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Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian Backpack Review

Granite Gear Nimbus Meridien
Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian

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.

Removable Top Pocket
Removable Top Pocket

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.

Storage Capacity

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.

Zipper access to Main Compartment
Zipper access to Main Compartment

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.

Extra Compression Straps (2) when Top Pocket is Removed
Extra Compression Straps (2) when Top Pocket is Removed

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.

Compression System

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.

Dual Side Compression Straps
Dual Side Compression Straps

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.
Adjustable Framesheet
Adjustable Framesheet


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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  1. Looks like a very well made and thought-out pack. The front compression system is the same as the old Osprey Aether 60 packs. It would be interesting to see what a truly stripped down weight would be if the zip and a few other bits and bobs were left out. The zip access does look useful, though.

  2. That does bring back some fond memories of my old Nimbus Ozone. Great pack. I guess this one is like the burly big brother to that.

    Phil, have you ever tried, or plan to try, ULA packs? I used the Circuit in the Sierra on the PCT with loads of around 35ish pounds, and the next larger one would probably be my choice for a trip like this. The max load for the Catalyst is supposedly 40 pounds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it could hold more. Only downside is you can’t go to your local outdoor store and try one on to test it out.

    • It’s not a high priority for me. ULA does have a 30-day money back guarantee so you can try and return if one doesn’t work, btw. In general, I don’t trust the max weights that backpack makers publish. I’ve also found Chris, the owner, a little difficult to deal with, very unlike other cottage gear makers like Gossamer Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs, Six Moon Designs, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, or Zpacks. Night and day, in fact. I buy packs from smaller manufacturers because I enjoy having a cordial, high touch relationship with them. They go out of their way to educate and help customers.Nuff said.

      • Interesting. I’ve only ever dealt with ULA at the PCT kickoff, where I purchased my Circuit. They did seem quite different in character from other cottage manufacturers, but I never got the impression that they were totally unhelpful. Oh well. After all, if you have a good Granite Gear pack that will work for your trip, might as well go with that. There are almost too many good packs out there :)

      • My experience with ULA has been very positive. Chris has been helpful and friendly on the phone and the service has been great. Last year one of our scouts tripped over my pack, ripping the the lower part of a shoulder strap near the hip belt. When I sent it back for repair after explaining what happened, I was expecting a call back with a price for repair and shipping. Instead it shows up in my mail box a week later with no charge for the repair or return shipping.

      • I’m glad to hear that. I got the sense that he hates backpacking bloggers because they’re always trying to sponge free gear samples off of him. I stopped asked for free gear long before I contacted him but that’s the only reason I can explain the interaction we had.

      • Hah. I guess that would explain it. I can imagine it must get exhausting if lots of people are asking for free stuff.

        So is the Nimbus Meridian going to be the pack for the Diretissima, or are you still trying to decide?

      • I am probably going to train with a few weeks more before I commit to it, but it is definitely a contender. I am SO not used to carrying so much weight. Got to prepare for this hike.

  3. Great review as usual, Phil. It seems that to use the vertical access zipper, you would need to not have a pack liner, which I would be hesitant to eliminate…

    • Great observation Greg! That would also concern me under normal circumstances, but then again, I wouldn’t be carrying 28 pounds of food. My thinking is to bag the items I normally bag, such as sleep system, clothes, and electronics. My food is likely to be in ursacks with plastic liners down at the bottom of the bag, and will be imperious to rain.

      But if you are using the Nimbus Meridian as your everyday backpacking pack and rain bothers you, it would be tempting to consider an external rain cover. I don’t think the things do a damn thing, but I’m probably a minority.

  4. I think you pointed out all of my favorite feature of the Nimbus Meridian, and why I consider it a great pack despite the weight (I usually use mine without the lid). This was the first “real” backpack I ever purchased, before converting to lightweight backpacking. I still have never found a pack that has as comfortable of a suspension system as this pack, particularly the shoulder harness. As my gear has gotten lighter and smaller, the Nimbus Meridian is now relegated to winter camping trips where I need more space to carry heavier and bulkier gear.

    The adjustable framesheet and interchangeable hipbelts are great features that really dial in the fit. I’m not sure if it was a problem on just my pack but my only caution is that on one trip the screw that anchors the hipbelt in back worked itself loose. It wasn’t a big deal (it still held in place for the rest of the trip) and I was able to get a replacement screw, but I now check (and often need to tighten) the screws on the framesheet and the hipbelt before each trip.

    • I’ll definitely watch out for that – wonder if washers might help. Luckily the screw can be tightens with a conventional screw driver head or US 10 cent piece.

  5. Wow! Indeed a very nice review. Thanks for the updates.

  6. Phil,
    Great review. Will the internal dimensions of the pack accept a 10″ long x 9″ round bear canister horizontally?

    • Your best bet is to call Granite Gear and ask – they’re awesome with these kind of questions. I’m not at home and don’t have the tools or a bear canister to try it out. Thanks!

  7. I carried a Nimbus Meridian two years ago on my 750 mile AT trip. It worked very well and I still use it for heavier/bulkier winter loads (I went to a MP+ for 3 season loads and love it too). I used the top pocket for things I might need during the day (but I cut out the non-essential parts to strip weight). I also used “add on” hip belt pockets and shoulder strap water bottle carriers.

    The framesheet and hipbelt were very comfortable, even climbing out of towns with big (HEAVY) food loads. Still one of the most comfortable packs I have ever used. FYI- I carried a spare screw for the attachments but never needed it. I did have to adjust the shoulder harness heighth in the field once but it wasn’t a big deal.

  8. I’ve had my nimbus for a year now and have never had a single complaint about besides the weight. I would love to upgrade to a crown 60 but I can’t justify it in my
    Mind because this pack works really well for me. My girlfriend carries a meridian vapor ki and loves it. I’m usually carrying less than 20 lbs but I plan on carrying this on a section hike of the AT coming up in April where we’ll carry 7 days of food at a time so we can just keep going and hit town once a week.

  9. Nice review. I’ve been using Meridian for three years/dozens of trips. Two things I’ll add:

    – full length zip is awesome. Note that u won’t be able to zip closes a stuffed

  10. Hi Phil,

    question: which would you rather trek with for a long trip with weights close to 35lbs. The Nimbus Meridian or the Blaze 60? Which is more comfortable at those weights? I know how the Nimbus performs (excellent) but am curious about your perspective. Thanks,

    • I’d probably go with the Nimbus although I like the rear mesh pocket on the blaze AC better. The Nimbus just fits me perfectly and I’ve been carrying 40 pound loads with it for a few weeks. I also prefer the softshell fabric on the back panel to the air channel system on the AC. Back sweat doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t use the top lid by the way, just criss cross the straps over the pack top.

  11. Yeah, it’s an awesome pack. I’ve had the ki (the women’s version) since 2009 and liked it so much I convinced my boyfriend to get this pack last year. I dropped the cap early on and have had no regrets.

    My version also has a hydration sleeve down the back, which is great for keeping stuff you have to have, but don’t use that often (like credit cards, money, matches etc). I find that I never use the big zipper, and I’d rather not have it, but it hasn’t given me any problems.

    The reviewer did a great job, but really didn’t do the straps justice. It’s trivial to strap snow shoes or a winter weight sleeping pad to either side or the back of the pack making it really easy to load up for winter trips. The side pockets are also big enough to carry a lot more than water bottles, and secure enough to hold stuff like micro spikes without worry.

    The biggest downside of this pack is that at least mine squeaked like nobodies business for the first 400 miles or so.

    Oh, and to answer someone’s question, yes, it does take some of the bear canisters horizontally I believe (I usually carry an ursack though, so I haven’t tried in a while. :)

    • mine squeaks too. I can’t figure out how to make it go away. it is the only problem I have with the pack, but it is a big enough problem for me to make me look for another pack. I took the lid off. I use a bearvault which does fit albeit a little snuggly. It is a Great pack except for the squeaking. If anyone has found a solution…

  12. For weight carrying capability, would you recommend the Nimbus Meridian or the Nimbus Trace?

    • I’ve never tried the Trace – couldn’t say. I’ve recently been testing a ULA Catalyst, but I think I like the Nimbus Meridian better. The capacity is better distributed, as the Catalyst seems to run a bit top heavy.

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