The Nimbus Trace Access 70’s removable top lid, or “brain,” is one of the more unique designs I’ve seen.
Unlike most brains that have a zipper facing the back panel (or even the MHM Fifty-Two 80’s brain, which has a zipper on both sides), the Nimbus Trace Access 70 only has a zipper on the front of the brain, and I cannot figure out why. Like a brain on any pack, the Nimbus’ brain sits tilted down the front of the pack unless completely full. While this is not usually an issue on other packs that have a rear-facing zipper, items tend to fall out of the Nimbus Trace Access 70’s brain every time I open the zipper.
Like the MHM Fifty-Two 80, the Nimbus Trace has a roll-top closure for the main pocket. Unlike the Fifty-Two 80, though, there are no zippers running the whole length on the outside of the pack. As I said in my Fifty-Two 80 review, I prefer a drawstring top closure over the roll-top since it’s faster and easier to use.
The main pocket also has a front flap with a pair of zippers that run most of the length up the front of the pack. I generally prefer having access zippers on the sides of a pack rather than on the front—when I use the zippers to quickly pull something out in bad weather, I’d prefer to lay the pack down on its side rather than have to put the shoulder straps down in the mud.
Despite the front panel’s location, it is well thought out, with double zippers that allow a wide flap to open up, rather than only opening from a single zipper.
One feature I really like about the Nimbus Trace Access 70 is the set of internal compression straps running across the front access panel. I often stuff the pack to the brim with the zippers closed, so when I go to get something out of the access panel, it’s a serious challenge zipping it back up again. The internal compression straps allow me to keep things in place and make the front access zippers much easier to close after pulling something out.
Stretch Pockets and Compression Straps
The Nimbus Trace Access 70 has five stretchy pockets on the outside of the pack, including two zippered ones by the shoulder blades, two water bottle pockets, and a long pocket that runs down the access flap on the front. The upper pockets are nice for holding small items like energy bars or chap stick.
The water bottle pockets are cavernous and easily accommodate a 1-liter bottle even when the pack is completely full. The front stretch pocket is large, but somewhat frustrating to use. Since it is narrow and long rather than more square, packing things into the bottom is difficult and requires long arms to fill the bottom.
A little feature that I really appreciated was the holes in the sides of the water bottle pockets that allow the compression straps to run through, rather than over, the stretch pockets. Compression straps over stretch pockets negate the use of both compression straps and the stretchy pockets, so it’s nice to see a company taking a smart approach to this strap design.
The Nimbus Trace Access 70 is made almost entirely of Cordura fabric. As I said in my Fifty-Two 80 and MHM Salute 34 reviews, I’m a big fan of Cordura’s durability, and will almost always want a more durable fabric over a lighter weight one. While I did manage to put a hole in the bottom of the Nimbus Trace Access 70, it was a direct result of putting a rack of rock climbing cams in the bottom of the pack and doing some butt-sliding down a sandstone chimney while descending off a desert tower. Cordura is durable, but direct abrasion between metal and rock is the best way to put holes in most fabrics, no matter how durable. So I’m not faulting the pack for that, and I’ve had no other issues with the fabric’s durability.
I was initially concerned about the durability of the pack’s compression straps and buckles because they are made with thinner width webbing and plastic than heavier-weight packs I’ve used. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how they’ve held up, and as much as I’ve cranked down on the straps and buckles, I did not break any of them.
The Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70 is a large pack designed to carry heavy loads with a lightweight design. While the pack has some innovative features, such as the maple frame sheet and a wide range of sizing adjustments in the suspension, it doesn’t carry heavy loads as comfortably as some heavy duty packs like the MHM Fifty-Two 80 or Mystery Ranch Terraplane.
If you’re looking to buy a 70 liter pack, you’re probably planning on carrying a heavy load; however, I did not find the Nimbus Trace Access 70’s suspension system to adequately transfer enough weight to my hips to make carrying a heavy load comfortable. I would suggest trying on the Nimbus Trace Access 70 before purchasing to see if the maple framesheet fits you well.