Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Backpack Review

Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Backpack

Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Backpack (Mammoth included for Scale)

Granite Gear backpacks have been longtime favorites with Appalachian Trail thru-hikers because of their light weight, carrying capacity and durability. Last year, Granite Gear retired one of their most popular packs, the Vapor Trail, and introduced a new pack called the Blaze AC 60 which has a similar design but incorporates many improvements, including a better compression system and a large front mesh pocket.

I’ve been testing the Blaze AC for the past few weeks and I think it’s one of the best backpacks you can buy on the market today for long distance backpacking. It’s lightweight (2 pounds 14 ounces), adjustable, made out of durable fabrics, and comes with all of the features I look for on the ultralight backpack style pack designs that I prefer. Priced at $219, I’d seriously consider taking this pack on a multi-month hike because of its flexibility and bomber construction.

Storage Capacity

With 60 liters (3,660 cubic inches) of carrying capacity, the Blaze AC can carry a lot of gear and food. The storage system consists of of one large main compartment with a roll top closure, a mammoth mesh front pocket that runs the full height of the pack, and two mesh side pockets that are large enough to carry 1 liter water bottles and softer items.

While spartan in its simplicity, this type of design is very functional because it means you can store all of the gear and you need during the day in external pockets, without having to open up the main compartment. This is useful on rain days when you want to keep your clothing and sleeping gear dry and protected, and it improves your time efficiency in general because you don’t have to dig around in your pack looking for stuff every time you stop for a break.

For example, I usually keep my lunch, snacks, rain jacket, rain pants, tarp and stakes, a 2 ounce screw-on water filter, and a 3 L platypus reservoir in the long front pocket of my pack and rarely open it up between the time I break camp and the time I start to cook dinner at night.

If you prefer to carry your water in a hydration reservoir, the Blaze AC comes with a zippered hydration pocket inside the main compartment located behind the internal rigid framesheet. A gear loop is included for hanging the reservoir and two hydration ports are provided for the hose.

Granite Gear also sells an optional floating pocket extension for the Blaze AC, which I did not get to test, but which would be helpful because their are no external hip belt pockets included with the pack. I can’t live without external pockets and normally attach ones from Mountain Laurel Designs on all my other backpacks  for storing bug dope, water purification tablets, my headlamp, compass, sun screen, purell and the other little things I like at hand.

Compression System

The Compression System on the Blaze is really impressive. Line Loc tensioners are used instead of bulkier compression straps to save weight and there are three tiers of compression along the sides instead of the two you find on most other backpacks. The Blaze also includes a third set of compression straps over the front mesh pocket, which is a nice touch you don’t find on a lot of other packs.

Line Loc Compression System

Line Loc Compression System

In addition to bringing your load closer to your core where you can carry it more efficiently, all of these compression straps can be used to lash additional gear to the outside of the pack. This is useful if you carry a bulky sleeping pad or tent.

Top Compression Straps

Top Compression Straps

The Blaze also has two sets of compression straps that run over the top of the main compartment from the front to back and side-to-side. I really like how the sides of the pack extend up and help compress the additional storage space provided in the extension sleeve. It’s a very functional and efficient design that really helps battle the bulge if you need to carry extra food or gear for a long section between resupply stops.

Suspension System and Ventilated Back Panel

Suspension System and Ventilated Back Panel

Suspension System

The Blaze suspension system provides much more flexibility for getting a good fit than any other backpack I’ve seen on the market today. It includes a plastic framesheet with separate grooved foam panel that helps keep your back cool and dry perspiration more quickly. You can just see the outline of the air channels (A.C.) in the sweaty back panel above.  They actually work.

Air Current (AC) Ventilation System

Air Current (AC) Ventilation System

But what I really like about the suspension system is the framesheet. It’s located in a pocket behind the shoulder straps on the exterior of the pack, making it very easy to remove and adjust. The metal buckles, shown in the picture below, are located at the end of the shoulder straps. To adjust them, you simply slip them out of their holes and move them up or down to the desired torso height. Once the buckles are pulled through the plastic sheet they don’t move and won’t pop out.

Framesheet and Adjustable Torso Length System

Framesheet and Adjustable Torso Length System

Be forewarned though, you may need to pick a size that’s a little different from your actual torso height: I ended up needing a 20 inch setting on the Blaze although my torso length is 18.5 inches.  Still, it was great being able to dial in a great fit so easily.

Foam Panel Collapse on Short Torso Length Setting

Foam Panel Collapse on Short Torso Length Setting

If you have an 17 or 18 inch torso, you might want to try the short and the regular length packs to make sure that you get an optimal torso adjustment. Granite Gear also makes a women’s version of the Blaze called the Blaze AC Ki. There is also a tendency for the foam panel to buckle under the shoulder straps when the regular sized frame is set to less than 20 inches causing a ridge of foam to dig into the top of your back.  If you have a short torso try using the shorter pack with a “high” torso length setting to mitigate this issue.

Replaceable Hip Belt Sizing

Swappable Hip Belt Sizing

In addition to adjustable torso sizing, the Blaze AC comes with an interchangeable sizes so that chubby middle-aged people like me can wear packs with shorter torso lengths. I have a 38 inch waist, so I got a large-sized hip belt which fits me very well. (See the specifications below for hip belt sizing.) I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that Granite Gear provides different sized hip belts with the Blaze AC and I wish more backpack manufacturers followed their example.

The hip belt and the contoured shoulder pads are moderately padded without going overboard. It’s just not that important for a pack that’s only rated for up to 40 pounds of load. Load lifters, hips belt stabilizers, and an adjustable sternum strap are also included.

Overall Recommendation

I really like the Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 and think it’s an excellent backpack, particularly for hikers who currently carry a backpack that weighs over 4 pounds and want a lighter pack weighing 2 pounds and 14 ounces that does not compromise on capacity or durability. While the external mesh pockets seal the deal for me, the suspension and compression systems are also top flight. This is an excellent example of a lightweight pack from a major backpack manufacturer and I think it will be a hit with multi-day backpackers as well as thru-hikers who need a bomb proof pack that they can count on for the long haul.

Likes:

  • Mammoth external front mesh pocket lets you store wet gear, snacks, and clothing
  • Swappable hip belt lets you get the right size regardless of torso length
  • Excellent side and top compression system brings the load closer to your core muscles
  • Optional top pocket (sold separately)

Dislikes:

  • Terrible color scheme (brown is a hideous color!)

Features & Specifications:

  • Lineloc compression system with 3 tiers of straps on the sides and front of the pack
  • Dual top compression straps on the top of the main compartment
  • Roll top closure on main compartment
  • Large extension collar for additional storage
  • Hydration reservoir pocket with hang loop and dual hydration ports
  • Heavy duty front and side mesh pockets
  • Adjustable torso length
  • Swappable hip belt lengths
  • Hip stabilizer and load lifter straps
  • Internal plastic framesheet and grooved foam pad to enhanced ventilation (Air Current)
  • Dual ice axe loops
  • Optional top pocket (sold separately)
  • Fabrics: 100 denier ripstop nylon and 210 Cordura
  • Sizes available
    • Regular: Torso 18-21 inches, Capacity 3660 ci/60L,  Weight 2 pounds 14 ounces
    • Short: Torso 14-18 inches, Capacity 3350 ci/55L, Weight 2 pounds 11 ounces
    • Hip belt sizing: Small 26-30 inches, Medium 30-34 inches, Large 34-38 inches, Extra-large 38-42 inches
    • Suggested maximum load: 35 pounds

Disclosure: Granite Gear loaned SectionHiker.com a Blaze AC 60 backpack for this review.

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31 Responses to Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Backpack Review

  1. Guthook September 9, 2011 at 3:52 am #

    Wow. Nice to see Granite Gear is back in the running with new packs. The Vapor Trail and Nimbus Ozone seemed to have been around forever without any major changes. The Nimbus Ozone was what I took on the AT way back when, although I could have easily gone with a Vapor Trail. Those packs are really well built, and I really love their simplicity. At the time I thought a pack with no lid and no extra internal compartments would be a pain, but using that Nimbus Ozone for several months made me really rethink what I needed in a pack. No I never use lids or multi-compartment packs.

    The Blaze AC seems more like a replacement for the Nimbus Ozone… which weighed 3 pounds and had a solid frame sheet like this one seems to. And it's about time! More people need to pack mammoths in their bags, I imagine.

  2. Earlylite September 9, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    A little bit on the heavy side, but I really like the way this pack uses a ultralight style design with the front and side pockets. It also carries beautifully. Granite Gear has another pack coming out called the Crown (after the triple crown) and I think that one will be lighter weight. My mammoth really likes this pack too because he can see out the back mesh pocket.

  3. Guthook September 9, 2011 at 5:14 am #

    It'll be interesting to see how the large mesh front pocket changes the sights on the AT. It was such a distinctive sight to see either a z-rest or a tent in the back compression straps on the Nimbus Ozone and Vapor Trail. Really, it's a perfect place for either of those things. But if you have a bunch of stuff in the mesh pocket, a sleeping pad or tent on top of that would make accessing the pocket a little less convenient. That's always my gripe about having the stretch cord over the mesh pocket on ultralight packs in general, but I guess people get around that inconvenience plenty often.

  4. Earlylite September 9, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    I've seen lots of people put gear there too, but it's really not a good place for it since it pulls the weight away from your back. That's what I like about the side compression system on this pack – there is now a 3rd tier of compression so you can get some more clearance above the side pockets and the top compression straps make it possible to put a pad or tent on top horizontally.

    Of course – it doesn't really matter how thru-hikers pack because when they get their trail legs, they're effectively hiking a marathon a day. As long as they're under 25 pounds, they fly.

  5. newguy September 9, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    Looks pretty nice, but you aren't kidding about the hideous color scheme. I don't need to impress anyone with pretty gear on the trail, but brown, black, blue, and orange all on one pack? Reminds me of when you see cars driving down the road with mismatched body panels and primer.

  6. My Life Outdoors September 10, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    I agree on the color…I gagged a little when I saw that first picture. At least it's not gray…everything I own is gray!

  7. Grandpa September 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Everything I own ends up kind of gray after a few days on the trail. I wonder why?

  8. Philip Werner September 10, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    A touch of grey makes even the dirtiest hiker look distinguished. I'm sure it suits you.

  9. Grannyhiker September 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    I definitely wouldn't call a pack of almost 3 pounds lightweight! Also, I didn't see any mention of how well it carries a bear canister.

    I'd be curious to see a comparison with the ULA Catalyst, which is about the same weight.

  10. Earlylite September 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    I consider anything under 3 pounds to be lightweight and this clears that bar. If I can get someone who's carrying a 4 to 5 pound pack into a sub 3 pound pack without forcing them to switch to an unknown like a UL pack, I'll count that as a victory. There's a lot to be said for an unlimited return policy for people nervous about money.

    I tested the Blaze with a backcountry cache bear canister and it fit fine. That's good for about 6 days of food. I can't compare it against a ULA catalyst because I don't have one – maybe someone else can pipe in. I suspect that the Blaze is considerably larger though, with its huge extension collar.

  11. gruevy September 18, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    I like the color scheme, crazy as that may sound to you all.

  12. zoso December 9, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Yeah, I have to agree. I actually really like the color scheme. How can you love spending time in nature and think brown is a hideous color? I got the A.C. 60 in brown/green and much prefer the earth tones of these packs to the bright flashy overly "modern" designs of most packs these days.

  13. granite January 7, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing on your feed and I hope you write once more soon!

  14. Lucid January 29, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    Thanks. Its a nice review detailed.

  15. S. W. Johnsey February 14, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Where was it made?

  16. Gary February 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    What kind of hydration system fits in the blaze 60 ..it is very tight ?

  17. Gary February 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    What kind of hydration system fits in the blaze 60 ..it is very tight ? What size bladder too

  18. Philip Werner February 26, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    It really shouldn’t matter what size or brand you use. Pack the filled bladder first and your gear will conform to the space it doesn’t take up.

  19. Gary February 26, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Unfortunately, it is a very tight bladder holder and my platypus does not fit. Pack is great but hydration is key

  20. Alina March 27, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    Hi,

    If you had to choose between this one and the Crown VC 60 which one would you choose and why? They look pretty close to me.
    Thank you.

    • Earlylite March 30, 2012 at 10:24 am #

      Really depends on how much weight I’d carry. Over 20 pounds, I’d likely go with the blaze AC. It also has an adjustable frame, and I’d go with that if I couldn’t get the Crown to fit perfectly.

  21. Family Guy April 9, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Phil – again thanks for the reviews!

    Quick question and not sure if you can answer this: what is the length of the padded portion of the shoulder straps? 18″? Thanks as always in advance.

    -Dave

    • Earlylite April 9, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

      I’ve returned the loaner pack from GG. Try calling their customer support line.

  22. andy June 28, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    I use a tump line on my ac60. Its just a 7inch strap with a fold back buckle sown on each end.
    When i feel like bringing the load forward at the top i wear the line over my forehead. This just relieves the fatigue on my shoulders when carrying weight at the limit of this packs comfort capacity. The tump line is attached to the load lifter straps . I have undone the stiching where the load lifter straps fold over to make it easier for the ends to pass through the tump line buckles. If you want to get an idea of the difference this can make just try manually pulling the load lifter straps forward and up toward your forehead as you walk. I dont use it all the time as you cant turn your head when carrying a pack this way but it does give a third point on the body where weight can be loaded.

  23. Kit Stolz June 27, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Tested it with a bear canister…which fits sideways by the narrowest of margins. Had a previous Granite Gear pack of similar design which ultimately failed at those seams, but this still seems to me the best all-around pack on the market, and I bought it.

  24. john July 5, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    thanks for the review. I haven’t seen much info as to the upper limits of the blaze’s frame. my torso is 23”; I have a 21” NF pack which is comfortable enough until I max the volume, and it’s too heavy. no stores in my area carry the blaze, trying before buying is out. what do you think about the blaze for longer torsos? the pic of the frame shows to holes cut above the 5 adjustment slots; could they act as a 6th point for extending the pack’s frame? thanks!

  25. Boris October 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Just want to share my 2 years experience with the pack. Don’t want to re-iterate good points like comfort, etc. However, during this time of moderate usage (never overloaded) the folllwong failures occured:

    1. Frame sheet – broke in half, cracks seen in 3 additional areas.
    2. Plastic cord attachments – 3 broke in half. Repaired by inserting a piece of webbing and sewing the cord to it – pretty labor intensive.
    3. Cord broke. Replaced it by thicker cord. Not great as it is hard to run it through the plastic fitting.

    I’ve had Vapor Trail for about 10 years (and loved it) – no issues. This thing is not even 2 years old!

    Boris

  26. AngryGerman December 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    I utilized this pack for my AT thru-hike and many other excursions having an overall excellent rating for this pack with the exact minor issues Boris mentioned above. Granite Gear has excellent customer service and squared me away when I had issues. Pack carries well up to 30lbs and is manageable up to 40lbs with a bit of minor adjustments; I am in the 25lb range and as my food disappears into my belly I stroll into town around 11lbs and I often have to look back to make sure my pack is there. I could shed almost a pound of non consumable weight if I went with the Crown, but then I can’t leave town with 3lbs of food per day for five days plus my gear, etc. and be comfortable. As for the hydration bladder issue; a very, very, very small bladder fits into the dedicated compartment, but you can just lay the bladder in the pack and stuff your gear around it. I’ll make adjustments to my gear choices to shed ounces and grams before I get rid of this backpack. Cat-can stove vs. the Jetboil, 3/4 CCF pad vs. 3/4 self inflating pad, etc.

    1) Frame sheet likes to crack at the lower portion causing the pack to flex at the base making it a bit uncomfortable, but not awfully bad! I called customer service and they had a new one waiting for me at a selected PO. Easy cheesy!
    2) One of the top cinch strap buckles broke and was easy to replace with an aftermarket buckle until a replacement arrived from Granite Gear.
    3) Stretch pockets on the side tend to get snagged and sometimes tear, but you I just patch it up.

    Great gear reviews and keep them coming. I didn’t use your review to purchase this pack, but I’ve used a good bit of info from your site for shelter purchases, stoves, etc. Great work!

    AngryGerman (AG)

  27. Ido Marom June 4, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    what i am uncertain about this pack, is:
    is it suitable for a few days trip ?
    is is suitable for a dry desert area (youll need to carry 5 liters per day,- drink and cooking. somtimes you’ll go 1.5 day without a filling spot – i.e. 7.5 litters of water).

    • Philip Werner June 4, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      Yes to all of the above. What you have to realize is that carrying an extra 15 pounds is going to put more load on your shoulders regardless of the pack you buy. But I have full confidence that this pack is up to it. This is a bomber backpack.

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