Monday, April 27, 2009

Gear Reviews: Granite Gear Virga, Pack Pocket & Belt Pocket

Alright, it's long backpack system that I used for my Spring '08 AT Section Hike, and my review. First off, let me say that I tried to keep it all pretty lightweight, though at the beginning of my hike the weight was more than I'd planned it being. As the weeks passed, I modified my methods & shed some pounds. Pack weight with food & water at the start was roughly 35 lbs. The last week it was just under 25 lbs.

Granite Gear Men's Virga Ultralight Pack (Spring 2009)

My pack was a Granite Gear Virga Ultralight Pack. It's a frameless pack, meaning that it has no internal stays to support the pack. When it's empty, it crumbles like an empty duffel bag. This is the nature of frameless packs, designed to be shored up by using a foam sleeping bag inserted inside the pack's main compartment. It has a roll-top design with 2 side pockets made of neoprene. The load-lifter straps do a great job keeping the pack tight to the back, and the simple nylon waist belt was comfortable for me. Some people prefer the thicker padded belts as featured on many ultralight packs today, such as on the Vapor Trail pictured below. The Virga is a lighter pack, though, a bit more stripped down.

Granite Gear Men's Vapor Trail Ultralight Pack (Spring 2009)

Weighing in at 1 lb 3 oz, the Virga is slated to carry a load of up to 20 lbs comfortably. When I had 35 lbs filling the 3200 cubic-inch capacity, I could feel it. So when I finally got the weight down, this pack was as advertised. It was comfortable, and durability-wise, this pack is very tough. I love the Granite Gear Virga & recommend it to anyone looking for an ultralight pack with basic but important features.

Attached to one side of my pack was a medium-sized Pack Pocket from Granite Gear. The Pack Pocket is attached to your pack by the side compression straps. Great for adding just a little more room to your pack. I had my plastic hole-digger stashed inside, along with tp, wet wipes & my low-cut gaiters. This Pocket will work with many other pack designs which have 2 side compression straps. This is something I highly recommend if you need a place to stash some quick-access items.

Granite Gear Pack Pocket (Spring 2009)

On the waist belt of my pack was the Belt Pocket, also from Granite Gear. I met several hikers who also carried one of these, holding everything from energy bars to cameras & cell phones. Another great item to add to your pack. They come in a left & right version, and I did see a couple of hikers who had both left & right Belt Pockets. Mine was the right hand version. I will say that I needed to do some modifying to my Virga Pack in order to securely attach this thing. It was some simple stitching and not a problem for me, being the son of a seamstress. The Belt Pocket does fit easily onto the thicker padded belt of the Vapor Trail, as well as other brand name packs.

Granite Gear Belt Pocket (Fall 2008)

Well, there you have my backpack system, which totaled barely over 2 lbs. Although there were some others who's pack weight was lower than mine, still I had some envious hikers of me when I answered their question of my pack weight. When I return to the AT, there'll be some changes to how I pack my gear, as I'm always tinkering & fiddling with things. It's a system that works for me, and hopefully this has given some of you a few ideas. So, get some gear & get out there!

~The Pilgrim.