Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70

Matt Zia reviews the Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70, Blister Gear Review.

Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70

Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70

Manufacturer Specs:

  • Volume: 70 liters
  • Stated weight: 4lb 3oz
  • Load rating: 60lbs

Features:

  • Adjustable torso length
  • Dual front zipper access panel
  • Dual-density hip belt and shoulder straps
  • Compression straps
  • Tool loops
  • Hydration port
  • Stretch side pockets
  • Large front stretch pocket
  • Hip Pack Lid
  • Maple/composite Topoflex™ frame sheet

Reviewer Info:

  • 5’11”, 165 lbs.
  • 18″ torso length; 29″ waist; 36″ chest circumference

Size Tested: Regular torso length, Small hip belt, Medium shoulder straps

Sizing Options: see Fitting Guide Here

Days Tested: 20

Locations Tested: Sawatch Range, CO; Canyonlands and Indian Creek, UT

Granite Gear, a small company based in Minnesota, has a reputation for building lightweight and durable gear. I’m pretty tall and thin with wide shoulders, so it can be tough to find a pack that fits me really well. However, Granite Gear makes their packs with a wider range of fit adjustment options than most other companies (aside from brands like Cold Cold World that offer fully customizable backpacks).

With all this in mind, I was particularly curious to see how Granite Gear’s new Nimbus Trace Access 70 compared to other high-volume packs I’ve tested.

Granite Gear describes this pack as the “Pinnacle of our award winning Nimbus pack series. Big enough for longer, unsupported trips, yet lightweight, durable and functional.”

Sizing

The hip belts, shoulder straps, and back panels on all of Granite Gear’s packs are available in different sizes. I tested the Nimbus Trace Access 70 with a Regular length torso, a size Small hip belt, and size Medium shoulder straps. While I usually need to crank the hip belt on most packs as tight as possible to fit my hips, I still had several inches of adjustability on the Small Nimbus Trace hip belt.

While the shoulder straps come in several different sizes, too, the Nimbus Trace also features a series of holes drilled in the frame sheet so that the shoulder straps can be adjusted both vertically and horizontally across the back. To adjust the shoulder straps, you need to unscrew them from the framesheet and reposition them in the appropriate set of holes.

Suspension

When hauling a 50+ pound load, a pack’s suspension system can seriously make or break my trip. Granite Gear says the Nimbus Trace Access 70 will comfortably carry loads up to 60 lbs, even though the pack weighs 4 lbs, 3 oz, which is significantly lighter than most of its competitors. My two favorite big packs (Dana Designs/Mystery Ranch Terraplane and MHM Fifty-Two 80) weigh over 6 lbs each, and most packs in the 60-80 liter range weigh around 5 lbs (Osprey Xenith at 5 lbs, 2 oz and Gregory Baltoro 75 at 5 lb, 14 oz).

When hauling 50 pounds, I’ve always appreciated the extra weight of the Terraplane and the Fifty-Two 80 for their increased carrying comfort and stability, and was curious to see whether the lighter Nimbus Trace could hold its own.

Framesheet

The suspension on the Nimbus Trace Access 70 is based around a maple wood framesheet that sits tensioned within the fabric body of the pack. Unlike many other large packs, there are no aluminum stays running vertically along the sides of the back panel. This makes the suspension system significantly lighter, though Granite Gear claims that the maple panel retains the same torsional rigidity as a traditional aluminum and plastic framesheet design.

Matt Zia reviews the Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70, Blister Gear Review.

Frame sheet and suspension system.

The maple panel definitely has its pros and cons. It is incredibly rigid for its weight and thickness. When carrying a pair of skis A-framed on the pack, I did not feel the skis’ weight swinging around. The stiff framesheet didn’t torque my back, but instead kept the load stable and in place.

On the flip side, I missed the adjustability that normally comes with an aluminum stay design. I like the ability to bend aluminum stays to precisely fit my back, something that the rigid maple panel does not allow for. This was especially annoying because the shape of the maple pressed uncomfortably into my back just above the hip belt. I strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in the pack try one on in a store before buying, because the lack of flexibility in the maple made it difficult to shape the framesheet to my back, which I can do with many other packs.

Hip Belt and Shoulder Straps

The padding on the hip belt and shoulder straps of the Nimbus Trace Access 70 are made from relatively thin foam compared to other 70+ liter packs. On packs with moldable straps, such as the Black Diamond Infinity 60 or the Osprey Aether series, I find thin foam isn’t really an issue, because the straps better fit comfortably around my shoulders, and more importantly, my hips. The straps on the Nimbus Trace Access 70 are not heat-moldable or shaped and I definitely noticed the difference. After a weekend trip, I had bruises on my hip bones and cinching the hip belt down was quite uncomfortable.

Matt Zia reviews the Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70, Blister Gear Review.

The Nimbus Trace Access 70 loaded up for ski mountaineering.

The thin foam on the hip belt, shoulder straps, and back panel also did not vent exceedingly well. On the back panel, the layout of the foam did not actively facilitate decent ventilation. Since the foam does not have channels either completely across or completely up and down my back, very little air can flow through the panel when I’m wearing the pack. I’ve found that various designs with suspended mesh or thicker foam channels running completely through the panel provide better ventilation.

The thin foam dried pretty quickly, and even though the back of my shirt would get sweaty, the foam on the pack did not absorb a lot of moisture.

Carrying Capacity

Granite Gear claims that the suspension system on the Nimbus Trace Access 70 is built to handle loads up to 60 pounds. While I believe that the pack can carry 60 pounds–it is a 70 liter pack, after all–I felt I was pushing the suspension’s limits with a load closer to 40 or 50 pounds.

I believe in the saying that an engineer’s job is done not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing to take away. But I think the designers at Granite Gear took away a little too much from the pack’s suspension. When I’m carrying 50 pounds, I’m not as concerned about how much the pack itself weighs; rather, I’m more concerned with how well it carries that heavy load.

With the Nimbus Trace Access 70, I found the suspension to be a little too stripped down for carrying loads in excess of 50 pounds. The framesheet did not do an adequate job of transferring weight to my hips, and instead concentrated the weight on my shoulders. I prefer packs that put approximately 60-70% of the weight on my hips, but I felt like it was closer to 50% with the Nimbus Trace Access 70.

 

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5 Comments

  1. D Smith April 13, 2016 Reply

    Appreciated this review. Well written and informative.

  2. Brian January 20, 2017 Reply

    Thanks for the great and thoughtful review. I bought an osprey aether 70 recently for winter trips, had a aether 60 before replacing it the granite gear leopard vc 46 for summer which I like a lot. When using the aether 60 I always liked it but as you minimize your weight it was too heavy and cumbersome and added extra weight for little need with a summer load of right around 18-22lbs with food and water. It was just a natural choice to go with the aether again when thinking about more weight for winter as it carries weight so well (better than the Atmos AG by a lot) but I got home from my first trip with it and a few days later saw the G.G. nimbus trace 70 for $205 on amazon and was thinking, that’s amazing maybe I should switch since I was still in a return window and the aether had zero signs of use. However, your post makes me think that for only a pound difference perhaps I should stick with the aether 70. My winter load (without snowshoes strapped on) was 38lbs counting food and water for a two-night trip in low of 13F temps. Ideally I would want something that would do fine with 45-50lbs if needed and your caution of the wood frame fitting gave me pause as well since I can’t try it on. Perhaps just a case of too many great options and my love for the GG Leopard pack. If anyone though is curious I would only use the GG Leopard VC pack with a load of 25ish max, any weight over that goes straight to the shoulders.

    • Author
      Matt Zia January 27, 2017 Reply

      Hey Brian, thanks for the comment. My first instinct is to agree with you about the difference between the Aether and the Nimbus. Having carried an Aether with about 50 pounds, I agree that the suspension is fantastic for that much weight. If I were you, I would keep the Aether for big loads and keep using the Leopard for summer and short shoulder-season trips. They’re both really quality packs and cover the spectrum of needs pretty well.

  3. Zvi March 7, 2018 Reply

    Do you know if the pack could fit the 22inch carry-on height requirement most airlines have, assuming the pack wasn’t fully stuffed?

    Thanks!

    • Author
      Matt Zia March 9, 2018 Reply

      Hi Zvi,

      To be honest, I don’t know what an airline would think about you trying to take this pack as a carry-on. Speaking from my experience with other large backpacks, I’ve been able to take a moderately stuffed pack as a carry-on without too much hassle or questioning flying on Southwest. That said, they’re usually more relaxed about that than other airlines to start with.

      Matt

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