Last year, Granite Gear retired their most popular backpack of all time, the venerable Vapor Trail, and announced that it would be replaced by a new backpack, the Granite Gear Crown VC 60. I’ve been testing the Crown VC for the past few weeks and it is a bomber pack that combines the durability and quality that Granite Gear packs are known for with many of the features and functions that characterize lightweight and ultralight backpacks. I’m very excited to see a pack like this hit the market and think it will be a big hit with long distance hikers and recreational backpackers.
The Crown VC 60 is available with an MSRP of $199.95.
With 60 liters (3,660 cubic inches) of internal storage, the Crown VC can carry a lot of gear and food. A top loader, the Crown has a cavernous main pocket with a roll top closure and an internal hang loop for securing a hydration reservoir. It also has two tightly woven mesh pockets on the sides of the pack for storing water bottles and a large mesh front pocket for storing additional gear that you want at hand so you don’t have top open up the main compartment during the day.
While minimalist in it’s simplicity, I like this kind of storage system because it means I can keep my most vulnerable clothing and gear inside my pack on rainy days and not risk getting it wet. This kind of storage system also helps minimize the weight of the pack while maximizing usable space, since it’s easier to pack a large compartment than many smaller pockets.
If you need functional pockets, there are daisy chains on the hip belt and plastic loops on the shoulder straps to attach and hang gear or accessories from. In addition, there are two mesh pockets on the shoulder straps that can securely store a GPS, Ipod or a candy bar.
One of the most impressive and functional features of the Crown VC is its “360 degree” compression system. While compression is useful for bring the weight of a back closer to your core muscles so it takes less effort to carry, it also provides an important way for you to attach gear to the outside of a backpack for expanded storage or quick access.
In addition, to two tiers of Linloc compression straps on the side of the pack, the Crown provides two sets of Linelocs over the front pocket (shown above) which can be used to attach a rolled up sleeping pad, a tent, or tent poles. In addition, there two compression straps that run over the top of the main compartment and provide additional carrying capacity for long items or stripped clothing layers.
The Crown also has an interesting roll top closure system that provides additional compression and is cleverly set up to pull the load in the main compartment closer to your back. In the photo above, the ends of the roll top snap into connectors anchored on the back frame of the pack. If you have a lot of stuff in the main compartment, the orientation of the roll top clips effectively pulls the load down, and closer to your back and core muscles, making it easier to carry. This set up also saves a little more pack weight by using the same cloth attachment as the top lineloc compression strap. You’d be amazed, these little design tweaks can really cut down on pack weight or improve the way a pack carries with heavier loads.
The Crown VC 60 suspension system uses combines an external back pad with air channels for ventilation (hence the AC in the product name) with an optional plastic frame sheet which can be removed to cut the packs weight when carrying a lighter weight load. With the framesheet, a regular sized torso length with a medium sized hip belt weighs 2 pounds 3 ounces. Without the framesheet, the same pack weighs an incredible one pound 13 ounces. Wow!
With the framesheet, the Crown VC is rated for a maximum load of 35 pounds and in testing, the pack remains reasonable comfortable at this weight. Without the framesheet, the comfort level and effectiveness of load-to-hip transfer drops noticeably at 25 pounds.
In addition, the Crown VC has load lifters and an adjustable stern strap. The shoulder straps are anatomically pre-curved for comfort and the hip belt and shoulder straps are lightly padded, corresponding with the maximum recommended load weight.
The Crown VC is available in fixed torso length (because adjustable torso systems add considerable weight) with four different replaceable hip belts sizes. Hallelujah! I say, because it drives me crazy when backpack manufacturers assume that short people always have small wait/hips. Granite Gear is one of the few mainstream manufacturers that provide different sized hip belts with their packs and you should support them because of it.
I’m really impressed with the design and weight of the Crown VC 60 and think it’s a great choice for anyone considering a long distance thru-hike or recreational backpacking. Functionally, there’s not much difference between this backpack and some of the higher volume backpacks you’d buy from an ultralight cottage gear manufacturer. I consider that pretty revolutionary and fully expect other backpack manufacturers to follow Granite Gear’s lead in providing highly durable but lightweight backpacks for the mainstream recreation market.
It’s also probably worth noting here that this pack received an enormous amount of design input and testing from a well-known, ultralight long distance backpacker named Justin “Trauma” Lichter, who is sponsored by Granite Gear. Justin completed a one year 10,000 mile triple crown hike (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail) in 2006 and continues to hike around the world. Check out this account of Justin’s recent 2500 mile trek across the Himalayas.
- External mesh pockets let you stow food and gear for easy access
- Ample side compression lets you attach more gear to the outside and top of the pack
- Swappable hip belt lets you get the right size regardless or torso length
- Ripstop and Cordura fabric provides excellent balance between durability and weight
- None, honestly. I even like the colors.
Features and Specifications
- Mfg weight: 2 pounds 2 ounces/.96 kg
- 3660 cubic inches capacity / 60 liters
- Lineloc compression system with 2 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
- Internal hydration reservoir hang loop center hydration port
- Heavy duty front and side mesh pockets
- Swappable hip belt lengths
- Hip stabilizer and load lifter straps
- Anatomically curve shoulder straps with mesh pockets
- Adjustable sternum strap
- Internal HDPE 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
- A women’s model is also available with hip belts sculpted to fit the angle of women’s hips
Disclosure: Granite Gear loaned SectionHiker.com a Crown VC 60 backpack for this review.
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