For most of my years of backpacking and camping, I’ve leaned towards comfort over minimalism. While weight was a consideration when buying gear, it wasn’t the number one consideration. That’s why I’ve loved my Osprey Atmos AG 65 pack. I can load it up with an insane amount of crap, and it’s still very comfortable.
It wasn’t until I started doing a weekly ruck on greenways with a local group of serious backpackers that I started to really experiment with different amounts of weight. I quickly realized just how much difference going ultralight makes in how you feel and how much more ground you can cover in a weekend without exhausting yourself. My Osprey weighs nearly five pounds empty, so it’s an obvious place to shave weight.
Talking with other members of the group who favor ultralight setups, I repeatedly heard that the Granite Gear Crown2 60 pack is a good compromise between weight and price, so when I saw them on sale, I ordered one to see for myself.
Granite Gear Crown2 backpack review
Over several months, I’ve used the pack nearly every weekend for hikes of 12 miles or more, so I’ve got a good idea of the bag’s strengths and weaknesses now. At just 2.2 pounds, it’s much lighter than my old pack. Between it and my NEMO Hornet 2 tent, I’ve cut five pounds from my overall load.
Fit and comfort
I have to admit that when my Granite Gear Crown2 arrived, I thought I’d made a grave mistake. The first thing I did after getting it out of the box was to dump in the 35 pounds of weight that I use for rucking and walk around my house to see how it felt. Compared to my Osprey, it was horrible, with the straps digging into my shoulders and the weights poking into my back. What I quickly learned is if you’re going to go ultralight, then commit to that. This pack is not comfortable if you load it down. Nothing will make it feel like an Osprey, but it’s just fine in the sub-25lb range.
Unlike heavier packs that have a metal frame, the Granite Gear Crown2 has a polypropylene sheet that lives in a zippered compartment. It gives the bag some structure, but not much else.
There’s also a molded foam back panel with mesh ventilation channels, but I’ve learned to put soft things like sleeping bags and clothing against the inside of the bag facing my back instead of hard objects to keep them from poking me.
Once I have the bag on my back, I’ll hunch my shoulders forward and press back to force the soft things inside to conform to my shape, and then it’s much more comfortable.
You can take the “frame” sheet out entirely and get the pack weight down to 1.7 pounds if you want to.
The Crown2 has a fixed, non-adjustable torso length available in three torso sizes, so make sure you measure yourself carefully.
What I really like is the adjustable/removable hip belt. The adjustable part has a generous area of hook and loop, so it stays put and won’t pull loose no matter how much you cinch down on the straps.
The shoulder straps are okay for comfort as long as you don’t overload the pack. I don’t know why, but the adjustable sternum strap can be a bit fiddly to close, and it often takes me a couple of tries.
To get the weight down, Granite Gear uses thinner high-tenacity nylon than some other brands, but I don’t think it lacks that much in durability. I’ve yanked and pulled on various parts of this bag as I jam things in as tightly as possible, and nothing has given way. The bag does not come with a rain cover, but the fabric is treated with NeverWet liquid repellent to provide some protection.
This is a 60-liter bag, so there’s plenty of room inside. There’s no separate internal pocket, but there is a hook to hang a hydration reservoir and a hole to run the tube out.
The top of the pack closes with a roll-top in the same way that a canoe dry bag does. There’s a strap that goes over the top to cinch it down even tighter.
The removable lid/brain has a compartment accessed with a water-resistant zipper. I think the connection points for the lid could be positioned just a little lower so that it doesn’t flop around if you don’t have a lot in the bag, but that’s a minor quibble.
Two more small hip belt pockets also have WR zippers. I like that they are small enough and situated so that my arms don’t brush them when I walk. That might change if I put stuff in them, but I’ve never used hip belt pockets.
There are three mesh pockets around the base of the bag. The two at each side are so small that I have trouble jamming a Nalgene bottle on there when the bag is full.
I cannot get my tent in the back pocket, but there are two straps there that let you attach whatever you like. I prefer to keep my tent outside my backpack, so if it’s wet that moisture doesn’t get transferred to everything else inside.
It’d be nice if there were another set of straps at the bottom to carry something else like a foam bedroll, but no dice.
For the price, the Granite Gear Crown2 backpack is hard to beat. For example, compare it to the range of backpacks from Hyperlite Mountain Gear like the 4400 Windrider Pack. Their bags are made from 100% waterproof Dyneema Composite Fabric, but they cost significantly more. Yes, there are lighter bags out there, but at just 2.2 pounds, the Crown2 is a good compromise. While it’s not as durable as some other packs, it’s tough enough that you’ll get excellent wear out of it. The main thing I’d stress is don’t overload it. It quickly becomes hellishly uncomfortable if you do.