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IR: Granite Gear Stratus Access FZ 4500 - David

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  • David
    Here goes... I ll try to get an html version in the test folder with an obvious filename tomorrow... Initial Report - Granite Gear Stratus Access FZ ( Full
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2004
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      Here goes... I'll try to get an html version in the test folder with
      an obvious filename tomorrow...

      Initial Report - Granite Gear Stratus Access FZ ("Full Zoot") 4500
      December 1, 2004

      Name: David Sowards-Emmerd
      Age: 27
      Gender: Male
      Height: 5' 8'' (1.73 m)
      Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
      Email Address: drunken_marmotATyahooDOTcom
      Los Altos, California, USA
      Date: December 1, 2004

      Backpacking Background:
      I began backpacking semi-frequently about four years ago, soon
      after moving to California. I generally take weekend (1 night)
      trips, and occasionally take 3-4 day trips. Most of my
      backpacking experience is at moderate altitude, 6,000'-12,000'
      (1,800-3,650 m), in conditions ranging from dry desert to hail/heavy
      snow in the mountains. In winter and spring I split time between
      Southern California (SoCal) deserts and snowshoeing/skiing/snowcamping in
      the Sierra/Cascades. Summer and fall I tend to stick to the high country.
      I have reduced my packweight down to less than 50 lb (23 kg) over
      the past year - including food/water and a bear barrel. I'm trying to
      include more mountaineering, climbing and bouldering in my trips.

      Current Packs and Pack Philosophy:
      I still have and use the following packs: Gregory Denali Pro,
      Gregory Whitney, Dana Design Bombpack (older model), Osprey
      Aether 60, Marmot Talus, Gregory Halo, Mystery Ranch Mountain
      Monkey and a handful of other even smaller packs. None of these
      (save the Aether) are even remotely lightweight. I much
      prefer a more comfortable, bombproof-construction pack, built
      to last a decade or more - even if it means an extra couple
      pounds.


      The product was received on November 19, 2004, the night before
      heading out
      for a 9-day roadtrip.

      Manufacturer's Website: <a
      href="http://www.granitegear.com/">www.granitegear.com</a>

      Manufacturer's Description:
      ''If you need the ability to comfortably carry a more traditional load of
      45-60 pounds and you want a pack that is as light as possible
      considering the
      task, yet still offers the convenience of easy access to your gear
      these are
      the packs to check out! Our Standard Packer packs are engineered to
      support
      heavier loads. Our 3D Tepex frame technology and dual density back padding
      combined with a beefy, well padded exoskeleton hip belt and our unique
      Cruise
      Control dynamic load stabilizing system work together to support and
      stabilize
      heavy loads while still allowing full hip rotation. The bottom line
      here is
      supreme comfort on and off trail and the ultimate convenience at a minimal
      weight! New for 2004: internal hydration sleeve and port.''

      Manufacturer's Specifications:
      MSRP: $300
      Weight: 5 lb 12 oz / 2.61 kg (torso size not specified)
      Volume: 4500 ci / 74 l (torso size not specified)

      Specifications (as measured by tester)
      Color: Wrought Iron (silver-gray)
      Size: Torso Length: Short
      Waistbelt: Medium
      Shoulder Straps: Medium Trim

      Weight (total): 5 lb 13 oz / 2.63 kg
      Weight (lid pocket w/o repair kit): 12.4 oz / 351 g
      Weight (repair kit): 0.7 oz / 19 g


      Initial Impressions:

      The pack arrived in a surprisingly small box, much smaller
      than expected for a framed pack. The materials and craftsmanship
      all appear to be top notch. I especially like the Durastretch
      material. However, there does seem to be an excess of straps,
      buckles and ladderlocs. This was accentuated by the fully cinched
      form in which the pack arrived where it looked like more straps
      than fabric. However, after a few days, I'm used to all the
      straps and have them all hardwired into my brain.


      Product Details:

      Materials:
      The materials are all high quality: high-tenacity 210 dernier
      Cordura, high-tenacity 70 dernier Sil-Cordura ripstop (internals and
      spindrift collar), and Durastretch with Vapex are used for the
      majority of the pack.

      Suspension:
      Instead of the typical stay/framesheet combination typically found in
      full size packs, the Access boasts a 3D Tepex frame which is claimed to
      fit backs better as well as prevent back muscle fatigue. I easily
      removed
      the framesheet from the pack (as described in the Owners Manual). It
      appears to be a flexible, composite material that returns to its original
      shape after flexing (the manufacturer claims this will always be the
      case).
      I'm curious to see how well this supports a heavy load compared to stiff
      aluminum stays, and like the idea of its shock absorbtion properties. A
      Durastretch with Vapex covered foam provides the interface between the
      frame and my back. This waterproof/breathable stretch material is
      supposed
      to keep the foam dry, and I will report on its drying properties in later
      reports.

      The waistbelt, also dual density foam covered with Durastretch with
      Vapex,
      attaches to the framesheet with a single screw and some hook-and-loop
      fasteners but still is free to rotate a bit about the screw. In addition
      to the standard stabilizer straps, the waistbelt has a second strap, the
      Cruise Control system, that runs from one side of the waistbelt to the
      other through a metal figure-8 on the bottom of the front of the pack
      (see photo).

      The shoulder straps, again foam covered with Durastretch/Vapex, attach
      with screws to the framesheet. A thicker, rubbery material is used as a
      more durable extension of the shoulder straps where they connect to the
      frame. Extra flaps of this material are also used in this area to
      prevent
      screws from abrading the back padding.

      Illustrations of these components and detailed instructions of how to
      fine tune the suspension are available in the Owners Manual,
      which is available as a .pdf file from the manufacturer's website.


      Pockets:
      One thing that seems to be lacking on this pack is pockets.
      The two stretch side pockets, the hydration bladder pocket,
      and the pack top, which has two compartments.

      Top Pocket:
      The top pocket on the pack converts nicely to a hipsack. A 2'' / 5 cm
      webbing belt and buckle are supplemented by two stabilizer straps, and
      both tuck into a stow pouch on the bottom of the top pocket (see photo).
      The buckle is the same size as the pack waistbelt buckle and can be
      used as a
      replacement if one breaks. The top pocket closes with a large (YKK chrome
      size 10) water resistant zipper - a bit overkill here, but I like it!
      Inside is a smaller zippered mesh pocket with a hook which keys etc.
      can be
      fastened to - the gear repair kit was already attached to this.
      Additionally,
      two snap ladderlocs are located on top of (external) the top pocket
      allowing
      more gear to be secured.

      Hydration Sleeve:
      The hydration sleeve is located in the usual spot, just behind the
      framesheet near the top of the pack. The sleeve is covered by a web of
      shockcord which I can use either to secure the contents of the sleeve or
      secure some gear (more likely the former). At first glance, it seems a
      bit small - I'll see how big a bladder will fit during the field testing
      period.

      Side Pockets:
      The Durastretch side pockets are really nice, and easily fit a standard
      Nalgene bottle with room to spare. One caveat though is that the lowest
      side compression strap overlaps with the mouth of the side pocket. This
      is good if you want to make sure something doesn't fall out, but when
      trying
      to access the side pocket while the pack is on, I find this a bit
      awkward.

      Main Compartment:
      The main compartment of the pack is basically a large drawstring
      stuffsack
      with a 18x11.5 '' / 46x29 cm access panel on one side. There is still
      a bit
      of fabric between the drawstring top and the panel extends above the
      access
      opening so there is some fabric overlap. Two YKK chrome size 10 zippers
      form the left and right sides of the panel, and the top o the panel is
      secured by a strap that goes over the top of the pack. The panel itself
      is mostly made of Durastretch material to remove some stress from the
      zippers when the pack is fully loaded.


      Adjustability:
      Adjusting the attachment points for the shoulder straps (read: setting
      the
      torso length) is outlined clearly in the owners manual, so I will not
      detail it here. I will say that it was very quick (less than a
      minute) and
      easy, but does require a #2 Phillips driver.


      Compression:
      This is where the Access really shines, although the large number of
      straps is a bit intimidating initially. Each side of the pack has
      three compression straps, and three compression straps connect over
      the front of the pack. All nine of these straps connect with what I'd
      call double ladderloc buckles (snap-together buckles where each half
      has a ladderloc connector). Inside the front access panel are two
      internal compression straps for securing gear and taking a bit of stress
      off the panel zippers. The Cruise Control system provides the main
      compression for the bottom of the pack. Lumbar straps on each side of
      the pack are effectively compression straps, while at the same time, are
      claimed to help keep the pack closer to your lower back when carrying a
      heavy load. Finally, the top pocket and the over-the-top strap provide
      some downward compression for the pack. One note on the double
      ladderlocs -
      these provide more flexibility than single ladderlocs and also mean that
      the extra webbing leftover after tightening is half as long because it's
      divided between the two sides of the buckle.


      Repair kit:
      The pack shipped with a small repair kit and owner manual included in
      the top pocket (the hangtag pointed to these). The repair kit includes
      2 screws for frame repairs, a ladderloc buckle and a snap replacement
      buckles (see photo). It would be nice to see a small #2 Phillips driver
      in the kit also, one of those shaped like a coin with the head sticking
      out one end seems about right, but I generally carry at least a
      Leatherman
      Micra along on all my hikes, so this doesn't concern me much.


      Testing Locations and Test Plan:

      At the moment, I'm trying to plan several overnight snowcamping trips -
      via ski or snowshoe - to Yosemite and Lassen Volcanic National Parks and
      to Eldorado and Tahoe National Forests. In addition to snowcamping, I
      expect one or two trips to
      local parks (Henry Coe State Park, Big Basin State Park, Point Reyes
      National
      Seashore) where rain will be more likely than snow, and the pack won't be
      needed for insulation so breathability and ventilation will be more
      important.
      Winter pack weights will probably fall in the 40-65 lb / 18-29 kg
      range. For
      the warmer, rainier trips, I'd expect loads to be under 40 lb / 18 kg and
      probably at least one trip will be lightweight (under 25 lb / 11 kg).
      Mileage per day will range from a few miles to a dozen or so miles for
      daytrips and more strenuous overnighters. Elevations will probably
      range from below sea level (Death Valley) to 12,000'-14,000' /
      3,700-4,300 m
      depending on which trips work out. Temperatures will range from below
      freezing up to 90-100 F / 32-38 C. I've already taken the Access on a
      9-day bouldering/hiking/skiing roadtrip and will report on this in my
      Field Report. I will also try carrying the Access biking in to work. I
      generally shuttle clean clothes and food to work once or twice a week
      with a daypack during the summer, but tend to carry large loads once a
      week when winter comes around since I need warmer, bulkier clothes, a
      jacket, bike lights, etc. Finally, I'll try to squeeze in some training
      hikes with the Access, although this probably won't be until the long
      term reporting period due to the short days and the fact that the park
      I hike in closes around sunset.

      Initially, I thought this pack would be slightly heavy for ski/snowshoe
      daytrips, but I've already taken it on one and expect more to follow
      during
      the testing period.

      During the testing period, the following are some general issues I
      hope to
      explore:

      - Weatherproofing: namely is the bottom/lower front of the pack waterproof
      (where it'd normally be set down on the snow). How does it hold up
      in a
      heavy rain? Also, is the panel access vulnerable to rain, namely
      near the
      top of the panel flap - when fully loaded, I will see if the top
      pocket still
      covers this up.

      - Adjustability/Fit: how much adjustment is possible by minor tweaking
      when changing layering. The product manual describes the process for
      changing
      the frame (adjusting or swapping out components) and requires a philips
      screwdriver - how realistic is this in the backcountry and are any of
      these
      attachments fragile?

      - Comfort: how much weight will it comfortably carry? Can I put most
      of the
      weight on my hips/legs, or is the suspension lacking? Is the 45-60 lb
      suggestion based on the weight that can be transferred to hips or on
      the total
      weight distributed between shoulders and hips? How comfortable is the
      hipbelt, I generally get 'hip hickeys' when wearing a heavy
      pack for a long day of hiking - is this hipbelt an improvement? Does the
      fabric covering the waistbelt, shoulder straps and back panel bunch up,
      contrary to the manufacturer's claim?

      - Stability/Balance: I'm a pretty bad skier so this is pretty
      important for
      me! How snug (how much weight on the shoulders) does the pack have
      to be
      for activities that require good balance (e.g. scrambling, boulder
      hopping,
      skiing)? The manufacturer claims the pack distributes the weight evenly
      over the back as well as the shoulder straps and waistbelt. I'll comment
      on this in my future reports.

      - Quality/Durability: In lowering the weight of the pack, high-quality
      lightweight materials were used. How will these hold up over the testing
      period - especially the Durastretch fabric.

      - Compression Straps: how well does it stabilize the load and can the
      pack effectively be converted to a smaller volume pack? Also, how well do
      these work as crossover straps (not using intermediate buckles)?
      I always wanted internal compression straps! However, how well do these
      work on rigid objects like bear barrels, cookware etc.? And how much
      do they rely on the side compression straps being tightened properly.

      - Hydration Sleeve: How big a bladder will the hydration sleeve fit?
      Is it sealed up watertight so that a leaking bladder doesn't necessarily
      mean soaking the pack contents? I will probably only use the pack with a
      hydration bladder on training hikes and warm weather backpacking due to
      the winter freeze up factor.

      - Access: How is the panel access set up? Are both zippers connected
      together, or can one be opened at a time? How vulnerable is the
      Durastretch material in the panel (I tend to lean packs against
      trees/rocks
      right where this fabric is located)?

      - Breathability: not so much of an issue for winter since I like to keep
      warm and will typically wear several layers, but for training hikes I
      tend
      to sweat a lot! How well is the pack ventilated? The material between
      the
      frame and where my back would be is 'Durastretch with Vapex'
      (waterproof/breathable) and is supposed to keep the foam dry - will this
      saturate though if I'm sweating a bunch?

      - Sleeping Pad: How well does the Access work as a sleeping pad, are the
      shoulder straps easy to tuck away? Do they get in the way? I typically
      use two 3/4 length pads along with a pack for my winter sleeping setup.
      Is the pack thick enough to keep me well insulated?

      - Ice Axe Attachment Points: How useful are the ice axe attachment
      points?
      Do I need to take the ice axe off each time I want to access the contents
      of the pack? Does this still work if I have a sleeping pad attached
      externally (vertically)?

      - External Lashing: Is there a good place to attach pickets/avalanche
      probe/poles that doesn't conflict with carrying skis or snowshoes?

      - How many useful attachment points are there on the waistbelt and
      shoulder straps?

      - What does the "unique Cruise Control dynamic load stabilizing
      system" do,
      and how frequently will I feel the need to adjust it?

      - How much room is there to overpack between the top pocket and the main
      pack? Will a rope and a jacket fit, and just how secure are they?

      - Are the 'thumb loops' (they're in the pack photo) at a comfortable
      height
      for me? When hiking without poles, which is most of the time,
      I tend to hang on to my shoulder straps one way or other.

      - Can I fit a bear canister (Garcia model) inside the pack for summer
      trips?
      Is it comfortable, or rubbing on my back? Will it fit with winter
      gear (yup
      canisters are required even in winter in Yosemite)?


      Photos I'll include in the html version:
      -top pocket and straps
      -repair kit
      -front access closed
      -front access open + internal compression
      -back panel
      -hip belt
      -hydration port
      -framesheet? - or just refer to diagram on mfg page...
      -side pockets
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