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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Granite Gear Virga Pack > Owner Review by steven huntress

Granite Gear Virga pack

Owner Review

February 24, 2010



Owner Bio:

Name: Steve Huntress

Age: 39

Gender: Male

Height: 5' 9” (1.75 m)

Weight: 195 lb (88 kg)

Email: jabahutt at msn dot com

City: Scituate

State: Massachusetts

Country: USA


Outdoor Background: My interest in hiking and backpacking started after I turned 30 years old. I had always loved bicycling, weight-lifting & being outdoors. Generally a solitary person, I've grown to really enjoy solo hiking and backpacking. Any chance I can, I grab my pack and gear for a weekend overnighter. In 2008 I had my first taste of long-distance hiking when I set out on the Appalachian Trail (known as the AT by many), completing 470 miles (770 km). This opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and new enjoyments. I believe in lightweight backpacking and staying in the best physical condition possible.


Product Information:

Manufacturer: Granite Gear

Website: http://www.granitegear.com

Product: Virga Pack

Year of Manufacture: 2006

MSRP: $109.95 US

Listed Weight: l lb 3 oz (.54 kg)

Delivered Weight: 2 lbs (.91 kg)


Product Description:

The Granite Gear Virga Pack is a frameless top-loading pack, capable of carrying weights of up to 20 lb (9 kg) comfortably. It has a 3200 cubic inch (52 liter) capacity. The main body is made with 70D ripstop nylon, with 210D nylon Cordura reinforcements on the backrest, rear and bottom. These are not the most lightweight fabrics on the market, but for strength and durability, are excellent choices for this type of backpack. Because the Virga has no frame, its support is gained from placing a rolled sleeping pad into it, then storing gear inside the roll.

The padded shoulder straps are sewn into the pack, therefore are not interchangeable. The pack has 1.5 inch (4 cm) webbing hip belt, remains tight while wearing and is not interchangeable. There are six compression straps in all and two load lifter straps. Two rear horizontal tie down straps serve as a sort of expansion panel, allowing for additional attachment of items, such as clothing, sleeping pad or a tarp.

There are two stretch woven pockets, one on either side of the pack. They are tight fitting to the pack and will not catch on tree branches, bushes or rock edges during hiking. They retain their shape well, and I believe perform better than mesh style pockets found on many other ultralite packs, which can stretch and become misshapen. The Virga does not have a hydration sleeve or even a hydration port, although the Granite Gear website states that the pack is hydration compatible. Perhaps this is an added feature on the current Virga model.






Granite Gear Virga (Front View)

Granite Gear Virga (Rear View)


(Images Courtesy of Granite Gear)


Field Information

  • Location: This pack has been used on several backpacking trips throughout New England and along the east coast. It has also been used extensively on the Appalachian Trail over a ten week period. In all, this pack has been used for over eighty days.

  • Location Description: The terrain in which this pack has been used varies from thick wooded forests to open fields and surrounding rocky areas, elevations ranging from 500 ft (150 m) above sea level to over 4000 ft (1200 m).

  • Weather Conditions: This pack has been used in a variety of weather conditions throughout New England and along the east coast: heat (over 90 deg F/32 C), cold (below freezing), humid climates and heavy rains. It's a tough pack, and has carried more weight than the manufacturer's suggestion.

  • Trip/Performance Condition: This pack has performed without any problems and is the most reliable pack that I own. Its frameless construction allows for easy storing when not in use, as well as taking up minimal space within my tent, once all the contents have been emptied from it. The 3200 cubic inches (52 liters) of space are more than enough to carry all that I need, whether it be on a day hike, long trips, and on both fair weather and cold weather backpacking trips.


Observations

Because of its extreme light weight, the Virga lacks three main characteristics which many other lightweight packs possess. One thing, as aforementioned, is the lack of any rigid support in the form of stays. The Virga is a frameless pack, designed to be as lightweight as possible, yet still perform well. The lack of any internal support doesn't detract from the pack's quality. However, the user should follow the manufacturer's suggestion of not overloading the pack beyond 20 lbs (9 kg). I will admit, I've had this pack filled to approximately 35 lbs (16 kg) on more than one occasion. For short term usage, this won't ruin the pack, but I wouldn't recommend making this a common practice. After all, the pack is designed for ultralite backpackers, and should be used in accordance with this philosophy.

Another difference of this pack from other lightweight packs is the hip belt. The hip belt on the Virga is 1.5 inch (4 cm) webbing. The pack is not designed with the idea to transfer much weight to the user's hips. Most of the pack's weight is carried on the user's shoulders. When my pack weight has been kept within the manufacturer's recommendation, then this hasn't at all been uncomfortable for me. However, on those occasions when I've loaded the pack beyond the manufacturer's suggestion, it has felt a bit cumbersome. Over prolonged periods, I believe this could cause premature damage to the pack. I find the hip belt to be adequate for my use, allowing free movement of my hips and is not constricting.

The third main feature in which the Virga differs in comparison to other lightweight packs is the shoulder straps. On many other lightweight packs the shoulder straps are not very well padded, and some have no padding at all. I believe Granite Gear has integrated just the right amount of padding into the shoulder straps. Some people may argue that in fact there's too much padding in the Virga's shoulder straps, and that by minimizing this, more weight could be shed. I feel this would detract from their comfort, and believe the weight savings would not be justified. The Virga's shoulder straps are fixed padded straps. They are not interchangeable. They are very comfortable for my use and I found the sternum strap to keep the pack stable on my back, no shifting from side to side.

The stitching quality of the Granite Gear Virga is superb. With the hundreds of miles I've put on this pack, none of its stitching has failed or even loosened. The fact that I have overloaded this pack beyond the manufacturer's recommendation, without any failing of the seams or material itself, I believe is a testimony to the quality of the Virga.


Summary

  • What I like: My favorite points of the Virga are its lightweight and easy to wear ability. It's a basic pack, no excess straps that get in the way, reliable and has never given me a problem. It can be used on simple day hikes or extended backpacking trips. When empty, it crumples to a very small size for easy storage. It's also easy to clean, as it can be thrown in a washer machine.

  • What I dislike: The one thing I'm not too fond of is the hip belt. The Virga has a simple piece of 1.5 inch (4 cm) webbing for the hip belt. Though this pack is the lightest backpack which Granite Gear offers, I believe that if a small amount of padding were integrated into the hip belt, it would make for a bit more comfortable wear on the hips, without adding too much weight.






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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Granite Gear Virga Pack > Owner Review by steven huntress



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