Ultralight backpacking gear tends to be expensive, fragile, or uncomfortable. The Granite Gear Crown3 60 reviewed here is none of those things.
It’s day one of my hike of Colorado’s storied Four Pass Loop between Aspen and Crested Butte, Colorado, and my legs are firing. My lungs burn as a try to keep a steady pace up a brutal incline known as Trailrider Pass. As I cross 12,000 feet, I reconsider my choices of bringing a little extra of everything (i.e., three small boxes of wine) to make the leisurely, 4-day hike over 32 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing a little more deluxe.
But what I wasn’t questioning, even with nearly 40-pound pack weight, was the Granite Gear Crown3 60, an ultralight pack that I was definitely pushing outside of its comfort zone. Yet, step after step, mile after mile, the Crown3 60 punched well above its weight class and far, far above its price range.
In short: The Granite Gear Crown3 60 improves upon a time-tested classic. It’s a fantastic backpack for those who count grams and keep their base-weight low. But it impressed me with its ability to carry moderate loads well, too. The Crown3 60 is a very versatile backpack at a very affordable price. It should be high on the list of anyone backpack shopping, especially those who value low weight and carrying comfort.
Granite Gear Crown3 60 Review
I’ll cut to the chase here — I really love the Granite Gear Crown3 60. I’ve only used it for about 30 miles on one hike so far, but in that short timeframe, it impressed the heck out of me. I think most people who are looking for an ultralight pack should strongly consider it. Here’s why.
First, I overloaded the heck out of this pack. At a verified weight of 2.58 pounds including the V.C. (Vapor Current) Mark 3 Frame sheet and optional ($12) aluminum stay, this is still an ultralight backpack.
Yet I didn’t really treat it as such. For my hike of the Four Pass loop, I stuffed it to the brim. Among my gear was a bear bin, food for 4 days for two people, half a Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 tent, a small flask of whiskey, and three 12-ounce boxes of wine.
The load topped out at right around 40 pounds as my wife and I left the truck at the trailhead. And for the record, that isn’t an ultralight load!
Yet, even pushed to its limit, the Crown3 60 carried pretty well. At the end of our first, very long day of hiking up and over two big passes, I did have some hot spots. My shoulders were sore, as was my back where the hipbelt contacted my lumbar. So, I would not recommend the pack for those who will always carry big loads.
But given the distance and weight, it did a pretty good job for a very light pack. And by day two, once we’d eaten a little food and drunk a little wine, the pack became very comfortable indeed.
Granite Gear Crown3 60 vs. Crown2 60
If you’re a GearJunkie like me, you likely know that there is a lot of history in the Crown series of packs. The Crown2 has been around since 2017, with lots of versions being sold as collabs with other brands.
The Crown3 60 updates the very well-regarded Crown2 with a few notable changes.
First, and most important to me, is that you can add an aluminum stay to the (also removable) frame of the Crown3. This gives the user broad versatility.
Got a light load? Remove the frame sheet and stay for a super-light pack. Want to carry a little more? Add just the frame sheet. Feeling a little deluxe and want to add some wine and a fishing rod to your backpacking trip? Drop in the aluminum stay and you’re good to 40 pounds or more.
And all this happens for $220, which in my mind is an incredible value in the modern market of hyper-priced backpacks.
Other changes compared with the Crown2 include the ability to remove the optional top lid and use it as a fanny pack. You can also use it as a chest pack by attaching it in front of the body on the shoulder straps. These are nice bonuses and add to the value of the pack, but to me aren’t as big as the additional weight-carrying ability.
Granite Gear Crown3 60: Light Pack, Heavy Capability
While this pack sits on the light end of the scale, the Crown3 60 is long on features and usability.
First, I love the side pockets on both sides of the pack. These are much larger than most backpacks, allowing me to stash two Nalgene-style water bottles on each side if I wish. In practice, I used one side to load two water bottles, and the other side to carry a small fly rod and fly box plus two small boxes of wine.
Next, the top lid pocket (which many ultralight purists will leave at home anyway) is a good size, although not huge. I like using this to store gear like headlamps, first aid, and a knife. It worked well and is just big enough to fit the essentials while not making the pack top-heavy.
The Re-Fit fully adjustable hipbelt was fairly comfortable, although I did get some hotspots above my tailbone. I have a 30-inch waist, and while the brand claims the belt works down to 26 inches, I had it snugged up nearly as tight as it would go for the hike. The brand claims the belt fits between 26 and 42 inches.
The back of the pack can be reconfigured in several ways. I used it extended fully, and stuffed the stretch mesh pocket to stow my puffy jacket, our “#2” digging kit, and my dog’s puffy jacket. Other configurations could put a Ridge Rest-style sleeping pad in the middle of the pack.
The shoulder straps both have a pair of elastic bottle holders. While I didn’t use this feature, ultralight hikers using small, convenience store-style water bottles will love this for access and ease of use.
Granite Gear Crown3 60 Durability
So, how long will the Crown3 pack last? That’s a tough question to answer having only had the pack a little more than one month. However, Granite Gear uses the exact same fabrics in the Crown3 as it did in the Crown2: high-tenacity nylon (100D and 210D) with Barrier DWR.
And the Crown2 60 was a remarkable pack when it comes to longevity. Our team tested the Crown2 over 2,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. The pack proved plenty durable for the full summer on the trail, a worthy test of any backpack.
In my short testing, the pack had no trouble being stuffed tight with a bear bin and a bunch of other hard and heavy gear. I expect with reasonable use, most backpackers will get several seasons of use from this pack.
Granite Gear Crown3 60 Specs
- Inside dimensions: 23.5″ x 16″ x 8″
- Cubic inches: 3,660
- Pack torso length: 18-21 in. (for regular size, short and long options available)
- Pack weight: 2.3-2.68 lbs. (short, regular, and long, depending on frame and lid)
- V.C. (Vapor Current) Mark 3 Frame with 35-lb. (15kg) load rating
- Dual-density shoulder harness with load-lifter straps and dual removable sternum strap.
- Re-Fit fully adjustable dual density hip belt
- Dual large hip belt pockets with DWR treated zippers
- Roll-top main compartment opening with top compression strap
- Hydration port and internal hydration sleeve
- Side and front compression straps
- High-tenacity nylon (100D and 210D) with Barrier DWR
- Large side fabric pockets with cinch closure
- Stretch mesh front pocket with wider top opening
- Bottom gear loops for cord customization
- Pair of elastic bottle holders on both shoulder straps
Who Should Buy the Granite Gear Crown3 60?
So, should you pull out your credit card for one of these packs? Let’s consider.
Do you want a pack that can carry a moderate load, up to about 45 pounds? Do you want to strip that pack down for ultralight use at a weight under 2 pounds? Are large side pockets, a stretch mesh back pouch, and fairly comfortable shoulder and hip belts important to you?
Would you possibly use the small top lid as a fanny pack or chest pack? Do you sometimes carry a bear bin? And do you like to get creative with loading your pack for different styles of outings?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, I’d strongly consider the Crown3 60. This gets me to the point of the headline, that this is an ultralight pack for the masses.
Most hikers should get a lot of value from this pack, especially at $232 including the aluminum stay add-on.
So, take a look at our best ultralight backpack buying guide, consider the pros and cons, and then, very likely, put one of these in your cart.
If my experience is anything like yours, you’ll be happy with this fair-priced, versatile backpack for many miles to come.