Archives for the month of: October, 2012

A very lightweight pocket you can fit on just about any hip belt, or trouser belt, I guess. I measured my two pockets at 150 x 110 x 40 mm (6 x 4 3/8 x 1 5/8 inches), a bit under MLDs (Mountain Laurel Designs) published sizing. The pockets offer useful storage space that is roomy, waterproof (but see later) and easily accessible. I can get a SatMat Active 10 GPS (in an AquaPac case) in a pocket, with room left over. This photo shows the pocket mounted on my Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 (reviewed here) hipbelt:

Sat Map Active 10 GPS in Aquapac case in the MLD pouch pocket

The pockets should be long-lasting as they are made from nylon and incorporate a Dyneema ripstop grid. An overweave of nylon improves abrasion and tear resistance. The material is PU waterproof coated.

A waterproof YKK zip with two pulls seals the pocket – MLD have positioned the zip on the front of the pocket. If the zip were on the top of the pocket, pooled rainwater could easily fall through as you open the zip – good design. I have cut off the metal zip pulls and fitted cord pulls – to me, the metal pulls jingling together were irritating.

The rear of the pocket has a two pairs of elasticated bands (sized for narrow and wide belts) that you slide the belt belt through. MLD also provide loops at each side of the pocket to fit the pocket to their range of packs using a clever double-sided clip.

As supplied, the seams are not sealed and I have yet to seal them. Eventually, I will get round to sealing the seams and the stitching for the elasticated bands. I try to remember to pull the zips together and face them away from the rain to prevent water entry from any slight gap between the two zip pulls. That said, I use suitable proofed bags to protect my GPS and camera.

These pockets are not padded, which keeps the weight low, around 28 g (1 oz). If you use them to store “delicate” items, you could pad a pocket using some closed-cell foam from an old sleeping mat (normal foam will absorb water).

In summary, these pockets provide useful storage for my GPS, camera, trail snacks and other odd and sods for next to no weight. Maybe they provide too much room that it is tempting to fill!

I bought these pockets from MLD and delivery was within the time they stated.

Side of pack

Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 with optional lid

Initial thoughts
The Granite Gear build standard looks high and it appears ruggedly built. It is not the lightest pack on the market, weighing around 1.3 kilos. As the name suggests, has a capacity of 60 litres. The pack is made from nylon and Cordura and has an interchangeable hip belt.
At home, I loaded the pack with around 7 kilos and was pleasantly surprised with the carry. It seemed to sit a lot better on my hips than my old Osprey Talon. The shoulder straps and load straps worked well.

Roll-over top

Roll-over top with straps

The pack has a single compartment with a drawstring top that rolls over to form a weathertight closure with the help of  two straps. At the rear there is a large elasticated pocket running virtually the full length of the pack, ideal for storing a wet tent fly. There are three, fixed, compression cords running across this pocket – it would be good to be able to unclip them like you can the lower side cords. I like the idea of cord rather than webbing, you could change the cords, or remove them completely.
There is a large elasticated pocket either side of the pack.

I got the matching Lineloc lid (weight 255 g). It is easy to fit and gives, to my mind, more weather protection for the top of the pack, as well as a useful compartment with an internal zipped pocket. The lid can double as a bum bag, too. Fixed straps on the top of the lid for the bum bag would be useful to carry a sleeping mat (but any pack cover would have to cope with the extra width).

Clip on lid zips

Clip on lid zips

The lid compartment is secured with two zip pulls – I added a small clip (a ‘Clipper’ from Alpkit) to prevent the possibility of the zips opening en-route. The zip is not waterproof.

Rear of pack

Rear of pack

There is a zipped bladder pouch inside the main compartment. The bladder hangs from a short webbing strap that uses a cross-piece to retain the bladder – this did not work well with my Source bladder and I prefer a clip system. The shoulder straps could benefit from a strap or two to keep the drinking tube in place – it disappeared between the pack and my back. I also liked the little pocket on each of the Osprey shoulder straps, they were ideal for locating the bite valve and a compass. I could fix something up on the D-ring on each of the Granite Gear’s shoulder straps.

Adjusting the shoulder straps for correct back positioning is easy to do; moving the metal buckle on the end of each shoulder strap into one of a series of holes in a moulded plastic back panel until the fit is right. Between the back panel and the wearer, there is a mesh covered foam pad that contains a series of airflow channels that are meant to help with back ventilation – the wrong time of the year to comment on this feature!

Shoulder straps and hip belt

The very comfortable “business end”

The hip belt is wide and comfortable. As well as the adjustment either side of the main front buckle, there is a strap on either side, towards the rear of the belt, that gives a bit more adjustment. I mounted the two pouches you can see in the photos on these straps. The hip belt also has loops sewn into both sides for securing pouches.
The shoulder straps are nicely padded. The sternum strap fits onto a buckle that slides on webbing fitted over the shoulder strap. I found up-down adjustment of this buckle tricky, but it won’t move too easily!

In action
I decided to go for an overnight trip on Dartmoor over 13/14th October using the maximum recommended pack load of 16 kilos. The weather on Saturday was showery, very windy and sunny, with sun all day Sunday. The atypical weather this year meant the moors were saturated, with more squelchy peat and bogs than usual. These conditions meant the pack got a lot of stability testing and it performed admirably; it did not move laterally and I could adjust the suspension to get the weight onto my hips. It did not feel like I was carrying 16 kilos.
I did not use a pack cover and the DWR finish performed well; however, I will get a pack cover to make sure the contents stay dry!
The disappearing drinking tube was a pain – a small clip or velcro strap on the shoulder pad is top of my list to fit.
I stowed my sleeping mat over the vertical pocket using the three compression cords, it was slightly tricky to get the mat under the fixed cords – removable cords would help here. I probably wouldn’t be able to get a fatter mat in this position and wouldn’t have been able to fit the mat shown in the photo if the pocket had been used for a tent fly.
The side pockets are very capacious, the pictures show a 750 ml water bottle in each pocket and there was room for my waterproofs, too.

I like this pack and with a load capacity of 16 kilos, it is suitable for multi-day trips – my reason for getting it. It is very adjustable leading to a comfortable carry. The main compartment is cavernous and I will need a few more stuff sacks to organise my kit. There is minimal sideways movement when fully loaded. thanks to the compression cords The external side pockets are large enough to store waterproofs and food/water for use during the day. The large rear pocket can easily hold a tent fly (and probably more) so you don’t have to store wet items in the main compartment.
The compression cords on both sides and the back let you carry a partial load.
The optional Lineloc lid gives (subjectively) more weather resistance, but it is not cheap.

Small points that could make this pack even better are a strap with a buckle to hold the bladder and something on the shoulder straps to secure a drinking tube. Small points indeed, that do not prevent me thoroughly recommending this pack.

I bought this pack and lid from ultralight outdoor gear