Current Retail: $171.73-$184.00
Historic Range: $79.95-$369.95
Reviewers Paid: $120.00-$350.00
Original Review: July 25, 2018
Farewell, Granite Gear. You won't be missed nor will the turds you call packs. They're by far the worst.
- Pack material and seams
- Pack body is 4"-5" too short for load lifters to be correct
- Maple core frame is too rigid and edges poorly finished
- Uncontrollable and uncomfortable even at 30 lbs
- Rigid hip belt doesn't cant with hip shape creating edge pressure only
As soon as I received the Nimbus Trace Access 85 Short I checked the torso adjust and it came at 16", which is my size. Loaded 30+ pounds correctly and cinched the side compression straps to stabilize the light load close to my back.
Long story short; after several hours on, off, adjust, on and walking around the house it was impossible to keep; as it's the most dysfunctional backpack I've ever encountered. The load lifter straps are never near 30-60 degrees and when cinched they are 0 degrees at 16" and negative or down around the shoulder strap at the 17" and 18" and this overloads the front of the shoulder straps numbing the pecs.
This is truly an idiotic know-nothings brain fart and it appears all of their packs are made the same way. The load lifters attach near the top of the frame meaning that the pack body is literally 4"-5" too short in height to give them the ability to be functional. And that aint all; read on.
The maple frame is a turd. Its hardness is felt on the spine, there's no perceivable flexion. The edges of the maple core frame are rough sawn and it's easy to foresee that the two top corner pockets of the pack that bears the pack weight will be the first to wear through. Hard to believe they weren't even sanded smooth.
When snugged, the hip belt will not cant to the shape of my hips. Rather, it is vertical and very rigid so that the bottom edge only digs into my muscles and from mid width to the top edge there's air space and no contact on my body at all; making it a burning hip number. The one screw each that secures the shoulder straps and hip belt connections make for extreme wobble with every step to the point I know this would be unmanageable for even the first hour on trail, so back it goes.
Frankly, I wouldn't take one if it was free because I'd never use it. Anyone owning this pack is in need of experiencing just how comfortable a good pack really is; basically a head check.
Soooo, back it goes for a refund and I'm sticking with my "old lady" Arc'teryx Bora that's disguised as a U.S. Marine ILBE. I can load 60 lbs. in it and it stays comfortably married to my body. It's so durable it will be handed off to my grandson someday. If you want a good time backpacking, then choose any pack but a Granite Gear, as their designers have absolutely no knowledge of how to design a pack that works. They're all a POS. I tried it, because I thought to lighten my base weight and I'm always in search for the better mouse trap, but this ain't it. The only good thing about it was the Chinese fabric and workmanship and that's not enough.
I personally called their headquarters and after 30 minutes fending off the front line resistance to my initial request to be put in touch with the Vice President of Sales was given her name and number to call and I did immediately. I had a one hour discussion with Rhonda Wagner concerning just how poor it was to which she said she had no knowledge. That wasn't surprising either, but if anyone is interested in company profits, it's the V.P. of Sales.
My interest in speaking with her was to educate even the most basic principles of current design that do work for all of the major players to the benefit of the end user having a good experience backpacking. Unfortunately, in our society people will buy something, maybe try it once, and relegate it to the closet or garage only to be sold at the garage sale. With the discomfort this pack would cause even the first mile, I think that it would be sooner rather than later. After that how do you think you'd feel about backpacking? Likely, you'd never do that again. And the shame would be on Granite Gear.
In reading some of the rave reviews, I find it's probably the lack of experience speaking. That and a feeling of shame to admit they made a poor choice the first time, but that's pride for you. Too proud to admit that they were sucked in at a premium price for a crappy pack. If you don't believe my assessment all you need do is take the gear you'd go out with and load it at the store, then try the same with several other brands; any brand is better. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Update: July 29, 2018
No home run...
…but it could have been.
After receiving my new NTA 85 size Short today I was at first impressed with seeing its well done aspects, so after checking the torso adjustment recommended and finding it on the 16" setting (which is my measurement), I loaded it with 30 lbs to check the feel.
That's when my disappointment set in. Several huge design flaws became very evident and makes this a pack that just doesn't work for anyone, PERIOD. I know this is going to hurt sales of this pack, but my number one concern is for the end user's fine experience. The following is a synopsis of my experience:
1. The size M hip belt that it came with when fully tightened was slightly too big to stay in place walking around and its fit was only snug at the bottom, so it would squiggle down as I walked. This is likely due to the fact that I'm a small 66-year-old man with an athletic build, a 30" waist and 33" hips. The hip belt doesn't cant with one’s hip shape; it’s rigid and vertical. This might be possible to remedy with an exchange for a women's small size. Okay, but here's what else.
2. Remember, it's a total 30 lbs including the pack and I loaded the items properly. I put on the pack, cinched the hip belt as tight as it could go, tightened shoulder straps, sternum strap and then the load lifters. Oh yeah, the load lifters when snugged were horizontal and at the end of adjustment, which caused the shoulder straps to tighten excessively to the point that I could tell this was an unsolvable problem.
It's well known that the load lifters optimum angle is 45 degrees; acceptable between 30-60 degrees and these were zero. This means that the physical height of the pack is 4"-5" shorter than they needed to be correct by design. If actually used for even a day this alone would make the pack unbearable, due to the pull back pressure they put on the shoulder straps.
There's no solution for this outside of complete redesign making the pack body 4"-5" taller and bringing their lateral location toward the center of the shoulder straps. (FYI, I spent two hours in adjusting from 17" to 18" where now they were a negative angle wrapping around and down the shoulder straps causing even more stress to my shoulders. I even tried the 15" adjustment with only a 5 degree rise and that's not even close.)
3. With a 30 lb. load secured, the pack wobbles and sways out of control with each step to the point that I could now see that Granite Gear has a great need for designers that actually have backpacking experience and people in the field to test and give them real feedback from use.
That's where I come in. I'm doing R&D for several companies whose names I cannot mention that respect the knowledge of experience with good pay; primarily so they don't end up putting themselves out of business with spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on some know-nothings brain fade. I'm estimating hundreds of thousands of dollars lost with the production of this pack alone; not to mention the damage to reputation. Gross mismanagement there.
4. Other points of improvement needed are, the shoulder strap padding needs to be more comfortable. The one point connection of them and hip belt is the reason it's so uncontrollable.
5. I'm always looking toward a better mouse trap, but now that I've tried this maple core panel, I'm not impressed. In use it’s rigid and restrictive. The edges are rough sawn; not even sanded smooth and the problem here is that the two upper corners of the maple core frame sheet sit in two 2" W X 1" H pockets of the pack’s back bearing weight that is not by the hip belt. I can foresee this being a point of excessive wear and early failure.
All said, it’s a pretentious product that I bought new, with my funds for personal use. I feel the truth about it may help others in their search to lighten their load and upgrade their gear. I returned it for refund, but only after I spoke for an hour with Granite Gear’s V.P. of Sales in phone conversation. So, it’s all up front and now up to each to choose wisely.
All this and more from an ooold trail tramper since the '60s that was trying to go a bit lighter. I'm not on the ultralight groove, but cutting my base weight by 4lbs/4ozs was my endeavor, without sacrificing all that I like about my Arc'teryx Bora 80 (disguised as a U.S. Marines ILBE). Yeah, it's heavy even empty at 8lbs/8ozs, but I can carry 42-50 lbs in comfort and it's married to me with every move I make. I suppose it was my brain fade trusting some award winning baloney.
What the GG NTA 85 has I do like is great materials and manufacturing, the front double zip access, a roll top, etc., but with all that’s wrong, Granite Gear; you just don't get to second base. You're out!!!
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $120 closeout from Alpenglow in Maine
My favorite pack for heavy loads.
- Great fit for my back, so heavy loads feel much lighter
- High quality, durable materials
- Unique maple frame
- Center panel opens easily for quick pack access
- So many straps can be cumbersome
- No hip-belt pockets, just straps to attach things to
I owned and enjoyed using a 2012 Baltoro 75 for four years before discovering the Nimbus Trace. The maple frame fits me better so I've used this pack since 2016. Carries heavy loads comfortably because frame fits my back perfectly! Definitely try it on for fit.
Lots of straps to cinch down loads so nothing shifts. Cordura fabric holds up really well, virtually scratch/tear-proof. Lots of customizable options in shoulder strap and hip-belts sizes. I use large shoulder straps with a regular hip-belt.
Like the Baltoro, there's center panel access. But the Nimbus Trace is easier to get to quickly. There's a stretchy pocket down the center that is perfect for carrying tent poles or a wet rain fly.
Been using this for weekend and weeklong trips, typically 45+lbs because I carry extra gear for scouts. Listed at 85 liters, but doesn't feel much more than my older Baltoro 75. Still, there's plenty of room for a Garcia bear canister and a week's worth of gear.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $350