it runs much warmer than mesh-heavy designs.
- It takes time and practice to dial in the fit of the shoulder straps and hipbelt.
- The women’s pack only comes in one colorway (black and teal) that some might find a bit polarizing.
|Granite Gear Blaze 60||$270||3 lbs.||Nylon (100 & 210D)||60L||Top, front||6 exterior|
|Osprey Eja 58||$220||2 lbs. 8.5 oz.||Nylon (100 & 210D)||38, 48, 58L||Top||5 exterior|
|Osprey Aura AG 65||$270||4 lbs. 5.4 oz.||Nylon (100D x 630D)||50, 65L||Top||8 exterior|
|Gregory Maven 55||$230||3 lbs. 5.9 oz.||Nylon (210D x 100D)||35, 45, 55, 65L||Top||6 exterior|
|ULA Catalyst 75||$280||3 lbs.||Nylon (400D)||75L||Top||5 exterior|
The Granite Gear Blaze 60’s balance of comfort, organization, and weight pit it against some of the top backpacking packs on the market. Coming in at $50 cheaper than the Blaze, Osprey’s Eja 58 is among our favorite ultralight models, with exceptional carrying comfort, a sub-3-pound weight (2 pounds 8.5 ounces), and a tensioned mesh backpanel that gives it the clear edge in ventilation (see our in-depth Eja review here). Our biggest complaint with the Eja 58 is durability: we’ve gotten multiple tears in our Exos pack (the Eja’s men’s-specific counterpart), which uses the same 100-denier nylon body build as the women’s. Although the Blaze also uses 100-denier fabric, its more puncture-resistant Robic nylon fared better against rough rock. Further, the Eja lacks some organizational features like hipbelt pockets and contains fewer lash points. In the end, we like how few compromises the Blaze makes for just 7.5 ounces more.
Another strong contender from Osprey—and our top pick in our backpacking pack round-up this year—is the Osprey Aura AG 65 (and men’s Atmos). We’ll start off by stating the obvious: this is a fully featured, premium pack that doesn’t share the same ultralight focus as the Eja above. Instead, the Aura is well-appointed with thick padding along the shoulders, an Anti-Gravity mesh backpanel that offers superb breathability, and plenty of pockets and storage options. Predictably, it’s also much heavier at 4 pounds 5.4 ounces—almost a pound and a half more than the Blaze. We love the ventilation and added cushioning on the Aura, but whether it’s worth the added weight is up to you.
Like the Blaze, we also think the Gregory Maven 55 (and men’s Paragon 58) balances its priorities nicely. At $230 and 3 pounds 5.9 ounces, the Maven is slightly heavier than the 3-pound Blaze but is more breathable with a mesh-heavy backpanel, comes with an integrated rainfly, and is decently comfortable on the trail. It also features similar torso length and hipbelt adjustability to the Granite Gear pack. However, where the Maven falls short is in its lack of features: comparatively, the Blaze has the same number of exterior pockets (six) but more compression straps and exterior gear storage options, and we really like its hidden zipper on the front that provides easy access to the main compartment. For $40 more, we think the lighter-weight Blaze is the better all-around choice.
Last but not least, ULA packs are extremely popular among thru-hikers, and their Catalyst 75 is one of the most well-rounded designs in their lineup. At 3 pounds, it's the same weight as the Blaze but comes with a major bump in durability: its 400-denier Robic nylon build is much more puncture-resistant than the 100-denier Blaze. That said, the Catalyst is only rated for 40 pounds, meaning the Blaze (rated to 50 pounds) gets the edge for heavy hauling. On the surface, the packs appear very similar—especially in looks—but the more padded and $10-cheaper Blaze gets better marks across the board.
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