Granite Gear: Crown VC 60 review
Nearly two years ago, when Cap mentioned the idea of Packing It Out on the Appalachian Trail, we immediately took action toward making that dream happen. At that time, we both had considerable backgrounds in backpacking. Cap's experience included more ultralight style and my experience came from a background in trail maintenance where carrying heavy tools, large group meals and gear were essential. So upon deciding to remove all the litter we found from the trail, we realized we would often be carrying unknown amounts of weight along our journey. We needed to consider the gear we carried with great care, especially our packs, which would be our truest workhorse piece of gear.
Upon discussing options, we mutually agreed upon carrying Granite Gear packs for a variety of reasons including rugged durability, lightweight options, and comfortable load ratings. Now don't misunderstand me: yes, we now work with Granite Gear, but this review comes from the heart and we chose to use Granite Gear for the above reasons long before we met them and began our journey into collaboration. My pack of choice for our thru-hike cleanup efforts was the Crown VC 60. It is built from rugged Cordura fabrics, weighs in at just a hair over 2 lbs, and is rated to comfortably carry a 35 lb load.
Without any doubt, this pack became the true mule of our crew. On the AT, Cap used a Virga 2, although Goose and myself were glad to have the burly suspension of the Crown VC 60. Upon beginning this year's PCT effort, Cap had switched to a Crown and I was still using mine from the AT. With over 2,700 miles using my Crown VC 60, I can still say it is extremely comfortable, has repeatedly carried loads up to 60 lbs with relative comfort, has been abused by carrying sharp steel and glass trash, and has had every pocket stuffed to its max, yet still has zero tears or damage. This pack is undeniably the most durable piece of gear I have ever owned.
Knowing we would have potentially heavy loads of trash, we opted for this lightweight pack because we wanted to keep the base weight of our gear as low as possible so we had more litter-carrying capacity. On the AT, with base weights at 8 lbs, we succeeded in being some of the most ultralight hikers we met, but continually carried heavier loads (of litter) than other thru-hikers. Having a pack that weighs less than 2 lbs when the framesheet is removed enables us to be this minimal with our gear. Our multi-use foam sleeping pads replace the framesheet in the pack allowing us to still carry loads of 35 lbs and higher on a daily basis. Granite Gear's comfortable load rating for this pack is 35 lbs, and while this is a very comfortable weight to carry, I can speak from experience that the pack can handle much more weight if necessary without any issues. My pack has been weighed at 55 - 60 lbs more times than my body would like to admit.
There are many ways to thru-hike, many are successful, but some make more sense than others. In my experience I have seen way too many thru-hikers carrying the lightest packs they can buy, with the lightest load capacity with intentions of being ultralight hikers, only to see them on trail with terribly overloaded packs that are tearing apart at the seams. My personal opinion is to get a pack that is very lightweight, has options to make it lighter (removable framesheet and hipbelt), and a higher load capacity so that you can still succeed at being an ultralight hiker, but if you don't manage to figure out how to do with less, you will still have a comfortable pack for the entirety of your journey. And the next one. And the next one. I can say only positive things about the Crown VC 60, a pack that I have tested thoroughly over 2,700 miles and pushed to every limit that I can without so much as a single stitch failure. It is durable. It is lightweight. It can carry anything. It is the ultimate backpack for any thru-hike, but that's just my opinion.
Happy trails, Paul 'Spice' Twedt.