Granite Gear Crown3 60 Backpack Review

Granite Gear Crown3 60 Backpack Review

The Granite Gear Crown3 60L is an affordable ultralight backpack with a modular design that can be easily configured for ultralight backpacking, thru-hikes, and winter hiking. The things that set this roll-top backpack apart from other ultralight-style packs, besides its very reasonable price, are its three-sided compression and gear attachment system and an optional top lid pocket which can be added when you need to carry a bear canister or need more external storage for smaller items. The most significant upgrades in this latest version, are the availability of an optional add-on frame-stay that increases the pack’s upper load limit and the ability to use the top lid as a fanny pack or front chest pocket, saving the cost of having to buy these separately.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: men’s (unisex) and women’s models available
  • Volume: 60L
  • Weight, Size Regular Unisex:
    • Pack without framesheet, top lid, or optional stay: 32.6 oz / 924 g (actual)
    • Framesheet: 6.5 oz / 186 g
    • Top lid: 2.88 oz / 81.6 g
    • Optional stay: 2.65 oz / 75 g
  • Pockets: 3 closed, 3 open
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Frame: Internal (plastic frame sheet and optional frame stay)
  • Adjustable Hip Belt Length: Yes
  • Max recommended load: 25 lbs without framesheet, 35 lbs with framesheet, 43 lbs with framesheet and aluminum stay
  • Hydration compatible: Yes
  • Material: 100d and 210d Robic Nylon
  • Torso lengths: Unisex – 15″-24″; Women’s 15″-21″
  • Hip belt lengths: Unisex – 26″- 42″;Women’s 24″-40″

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Granite Gear Crown3 60 is a roll-top ultralight-style backpack with an optional top lid pocket. The inside of the main compartment is a big open cylinder for you to organize and fill up. When packing, I like to stack all my stuff sacks up against the frame sheet and then stuff loose items behind them to maximize my space utilization and fill up the interior space. I also line the pack with a waterproof pack liner for moisture protection.

I usually remove the the top lid in warmer weather and just use the roll top closure.
I usually remove the top lid in warmer weather and just use the roll-top closure.

When computing pack volume, Granite Gear does not include open pockets or the extension collar (the extra volume above the top of the frame), so you’ll find that you can carry much more gear, food, and fuel than backpacks from smaller manufacturers that don’t adhere to this industry standard.

Notably absent is a hydration pocket in the interior, which many lightweight pack manufacturers have started to drop from multi-day backpacks since people prefer to keep their water on the outside. But there is still a hook to hang a reservoir inside and a central port to run a hose that opens between the shoulder straps.

The Crown3 has large side bottle pockets.
The Crown3 has large side bottle pockets.

The Crown3 has two side water bottle pockets made with solid fabric that have an elastic cord running through the top which you can tighten to prevent items from falling out. There’s also a compression strap than can be run over the pocket or through it, the latter so you can compress the main compartment while still using the side pocket. The pockets are large enough to hold two x 32 oz Nalgenes or 2 SmartWater bottles, whatever your preference. I can reach back to pull out a bottle or replace it without taking off the pack.

The front mesh pocket is extra tall and made with a durable mesh. It’s rather tight when the pack is full, so it’s best for storing a wet water filter, loose clothing layers, or smaller knick-knacks like a tent stake bag or trowel. I can barely fit my 1 liter cook pot into it, which is often wet inside, when the main body of the pack is full.

The pack has a long front mesh pocket.
The pack has a long front mesh pocket.

The top lid is floating, so it can be raised to fit over the extension collar when the pack is overloaded or when you want to carry a bear canister over the main compartment. The lid is connected to the back with four webbing straps, which are all removable if you remove the top lid, so you don’t have extra straps cluttering up the pack. That’s nice – just make sure you don’t misplace them.

Bear Canister Compatibility

The main compartment is large enough to fit a BV500 bear canister both vertically and horizontally, although I wouldn’t recommend trying to pack it horizontally because it is very very difficult to get out. The same is also true of the Garcia bear canister.

The floating top lid is wide enough to fit over the ends of the bear canister.

You can also carry a bear canister on top of the roll-top. The pack comes with a long webbing strap that runs over the roll top to provide top compression and is long enough to fit over and around a large bear canister. That may be enough to hold the canister on top, but it can still slip out sideways if you have to make some dynamic moves when scrambling. I like to augment the strap with the floating top lid to hold the canister in place. The lid is wide enough that the ends fit over a BV500, preventing it from sliding out sideways.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

Both the framesheet and the aluminum stay are removable to save weight
Both the framesheet and the aluminum stay are removable to save weight

The Crown3 has a plastic framesheet that is tightly packed into the zippered pocket behind the shoulder straps in the main compartment. You can remove it to save weight, but it will reduce the comfortable weight carrying capacity of the pack from 35 pounds to 25 pounds, so I just leave it in all the time.

New for the Crown3 is an optional frame stay ($12.95) weighing 2.65 oz / 75 g, that can be slotted into the plastic framesheet that adds an additional 8 pounds to the pack’s max recommended load rating, bringing it up to 43 lbs. The stay is only compatible with the Crown3 60 frame sheet. The stay is sized based on the torso length of your backpack, so make sure you buy the right size. It’s very useful when I need to do extended water carries with 5-6L of water for dry camping or when I need to carry snowshoes and extra winter traction gear.

The length of the hip belt is also easy to adjust
The length of the hip belt is also easy to adjust.

The Crown3 does not have an adjustable torso length but the men’s (unisex) and women’s models are available in a wide range of sizes.

  • Unisex:  Short Torso = 15-18″; Regular Torso = 18-21″; Long Torso = 21-24″
  • Women’s: Short Torso = 15-18″; Regular Torso = 18-21″

The Crown3 does however have an adjustable length hip belt, so you can dial in a perfect custom fit and still be able to reach the hip belt pockets. To adjust the hip belt length, you pull the hip belt out of the pack and fold the two halves together at the indicated measurement, which is closed with velcro. Getting a good hip belt fit, where the belt rides on your hip bones, is really hard for people and very difficult without an adjustable length hip belt like this. The hip belt is available in a Unisex and Women’s model: the latter has a more conical shape to fit female hips.

The Crown3 has daisy chains sewn on the shoulder straps.
The Crown3 has daisy chains sewn on the shoulder straps.

Shoulder Straps

The shoulder straps on the Crown3 have daisy chains sewn to the outside which makes it very easy to attach accessory pockets, clip-on gear like a Garmin inReach, or a water bottle sleeve to them. They also serve as anchor points for the two sternum straps that come with the Crown3 and are meant to emulate vest-style packs. I removed the second sternum strap and only use one. And finally, the Crown 3 comes with two pairs of elastic cords/w cordlocks that can be used to suspend small bottles of water from the pack straps. I like side water bottle pockets better so I’ve also removed these from the pack.

The Crown 3 comes with elastic water bottle cords. Photo courtesy Granite Gear.
The Crown 3 comes with elastic water bottle cords. Photo courtesy Granite Gear.

Compression and External Attachment System

One of the things that makes Granite Gear Packs unique is their three-sided compression and attachment system, making it very easy to strap or attach bulky gear to the outside of the backpack, including snowshoes, foam pads, and other winter traction aids. If you want a backpack that you can use all year round and for multiple sports, the Granite Gear Crown3 60L has no equal. The same was true of the Crown2 60 and the Crown2 38, as well.

It's very easy to attach snowshoes to the Crown3 because it has two tiers of webbing straps and buckles
It’s very easy to attach snowshoes to the Crown3 because it has two tiers of webbing straps and buckles, unlike packs that use cords and linelocs which freeze up.

For example, the front and both sides of the pack have two tiers of compression straps which make it easy to strap snowshoes to the outside of the pack. I use this every winter, which lasts for close to 6 months in New Hampshire. The compression straps, which are made with actual webbing, and not string, close with buckles which are far easier to use for attaching bulky gear to the side of a pack and won’t freeze up in winter.

Fanny Pack Configuration

There are also some valuable cost-saving features on the Crown3 that you have to pay extra for when purchasing other backpacks. In addition to its two large hip belt pockets, you can combine the top lid with the hip belt to make a very nice fanny pack, and one that has the added benefit of hip belt pockets.

The top lid can be combined with the hip belt to make a fanny pack.
The top lid can be combined with the hip belt to make a fanny pack.

You just have to pull out the hip belt, unclip the top lid, and secure the top lid buckles around the hip belt. I didn’t mention it above, but the top lid pocket has internal dividers in the Crown3, making it easier to keep things separate when stored inside. That really helps when the top lid is used as a fanny pack pocket. And having large hip belt pockets on a fanny pack is just priceless. Pick pockets are crying.

Granite Gear Crown3 60L Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Lightweight and Durable

The Granite Gear Crown 3 60L is a lightweight and modular backpack than can be configured for many different types of trips from thru-hiking and weekend backpacks to winter backpacking. Its wrap-around compression system makes it easy to carry bulky gear, while the new optional frame stay increases its maximum load capacity to 43 lbs.

Shop Now

Chest Pocket Configuration

You can also redeploy the top lid as a chest pocket by attaching its front webbing straps to the gear loop alongside each shoulder strap. I was a little skeptical when I first saw this, but it turns out to be quite useful and easy to disengage or re-engage when you want to take off or put the pack back on.

The top lid can also be reconfigured as a chest pocket
The top lid can also be reconfigured as a chest pocket.

I use a front pocket all winter (an old Mystery Range Wet Rib – no longer made) and I like this one which is bigger and better. It’s very convenient for carrying maps and navigational aid, gloves, hats, and food. You can also spend big bucks on pockets like this, but having one included with the Crown3 is another big value add.

Recommendation

Backpacking gear has gotten really expensive, arguably too expensive, but the Granite Gear Crown3 60 is very competitively priced for an ultralight backpack ($220), especially when you factor in the added storage (hip belt pockets, fanny pack, and chest pocket) that other manufacturers charge an arm and a leg for. If you’re looking for a lightweight backpack that can be used year-round and easily customized for a wide range of trips, the Crown3 is really hard to beat.

Chief differences between the Crown2 and Crown3

  • Optional Frame Stay
  • Fanny pack configuration
  • Chest pocket configuration
  • Long top webbing strap
White un-dyed Crown 3
White un-dyed Crown 3. Photo courtesy Granite Gear.

Be sure to check out the white, un-dyed version of the Crown3 60, which is pretty cool looking and reduces manufacturing water waste by 55%.

Reviews of Earlier Models:

Disclosure: Granite Gear donated a backpack for this review.

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 8500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click here to subscribe to the SectionHiker newsletter.
SectionHiker is read supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

24 comments

  1. Are there any other differences between the 2 and 3 besides the optional frame stay? I have the 2 and absolutely love it!

    • I spell them out in the final recommendation section. There were many different versions of the Crown 2 made, those sold by Granite Gear, and many that they licensed out to other retailers including MassDrop, CampSaver, Backcountry, etc…that had less durable and less usable side water bottle pockets, so it’s hard to give you a definitive answer not knowing which model you own. Suffice to say, this version is better than all previous models in terms of quality, usability, and value (IMHO).

  2. Jeff McWilliams

    Nice review/update. I have one of the original GG Blaze AC 60 packs, and it’s been interesting to see the evolution of the Blaze and Crown lines.

    I still wish they would make the front mesh pocket more roomy. It’s EXTREMELY tight on my Blaze AC 60 and looks like it’s had minimal improvement since then. I absolutely love the big front pocket on my ULA Catalyst.

    Since this is an update on the Crown 2, it may be useful to link whatever review(s) you have of the Crown 2 so that people can compare/contrast what you had to say about the older model. It looks like you just did a review in March 2022.

    • The Blaze 60 is a completely different backpack of course with a completely different adjustable length frame so I’m not sure that’s really an apples-to-apples comparison. I added those links – good suggestion.

  3. Zachary Robbins

    Have you checked if the Crown3 framesheet is compatible with the older versions? I have the MassDrop version and would definitely buy the frame and stay if I had the chance.

    • I don’t have one anymore. Sorry. The framesheet is not available separately as far as I know.

      • I checked with Granite Gear directly regarding the Crown 3 60 framesheet fitting the Crown 2 60. They said it does fit the Crown 2 60, but they do not sell framesheet separately. They only sell the aluminum stays separately, but the stays only work with the new framesheet. It’s unfortunate they took that approach, not a very consumer or environmentally sensitive position. Thank you Philip for another great review.

        • I’d be willing to bet that you could order the framestay and fit it into the old frame sheet with a hole punch. Try it. Really.

        • I was looking at the photo of the framestay and it looks like it might even attach to the older framesheet with zipties,

        • Actuaally I think I could make my own framestay with the right piece of aluminum. I’m in Turkey so that way I could avoid shipping.

        • Zachary Robbins

          I may try this approach because the frame stay would definitely make the pack more usable year-round for me because it starts buckling around 30 pounds with the plastic sheet. I do wish they (and most companies) would sell more replacement parts separately.

        • Never underestimate hiker ingenuity!

        • I don’t like the way some companies dribble out these upgrades that are exclusive to the new models, in order to entice consumers to buy the latest ‘improved’ model. I think it would speak much better for the companies if they would include the improvements at the outset, or else make these upgrades accessible to be used on older models.

        • While I agree with you, I think that’s unrealistic. Many gear companies are small and don’t have the capital resources to invest in long-term product development without incremental cash flow. Materials, technology, and suppliers also change fairly frequently and they have to adapt, in many cases by changing their products.

        • I ordered a 24x12x.80 piece of Kydex to make a stiffer frame sheet for the C2. I don’t think the wire stays will be necessary.

  4. Interesting changes! I have both the 60l and 38l. Just wish they made a Crown3 in 45 or 50 liter.

  5. I’ve had a version of the women’s Crown2 60 and love it. I do think that more durable and deeper pockets is an improvement, though. My stretchy side pockets have a few snags.

    I do strongly recommend running the straps inside the side pockets (as pictured in the tan pack) and not on the outside (as pictured on the white pack). I’ve done that on my pack and as you say, it separates the main compartment from the pocket. Especially with a drawstring on the pocket, I can’t think of many times you’d need the extra strap around the outside, and it makes it hard to get things in and out.

    I carried a Garcia bear canister horizontally inside the pack for a week in Yosemite and it was actually fine. That was the last thing to go in the main compartment, and when I took it out I could sit on it. On that trip the crown and front pocket were useful for things that I needed on the trail (and didn’t want to move the canister to reach).

    I had seen one version of the Crown2 that had the crown that could be made into a fanny pack, and I tried it with mine. It’s really a matter of how the buckles mate – on one side mine mated but on the other they didn’t. So on the second side I tied the straps together with the buckles at the free ends of the knot to keep it from coming loose – not elegant but worked perfectly well. My thought: it’s cool that you can do that on the trail, if you don’t want to carry an extra fanny pack or small day pack. Once on a one-week trip was OK. But I might not want to have to take my backpack apart every time I needed a fanny pack, if it was more frequent than that.

    • I’ve got a 2017 Crown 2 and I just use a small carabiner to attach the one side of the lid where the buckles don’t match if I want to use it for a fanny pack. I also use 2 small carabiners to attach my lid to my shoulder straps so I can use it for a chest pocket. Works great.

  6. Over the years the Crown has become a popular backpack. With its modular frame components it is very versatile.

    As I have stated here in no uncertain terms I ESCHEW frameless packs for loads over 15 pounds, especially in packs the size of the 60. The small weight “savings” is lost with the accompanying discomfort.
    This is similar to my disdain for cutting off hiking pole straps, use of tall titanium mugs in place of fuel efficient wider-than-tall anodized aluminum pots with plastic cups and the use of tarps (with inner mesh tents) over lighter, faster to pitch UL and SUL tents.

  7. I’ve got a 2017 Crown 2 and I just use a small carabiner to attach the one side of the lid where the buckles don’t match if I want to use it for a fanny pack. I also use 2 small carabiners to attach my lid to my shoulder straps so I can use it for a chest pocket. Works great.

  8. Philip, based on your detailed reviews I just picked up the Crown 3 60 for $154 during their 30% off promo.

    Much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Clicky