The Granite Gear Lutsen 55 pack is a quality lightweight backpack that is packed with features for the serious trekker. It is fully adjustable for both torso length and hip size and can flex to carry different sized loads.
The Lutsen 55 is beefy with thick padded shoulder straps and hip belt. The frame is made from durable plastic and is covered with foam. The frame curves out from the lumbar area to provide maximum ventilation. The frame has cutouts to save some weight and add air flow. The inside compartment is roomy and there are plenty of pockets to store small items in.
Going from top to bottom the features are numerous. There is a large removable lid that has two pockets, a larger one that can hold a camera, phone, maps, hat, gloves and such. The smaller pocket is useful for keeping frequently used items easily accessible, perhaps a phone or small camera. A carry handle can get tucked under the lid so it’s a good idea to pull it out the back so it’s accessible. Under the lid is the top-loading main compartment, which is secured by a rolled top and slender buckle. The interior is large and there is a hydration bladder sleeve and port that goes out the back. Sizeable front and side mesh pockets are stretchy and can accommodate water bottles snacks, a coat, even a tent or stove.
A major feature of the Lutsen is the adjustability of the torso length and hip belt with the Granite Gear Re-Fit system. Each is made with a thick layer of Velcro that holds the adjustable section securely. By sliding a hand firmly between the hook and loop layers a piece slides out. White markings show increments but because of the use of Velcro micro-adjustments can be made. The Re-Fit system for the hip belt goes from 28” to 40” while the torso expands from 14” to 18”.
Gear loops on the front will hold trekking poles. Side compression straps with buckles allow the pack to be cinched down after loading the pack to assure that it is snug and centered. Separate cinch straps are positioned over the side pockets to secure water bottles and there is one more along the bottom front. There are two slim compression straps on the sides and two in the front. Oversized mesh zippered pockets on both sides of the hip belt are much appreciated to store snacks, lip balm, sunscreen or perhaps a small camera.
The Lutsen series pack is available in 3 sizes, 35, 45 and 55 liters. The pack is made from 100 denier high tenacity nylon and 210 denier high tenacity ripstop nylon, both with barrier DWR. It is designed to carry loads up to 40 lbs. It’s fairly light weight at 3.1 pounds. All those features do carry a slight weight penalty but it’s still in a reasonable range and would be considered a light pack.
The Lutsen is a new offering from Granite Gear and became available early in 2016. The size small-medium has been tested by the author in the pre-backpacking season during day hikes and the author can report that it is a well-made pack. Then the pack was tested with a full load of 25 lbs on a backpacking trip.
The first thing the author did was adjust the torso length as the pack was too short initially, pulling on the shoulders. It was lengthened to 17” and felt much better centered on the hips. The Velcro was so strong that the author tried a few techniques to pull the pieces apart, finally realizing that it was a simple process of inserting the hand firmly between the black piece with the white markings and the flap against the hard plastic. Then the piece slid out easily and was reattached simply by pressing the two sections together. The Re-Fit system for the hip belt didn’t need to be adjusted but it was clear that the same type of procedure would be employed.
The variety of pockets was appreciated though it wasn’t excessive. With too many pockets it can be hard to keep track of where things are but the two zippered pockets on the lid were perfect. Most small items went in the larger compartment, such as the camera and snacks, while the small pocket was used for the phone. The stretchy size pockets were ideal for accommodating different sized water bottles. On chilly mornings the large stretchy pocket in front was good for stuffing a hat and gloves. A rain coat could be folded up in the same pocket or if it was damp sometimes it was placed between the lid and the main compartment and left to hang over the sides to dry. The compartment inside was large enough to fit food, a stove, sleeping bag and clothing. The roll top allows the pack to be sized in a flexible way. Smaller loads for a weekend trip mean that the top can be rolled down without affecting the fit. Longer trips or cold weather trips with more bulky clothing can be contained by not rolling the top as much.
The pack was tested on a couple of weekend backpacking trips in the spring. The author found that the curved design of the back, though soft and pliable, pressed a bit too much on the lower back. This design looks ergonomic but may not fit all body types. When packing the Lutsen 55, the hydration sleeve was found to be too short to accommodate a 3-liter hydration bladder, though it would still work if partially filled. The author doesn’t usually fill it all the way but on trips through dry areas it is sometimes necessary. The lack of long gear loops at the bottom meant that the sleeping pad, which she normally rolls up and attaches outside, had to be stored inside the pack. Luckily, the larger volume of the pack (compared to the 49 L pack she normally uses) contained the pad without any issues. Other than the pressure on the lower back, these were all minor issues that would be found with changing to any pack of a different design, just getting used to where things go and what fits where. On a second trip, another woman used the pack and had zero issues with a 16 lb load. She found the pack comfortable, easy to pack, fit all of her gear and had the pockets and features she needed. She said she would buy the pack if she was in the market.
A bear canister is required in many wilderness areas in California. There was some concern that the hard-sided Garcia canister wouldn’t fit due to the curved design of the pack’s back frame. The canister slid easily in the horizontal position down to the bottom of the pack but was a bit difficult to extract, especially with other objects in other pockets of the pack. It barely fit vertically in the center but would impinge on the hydration bladder sleeve, which is fixed in place. If the sleeve floated it would have been possible to slide the hydration bladder to one side or another. Some may choose to carry the canister higher inside the pack, and that would work as it would sit above the level of the hydration bladder sleeve. Men often carry heavy items such as the canister high up because they have a higher center of gravity but the author has found it more comfortable to carry the canister low, near the small of her back. A soft bear-proof container such as an Ursack would work better.
Granite Gear, founded in the Boundary Waters between Ontario and Minnesota by two guys, Jeff Knight and Dan Cruikshank, on a paddling trip. Granite Gear, which emerged in 1986, creates outdoor products that match purpose with weight, comfort and durability. In the 1990s Knight also started working with the U.S. military to develop high performance equipment, including packs. The company was sold in 2013 to Brzz Gear LLC, based in Illinois. Knight stayed on for a few months and Cruiskshank is still with Brzz Gear as a Brand Ambassador.
Granite Gear sponsors a number of outdoor athletes such as Lonnie DuPrey, John Huston and Eric Larsen, all arctic explorers. Pacific Crest Trail aficionados will remember the historic winter traverse last year by Justin Lichter, another Granite Gear athlete, with his hiking buddy Shawn Forry. See the gear they carried on the Granite Gear website.
The Lutsen 55 is a lightweight, fully adjustable backpack that is suitable for weekend or multi-day hikes. The well-constructed pack is built for comfortable load carrying and has convenient pockets to keep gear organized.
Granite Gear Lutsen 55 Small/Medium
Colors: Basalt (gray), Flint (blue), Moss (green)
Capacity: 55 liters (3356 cubic inches)
Weight: 3.1 lbs
Sizes: Small/Medium (torso length 14-18”) and Large/X-Large (torso length 18-22”)
Lutsen Series packs: Lutsen 35, Lutsen 45, Lutsen 55
Cost: $219.95 from Granite Gear
Disclosure of material connection: A sample was received for testing purposes, but the opinions expressed are solely those of the author.