The Granite Gear Crown2 38L pack is truly versatile. It allows for ultralight configurations while also being modular enough to carry loads over 30 pounds.
I’m not the largest guy out there. With a 28-inch waist it can sometimes be challenging to find hip belts for backpacks that are adequate for transferring weight. I typically need a pack that fits a medium torso, but has a small enough hip belt to transfer weight to my hips. This is especially difficult if I lose weight.
Losing weight can be a problem if you’re looking to do a thru-hike. Usually, weight loss isn’t too big of a problem within the first 200-or-so miles. After that, however, weight loss can mean your gear no longer fits. This can cause a number of problems, including some of the worst chafing you might experience.
For my first thru-hike of the Colorado Trail, I ended up using a Granite Gear Crown VC 60L pack. At the time, I didn’t know if I was going to like it. I originally was planning to use an Osprey pack — the Hornet looked pretty good! I ended up buying a Crown VC, however, because of its modular design.
It’s All About the Modular Design!
You can take out the back frame of the pack and you can even remove the hip belt. For the Granite Gear Crown2, you can also remove the brain (which was not present on the original Crown VC). If you do all this, the pack becomes seriously light. If you drop the brain and the internal frame, the Crown2 38L pack drops from a stock weight of 35 oz to 27 oz while still maintaining a highly-adjustable hip belt. Additionally, Granite Gear sells their packs at REI — which means there’s a pretty liberal return policy if you don’t like how it fits. It also means you can actually try out the backpack to see if it fits you!
When hiking the Colorado Trail I lost enough weight, after the first 300 miles, that the medium Granite Gear Crown VC with the medium-sized torso and medium-sized hip belt no longer cinched tightly around my hips. This meant I could not efficiently transfer weight from my shoulders. This also meant that I started getting pretty bad hip abrasions from the belt being too loose. I had to wrap my bandana and ace bandage around the hip belt to add additional padding. That allowed me to better transfer my backpack’s weight to my hips, but there really isn’t a good solution if the hip belt is just too damn big!
Immediately after finishing the Colorado Trail, I ordered a small hip belt from granite gear. The Crown VC quickly became my go-to-bag for backpacking. Because of the modular hip belt design, I didn’t need to find a new backpack, I just had to pay $40 (probably less at the time), and immediately my gear was usable (and comfortable!!) for any situation!
I needed a new pack?
For the Pacific Crest Trail, I looked at a variety of different pack upgrades. The volume of my gear had substantially decreased, and the Crown VC no longer seemed like an ideal pack for my needs. Although the Crown VCs design makes it possible to compress the pack down pretty nicely, it’s still not ideal for really small volumes. The rolltop design + side cinches remove some of the area so that small volumes stay in place, but the pack just ends up being a little “too much”.
I’ve used my original Crown VC for over 5000 miles of backpacking. After that much wear and tear, the pack isn’t exactly in pristine condition. Several of the cinch cords have broken off. Also, the pack is made of cordura fabric.
Cordura fabric is great due to its durability and that it tends to be pretty water resistant! After 5000 miles of use, however, the cordura fabric really isn’t as water resistant as I think it should be for long trips. Additionally, the old Granite Gear Crown VC model really does not function if the frame is removed. Because of the design, the back of the pack will collapse on itself, and fail to transfer weight effectively to the hips without the frame. That means you’re pretty much stuck with a pack that wants to be lighter!
These things, taken together, motivated me to find a new backpack for the PCT. After far-too-many days of research, I decided to take a look at an Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) Prophet, the MLD Burn, and a few other “cottage-industry” packs.
Other comparable packs?
My original PCT choice was going to be the MLD Prophet. It looked like it would carry pretty well, and would have plenty of volume available for longer carries, including a bear canister and ice axe through the Sierra. Given that the MLD Prophet is only about 17 oz, it seemed like a no-brainer!
Despite my optimism, the Prophet ended up being a deal breaker for me. I tried the Prophet out on a test backpacking trip, and I found that the pack just did not transfer weight very well to the hip belt. Additionally, the back of the pack is not very comfortable. There isn’t enough ventilation, which means your back always feels sweaty. More importantly, however, the Prophet’s hip belt is limited. The hip belt sizing meant that the belt would certainly become unusable for me if I lost weight. Not wanting to relive that trauma from the Colorado Trail, I tried to see if Ron of MLD could make some modifications and change up the hip belt size.
Given the finite amount of time for my PCT start window, the pack change couldn’t happen in time. Holding off until the last minute, I decided to look at some alternatives, including just using my Crown VC 60L pack.
Now Introucing the Granite Gear Crown2 38L Pack
In my hunting for packs, I became aware that the Crown2 had come out fairly recently. The rumor was that the pack was made of a more durable fabric (Robic) that was also more water resistant. The big thing that drew me to it, however, was that there was now a 38-liter version of the pack. With little to lose (again, you can return them quickly!!), I decided to order the pack.
I bought the pack from REI. Upon arrival, I was immediately thrilled with the new pack engineering! The back panel for the pack is a considerable improvement over the original Crown VC! It carries weight better, and is substantially more durable which means it won’t collapse if the pack frame is removed.
The cinch cords for the Crown2 are also wider and more robust, which counteracts the main failure point on my original Crown VC. This also probably ends up adding an oz to the total pack weight, which is both a blessing and a curse. There are a variety of additional clips and cordages that are redundant. So if you feel compelled and do not have any intent to return the pack in the future, you could probably drop some additional weight by cutting off some of this redundancy.
The biggest surprise with the Crown2 compared to the original Crown VC, however, is the new hip belt improvements! Rather than needing to buy a small hip belt to ensure that the pack would fit if I lost weight, I was able to use the magic of built-in velcro to size the hip belt up or down. The hip belt is able to actually fit my body perfectly! THAT is versatility.
Prior to starting the trail I looked at changing the belt out for my Crown VC small hip belt, but found the new belt to be more comfortable and worth the weight penalty (a little over 2 oz).
The Granite Gear Crown2 is amazing!
After 4000 miles of hiking with the Crown2, I can safely say it’s an amazing pack.
I love the new hip belt — it scales up and down, and carries weight amazingly. I’ve also come to find the hip belt pockets to be indispensable during higher milage days. I’ll store 4 or so bars in the hip belt pockets at a time, and snack on them as I continue to hike. Who needs a bottom pocket when you have a legit-AF hip belt?
If I need to increase the volume of the pack, like when I use it as my luggage bag for airplanes, I throw the brain back on. If I need to do some heavier food or gear carries, I throw the pack frame back in, and it carries quite comfortably up to ~30 pounds. That’s comparable to what you might get with an HMG pack for a fraction of the cost and twice the durability. The MLD Prophet, in contrast, feels pretty miserable to me above 18 pounds.
So what does it all mean?
The Granite Gear Crown2 really goes head to head with MLD’s Prophet and Burn. For a 10-oz hit with the granite gear, you get a modular pack design, that can be tried and returned from your local REI. More importantly, you get a hip belt that is both comfortable and highly adjustable. This means you can transfer weight to your hips even if you lose 20 pounds of weight on trail. The back design of the pack is phenomenal — it allows for great airflow, while still keeping the pack’s weight close to your back.
If you want to scale the pack’s weight down further, you can lose another 6 oz by dropping the hip belt. You can always replace the nice, padded, adjustable hip belt with some webbing. Making some simple modifications to further lighten the pack would bring the pack weight to around 20 oz. That’s pretty competitive with some of the lightest packs out there.
- The Granite Gear Crown2 38L pack is an amazing and versatile pack (5/5 stars)
- It offers phenomenal durability (I’ve done a lot of bushwhacking with it!)
- It is highly water resistant (I’ve been in pouring rain and have not had my gear get wet)
- The pack is modular, and comfortably supports loads over 20 lbs without the frame
- With the frame in the pack, the pack can comfortably hold 30 lbs (maybe needed for really long food carries)
- You can test out the pack and return it
- There are no long wait times to get the pack like for some cottage shops