Meet Granite Gear
Canoeing.com talks with Granite Gear Founder Dan Cruikshank
Location: Two Harbors, MN
Year Started: 1986
Two lines of canoe packs: Traditional and Expedition
Canoe accessories: thwart, bow bags, etc.
In a nutshell:
A small, independently owned maker of canoe packs and gear embodying the old adage, “we do what we know and we do it well.”
Canoeing.com: What sets Granite Gear canoe packs apart from competitors?
GG: Well, we have canoeing in our blood, the whole idea for Granite Gear happened while we were on a cone trip in Quetico. Our packs are specifically designed for God’s Country canoe trips. Now, in the canoe pack realm we have a lot of great competitors, with original ideas that work well, but I guess you could say our packs are more “finished” and in the higher end packs, way more comfortable. We are the only canoe pack company that also competes strongly in the backpacking market. We have learned a lot about fit and comfort.
Canoeing.com: What makes Granite Gear materials and designs unique?
GG: We use Cordura brand high tenacity nylon, which is really the best because they make it with yarns that are stretched as they are extruded, making them much stronger. In addition we choose untextured yarns which are more water and stain repellent and last longer than the brushed yarns.
The downside it that they show a scuff whereas the brushed fabrics are prescuffed so it’s less apparent. The designs are unique because of the superior fit and comfort I’ve already mentioned.
Canoeing.com: What distinguishes your line of Expedition Portage Packs from your Traditional Portage Packs?
GG: The expedition packs offer an internal frame, which is more comfortable, [comes in] multiple torso lengths and hip belt sizes [are available] in men’s and women’s for a more precise, custom fit. In addition to the comfort, there are extra features like compression straps for stability and a stash pocket under the lid.
Canoeing.com: What should a customer consider when they pick out a new pack in order to purchase one best suited for their needs?
GG: I would consider how far you want to portage. If you’re planning a trip with a 300-rod portage or if BWCA and Quetico trips are a yearly tradition, consider upgrading to a more comfortable pack. If you have a back problem sometimes, really try on and get to know a pack before you buy. Be sure the store you buy it from can help you custom fit it, and explain the fit adjustments.
Canoeing.com: What is your Granite Gear canoe pack of choice for a week in the Boundary Waters?
GG: I like the Superior One for gear and the Immersion for food. The waterproof Immersion also has the added benefit of sealing out food smells.
Canoeing.com: How would you compare a Granite Gear pack to a Duluth soft pack?
GG: I would say that’s nostalgia vs. modern. Wood/canvas vs. Kevlar, in other words. Each has it’s following and who am I to tell people how to have fun!
Canoeing.com: Can you address the issue of frame packs and canoes – and the need for a frame or structure within a pack?
GG: Sure…frames make a pack more comfortable so you can carry heavy loads further without stressing your body…that’s why when they found the Ice Man he had a hickory frame pack on his back.
External frames don’t work in a canoe, because the frame gets caught up when you’re loading and unloading your canoe. Most backpacking internal frame packs are not suitable [for canoeing] either because the shape of the pack is tall and narrow and doesn’t fit into a canoe well, [or] they ride too high and interfere if you shoulder your canoe with a pack. Our internal frame is comfortable, but it doesn’t get caught up, and we put it into a pack that’s shaped for the canoe as well as riding below the shoulder so as not to interfere with the portage yoke.
Canoeing.com: Are Granite Gear packs used by outfitters?
GG: Yes, some use the Traditional packs and some use the Expedition packs as an outfitting “supreme” package.
Canoeing.com: Granite Gear grew out of a Quetico canoe trip during the 1980s. What did you see missing in canoe gear at the time that inspired you to enter the industry?
GG: What was missing? Padded shoulder straps, hip belts, internal frames, compression straps, fitting options to name a few.
Canoeing.com: Did you imagine it would lead to where you are today?
GG: In some ways yes, but in most ways no….I guess we wanted to run our own company, and be creative doing so. That part we imagined…everything else we could never have imagined….. [like] getting the “Gear of the Year” award from Outside magazine, or the “Editor’s Choice” award from Backpacker. Also, we never imagined we would have a distributor in China or be awarded a contract to supply packs to the Special Forces.
Canoeing.com: What principals have guided your growth as a company?
GG: Work hard. Never give up. Find a way. Always reinvest your profits. Only offer things that no one else has done already. Always build a product that will last and perform in the field. Delight your customers.
Canoeing.com: Granite Gear has received the Sprout Award from outdoor magazine Rock and Ice in recognition of your environmentally friendly packaging. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what it meant to you?
GG: It was good to be recognized for our leadership in environmental packaging. I hope other companies will end the plastic disposable package. The packaging is a necessary evil, and should hold up long enough to keep the product safe until it is purchased, not 10,000 years in the landfill. The most important thing we can do though is make a durable product that will last for years without worry or need for replacement. We build in durability into our products with the materials we use and the sewing techniques. We are proud to have one of the lowest return rates in the Outdoor Industry. That’s good for the environment!