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Granite Gear Meridian Vapor : When Every Ounce Counts

Now that spring has arrived, I’ve been bus putting Granite Gear’s Meridian Vapor to work, humping loads of camping, climbing, and photo gear over mountains and deep into the backcountry. This feather-weight gem carries better than backpacks twice its weight.

The 52-liter Meridian Vapor is designed for fast and light enthusiasts who want a lightweight pack, without skimping on features and space. It’s made out of a hyper light 100 denier ripstop nylon, with a heavier material used for wear spots.
I find that it carries about 30 the best, but I can still cram in even more stuff if I need to and it still carries well.  I use it most often for all-day alpine climbing trips, long weekend backpacking trips, and backcountry adventures where I need to carry lots of photography gear.

Over the Easter weekend, my wife and I headed to the hills for three days of backpacking, and thus began my love affair with Granite Gear’s Meridian Vapor. First of all, packing it isn’t a chore – it’s actually kind of fun. The bag has a full-length zipper on its back, so I don’t just dump stuff in from the top. I can neatly organize my gear from the bottom up. This allows me to pack the bag as it should be packed, with the weight distributed evenly for the best carrying comfort. I wish all packs had an access zipper like this. Not only does it help me balance the load, but it lets me fit items into the pack so there’s no wasted space. Of course, I can quickly access food, cameras, water, or an extra jacket should the need arise.

The rear zipper isn’t the only packing-friendly feature: there’s a cool bungee system on the inside of the Meridian Vapor’s back panel, which I use to secure items and keep the load from jostling around. Like the zipper, it helps me stay organized and it also helped the pack carry the load better. The bungee system and copious compression straps (on the outside of the pack) really solidified everything.

When I was hiking, I immediately noticed how well the design paid off. The pack feels absolutely rock solid, almost like an extension of my back. Everything within feels bonded to my back, which is fantastic when I’m jumping over rocks, walking through crusty snow, or doing anything else that requires balance and agility. The Meridian Vapor pack has a comfortable molded foam back panel, lots of cushiony padding in the shoulder straps, and a great waist belt and harness that positions the load on the perfect spot on my hips. It all helps the backpack carry wonderfully, which is awesome for something that tips the scales at less than three pounds.

How Granite Gear managed to cram so many features into such a minimalist backpack is beyond me. It has ice axe loops, an expanding skirt for extra capacity, and bottle and food pockets on the outside. There’s a great compression system across the back of the bag, which also functions perfectly for carrying a snowboard or skis (I advise you to cover the sharp edges with some cardboard to keep them from slicing into the pack’s material).

Other small details I’ve come to appreciate include: the reflective taping on the back, which makes me more visible to cars when I’m walking near the road, and waterproof zippers that are truly bombproof. Best of all, there’s the awesome lid that converts to a hip pack. This is absolutely indispensable for me. I can use it for the final ascent to the peak or for food and water storage while I climb. I love, love, love it.

Granite Gear’s Meridian Vapor pack is available in a black/blue model for men, and a gray and yellow/green model for women. It comes in regular and long versions to fit different torso lengths. You can customize packs with small, medium, and large belts.

I’m so impressed with the Vapor that I may buy one of Granite Gear’s larger packs for longer trips.

Bottom Line: Uber light, uber strong, and uber comfortable backpack designed for medium loads. -- N.W. (May 2011)

BUY ONLINE: $199, click to shop.

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.