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Granite Gear Crown2 38 Backpack Review

Granite Gear Crown2 38L Backpack Review

The Granite Gear Crown2 38L backpack is a lower volume version of its popular big brother, the Crown2 60L backpack.  It’s a highly configurable ultralight backpack that has an adjustable-size hip belt so you can get a perfect, customized fit, with an optional top lid and framesheet that can be removed to reduce its weight. Fully configured the 38L weighs 38.6 oz, but strips down to 29.5 oz with just the hip belt. This is the configuration I prefer to use the pack in, but it’s nice to have the added functionality of a top lid pocket and the framesheet available for heavier loads.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight:
    • Pack (including all optional components): 38.5 oz
    • Optional frame sheet: 6.1
    • Optional top lid: 2.9 oz
    • Optional hip-belt: 6.2 oz
  • Volume: 38L
  • Gender: Men’s
  • Torso Size: 18″ – 21″ / 46 cm – 54 cm
  • Hip Belt Size : 28″-40″ (adjustable-length)
  • Max Recommended load:
    • With framesheet: 30-35 lbs
    • Without framesheet: 20-25 lbs
  • Material: ROBIC high-tenacity nylon (100/210-denier)
  • Bear Canister Compatible: Vertical
  • Best used: On-trail

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Crown2 38L is laid out like an ultralight backpack with side water bottle pockets and a front mesh pocket. The main pack back is cavernous and closes with a roll-top, while the hip belt has two large solid zippered pockets. The top lid is floating and connected to the pack with removable straps, while the hip belt has two large hard-faced and zippered pockets.

True backpack volume

Before we dive into the details, it’s important to understand how Granite Gear measures its backpack volumes and how they compare to the volumes reported by other brands. Granite Gear doesn’t include any open pockets in their capacity specs and they don’t include the volume of the extension collar of the main pack bag, which is the extra fabric “tube” that extends past the top of the shoulder straps. The extension collar on the 38L provides an additional 5L of volume, not counting the open front mesh and side water bottle pockets, bringing the pack’s effective storage closer to 45L. The extra extension collar capacity is quite noticeable and useful if you need to carry more gear and food and I find this size to be perfect for the 2-3 day backpacking/fly fishing trips I like to take in New Hampshire and Maine.

Most cottage pack makers include all of their open pockets and extension collars in their storage calculations, which tends to inflate their actual volumes a bit and make it hard to compare them to “mainstream packs”. Granite Gear follows an outdoor industry standard for computing pack volumes; you can read about it more on their website FAQ. I don’t really have an axe to grind on volume computation, other than the fact that I wish it was consistent across backpack makers.

The front mesh pocket is great for storing layers and wet gear
The front mesh pocket is great for storing layers and wet gear.

Open pockets

The Crown2 38L features the standard, full-length front mesh pocket that Granite Gear packs are known for. This is great for storing frequently accessed or wet items (rain fly, tarp, water filter, etc) that you don’t want to come in contact with your dry gear stored inside the main pack bag. The mesh on the outside of this pocket is quite durable, but I’d still advise against bushwhacking with it.

The side water bottle pockets on the Crown2 38L have compression straps that can be run through the pockets or over them. They’re covered with a solid, but stretchy fabric that is more durable than open mesh, but not something I’d recommend for off-trail hiking because it’s liable to catch and get torn. There are slits at the base of each side pocket to drain rain, but the bottom of the pockets could be better armored for increased durability.

It’s easy to pull out and replace bottles with a small diameter like a 1L or 700ml Smartwater bottle from the side pockets, while still wearing the pack, but you will a harder time putting wider diameter bottles away because the side fabric isn’t loose enough. This is also a problem on the 60L version of the Crown2 and it’s too bad it wasn’t fixed in the 38L version of the pack. Still, it’s not an issue if you use the narrower Smartwater bottles, popular with backpackers, or a hydration reservoir.

If you prefer using a hydration reservoir, there is a single central hook to hang one inside the pack bag, but not an additional pocket to hold it in place. Dual hydration ports are positioned in between and above the shoulder straps.

The Crown2 38L has an optional top lid pocket
The Crown2 38L has an optional top lid pocket

Closed storage

The main pack bag on the 38L is cavernous and the interior fabric is coated to provide additional moisture protection. The seams are not sealed, however, so you’ll want to line the pack with a pack liner if backpacking in wet weather.

The pack bag has a roll-top closure with male and female clips that connect together under the top lid. A long compression strap runs over the top of the roll-top to provide additional compression or lash items to the top of the pack. If the top lid is removed, you can clip the male and female ends of the roll-top into the rear clips that the top lid vacates, so they’re not loose.

The top lid pocket has a single external zippered pocket. It’s technically a floating lid so you can sandwich gear underneath it and hold it against the top of the pack. The webbing straps for the top lid are NOT long enough to fit a bear canister underneath, however, unlike the Crown2 60L, which has this capability (see review for photos).

The Crown2 38L has two large hip belt pockets, that come standard on the ReFIT adjustable hip belt. They’re both quite large and solid-faced with durable fabric since this is a high wear point on backpacks.

Its easy to attach a foam sit pad or sleeping pad to the front of the pack
It’s easy to attach a foam sit pad or sleeping pad to the front of the pack

External Attachment Points and Compression System

Most of Granite Gear’s overnight backpacks have a lot of exterior straps. And while they do provide excellent compression, I primarily use them to secure long skinny or pointy items to the outside of my backpack that won’t fit inside the main pack bag.

The Crown2 38L has two tiers of side compression straps that clip closed with a buckle. This makes them particularly good for securing snowshoes to the side of the pack, something that’s quite difficult to do if the compression strap doesn’t close with a clip-style buckle.

The deep side water bottle pockets also make it easy to carry long skinny items like a Tenkara fishing rod and lash it to the side of the pack using the upper compression strap for security.

There are an additional two tiers of compression straps over the front mesh pocket that are good for securing a foam sit pad or sleeping pad to the outside of the pack. The top compression that runs over the top of the roll-top closure can also be used to secure gear, like a rope coil or tent, to the top of the pack bag.

The frame of the Crown 2 has two components
The frame of the Crown 2 has two components: a foam sheet that’s sewn into the pack and a removable plastic framesheet.

The Crown2 38L also has daisy chains sewn to the front of the shoulder straps which are convenient to hang gear from like camera pockets, a GPS or PLB case, or a loud whistle, since there’s no whistle on the sternum strap.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The frame of the Crown2 38L has two components – an internal (optional ) plastic framesheet and a foam pad with air channels, sewn to the exterior of the pack and behind the shoulder straps. The adjustable hip belt slots behind the lumbar area of the foam pad and secures to the pack using velcro.

If you pull out the framesheet to reduce the weight of the pack, the foam pad still gives the pack considerable structure and provides load transfer to the hip belt. The nice thing about having a sewn-in foam pad is that you can use it to insulate your feet, in conjunction with a torso-length sleeping pad to save a few more ounces of gear weight.

Granite Gear Crown 2 Backpack Framesheet
Framesheet

While the pack’s carry with the foam pad alone is not quite as stiff as when the framesheet is inserted, it’s still perfectly adequate for a 20-25 pound load. I actually prefer the slightly softer feel of the 38L without the framesheet. Still, it’s barely noticeable when inserted, unless you’re carrying pointy objects in the pack or a heavier load. As it stands, I can carry 20-25 pounds with the foam pad alone, and 30-35 pounds with the additional plastic sheet inserted, without feeling the hip belt collapse. That’s not at all surprising, since the 38L uses the same hip belt as the 60L of the Crown2.

The Granite Gear Crown 2 backpack has an adjustable length hip belt that can be easily resized so you get a perfect fit.
The Granite Gear Crown 2 backpack has an adjustable length hip belt that can be easily resized so you get a perfect fit.

Granite Gear Crown2 38L Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Excellent Ultralight Backpack

The Granite Gear Crown2 38L is ideal for thru-hiking, weekend backpacking trips, and technical day hikes. Ultralight and highly configurable, it has an adjustable length hip belt so you get a perfect fit.

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Recommendation

The Granite Gear Crown2 38L is an ultralight backpack that can be configured in a wide variety of ways depending on the amount of gear you need to carry. While it weighs 38.5 ounces fully loaded with its optional components (top lid, framesheet), it’s easy to remove them and bring the pack’s weight down to a more reasonable 29.5 oz, without a significant loss in comfort or load-carrying capacity. But the most unique and important feature on the Crown2 38L is having an adjustable length hip belt that you can personalize to fit your waist. It is hard to believe how many backpack companies still fail to provide hip belts that fit people. It’s a simple thing, but it really makes the Granite Gear Crown2 38L shine.

Disclosure: Granite Gear donated a backpack for review.

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9 comments

  1. Hi Phil,
    I really like the look of this pack. Would this pack be ok for someone 6 feet tall. Or is the torso size too small. Thanks

    • I think you need to measure your torso length (which has nothing to do with your height).

      • I have this pack, really like it. I too use it with out the plastic stiffener as I find it more comfortable. Now we are going into winter and I can’t put my bulky sleeping bag in there, I am thinking about getting the 60l. Is the plastic stiffener somehow more comfortable in the 60l Philip? I’m sure it’s not, but just wondering what you thought having tried both. Thanks

  2. The two packs feel the same. I use them both with the “frame”.

  3. For winter , is the water bottle pocket stiffness a deal breaker if you use the white wide mouth 32 oz Nalgene bottles with the 40 below or standard insulating sleeves? Your review says it’s a fighter fit but is it still functional or doable to fit these bottles? I’m looking for a large volume day pack specifically for winter day hikes. I’m slso considering the HMG Junction 3400…

    • Actually, the water bottle pockets are big enough to fit a 32 oz Nalegene in an insulated sleeve. I use one from 40below, mountainsmith (which are huge) and Nalegne. They all fit fine. Most people attach these to a pack hipbelt on winter packs but I actually prefer them in a side pocket.

      • Good to know, this pack wasn’t on my radar but I’m constantly learning new stuff reading your content. I have two packs already but a pack that is especially good for winter day hikes would be a bonus. I have TSL snowshoes, they are awesome snowshoes but harder to attach to a pack, would they be an issue with this pack especially if you plan to use the water bottle pockets?

        • You can pack the ender the top lid, under the top Y strap, or on top of the front mesh pocket – there are another two compressions straps over it. It’s just great for carrying all kinds of crap.

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