Granite Gear are something of a force in the American outdoor market. Not as ubiquitous as Osprey or as intensely followed as Mystery Ranch, but gently getting on with their own thing: making strong, lightweight packs for long distance hikes for over 30 years. Their Crown2 is a ‘thru-hike’ staple, for backpackers spending weeks or even months on the trail. Since thru-hikers will go to great lengths to reduce fatigue over the distance, every gram carried has to be essential, but a pack breaking down mid-way can spell disaster.
In 2017 Granite Gear updated their classic Crown, and later that year entered into a collaboration with Drop (formerly Massdrop) to produce a modified version, the Crown X60. Since then, Drop have gone on to host a dedicated Ultralight series (including the Dan Durston special we covered recently), but the Crown was the first pack Drop put out under their own name.
|Volume||3660 cu.in (plus 30 in Lid)||60L (+5 in Lid)|
Primary Materials: 100d high-tenacity Robic nylon, 210d high-tenacity ripstop Robic
Measurements provided by Drop, taken from the ‘Regular’ size bag
Quality & Comfort
My first surprise with the Crown X60 came before I’d even opened the box – Drop shipped it to me in such a compact carton that I couldn’t believe they’d fit a 60L pack inside. What emerged was a bag wound as tight as could go, cinched down to a hair’s breadth, and amazingly light. The Robic nylon is thin and flexible, but still feels robust. The manufacturer included a tag proclaiming their fabric’s abrasion resistance; in testing it did fine in that regard (not marking when rubbed against rocks and trees), but did let some water through after some heavy rain, making me glad I’d bundled most of my gear into drybags inside.
Other elements of the Crown X60 contribute to that weight saving – the buckles are still tough Duraflex plastic, but many of the straps use tiny 1cm webbing. Real ounce-counters can strip many of these components entirely; Drop claims their Crown can be brought down to just 657g (1.45lbs) by pulling off the lid, belt and framesheet, plus a few extraneous cords and lashings, but I wonder how beneficial this would be as a trade-off to the comfort gained from those features under any load that puts the 60L capacity to use.
On the subject of load-bearing, the Crown’s belt is just excellent. It’s structurally solid but built in a way that it breathes well, making it remarkably comfortable against the body. Furthermore, Granite Gear made the belt with their RE-FIT system, so the user can dial in the fit to their own waist size. If the wearer loans the bag to a friend or simply loses weight (pretty common, on an eight-month thru-hike), they can pull out the belt, adjust the size, and be away again in less than a minute.
The bag’s ‘Vapor Current’ frame directs weight into the belt pretty effectively, but Granite Gear do advise a 15kg (35lb) limit for the load. The reason for this is, being lightweight and highly breathable, the sheet has a fair amount of flex, and can’t support everything without some strain. In testing, I’d say this guideline is accurate; in particular, strain appeared in my shoulders after only 10km (6 miles) with a heavy weight, building gradually as I continued walking. Sadly, for all the good done with the belt, the same cannot be said for the straps. This doesn’t kill the pack for me – it’s designed specifically for lightweight, long-distance walks, rather than hauling a rack of climbing gear and camera equipment – but there’s definitely room for improvement here. A touch more rigidity would help, or converting to a yoke-style harness would blow the current straps out of the water.
Once the belt is set up, fitting is really easy. The ‘regular’ size I tested will accommodate 18-21” torsos by the usual adjustment of the load-lifters. Drop also offer a ‘Long’ version for a 21-24” back. Granite Gear themselves make a ‘Womens fit’ model in two different lengths as well.
Despite being a lightweight pack, the Crown X60 isn’t devoid of organisational features. Granite Gear’s model has some functional external pockets, and most of Drop’s additions to the design boost this in some way.
For example, in Drop’s version the capacious lid space gains two stretchy mesh dividers, not found on the original. I found this to be a great way to keep my first aid kit and notepad tidy, rather than letting them drift around the space. Drop have changed how the lid attaches – it was always quickly removable, but now the buckles are configured so they can be transplanted onto the belt, converting into a handy waist pack. Moving the belt loaded up was fine at a walking pace, although the lid’s size and simple fastening meant it bounced while running, throwing off my cadence a little.
I found that this set-up, coupled with the two hip-pockets built into the belt, could make for a really minimal daypack; it was reassuring to be able to fit a 1L Nalgene bottle, a raincoat and a few other essentials into that lid. The size still sits a little smaller than I’m comfortable for a full day out in the hills though. The hip pockets themselves aren’t huge – they worked fine for a pair of sunglasses or a couple of snack bars – the belt’s curvature probably prevents them from being too voluminous, and the Crown’s belt is so nice to use that I’d have a hard time wishing they were different.
For those of you that can push your gear list down small, the Crown’s compression means it can shrink as required. For one day out I loaded the bag with a selection of kit that would usually fill my 18L Mystery Ranch 1DAP, and cinched the straps as tight as I could – it carried fantastically, and I didn’t feel like I was walking with a bundle of loose fabric on my back.
Another difference with Drop’s version of the Crown is the shape of the side mesh pockets, which are shorter and have a sharper cant to their opening than the original. The result is a pair of pockets which will fit a range of bottles (from the standard 1L Nalgene to shorter canteens, with a nesting cup) securely, but can be drawn from without taking off the bag. The same stretch material forms a large pocket on the pack’s front panel. This was a great spot to stash my raincoat since it was quick to grab, and the mesh gave it chance to breathe when wet.
All these external pockets come in very handy with the Crown X60, since the pack’s main space has no quick entry. Getting in means unclicking the lid, opening the top compression strap, and then unfurling the rolltop baffle, just to grab the gloves you ‘strategically’ packed right at the top, then repeating the process in reverse before moving on. For most of the test I didn’t mind too much, since I could keep most of what I wanted quickly in the lid or another pocket, but after arriving at my shelter two hours after sunset, tiptoeing around other campers, I began to really wish for a quicker way to pull my sleeping bag from the bottom of the pack.
Internally, the Crown X60 is basically slick (which is ideal for this kind of outdoor use), but there is a hanging loop for a water bladder, and a passthrough port which can run the hose either side of the wearer’s head. Drop have also included a set of shock-cord loops to keep this tidy against the shoulder straps, which could alternatively hold narrow ‘sports’ bottles, or other small items.
- The pack rides very comfortably if packed below the weight threshold.
- The user has a range of options to shed weight or configure to their needs.
- External pocketing means most essentials are easily accessible.
- Compression makes the pack more versatile than others in its size-bracket.
- Drop’s version enhances Granite Gear’s feature-set without adding unnecessary bulk.
- Comfort deteriorates with heavier loads, making it hard to maximize the space.
- Access to the main compartment is complex and slow.
The Crown X60 is designed for packing light, and rewards its users for doing so. With the right load the bag is a lot of fun to use, riding steadily and carrying happily along the trail. The additional features built into the Drop version make a lot of sense, and came in handy many times during testing.
Folks who would rather pack the kitchen sink might do well to look for something more substantial – the Crown isn’t a load-hauler, and won’t work if it’s filled with heavy gear – but otherwise this is a solid, versatile backpacking solution.
The Drop x Granite Gear Crown X60 is available directly from Drop for $120, and is a great entry into lightweight backpacking.
Editor’s Note: This pack was provided by Drop as a sample for review purposes. The content of this review was not shared with Drop before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.