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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Granite Gear Vapor Trail > Owner Review by Nancy Griffith

January 08, 2008


NAME: Nancy Griffith
AGE: 41
LOCATION: Northern California
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
WEIGHT: 132 lb (59.90 kg)

I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania and since then in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and now in the Sierra Nevada of California. Most of my trips are section hikes or loops from a few days to a week. I mostly hike in the summer and fall. I've recently discovered the virtues of lightening the load by updating some older gear, but I'm not an ultralight backpacker…yet.


Manufacturer: Granite Gear
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$160
Listed Weight: 30.4 oz (862 g)
Measured Weight: 30.4 oz (862 g)
Other details: Tested version was Short Torso size

The Granite Gear Vapor Trail pack has one large compartment that is accessed only from the top which is closed with a drawstring, then by rolling the excess material and securing two straps; one strap front to back and one strap from side to side. There is no top lid compartment. The main compartment has a volume of approximately 2600 cu in (42.6 L) with the remainder in the extension sleeve for a total of 3,300 cu. in. (54 L) (short size). There are two side pockets made of stretchy material. Inside the main compartment is a pocket with compression straps for a hydration pack and a hydration port on one side. The shoulder straps are attached (non-adjustable). The suspension system can be adjusted at the shoulders with load lifter straps and at the hip belt with stabilizer straps. The frame is made with a polyethylene sheet which is covered with padding and attached to the bottom and sides of the pack. This support works well for load transfer. Photo courtesy of Granite Gear.


Field information
I first used the Vapor Trail on an overnight backpacking trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail (Northern Sierra Nevada mountains, CA) from 7300 - 8350' (2225 - 2545 m). It was summer with temperatures in the 50's - 80's F (10 - 27 C). The humidity was low with no rain.

I also used it on a week-long trip in King's Canyon National Park (Southern Sierra Nevada mountains, CA) from 5,000 - 11,978' (1524 - 3651 m). The temperatures were in the 30's - 80's F (0 - 26.7 C). There was no rain the entire week and only one day of threatening rain. Nights were clear.

Lighter weight backpacking is the way to go! This pack saved me over 5 lb (2.27 kg) in pack weight alone. That I LOVE. Of course there are compromises that must be made for this weight savings. For one, it is not as durable as my old pack both in terms of handling abrasion and in terms of handling overstuffing. Secondly, the one main compartment (without any pack top compartment) requires some ingenuity in how to store/find smaller items.

As for durability, I had to develop the habit of setting down my pack with the strap side down and to carefully pack so that hard items are not directly touching the inside of the pack. I once set my pack down such that the back rubbed a granite boulder. The bear canister inside (with no soft padding around it) caused an abrasion on the pack. See photo.
Abrasion close-up

For packing small items, I started carrying my most often used items in my pants pockets. The others I placed in the elastic pockets on one side of the pack. The other elastic pocket I used for fuel and/or a Nalgene bottle. NOTE: the elastic pockets have a hole about 1" (2.5 cm) long on the bottom corner of one side, so I had to be careful not to put items that were too small near that area or else they could fall out. I found it to work fine to just place them to the other side of that same pocket and the elastic held them in place. It was difficult to access the pockets while wearing the pack, so I either took it off or had my partner do it.

I used the space between the straps and pack for holding either my 60 oz (1.8 L) or 100 oz (3 L) hydration bladder. It helped to get all of the air out before trying to stuff it in. Inserting the bladder before loading the pack also helped. I never used the inside pocket for the hydration bladder for fear of a water leak, but I did find it useful for small items that are rarely used but need to be handy in a hurry such as my first aid kit, ace bandage and occasionally, map.

My old Madden pack is infinitely adjustable with gel padded shoulder straps, so I expected the Vapor Trail to be less comfortable. However, surprisingly I found the Vapor Trail to be more comfortable and didn't cause the usual hip and shoulder sore spots. This was probably just due to my lower overall pack weight. I do wish the shoulder straps were adjustable, but the pack was still very comfortable. It did take some pack content re-organization to get the comfort-level just right. On the first trip, I had some heavier items too low in the pack and it was making me feel like I was being pulled backwards. Now I pack light clothes/sleeping bag at the bottom, heavier cookset/stove higher and between my shoulder blades with lighter items toward the outside.

The 3,300 cu. in. (54 L) (short size) includes the extension sleeve. However, only a portion of the extension could be used while allowing enough material to roll down to maintain water resistance. Also, the straps are not long enough to clip if I filled the entire extension sleeve. My gear fit easily in the main portion, so I didn't use the extension sleeve.


Overall, I would recommend this pack for anyone who is able to downsize on the amount of gear hauled. It works very well with a small load that can fit in the main compartment of approx. 2600 cu in (42.6 L). Its durability and comfort seem well suited for this type of load. I carried up to 26.5 lb (12 kg) of gear in this pack with no problems. My hiking partner carried up to 33.5 lb (15.2 kg) in the Regular Torso size which fit in the main compartment with ease and was comfortable.

My favorite thing about the pack is that it keeps me from packing too much gear! Granite Gear claims that 40% of AT thru hikers use this pack. Whether that is true or not, it means that even a thru hiker can fit everything needed in this pack. I saw a PCT thru hiker using this pack this summer.


Light weight
Very comfortable
Hydration bladder pocket


Lighter duty durability
Lack of pockets for organization


Nancy Griffith

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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