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Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70 Backpack Review

Granite Gear Nimbus Trace 70L Backpack
Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70L Backpack

The Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70L backpack is a high-capacity pack that can be used for long trips and expedition style travel. Weighing a hefty 4 pounds 6 ounces on the SectionHiker scale, this is not an ultralight backpack, but it’s still quite lightweight when compared to other expedition sized backpacks with a similar amount of capacity. If you’re looking for a high volume pack that can go big but has some of the functional features of a UL pack, I recommend you give the Nimbus Trace Access a careful look.

Two pockets per side
Two pockets per side

Organization and Storage

The Nimbus Trace Access 70 is a top loading backpack with a floating lid pocket and five exterior pockets, including four side pockets and a long front mesh pocket. The main compartment is cavernous and the extension collar provides even more storage that the 70 liters than the pack is rated for, enabling you to overstuff the pack but still keep the extra load enclosed and out of the elements. When using the extended capacity, the top pocket can be raised as a floating lid and then lashed down, providing additional top compression to keep your gear under control.

Enormous extension collar
Enormous extension collar

The lower side mesh pockets are large enough to hold two one liter bottles each although they are vulnerable to rips and abrasion from passing vegetation. The compression straps on these lower pockets can be threaded to run inside or outside of the pocket, as is the Granite Gear style, providing you with the ability to compress the base of the pack even if there are water bottles in the side pockets. There are also two zippered pockets located higher up on the sides of the pack that provide convenient access to smaller items like Aqua Mira drops or a camera/cell phone.

There is also a long front mesh pocket on the front of the Nimbus Trace Access 70, like most of Granite Gear’s other overnight backpacks. But it’s not as large, wide, or as easy to use as the front pockets on the company’s Blaze AC 60 or the Crown VC 60 backpacks, for drying out a wet rain fly or rain gear.

Front Panel Access
Front Panel Access

Like many expedition-style backpacks, the Nimbus Trace Access 70 provides a way to access the contents of the main compartment without taking everything out of your backpack, with front panel access underneath the front pocket. Simply unzip two zippers running along the sides of the pocket and open up the main compartment. This can be a useful feature in dry climates when you don’t have to line the inside of your pack (which would prevent access) to prevent from rain from leaking through the pack’s seams and wetting your gear.

Large top pocket with rear facing zipper
Large top pocket with rear facing zipper

The Nimbus Trace Access 70 has a large top pocket built into the lid with a rear facing zipper. There is a second stretch pocket inside the lid with a key clip. The top lid can be detached from the backpack and used as a fanny pack, using two webbing straps tucked into the top pocket as a hip belt.

Alternatively, you can discard the top lid pocket completely and shave 9.3 ounces off the pack’s weight, bringing it under the 4 pound mark. The top of the extension collar closes with a roll top closure and additional webbing straps provide top compression, making this a viable alternative if you are willing to forego the convenience of a top lid pocket.

The Nimbus Trace 70 Frame System
The Nimbus Trace Access 70 Frame System

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Nimbus Trace Access 70 has an adjustable frame system which is a must-have feature on a pack of this size and load carrying capacity (60 pounds). You can’t afford to have an ill-fitting backpack when carrying heavy loads. In addition, the pack has an ingenious venting system designed with spaces between the rear padding to help dry your shirt as you sweat carrying a heavy pack.

Adjustable Maple Laminate Framesheet
Adjustable Maple Laminate Framesheet

Adjusting the pack’s torso length involves releasing the framesheet from the inner pocket that holds it in place and unscrewing the shoulder harness bolts with a Phillips head screwdriver. The basic system is the same as the one used in Granite Gear’s previous generation of higher capacity backpacks (see my Nimbus Meridian Review) and the hardware is almost identical, with the exception of a new maple laminate framesheet.

Getting the framesheet out of its pocket takes a bit of elbow grease and you are likely dislodge some to the trim around the framesheet in the process. If you decide to buy the Nimbus Trace Access, buy it at REI so you can return it if doesn’t fit and you damage it while adjusting the frame.

Once free, the Nimbus Trace Access 70 can be adjusted to fit torso lengths from 18-22 inches, in one inch increments (only) by raising or lowering the point where the shoulder harness is attached to the frame. The width of the shoulder harness can also be adjusted by attaching the harness to the inner holes (narrow) or outer holes (wide) depending on the width you require.

Adjust the length of the torso by raising or lowered the shoulder attachment points and the width of the shoulder pads by positioning thescrews in the inner or outer set of holes.
Adjust the length of the torso by raising or lowering the shoulder attachment points and the width of the shoulder pads by positioning the screws in the inner or outer set of holes.

Load to hip transfer on the Nimbus Trace Access 70 is quite good due to further design innovations. The hip belt is bolted to the bottom of the framesheet rather than free-floating as in Granite Gear’s other backpacks. Plastic wings extend from the bolt and curve around the outside of the hip belt while still enabling hip belt replacement, ensuring a personalized fit. A large lumbar pad placed between the wings of the hip belt also helps transfer weight to your hip bones while load lifters connected at the top of the framesheet pocket help pull the load forward for better alignment with your core and large leg muscles.

Compression and External Attachment System

If backpacks with too many webbing straps annoy you, then the Nimbus Trace Access 70 might not be your cup of tea. There are 20 permanently affixed compression/external straps on the pack, not to mention all the other pieces of webbing on the shoulder harness, frame and the hip belt.

Starting from the top (lid), there are:

  1. Two external straps on the top of the lid pocket to secure gear with.
  2. Four straps that hold on the top lid pocket
  3. Two compression straps to attach gear to the top of the main compartment below the top lid pocket.
  4.  Six compression straps arranged in three tiers on the sides of the backpack.
  5. Three compression straps on the front of the pack over the stretch pocket
  6. Three compression straps inside the pack under the stretch pocket
12 Compression straps on the main compartment alone
14 Compression straps on the main compartment alone

While all of these straps provide an abundance of options for attaching gear to the outside of the pack and provide compression for your load as you eat it down, they significantly complicate the process of packing and unpacking the backpack. While some of this complexity is mitigated by accessing gear inside the pack through the front panel, I think the Nimbus Trace Access 70 would have a much cleaner design, but be just as functional, if the compression straps could be removed when not needed or replaced with gear loops, allowing users to rig up their own compression and external attachment points as needed.

Recommendation

While the Nimbus Trace Access 70 is the highest capacity backpack that Granite Gear makes, I am impressed that it packs so much capability into a backpack that weighs slightly more than 4 pounds. While I wish that the Nimbus Trace Access 70 was lighter weight and had fewer features, the adjustable frame, excellent load to hip transfer, and ventilated padding make this pack an excellent choice for weeklong or expedition style trips where you need to go heavy due to remoteness or lack of resupply.

Likes

  • Frame is bolted to the hip belt providing excellent load transfer with heavy loads
  • Floating lid and huge extension collar provide much higher capacity than 70L
  • Compression webbing can run through side pockets in addition to over them

Dislikes

  • Too many compression straps
  • Seams in top lid pocket and base of pack leak in the rain
  • Frame is only adjustable in 1 inch increments
  • Mesh side pockets are easy to tear off-trail

Specifications

  • Gender
  • Weight
    • Short: 3 lb 15 oz / 1.8 kg
    • Regular: 4 lb 3 oz / 1.9 kg
  • Capacity
    • Short: 3870 cu in / 64 L
      Regular: 4270 cu in / 70 L
  • Material
    • 210D Cordura
  • Sizing
    • Short: 14-18 in / 36-46 cm
    • Regular: 18-22 in / 46-56 cm
  • Replaceable components
    • 4 sizes of shoulder straps available
    • 4 sizes of hip belts available

Disclosure: Granite Gear provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a free sample Nimbus Trace 70 backpack for this review. This post contains affiliate links. 

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18 comments

  1. When is the raffle for this pack. ; )

  2. Excellent review. Not too long ago I read your article where you mentioned GG has announced the Trace Access, and the other day I saw it advertised on GG’s website.

    You mention the stretch pocket would be more difficult to stuff a wet rain fly into. Is it still doable, or would a better option be loosely folding it and lashing it under the three horizontal straps on top of the mesh?

    Cheers,

    Ian

    • You can stuff it in but it won’t dry. I can just barely fit a rolled up Tarpent Notch 1 into the front mesh pocket, but not without struggling (this tent is small). But I’d be leery or tying a tarp on the outside of my pack because it might catch on vegetation and rip. Probably best to stop for 30 minutes to let it dry in the sun and have a cuppa.

  3. Great review, what is of particular importance to me is water repelleancy issues and I see your note about the leak. Things I see that I do not like are the Water bottle pockets. I bet they will be the first to fail. I like the full front panel access that is a huge plus, but overall I’ll stick with my Osprey.

    • All packs leak at the seams, but I was a little surprised how easily ths one absorbed falling precipitation. That’s why I always line my packs with a trash compactor bag and why the front access panel is kind of a wash for me. When opened, all I see is the pack liner. I supposed you could seam seal the pack’s seams. I’ve have actually done this on other backpacks and it does significantly reduce seam leakage.

      I ripped up the side pockets as soon as I stepped off trail. I’m sort of bummed about it, but tenancious tape works wonders for mesh pockets.

  4. Philip, thank you for posting this review! Its seals the deal, I’m ordering one,…probably in red;)
    Ben in Lancaster, PA

  5. Philip – any chance you can weigh that maple frame? I’ve been asking GG for a couple months with no reply. Really curious how it compares to the traditional frames. Haven’t seen a wood frame on a pack since … before I was born.

    • I normally would (no pun intended) but I can’t easily remove it because it’s bolted to the hip belt. Granite Gear also decided to remove the user manual from their new web site design, so I also have no idea how to do it. But seriously, the frame is not the heavy thing on this pack. It’s the fabric and the features. It’s a great pack architecture really, but I’d love to see the same pack in lighter weight fabric with fewer bells and whistles. I bet they could get it under 3 pounds even.

      • That’s exactly why I ask – the weight. I have a Meridian down below 2.5 with some trimming and a modified frame for lighter loads and a hair under 3 even with the full frame. The maple one is supposedly lighter with better flex. I find the stock frame too stiff. The bolts are super simple to undo – just a Phillips screwdriver. Should be the same as the shoulder straps unless they changed things up.

        I agree that the packbag is way overbuilt. I’m interested in the frame to use it on older Nimbus packs (Meridian, Ozone).

      • You obviously belong to the same Frankenstein school of gear enhancement that I belong to. :-)

      • You have no idea :) The things I’ve done to Granite Gear packs alone is probably enough to make Dan C. cry. Best packs ever made as far as fit/component customization, but always tweaking to get a little less stiff and improve/lighten the bags. I’ve even got a Crown VC married to a Nimbus shoulder harness system – bolts and all.

        Next project is to combine an REI Flash 65 with the Nimbus shoulder straps. Should be interesting.

  6. what is the frame height from the bottom of the pack up to the load lifters? what is the bottom of pack distance to the shoulder strap attachment points when you have the harness at the maximum height. When the harness is at it’s maximum height would you say the load lifters are still usable or will you have a pretty flat loader lifter angle?

    • Have to find my tape measure which may take a while, but with the torso length adjusted at 19 inches, the load lifter angle is about 45 degrees. Obviously it flattens out the higher you raise the shoulder straps.

      Several expedition packs I’ve tried have adjustable load lifters which let you move the front of the lifter where it attaches to the front of the shoulder strap down to get a better (45ish) degree angle. You might want to check those out if this a problem for you. Mystery Ranch packs have this feature and it is really nice.

  7. I’ve got a 2013 Nimbus Trace 62L. First thing I did was replace the waist belt and shoulder straps to xtra-large & large. Then added 2 waist belt pocket and 2 shoulder strap pockets. With a cord to hang the pack the full weight is 3000 grams (empty) on my home scale.
    One big negative IMHO is that the upper side pocket intrude on and detract from the bag capacity. If the upper pockets were sewn on instead their volume would add to the bags capacity.
    My bag came with the 2014 users manual and it says that you slide the waist belt to one side and to get to the lower mounting point. Mine has a hole (can you say leak?) in the bottom of the main bag for the same purpose. Currently covered with gaffer tape. Also that floating lid with its buckles is more complex than need be tho so far I haven’t been agitated enough to remove them. Hate destructive mods. The lid on mine has a limit of 34 – 35 inches before it runs out of up adjustment. I wanted to get a Package but with a full load out that ain’t happening with this pack. One mid I _might_ do is to lighten that sheet. Mine is a composite material of some sort. I’m thinking several slots (carefully placed!) In the panel might bring the weight down without sacrificing strength. At least that my theory.

  8. I meant “Packa” and “mod”. Damn spelling nanny anyway.

  9. Forgot to add this: That center stretch pocket is odd. Very deep and narrow. Wish they had split it into 2 sections even if the top one didn’t have a sewn bottom. As it is anything smallish can get crammed to the bottom by other pieces then I have to go fishing. My p bottle lives in there with the Ridgerunner spreader bars and pole mod along with the tyvek sheet and an extra empty trash bag and the hammock tree strap.

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