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Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack Review

Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack Review

Granite Gear Blaze 60

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Lightweight Gear Hauler

The Granite Gear Blaze is a lightweight backpack capable of hauling heavy loads. With an adjustable-torso length and adjustable hip belt length, you're guaranteed to get a great fit.

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The Granite Gear Blaze 60 is a multi-day backpack with an adjustable length torso and hip belt, so you can get a personalized fit. Weighing 3 lbs, the Blaze 60 is optimized for hauling heavy and bulky gear, including the ability to carry a bear canister on top of the pack so it doesn’t consume valuable internal storage. It has a new polycarbonite frame sheet that’s rated for a maximum load of 50 pounds, top and front panel access, and an optional top lid pocket.

I’ve been using the Blaze 60 since last July and it is a true four-season pack that can be used year-round. I’m still in awe at how well the Blaze handles heavy loads and how easy it is to strap all kinds of gear to the outside of the pack. If you need to carry lots of technical gear, water, or food for family overnights or expedition-style trips, but want to swap out a 4 to 6 pound monster backpack for something lighter, you’ll be impressed with the Granite Gear Blaze 60.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 3 lbs; (optional top lid weighs 2.8 oz)
  • Gender: Men’s; a Women’s Blaze 60 is also available
  • Frame: Internal
  • Access: Top, Front
  • Adjustable Length Torso: Yes
  • Adjustable Length Hip belt: Yes
  • Pockets: 3 plus main compartment, 2 additional hip belt pockets
  • Bear canister compatible: Yes
  • Max recommended load: 50 lbs.
  • Materials:
    • Main body: 100d Robic high-tenacity nylon with DWR
    • Reinforcements: 210d Robic UHMWPE triple ripstop nylon
    • Polycarbonate framesheet
  • Torso size ranges:
    • Women’s short:  15-18″
    • Women’s regular: 18-21″
    • Men’s short: 15-18″
    • Men’s regular: 18-21″
    • Men’s long: 21-24″

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Blaze 60 is organized like a typical Granite Gear backpack with a large main compartment, side water bottle pockets, and a long stretch front pocket. The main compartment can be accessed from the top through a draw string closure or from the front through a full length zipper. The Blaze comes with a floating top lid, which is optional, but handy for carrying gloves, navigation equipment, or travel documents. There are also two large, zippered hip belt pockets.

The Blaze has a floating top lid which can be raised if the pack is overstuffed, or to secure items to the top of the pack. Shown here with a bear canister.
The Blaze has a floating top lid which can be raised if the pack is overstuffed, or to secure items to the top of the main compartment.

The top lid has one big zippered top pocket. It’s a floating lid, so it can be raised up and down to accommodate tall loads or used to hold bulky gear on top of the main compartment, like rope coils, a tent body, a bear canister, or a foam sleeping pad. It’s connected to the pack by four removable webbing straps, so you can minimize strap clutter if you remove the lid.

Two webbing straps, one front-to-back and the other side-to-side cover the main compartment and prevent rain from entering.
Two webbing straps, one front-to-back and the other side-to-side cover the main compartment and prevent rain from entering.

The top lid is optional. The pack’s main compartment was a long extension collar which closes with a drawstring. Two long webbing straps, one front-to-back and one side-to-side, pull fabric panels over the extension collar and prevent rain from entering the main compartment. These webbing straps are cut long to secure a bear canister on top of the pack.

The Blaze 60 also has two large side water-bottle pockets that can easily hold two 1L Nalgene bottles. They’re both reachable while wearing the pack so you can pull the bottles out and put them back in. There’s a cord lock to tension the top of the pockets and keep tall skinny bottles or other items from popping out. The pockets are hard sided for durability and the bottom compression strap can run over or through them.

The side water bottle pockets are huge and well armored for durability
The side water bottle pockets are huge and well armored for durability

A front stretch pocket extends the length of the pack and is ideal for stashing tent poles, rain gear, and layers. It’s made with a durable soft shell fabric that won’t snag on passing vegetation, but won’t dry gear as quickly as a more open mesh pocket. The stretch pocket has a full length zipper along the right hand side so you can access gear inside the pack without having to go through the top. This is real handy if you are carrying a bear canister on top, which would be a pain to remove. On the flip side, a zipper like this is hard to use if you’re in the habit of lining your pack with a white trash compactor bag in wet climates.

Full length zipper to the right of the stretch pocket provides panel access
Full length zipper to the right of the stretch pocket provides front access

The Blaze also has two large, zippered hip belt pockets that will fit large smartphones, gloves, snacks, etc. They’re hard-faced for improved water-resistance and durability off-trail.

The hip belt pockets are quite large and solid faced for durability
The hip belt pockets are quite large and solid faced for durability

Bear Canisters

The Blaze is optimized for carrying full size bear canisters, so I thought I’d show you the main variations. The examples below use a full size Garcia Bear Canister (12 x 8.8″), the kind required in portions of New York’s Adirondack Park. It has very similar dimensions to a Bearvault BV500 (12.7 x 8.7″).

The extension collar is wide enough to hold a full-sized canister.
The extension collar is wide enough to hold a full-sized canister.

Inside the extension collar

You can fit a bear canister in the pack’s extension collar on top of your other gear. The width of the extension collar is wider than the canister is long. Once inside, tighten the draw string, wrap the front-to-back and side to side straps over bear canister, cover it with the top lid and you’re good to go. The top lid covers all four sides of the canister and prevents it from shifting as you walk.

Without the top lid

If you don’t want to use the top lid, you can still secure the bear canister to the pack without it. Close the extension collar drawstring and place the bear canister on top of it. Wrap the long webbing straps over the canister and pull them tight. They’ll do a pretty good job of keeping the canister lashed down, although you may experience some movement if you have to scramble.

Two very long webbing straps, one front-to-back, and one side-to-side create a small pocket to hold a bear canister, even if you don't use the floating lid.
Two very long webbing straps, one front-to-back, and one side-to-side create a small pocket to hold a bear canister.

Those webbing straps are attached to the pack with fabric panels, which can be used to strap objects like a bear canister to the top of the main compartment.

Side view of fabric panels holding bear canister
Side view of fabric panels holding bear canister

If needed, you can reinforce the two webbing straps by criss crossing the pack’s top compression straps over the bear canister. Connect the top compression straps to the straps that secure the lid above the shoulder straps. The four straps together provide a much more secure anchor.

If you've removed the top lid (because you don't like them) and but feel like you want more reinforcement of the bear canister, you can connect the top side compression straps with the straps the normally connect the lid above the shoulder straps and cross-cross them, as shown.
If you’ve removed the top lid (because you don’t like them) and but feel like you want more reinforcement of the bear canister, you can connect the top side compression straps with the straps the secure the lid above the shoulder straps and cross-cross them, as shown.

When carrying a canister, you’ll want to avoid making the top of the pack too heavy by keeping heavier items lower down in your pack to compensate for the canister weight. The variation you choose will depend on the size and weight of the canister contents and the weather. For example, you probably don’t want to put a wet or dusty canister inside your pack, lest it compromise your other gear.

Backpack Compression and External Attachment System

One of the hallmarks of a Granite Gear backpack is its compression and gear attachment system, which makes it easy to carry large or awkwardly shaped gear on the outside of the pack. It is amazing how much gear you can hang off most Granite Gear packs and the Blaze 60 is no exception.

The Blaze 60 has three tiers of compression straps on both sides of the pack. These can be used to reduce pack volume when you are carrying smaller or lighter loads. All three of the side webbing straps open and close with side release buckles, which you squeeze together to open. This also makes them easier to use in winter, while wearing gloves.

It’s easy to strap snow shoes to the front or sides of the Blaze 60
You can strap snow shoes to the front or sides of the Blaze 60

There are three additional straps situated over the front stretch pocket, which are ideal for strapping bulky items like snowshoes or a foam sleeping pad to the pack, without compromising access to the side bottle pockets. The straps are just long enough to secure a foam accordion pad (Therm-a-Rest Zlite or a NEMO Switchback) to the backpack, although it’d be easier if the webbing were a few inches longer.

The Blaze also has two ice axe loops at the base of the back. These can also be used to carry trekking poles, but shaft holders are not included, so you’ll need to secure them with the pack’s compression straps.

You can hook biners or loop cords on other locations around the pack
You can hook biners or loop cords in other locations around the pack

In addition, there are gear loops distributed around the pack that you can attach cord or carabiners to create your own attachment systems. There are 4 on the top lid which are good for attaching a solar panel or securing a climbing helmet, as well as others anchoring the compression strap buckles.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

Granite Gear developed a new lightweight polycarbonate framesheet for the Blaze 60, giving it a max recommended load of 50 pounds. The new framesheet is really stiff along its vertical axis, because it’s tightly sewn into a narrow fabric cavity behind the shoulder straps. It has some torsional flex on the diagonal to match your body movements, but it’s not going to collapse under a heavy load the way a lightweight framesheet can.

Do not attempt to remove the framesheet from the Blaze 60. It is not supposed to be removed and is extremely difficult to put back in again. If you have already removed it, try using use bicycle tire levers to get it back in. It’s still difficult, but it does work.

But the max load you can carry with the Blaze 60 will still depend on the way the pack fits you. Lucky for you, the Blaze 60 has an adjustable length torso and an adjustable length hip belt, so you can dial in a near custom fit.

The shoulder straps can be moved up or down to make the torso longer or shorter
The shoulder straps can be moved up or down to make the torso longer or shorter

The Blaze 60’s shoulder straps are anchored in slots in the framesheet, marked 18″, 19″, 20″, etc., corresponding to your torso length. They’re easy to unclip and move from one setting to another. REI has a good video on measuring your torso length if you’ve never done it before or don’t know your torso length. It’s important to measure it, because the pack won’t rest on your hips properly if the torso length is too short, and you’ll end up carrying the weight on your shoulders, which aren’t as strong as your big leg muscles.

The back of the Blaze is covered with soft die-cut foam and mesh to promote ventilation.
The back of the Blaze is covered with soft die-cut foam and mesh to promote ventilation.

The back of the Blaze 60 is covered with mesh covered foam that has had air channels cut into it. These vent into the shallow cavity that holds the framesheet, but provide minimal ventilation benefit. The important thing is that the foam is soft and comfortable, particularly over the lumbar area. There’s a slight lumbar bulge on the back of the pack to help prevent the hip belt from slipping down your backside. I’m very sensitive to pressure in that spot, but it’s not something to worry about on the Blaze.

The hip belt is easy to resize yourself
The hip belt is easy to resize yourself

The Blaze hip belt length is also adjustable. Remove it from behind the lumbar pad by pulling it out. It’s held in pace with velcro, so you may need to release it by sliding your hand in between the lumbar pad and the belt. Adjust the belt to match your waist size, measured at the around the top of your hip bones, called the iliac crest. You want the front of the hip belt padding to just cover the front of your hip bones, as explained in How Should a Backpack Hip Belt Fit.

The women's hip belt is flared upward.
The women’s hip belt is flared up. Diagram courtesy of Granite Gear.

The Blaze’s shoulder straps and hip belt are anatomically correct for men and women, depending on which pack you purchase. For women, this means that the shoulder straps have an S-shape to wrap around your breasts, something that men with muscular or well-developed chests may also find more comfortable. The women’s hip belt is flared up at the ends to fit around a curvier female figure and provide better load-to-hip transfer.

The shoulder pads have daisy chains sewn to the front
The shoulder pads have daisy chains sewn to the front.

The shoulder pads and hip belt are well-padded with foam and covered with a non-slip softshell fabric that feels good against the skin. The foam provides an excellent hip and shoulder wrap, that won’t buckle under very heavy loads. The shoulder pads also have daisy chains sewn to them, so you can easily hang accessory pockets from them. This is a must-have, providing easy access to satellite trackers and messengers, GPS units, a camera, a map case, or water bottle holders.

Comparable Backpacks

Make / ModelWeightAdj. TorsoAdj. Hip BeltPrice
Granite Gear Blaze 603 lbsYY$270
Osprey Atmos 654 lbs 9 ozYY$270
Gregory Baltoro 654 bs 13.4 oz--$300
Osprey Aether AG 605 lbs 3.2 ozY-$290
Deuter Aircontact Lite 50+103 lbs 14 ozY-$200
Gregory Paragon 683 lbs 10 ozYY$250
Gregory Zulu 653 lbs 11 ozY-$230
Deuter Futura 50+104 lbs 9 ozY-$230

Recommendation

The Granite Gear Blaze 60 is a multi-day, expedition-capable backpack capable of carrying lots of gear and heavy loads. It replaces the Blaze A.C. 60 in Granite Gear’s backpack product line, with an improved framesheet, an adjustable-length hip belt, hip belt pockets, more durable fabric, a top lid, and better bear canister carrying capabilities. Weighing 48 oz (3 lbs), the new Blaze 60 is probably too heavy for most hardcore ultralight backpackers to ever consider using. But if you have to carry a lot of heavy gear, supplies, or a bear canister, I’d definitely recommend giving the Blaze 60 a try.

For example, I’ve carried up to 50 pounds of gear, food, fuel and water with the Blaze 60 and the pack’s new framesheet has handled it like a champ, with no hip belt slippage, torso collapse, or shoulder strap pressure. The Blaze doesn’t make the weight any lighter, but the framesheet helps you maintain an upright and energy-efficient posture, so it’s less of a struggle to carry the weight. That will reduce your fatigue, making it easier to hike, so you can enjoy your surroundings. I think you’ll be impressed with the new Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: The author received a backpack for this review.

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17 comments

  1. Great detail Phillip! Sounds like a great pack.

    Is that an igloo?

  2. I ordered one of these in the short size for my 12 year old Boy Scout son to try. It’s a tad heavy, but nothing else so far has worked, not even ULA’s Short Circuit, because it’s so hard to get pack hip/waist belts to fit a skinny boy’s waist. (We’ve tried “kid” packs, but they are usually crazy heavy for their volume and/or the belts frequently don’t fit well, either.) We are also waiting for a Granite Gear Crown2 60 short to arrive (the new black/red rock color) so that we can compare them. I wish Granite Gear made the Crown2 38 in a short, and I wish they made all of the Crown2s with side water bottle pockets either like the Crown2 60 black/red rock or the new Blaze 60, or at least like the Massdrop Crown2 60.

    • Hopefully we’ll see those changes. I’d also like to see pockets like the Blaze’s on the Crown2’s as well as a Crown 38 with women’s shoulder straps and hip belt. The Blaze sternum strap buckle is also way better than the one on the Crown 2 38.

      • From photos, I see what you mean about the sternum straps. At least in my estimation, I like the Blaze sternum strap better because it looks like it’s located in a place that is easier for my far-sighted eyes (even with corrective lenses) can see well enough to buckle on fewer than three or four attempts!

      • It’s time Granite Gear did something about the quality and durability of their side pockets. I really believe if the GG Crown2 38 had this type of pocket it would be my go to pack, sans the frame sheet, over the OHM 2.0. Which I love, but it’s just a little too big for my needs most of the time. Thanks for the review Philip

  3. I’ve got the Blaze AC 60 as my “guide” pack. When I’m going out with Scouts and need to carry some big tonnage, this is the guy. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa is still my favorite “big” pack, but the huge difference in max load between the two makes this one the heavyweight champion.

  4. What size did you test, the regular or tall?

  5. Hi whats the recommended max load for this bag. the Exos you reviewed was between 30-35Lbs

  6. I’ve been looking at the Gregory Baltoro 75 for a number of weeks now. This review tipped the scale and I purchased the Blaze 60, based on the bear vault versatility. How would you compare the two?

  7. I wonder, how well does the shovel in the first photo (if it indeed is one) fit in the front stretch pocket? As well as its sharp sides tearing the sides of the pocket, is it reinforced or not?

    I am still looking for a good 45-60l pack for multiday winter mountain trips with good full avalanche gear storage (as avy gear just strapped haphazardly to the outside of the pack does not quite count as avy gear storage to me, since it’s very possibly gonna tear right out in any serious tumble).

    Something like a cross between (now discontinued) Deuter Rise Tour 45 and Osprey Talon / Mutant… With side wand pockets for snow anchors and pickets, nice tools attachments and good snow shedding back.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks!

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