The Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70L backpack is a high-capacity pack that can be used for long trips and expedition style travel. Weighing a hefty 4 pounds 6 ounces on the SectionHiker scale, this is not an ultralight backpack, but it’s still quite lightweight when compared to other expedition sized backpacks with a similar amount of capacity. If you’re looking for a high volume pack that can go big but has some of the functional features of a UL pack, I recommend you give the Nimbus Trace Access a careful look.
Organization and Storage
The Nimbus Trace Access 70 is a top loading backpack with a floating lid pocket and five exterior pockets, including four side pockets and a long front mesh pocket. The main compartment is cavernous and the extension collar provides even more storage that the 70 liters than the pack is rated for, enabling you to overstuff the pack but still keep the extra load enclosed and out of the elements. When using the extended capacity, the top pocket can be raised as a floating lid and then lashed down, providing additional top compression to keep your gear under control.
The lower side mesh pockets are large enough to hold two one liter bottles each although they are vulnerable to rips and abrasion from passing vegetation. The compression straps on these lower pockets can be threaded to run inside or outside of the pocket, as is the Granite Gear style, providing you with the ability to compress the base of the pack even if there are water bottles in the side pockets. There are also two zippered pockets located higher up on the sides of the pack that provide convenient access to smaller items like Aqua Mira drops or a camera/cell phone.
There is also a long front mesh pocket on the front of the Nimbus Trace Access 70, like most of Granite Gear’s other overnight backpacks. But it’s not as large, wide, or as easy to use as the front pockets on the company’s Blaze AC 60 or the Crown VC 60 backpacks, for drying out a wet rain fly or rain gear.
Like many expedition-style backpacks, the Nimbus Trace Access 70 provides a way to access the contents of the main compartment without taking everything out of your backpack, with front panel access underneath the front pocket. Simply unzip two zippers running along the sides of the pocket and open up the main compartment. This can be a useful feature in dry climates when you don’t have to line the inside of your pack (which would prevent access) to prevent from rain from leaking through the pack’s seams and wetting your gear.
The Nimbus Trace Access 70 has a large top pocket built into the lid with a rear facing zipper. There is a second stretch pocket inside the lid with a key clip. The top lid can be detached from the backpack and used as a fanny pack, using two webbing straps tucked into the top pocket as a hip belt.
Alternatively, you can discard the top lid pocket completely and shave 9.3 ounces off the pack’s weight, bringing it under the 4 pound mark. The top of the extension collar closes with a roll top closure and additional webbing straps provide top compression, making this a viable alternative if you are willing to forego the convenience of a top lid pocket.
Backpack Frame and Suspension
The Nimbus Trace Access 70 has an adjustable frame system which is a must-have feature on a pack of this size and load carrying capacity (60 pounds). You can’t afford to have an ill-fitting backpack when carrying heavy loads. In addition, the pack has an ingenious venting system designed with spaces between the rear padding to help dry your shirt as you sweat carrying a heavy pack.
Adjusting the pack’s torso length involves releasing the framesheet from the inner pocket that holds it in place and unscrewing the shoulder harness bolts with a Phillips head screwdriver. The basic system is the same as the one used in Granite Gear’s previous generation of higher capacity backpacks (see my Nimbus Meridian Review) and the hardware is almost identical, with the exception of a new maple laminate framesheet.
Getting the framesheet out of its pocket takes a bit of elbow grease and you are likely dislodge some to the trim around the framesheet in the process. If you decide to buy the Nimbus Trace Access, buy it at REI so you can return it if doesn’t fit and you damage it while adjusting the frame.
Once free, the Nimbus Trace Access 70 can be adjusted to fit torso lengths from 18-22 inches, in one inch increments (only) by raising or lowering the point where the shoulder harness is attached to the frame. The width of the shoulder harness can also be adjusted by attaching the harness to the inner holes (narrow) or outer holes (wide) depending on the width you require.
Load to hip transfer on the Nimbus Trace Access 70 is quite good due to further design innovations. The hip belt is bolted to the bottom of the framesheet rather than free-floating as in Granite Gear’s other backpacks. Plastic wings extend from the bolt and curve around the outside of the hip belt while still enabling hip belt replacement, ensuring a personalized fit. A large lumbar pad placed between the wings of the hip belt also helps transfer weight to your hip bones while load lifters connected at the top of the framesheet pocket help pull the load forward for better alignment with your core and large leg muscles.
Compression and External Attachment System
If backpacks with too many webbing straps annoy you, then the Nimbus Trace Access 70 might not be your cup of tea. There are 20 permanently affixed compression/external straps on the pack, not to mention all the other pieces of webbing on the shoulder harness, frame and the hip belt.
Starting from the top (lid), there are:
- Two external straps on the top of the lid pocket to secure gear with.
- Four straps that hold on the top lid pocket
- Two compression straps to attach gear to the top of the main compartment below the top lid pocket.
- Six compression straps arranged in three tiers on the sides of the backpack.
- Three compression straps on the front of the pack over the stretch pocket
- Three compression straps inside the pack under the stretch pocket
While all of these straps provide an abundance of options for attaching gear to the outside of the pack and provide compression for your load as you eat it down, they significantly complicate the process of packing and unpacking the backpack. While some of this complexity is mitigated by accessing gear inside the pack through the front panel, I think the Nimbus Trace Access 70 would have a much cleaner design, but be just as functional, if the compression straps could be removed when not needed or replaced with gear loops, allowing users to rig up their own compression and external attachment points as needed.
While the Nimbus Trace Access 70 is the highest capacity backpack that Granite Gear makes, I am impressed that it packs so much capability into a backpack that weighs slightly more than 4 pounds. The adjustable frame, excellent load to hip transfer, and ventilated padding make this pack an excellent choice for weeklong or expedition style trips where you need to go heavy due to remoteness or lack of resupply.
- Frame is bolted to the hip belt providing excellent load transfer with heavy loads
- Floating lid and huge extension collar provide much higher capacity than 70L
- Compression webbing can run through side pockets in addition to over them
- Too many compression straps
- Seams in top lid pocket and base of pack leak in the rain
- Frame is only adjustable in 1 inch increments
- Mesh side pockets are easy to tear off-trail
- Short: 3 lb 15 oz / 1.8 kg
- Regular: 4 lb 3 oz / 1.9 kg
- Short: 3870 cu in / 64 L
Regular: 4270 cu in / 70 L
- Short: 3870 cu in / 64 L
- 210D Cordura
- Short: 14-18 in / 36-46 cm
- Regular: 18-22 in / 46-56 cm
- Replaceable components
- 4 sizes of shoulder straps available
- 4 sizes of hip belts available
Written 2014. Updated 2017.
Disclosure: Granite Gear provided the author with a backpack for this review.
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