I am training for a 200 mile hike with 80,000 feet of elevation gain where I need to carry of minimum of 14 days of food and a reasonably lightweight backpack that can haul the weight. I’m still trying on some different packs from ultralight gear manufacturers, but I have yet to find a pack that has the same carrying capacity as the Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian.
For those of you who have heard about or own the legendary Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone (no longer available), this pack is quite similar to it, but has a few more bells and whistles that bring it’s weight up to 3 pounds 8 ounces. It’s also the identical pack that Justin “Trauma’ Lichter used to hike 10,000 miles in 2006, when he completed the US Triple Crown in 356 days (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail).
If 3 pounds 8 ounces sounds heavyish, it is, but that is really just the weight of the Nimbus Meridian as it comes out of the box. This pack can be configured in numerous different ways, for example, with or without the optional duel top pocket/lumbar fanny pack, different shoulder straps and hip belts for fit, or snipping a few extra straps to bring its weight under 3 pounds.
Regardless of the Meridian’s weight, its ability to carry 40 pounds, which is my expected expedition weight, is a revelation. With 80% of the weight on my hips, and riding close to my back, this pack is a dream come true. Even though the Nimbus Meridian could be a wee bit lighter weight, this pack’s suspension is extremely comfortable and I’m confident that I could push its maximum comfortable weight up a bit higher if needed: I only tried Granite Gear packs this year but I am consistently blown away by how good they are.
The Nimbus Meridian has 62 liters / 3,800 cubic inches of internal storage capacity distributed between a huge main compartment, a removable top pocket, and two side pockets. Although it is a top loader, there is also a vertical zipper than runs the length of the main compartment, making it possible to access items from the interior of the pack without unloading the pack from the top. Extra weight in my opinion, but I could see this being a useful feature if you have to carry a lot more gear or food than would fit in a regular ultralight pack. Granite Gear used a very high quality Riri water-resistant zipper here, so it should last a while even if it is abused; the front forizontal compression straps also make it possible to compress the load and reduce the pressure on the zipper, particularly if you’re struggling to close it.
The two side pockets are absolutely cavernous and covered with black elastic mesh. They are large enough to easily store a water bottle and other gear that you want to access during the day. The pockets also have cutout on the side that let you run the bottom side compression strap through the pocket so that pocket contents do not interfere with the side compression system.
The top pocket is configured as a floating lid, so that you can carry additional gear and compresses between the pocket and the man compartment. In addition, there are two top straps on top of the pocket for securing long objects such as a sleeping pad or tent. If the top pocket is removed, there is a weight savings of 8 ounces.
When the top pocket is removed, the excess fabric in the extension color can be rolled up before being strapped down, and the two straps that attach the pocket to the pack can be looped or crossed over the top of the main compartment to provide additional gear attachment points. It’s a rather elegant dual use system, although you could save even more weight by cutting off the additional straps if you never plan on using the top pocket.
One of the things that really stands out about Granite Gear packs is their compression systems. Most of their packs, includig the Meridian, have multiple tiers of side compression, top compression, and even back compression that help pull the load closer to your back and over your hips so you can carry it most efficiently. When placed carefully, compression straps can also significantly augment the carrying capacity of a backpack by providing external attachment points for strapping awkwardly sized gear to the rear, top, and sides of a pack.
The Nimbus Meridian has compression straps in the following locations:
- 2 tiers of side compression on the main compartment, one level with the side pockets and the other at the level of the sternum strap. The straps are also long enough that you can easily secure bulky items like a tent to the side of the pack.
- Granite Gear’s unique front compression system (see top photo) which provides two tiers of straps designed to bring the load closer to your hips. These straps can also be used to secure lighter weight bulky objects like a Therm-a-Rest Zlite accordion-style sleeping pad to the front of the pack. You wouldn’t want to secure a very heavy object here because it will pull you backwards and make the pack harder to carry
- A top compression strap that compresses the main compartment and can be used to attach gear to the top of the pack.
- 2 additional top compression straps, if the top pocket is removed.
The Nimbus Meridian’s has a molded framesheet style suspension system that distributes the load of the pack across your back and attaches to the hip belt at the top of your hips. Load lifters are provided to pull the load closer to your back and raise the shoulder pads off the top of your shoulders so the weight rides on your hips more. They work great.
The back of the pack is covered with foam covered with a soft shell fabric that dries quickly as you sweat, but lacks the air channels available in Granite Gear’s more recent packs like the Blaze AC 60. The sames foam/soft shell fabric is also used on the shoulder pads and hip belt, which have a bit more padding than I’m used to in a backpack (compared to ultralight pack.) That said, I’m glad the extra padding is there because the hip belt does not buckle under heavy loads and it doesn’t slip past my illiac crest (hipbones) even though I’m carrying a lot more weight than I normally do.
Torso length is adjusted by raising or lowering the point where the shoulder straps attach to the back framesheet (the size regular pack fits torsos from 18-22 inches in length). The shoulder straps screw into holes on the framesheet that correspond to torso length. If you’re fitting the pack for yourself, your best bet is to try your existing torso length first and then again 1″ higher. One of my readers, David Ure, who is also a big fan of the Nimbus Meridian, told me about this adjustment and it works well. For example, I normally use an 18.5″ or 19″ torso length pack, but the 20″ setting on the Meridian works best for me.
Adjusting the torso is not difficult but takes a little bit of patience and a screwdriver. Newer versions of Granite Gear packs that use the Air Current (AC) adjsutable suspension have greatly simplified this process and don’t require any tools to set up.
If you want to zero the fit in even further, Granite Gear offers a second hip belt that can be used with the Nimbus Meridian which raises the maximum load of the pack to 50 pounds, shoulder pads in 4 different lengths and two widths (trim and regular), and 4 separate men’s and women’s hip belt sizes. The sheer variety of fitting options available for this pack is a breath of fresh air in an era where most backpack manufacturers still try to sell you a one size fits all pack!
The Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack is remarkably good pack for long distance or multiday backpacking where you need to carry 25-45 pounds of gear and food. With a maximum weight of 3 pounds 8 ounces, it a bit overkill for loads that weight less than 2o pounds but ideal for lightweight backpackers and thru-hikers who need to carry extra food or water on expedition style trips or long trail sections lacking good resupply options. When you have to carry a heavy load anyhow, adding a few extra ounces of weight is a small price to pay for day-in, day-out comfort.
- Different hip belt length and shoulder strap lengths available so you can dial in a perfect fit
- Adjustable frame and torso height, held in by screws so it doesn’t slip
- Carries heavy weight – 45 pounds – like a champ. Fantastic load-to-hip transfer!
- 360 degree compression system.
- Requires more advanced backpack fitting skills/experience to dial in optimum fit
- No front mesh pocket like the ones found on most ultralight backpack
- Overbuilt fabrics and straps by 2012 standards
Features / Manufacturer Specifications
- 3800 cubic inches / 62 liters backpack with maximum recommended load of 40-45 pounds
- Top loader with draw string closure and size access panel zipper
- Additional straps on top of top pocket to secure bulky items
- Hydration reservoir pocket and drinking ports
- Two tiers of side and front compression and top compression strap
- Top removable pocket / floating lid that can be used as a fanny pack
- Hip stabilizer straps, load lifters, and sternum strap
- Pre-curved shoulder straps that pivot to match shoulder angle
- Different shoulder strap and hip belts sizes for men and women
- Adjustable heavy-duty framesheet suspension system
- Fast drying soft shell fabric on backpad, hip belt and shoulderstraps
- Dual ice axe loops
- Fabric: Black mesh and Cordura
- Reflective daisy chains on pack front and rear in increase safety for road walking
- Torso Lengths
- regular (18-22″)
- short (14-18″)
Disclaimer: Section Hiker (Philip Werner) owns this Granite Gear Backpack and purchased it using his own funds.
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