Due in September 2006, the Nimbus Meridian joins Granite Gear’s Light Backpack series that is designed to carry a sizeable load with comfort. This pack is a thru-hikers’ delight, as demonstrated by Justin Lichter’s odyssey across North America, carrying it 8000 miles (so far). It’s also dead on for the lightweight backpacker. This remarkable pack is lighter than most of the competition in its class, yet it’s durable, loaded with usable features, and comfortably carries a substantial load.
- Light weight for its volume and weight carrying capacity
- Lightweight composite frame is flexible and effectively transfers weight
- Suspension system easily adjusts for a perfect fit
- Firm, comfortable shoulder harness and hipbelt
- Soft foam backpanel covered with Schoeller Dynamic fabric
- Top lid removes easily and converts to a fanny pack with its own waist belt
- Top pocket is removable to reduce pack weight by 7.7 ounces
- Lots of attachment options
- Rugged Riri water-resistant zippers operate smoothly
- Full-height zippered access to the main compartment
- Lightweight yet durable fabrics
What’s Not So Good
- Lower side compression straps wrap over the side pockets
- No hipbelt pockets (but accessory pockets are available)
|2006 Nimbus Meridian|
|Internal frame, top loading, drawstring closure with top compression strap, floating top pocket|
|Size Regular Torso tested, 3800 ci (62 L)|
|3 lb 9.4 oz (1.63 kg) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 3 lb 8 oz (1.59 kg)|
|Main body is 210d PU-coated Cordura nylon and 70d silicone/urethane-coated hybrid nylon ripstop; pockets, backpanel, and inside of hipbelt are Schoeller Dynamic stretch-woven; Hypalon reinforcements|
|TopoFlex molded composite framesheet; shoulder strap height is fully adjustable with stainless steel screws and grommets|
|Floating top lid that converts to a fanny pack with its own waist belt, 10-inch extension collar with drawstring closure, four side and one top compression straps, full-height zippered access to the main compartment, Riri AquaZip zippers, two large stretch-woven side pockets, front cradle with two daisy chains and accessory straps, two ice axe loops, 3-liter hydration sleeve with tie-down system and two ports, haul loop, load lifters, hipbelt stabilizers, sternum strap, reflective strips on front and shoulder straps|
|A variety of accessory pockets are available that attach to the hipbelt, shoulder straps, and pack body|
Volume To Weight Ratio
|67.9 ci/oz size Regular Torso (based on 3800 ci and a measured weight of 56 oz)|
Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity
|35 lb (16 kg) estimated comfortable load for an average person carrying the pack all day|
Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio
|9.7 (based on 35 lb and a measured weight of 3.6 lb)|
The new Nimbus Meridian combines many of Granite Gear’s proven load-carrying and comfort technologies with a new feature set, all focused on the needs of the serious thru-hiker or lightweight backpacker.
You might say that the Nimbus Meridian has already been around for a while! This is Justin Lichter’s pack, which has 8000 miles on it so far, and 2000 more to go (see Justin’s photo essay, "The Great Divide Trail" in Backpacking Light print magazine, issue number 3).
Before I get into the technical details, let’s get familiar with the Nimbus Meridian. At 3800 cubic inches and 3.6 pounds, it’s just the right size for a lightweight backpacker who wants to camp and eat well, or the thru-hiker who wants to extend the distance between re-supplies. The following photo gallery provides some close-up views so you can see the pack’s design and features.
The Nimbus Meridian is a top-loader (top left) with a floating top pocket, but it has a full-height front zipper (left of center) that provides excellent access into the main pack body. The front has a large cradle for attaching a tent or other gear. The backpanel (top right) has thick soft padding covered with Schoeller Dynamic fabric that is water repellent. The shoulder straps and hipbelt are also well padded. The hipbelt pockets are an accessory (1.4 oz/45 ci/$19 each). Each side (bottom left) has a large stretch-woven pocket and two compression straps. The top view (bottom right) shows the pack’s extension collar rolled down and secured with a top compression strap. The top pocket easily detaches and has its own waist belt so it can be used as a fanny pack.
Frame and Suspension
It would be hard not to get a perfect fit with this pack. The Nimbus Meridian comes in two frame sizes (regular fits 18-22 inch torsos; short fits 14-18 inch torsos), each frame has five positions to adjust shoulder strap height, and there are four shoulder strap sizes and four hipbelt sizes available – for both men and women. Overall, this allows adjustment for torso lengths of 14 to 22 inches, chest circumference of 27 to 52 inches, and waist circumference of 26 to 42 inches.
As the name implies, this pack is based on Granite Gear’s Nimbus suspension system. Its molded composite (thermoplastic) framesheet is reinforced with vinyl ester and glass fibers. The thin framesheet is lightweight, vertically stiff, and laterally flexible. This means it will support a heavy load and transfer weight to the hipbelt, yet it is flexible enough to allow the load lifters to pull the load against your back and twist with your movements.
Granite Gear’s Nimbus suspension system (top left, removed from the pack) uses a lightweight molded composite framesheet that is vertically stiff and laterally flexible. Shoulder straps are available in two widths: trim and wide. Five lines of holes in the framesheet (top right) allow the shoulder straps to be mounted at different heights and widths. The hipbelt attaches to the bottom of the framesheet. By selecting the proper pack size (regular or short) and hole set on the framesheet, the Nimbus suspension allows you perfectly match your torso length. The shoulder straps (bottom left) attach to a backing plate with stainless steel screws, and pivot freely when the screws are tight. With the framesheet in the pack (lower right), only the top is exposed; Hypalon flaps protect clothing from the screw heads.
I tested the Nimbus Meridian on lightweight backpacking trips over a 6-month period, carrying loads ranging from 22 to 32 pounds. It was extremely comfortable to carry under all conditions, with volume and weight-carrying capacity to spare. To see what it would do at the high end, I loaded the pack up with 2-liter bottles of water and day hiked with it with weight ranging from 45 to 30 pounds. It carried the freight and put the weight on my hips. Wide shoulder straps are available for carrying heavier loads. Although the Nimbus Meridian can comfortably carry more weight for a strong person, I estimated its comfortable load carrying capacity for an average person at 35 pounds.
Features and Utility
The Nimbus Meridian has excellent attachment capability, although it is not designed for winter trips (no shovel pocket, crampon pad, or ski loops). Compression straps or accessory straps are provided on the sides, front, and top pocket for attaching gear or extra pockets to the outside of the pack.
It’s easy to attach gear to the outside of the Nimbus Meridian, using accessory straps on the top pocket or compression straps on the sides (left), or a cradle on the front (middle) with accessory straps. Granite Gear also offers a variety of detachable accessory pockets (right) that can be attached to numerous places on the pack.
The Nimbus Meridian does not come with standard hipbelt pockets like many packs in its class, but Granite Gear does offer some really nice accessory pockets (left, 1.4 oz/45 ci/$19 each) that easily and solidly attach to the hipbelt. The pockets are padded and have a water-resistant zipper – perfect for your electro-gadgets or other small items you want handy and protected. The lower photo shows hipbelt and backpanel padding with Schoeller Dynamic surface fabric.
Inside (left), there is a 3-liter hydration sleeve with an attached bungee system to stabilize the weight. I personally preferred to put my hydration bladder in a side pocket so it was more convenient to re-fill. I found the full-height frontpanel zipper (right) to be a really handy feature. It allowed me to conveniently access pack contents on the trail or in camp. I routinely used the pack as a pillow, and the zipper allowed me to easily arrange the contents to get the right height and softness.
The top pocket easily detaches from the pack and functions as an excellent fanny pack (left). It has its own waist strap and stabilizer straps that store in a sleeve on the underside of the pocket. Two accessory straps allow attachment of a tent on top of the pack (shown earlier), or a gear bag to the front of the fanny pack (right). The zippers on the top pocket and frontpanel are Riri AquaZip, which are very durable and water-resistant.
I can easily say that the new Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian is my favorite lightweight internal frame medium volume backpack. It is made of lightweight durable fabrics, adjusts to achieve a perfect fit, has plenty of volume and attachment options, has a flexible frame and harness system that accommodates my movements, and comfortably carries a heavy load. With all these features and capability, it still weighs well under 4 pounds.
By comparison, the 2006 Osprey Aether 60 has similar volume and most of the features and utility of the Meridian, but it does not have frontpanel access or a convertible top pocket, and now weighs over 4 pounds. The Mountainsmith TrekLight AT-55 has similar volume, lots of outside pockets, and a capable suspension system, but its top pocket to fanny pack conversion is a bust and the pack weighs even more. The Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) Catalyst pack has similar volume and weighs 14 ounces less, but it lacks a top pocket, adjustable torso length, and zippered access to the main compartment. Overall, compared to the competition, the Nimbus Meridian offers a heck of a lot of features and usability, while still keeping weight at only 3.6 pounds. It costs $25-$50 more than the other packs mentioned, but it is still a good value considering its extra features and comfort.
The Nimbus suspension system is lightweight, yet is still highly supportive and flexible, and allows direct torso length adjustment. With two framesheet sizes, five shoulder strap height adjustments, four shoulder strap sizes (plus an extra wide option), two shoulder strap widths, and four hipbelt sizes (for both men and women), the Nimbus Meridian will adjust to fit most anyone and carry heavy loads. Also, the Riri AquaZip zippers are a nice touch; they are both durable and water-resistant.
Recommendations for Improvement
For once, I have little to say in this section. The lower side compression straps tighten over the side pockets, but I did not find it to be a significant issue. I either left the straps loose or snugged them up over the filled pockets to retain the contents. However, the straps could be routed behind the pockets.