Granite Gear

Two Harbors, Minnesota

The Background

Over three decades ago, friends, Dan Cruikshank and Jeff Knight, ventured into the Boundary Waters and Quetico wilderness, much like friends have been doing for centuries. But this trip was different.

“It turned out to be a really epic trip,” said Cruikshank. “Sitting around the campfire one night, we were pondering what to do with our lives . . .” The ideas they shared didn’t just go up in smoke.

Dan and Jeff thought there might be a market for a portage pack with a modern suspension system and a hip belt instead of a tumpline. After learning that the canoe market was relatively small, fueled by their passion for backpacking, they developed the Rock Solid Compression Sack. “That was our launch into the backpacking market,” said Cruikshank.

Over the years, Granite Gear has developed all sorts of products in the outdoor industry. “It’s a wonderful place to be and have a business,” said Cruikshank.

Go where you gotta go.

Light house at Two Harbors, Minnesota

Getting Wild in Two Harbors

When you think about Minnesota, you think about the lakes, right? Lakes that are great for fishing and paddling and wild rice. That’s right. Wild rice – this drug that grows naturally in Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.

Two Harbors’ Vanilla Bean Restaurant is where our wild rice addiction began. These guys have the best chicken wild rice soup (won Minnesota Monthly critics award for best soup).

This is a soup for people who don’t get excited about soup. This soup mops the floor with Panera’s chicken wild rice soup. This is the soup of a lifetime.

This soup summoned us to pick up a bag of locally harvested wild rice at the next gas station in hopes of recreating it at home.

The Ojibwe and Sioux had it figured out: Paddle a canoe – fun. Wild rice – delicious. Paddle a canoe to harvest wild rice – the purpose of life.

Two Harbors is also a great place to hike the Superior Hiking Trail.

wild rice soup
Granite Gear backpack in production

Pride & Production

Granite Gear’s Two Harbors production facility is made up of two buildings, a small octagonal building in the woods and a larger building near the road. We were told bears visit the small patch of woods between the buildings.

Inside these buildings, we found pride. We saw it on the walls in photos of adventurers whose quests were powered by Granite Gear. We saw it in the faces of hard-working craftspeople sitting at sewing machines. We saw it in Dan, as he told us stories about the people in the photos and greeted the folks at the sewing machines.

.Granite gear backpack in use on ground.

The Gear

The folks at Granite Gear make well-made, intelligently-engineered gear for almost any backcountry adventure.

“We make going into the wilderness easier and safer for everyone,” said Cruikshank. “If we can make a pack that’s more comfortable so people can hike longer and further, or enjoy themselves more, that’s what it’s all about.”

The ultralight thru-hiking community has really embraced Granite Gear’s packs. After using the Crown 60 on several trips, we can see why.

granite gear's crown 60

Light & Simple

When we left Granite Gear, we left with its Crown 60 ultralight pack and put it to the test on several adventures.

We love how light and simple this pack is. Adding only two pounds to your load, it doesn’t cramp your style when navigating challenging terrain. And we really appreciate the simplicity of the design, which provides adequate space for gear without pockets and zippers everywhere.

With other packs, we’re constantly playing the game “where did I put that?”

Oh yeah, it’s in the other, other pocket.

  • granite-gear-0044
  • granite-gear-0039
  • Hiking along Lake Superior
  • Producer Ryan Borts hiking Lake Superior
  • granite-gear-0038
  • Caving Maquoketa Caves State Park
  • granite-gear-0031
  • granite-gear-0026
  • granite-gear-0025
  • Hiking trail in Palisades State Park near Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • granite-gear-0028
  • granite-gear-0032
Dan Cruikshank showcasing Granite Gear Crown 60 backpack

About Dan

I called Dan the morning of our shoot when call time was approaching. His response: “That’s today?”

He showed up about 10 minutes later on a bicycle, a little wet from the rain and a little winded.

Dan was soft-spoken and friendly as he led us on a tour of Granite Gear, Two Harbors’ granite shoreline, and his new bike/coffee shop (Spokengear / Cedar Coffee Company / Cedaero), where he gave us free coffee and offered us lunch (unfortunately, we had to take a rain check because we had another shoot to get to).

Dan is an entrepreneur but doesn’t seem too interested in the money. In fact, he could have opened Spokengear on Highway 61 but chose to be off the beaten path, chose not to have a drive-thru window. He wants this place to be more than a quick cup of coffee. He wants people to come inside and connect.

We think he also likes that his shop backs up to the wilderness. After all, that’s where his journey began.

“We want people to go into the wilderness, recharge themselves, get away from some of the hectic things of our modern age and just embrace the wilderness,” Cruikshank said. “The trees. The cedars. The smell. Everything. Campfires.”

Granite Gear ultralight backupack
director of photography
Caving Maquoketa Caves State Park

About Portages

Canoe There’s Dave and Ryan went on tour, not as a band but as storytellers who love the great outdoors. They portaged, if you will, for seven days through Wisconsin and Minnesota and spent time with awesome people. They camped every night, smelled bad, had fun. They returned with a mountain of footage and teamed up with Logan (sound/video editor) to tell these amazing stories.

More Portages