Large and Light: Granite Gear ‘Crown’ Pack

Large capacity in a lightweight design. That could be a tagline for Granite Gear’s to-be-released Crown 60, a pack that weighs just 2.2 pounds yet can swallow and comfortably carry up to 60 liters worth of gear. Made to replace the company’s Vapor Trail model, the Crown 60 comes to market next spring. It is a simple, top-loading pack designed (perhaps paradoxically) for ultra-light hikers who like to carry a lot of stuff.

We got a pre-production Crown 60 for a hike earlier this fall across Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area via the infamous Border Route Trail. Day one of our trip was a 30-mile slog, including bushwhacking and hiking on a disintegrating old path. We hiked for 16 hours before we stopped to grab a few hours of sleep.

Lightweight, simple and tough, Granite Gear’s Crown 60

With my camera equipment (we were filming a video on the trail), food, water and other gear, I was packed with some bulk but overall moving fast and light. In truth, the pack was too big for our trip through the BWCA. Sixty liters is a lot of space, but fortunately the Crown 60 does cinch down well and the stretchy pockets on the front and sides lie flat until you fill them with gear.

The pack is built rugged and smart. The pack body is a water-resistant sil-nylon Cordura, a thin but tough fabric. Straps and buckles are all miniaturized on the pack to save weight. While not seam-sealed or “dunk proof,” the pack’s fabric and its roll-top closure are going to keep most weather out.

What’s not to love? We found getting in and out of the pack to be a pain. It requires the unfastening of four small buckles and undoing the roll-top lid. This design saves weight over the usual lid/collar/cinch-cord setup, but it is cumbersome when you’re trying to get at something fast.

Cushy back panel on Crown 60 doubles as a built-in camp pad (at least for our tester!)

On our trip, carrying 20 to 25 pounds depending on stowed water, the Crown 60 was plush. Its contoured and textured back panel rode soft. When it was time to bed down, the Crown 60 revealed a snazzy hidden feature — once I emptied the contents of the pack, the molded back panel doubled as a makeshift camp pad for my shoulders and back. When every ounce counts, and comfort comes second to speed, this kind of trick is a great feature for any pack.

Overall, the Crown 60 gets our thumbs-up as a great bag for ferrying larger loads. An optional lid and add-on hip belt pockets grant more capacity if needed. Light yet rugged, the Crown 60 is set for fully-geared weekend backpacking trips or minimalists who are loaded with the bulk of food to trek long and far.

T.C. Worley is a contributing editor.