By Benjamin Orkin
Designed to carry 30- and 60-liter barrels, the Vapor Flatbed Harness from Granite Gear is an absolute workhorse when it comes to carrying everything from barrels to dry bags to ammo cans. With a rugged design and a suspension system that includes a foam hip belt, wide padded shoulder straps, sternum straps, and seven load-securing straps, I found the Vapor Flatbed to comfortably manage 75-pound loads uphill, downhill, through mud, through creeks, over tundra, and over talus slopes on a 1,300-mile canoe trip last summer. While carrying heavier, more awkward loads I often thought the shoulder straps could stand to be a little longer and perhaps a bit thicker, but as the trip progressed, this wasn't an issue. The interchangeable hip belt and the multitude of adjustments made the Vapor Flatbead easy to customize for different body types and made trading off portage loads a no-brainer between canoeing partners.
The padded bottom and 210D Cordura fabric body helped protect the canoe from scratches and dents when loading and unloading 60-liter barrels and protected the portage yoke from damage. The harness itself held up to miles and miles (and miles) of portaging, rocky shorelines, overgrown portage trails, and general abuse for months on end. The buckles on the load securing straps could stand to be burlier. (We managed to break a non-critical one within a few days, but didn't break any others for the next 90 days). The no-frill design means minimal weight and a sleek profile which allowed the barrels to sit low in the canoe and we didn't have to worry about excess straps getting caught. Another thing we wish that harness had is a webbing daisy chain down the side to secure random odds and ends on portages.
The Vapor Flatbed Harness will help get the job done. It will stand up to years of use and abuse all while saving your back on your next portage.
–Benjamin Orkin tested this and other items on a 95-day canoe trip in Canada’s Northwest Territories last summer. Read more about the gear that got them through the 1,300-mile expedition.