New Gear: Granite Gear Lutsen 35 Backpack

OK, so it’s not “new” per se. I’ve had it for several months now — at least since Owl’s Head… 

To say it’s been doing yeoman’s duty is an understatement. To say it’s not said “boo” to me in all these miles is similar.

Packs are highly personal pieces of gear. Let’s get that out of the way. That being said, while humans come in different shapes and sizes, everyone I’ve seen on the trail has two arms and two legs, and proportions haven’t run that much of a gamut. (Hiking tends to self-select its victims enthusiasts, it’s true.) So on at least one score, if it works for me, it might work for you. YMMV.

I’ve been regularly toting about 25+ pounds of gear in said pack. I won’t pretend it’s been effortless, but certainly for the first few hikes, I’ve gotten an hour down the trail, and openly wondered what on earth I forgot to pack — because I couldn’t believe I wasn’t straining under my load.

For those lightweight and ultra lightweight adherents, technically it has a brain that’s sewn on. I like it. For day hiking, it’s a great way to organize. It’s a place I can keep a couple granola bars, my maps, and whatever else I want. There’s a small stash pocket for my keys. Side pockets hold standard Nalgene bottles, and there’s a stretch mesh pocket on the front for spare gloves, or whatever. When I do the AT, this isn’t the pack I’ll be carrying. But while I’m tramping around locally doing my day hikes in warmer weather, it’s a great partner.

I “upgraded” from my Kelty Redwing 45, because with the warmer weather, I wanted something lighter. It’s filled that need well. Robic fabric trimmed about a pound off the weight (the size difference wasn’t even nearly enough to account for that pound) and yet, I’ve probably beat the hell out of that pack more than the Redwing, which primarily saw snowy trails that were softer in many regards. I don’t think any of us is all that charitable toward our packs when we doff them at the summit, or for water and snack breaks. They land with a thud. Both packs have taken that abuse, but the Granite Gear seems to do so with thinner and lighter materials.

As with the Redwing, you can personalize the heck out of it. The hip belt is held in place by a lot of velcro, and so to are the shoulder straps. Once you dial in those, the rest is the usual adjustments. I recommend finding someone to help find the size of your back, and ideally, try this one on in person. This pack comes in a few different sizes, so if you are buying online, know your size, or be prepared to go through a round of returns. The website will help you figure that out. That being said, one thing I found is that if you adjust the shoulder straps downward too much, they create a pressure point on your shoulder blades. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. They say go down a size if you’re straddling the line (as I was) but if I were to do it again, I might actually go up a size.

Waterproofing? Robic is supposed to intrinsically resist water. That being said, every time I was out when it was wet, I had a pack cover. We all know that they’re not perfect shields against Mother Nature, and so I can happily attest that so far, I’ve been fine. I’ll trust dry bags in a downpour more than this pack with a mere rain cover, but for quick squalls and the odd wet cloud, you’re probably going to be OK.

My one and only gripe is the hip belt pockets. Granite Gear, if you’re reading this, you need to up your game. I fit a small Rite in the Rain notebook in one, and a compass, anemometer and some lip balm in the other. And all that fits in snugly. It’d be nice if I could get a trail map in there, and maybe a granola bar, too. Just my $0.02, adjusted for inflation.

Cost wasn’t crazy expensive: about in line with most of the other market leaders. If you’re smart (and I was) then you’ll scour the online sites and find the price that’s better than anyone else’s. Great deals are out there. Don’t pay full freight if you don’t need to.

If you’re dead set on having a pack with cavernous hip belt pockets, this isn’t your pack. Hyperlite has that game, as do a few others. But if you’re one to work out regularly and watch your diet, this is a pack that, when adjusted right, will fit you like a glove, and move with you in a way that makes you wonder if it’s still there. And you’ll MacGyver a work-around for the hip belt pockets.

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