If you have been thinking of a canoe trip, such as the one we recently took to the BWCA, you may have heard of Portage Packs or Canoe Packs as they are often called.
Portage packs are unlike normal hiking and camping packs. They are different from hiking and camping backpacks in a few different ways.
First, they are typically much bigger than a hiking packs. They can be bigger since the majority of the time they will be sitting in the bottom of your canoe and not on your shoulders. This allows a canoe camper to pack nearly everything they will need into one portage pack.
Second, they are not rigid like a hiking backpack. They are purposely made this way so that they can form to the bottom of a canoe and keep the center of gravity as low as possible in the canoe.
But, if you have ever used a normal portage or canoe pack, you probably already know that these packs are usually terribly uncomfortable. Even a moderate half mile portage can be a rough experience. They are usually built purely to hold lots of stuff and fit in a canoe.
Granite Gear Portage Packs
In 1986 Jeff Knight and Dan Cruikshank realized that there was a lack of high quality and comfortable gear for portaging through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and launched Granite Gear.
Granite Gear went on to win multiple design awards and now makes incredible portage packs, hiking packs, campus packs and even traveling packs.
Using Granite Gear Portage Packs in the BWCA
My wife and I recently got back from a trip into the BWCA where we were able to try out two of Granite Gears portage packs, their awesome dry sacks and compression dry sacks.
The Superior One
The pack that I got to carry was the Superior One. This seriously large pack boasts an amazing 7,400 cubic inches of packing space. The harness system has a foam padded back panel and keeps the pack close on your back and the weight on your hips, which is an absolute must when you’ve got 7,400 cubic inches worth of gear on your back.
I was able to store our Big Agnes 2 man tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 air mattresses, my clothes, my wife’s clothes, my wife’s pillow, our GSI cooking gear, a Thermacell lantern as well as some random gear.
The Superior One also has a front pocket that was perfect for storing my maps, bug spray, sunscreen and pocket knife, all things that were great to have easy access to while portaging and canoeing.
Besides the great storage the design of the pack is simply the best I have ever used in the Boundary Waters. The shoulder and hip straps are extra wide and padded which makes carrying this pack a breeze compared to similar packs.
It also has two side handles as well as a rear handle. The side handles are great to help each other put the pack on, one can hold the pack up while you slide your shoulders in so that you do not have to start in a sitting position on the ground, which can be hard to get up from with that much weight on your back.
The Superior One is made of Cordura® nylon, which is known for it’s durability, light weight and resistance to tears and scuffs.
Four compression straps on the sides of the bag allow you to compress your gear down and have the pack take up as little space as possible while traveling in your canoe or on the trail.
Lastly, the pack has many well thought out clip areas where I was able to clip on my Vapor water bottle and tie my dry shoes to.
The Quetico Portage Pack
The second pack we had for our trip was the Quetico Portage Pack. This pack was literally identical to the Superior one in every way except size. The Quitico has a storage capacity of 5,000 cubic inches, which still makes it 2,000 cubic inches more than most large hiking backpacks.
This pack was perfect for my wife Kelly. Kelly measures in a 5’3″ and is roughly 70 lbs lighter than me, so a 5,000 cubic in pack was perfect for her.
We were still able to fit in our fellow campers Tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses and clothes into this pack with a couple odds and ends on top of this gear.
Other than size, the straps, hooks, handles, material and everything else are exactly like the Superior One.
Granite Gear Drysack and Compression Drysack
We also took along 4 of Granite Gear’s drysacks and compression drysacks along on our trip. Drysacks are an absolute must in the BWCA or any camping trip for that matter.
A drysack will keep you clothes, sleeping bag and any other gear that simply cannot get wet nice and dry through rain, morning mildew and even an accidental splash in the water.
Granite Gear’s drysacks are not simply waterproof sacks. Their sacks are ultralight roll closure sacks that are incredibly durable and built to fit perfectly into any portage or hiking backpack.
The compression drysacks are perfect to load in your sleeping bag and clothes, then compress the air right out to make them take up as little space as possible. This helped us pack in all the gear we needed and kept our packs to only 1 per person.
The non-compression drysacks were great for keeping certain camping gear and personal items during during the weather (which, admittingly treated us pretty good with only one small rain during our trip).
Beyond The Tent’s Recommendation
With Granite Gear’s Superior One costing $230 and the Quitico costing $220, they are both actually incredibly well priced packs that really over deliver on their quality for their price.
If you were to take a look around the web you would find that most decent quality portage, canoe and hiking backpacks range in price from $150-$300. The thing with Granite Gear’s pack though is that they are not of decently quality, they are exceptionally high quality, the absolute best quality I have run into for a portage pack.
If you have any need for a portage pack in any of your upcoming camping trips, take a look at Granite Gear’s packs, you will definitely not be disappointed.