Vaucluse Backpack Ventilation Frame Put to the Test on the AZT

Alli "Moonbeam" McGranaghan



Recently, I embarked on a trek through the stunning but unforgiving canyoned landscapes of Arizona. The relentless heat was unlike anything I'd ever experienced on a hike, and I found myself perpetually drenched in sweat. 

The heat and moisture buildup from my pack against my back created an uncomfortable, suffocating feeling as my wet clothes clung to my skin. By the end of each day, my sun shirt was stiff with salt. When I was tasked with testing the Vaucluse Backpack Ventilation Frame, which promised to alleviate some of these woes, I was intrigued and hopeful. 

Product Specs

Vaucluse Founder, Brice Sokolowski, designed their ventilation frame to attach to backpacks (framed or frameless) in seconds to upgrade airflow to your back, reduce heat, and increase comfort. This ultralight, ultra-flexible backpack frame weighs just 3.3 ounces (less than two Snickers bars!). It's made in the U.S. and now comes in several colors. 

Brice recognizes the diverse needs of hikers, valuing the individualized gear setups that optimize success and comfort, a hallmark of the ultralight community. The frame's initial design was for shorter excursions, and has yet been tested over the extended distances typical of thru-hikes. To address this gap, I personally tested the frame with my Hyperlite 3400 Southwest pack, covering nearly 100 miles along the Arizona Trail (AZT), including a Rim-to-Rim hike in the Grand Canyon.


Brice drew inspiration from his background in structural engineering, envisioning a frame that prioritizes both strength and lightness, reminiscent of classic bridges and cathedrals. Pictured here is the bridge location I started my testing at, which I thought was kismet!

First Impressions

I received my Vaucluse package at the Roosevelt Marina along the AZT. Huddled under the shade of a camper van belonging to trail angels, I unboxed the frame.

Its unique design immediately caught my eye and raised some concerns among fellow thru-hikers, who jokingly described it as resembling a torture device. The edges of the design were intimidating and appeared to be anything but hiker-friendly. However, I decided to reserve judgment until I could test it on the trail.

The frame is designed for effortless integration into your existing gear and can be attached directly onto virtually any backpack. It truly was a breeze to install. 


In my motel room, I used the QR code provided with the package to watch an instructional video on assembling and attaching the honeycomb frame to my pack. It was a straightforward process: press the two pieces together firmly and thread the thin arms of the frame around the loops of your straps, snapping them into place to secure. 

You can check out the Vaucluse assembly video made by the GGG team here

Ventilation and Comfort

You can see here how well the frame molds the curve of my back.
Also, this was taken ten miles into the Rim-to-Rim - no sweaty back!


Rounding out my nero in town, I took a luxurious and slow morning before returning to trail. As a result, I faced a 15-mile climb starting at 2:30 PM—peak heat hours in the desert. I knew I was in for a challenging and true test of the equipment. 

With a fully loaded pack, I could feel the frame's presence, but it was neither annoying nor bothersome. My backpack usually presses directly against my back, making me sweaty and hot within minutes. However, the Vaucluse Ventilation Frame created a gap between my back and the pack, allowing cool air to flow through. I immediately felt the difference.  

After three weeks of hiking in stifling heat, the added breeze on my back made a world of difference. For the first 400 miles of trail, I avoided hiking during peak heat hours, but today, I thrived. A cool breeze continuously washed over my back, invigorating me despite the scorching sun.



With the Vaucluse frame, my hike improved significantly beyond just the first climb. Over the testing period, even taking a short snack break without a sweaty back made a difference in my day. Instead of having to peel off a sticky, soaked shirt and enduring the unpleasant chill of evaporating sweat, I could simply relax. The back of my shirt was virtually dry. This made breaks truly refreshing rather than brief, uncomfortable pauses. My sun shirt was remarkably less wet at the end of the day, allowing me to also start my mornings in a dry top. 

One of the most significant benefits of the frame was unexpected. Earlier on in my hike, heat, sweat, and friction had created irritation, leaving my skin raw and tender with open sores where the bottom of my pack met my back. Initially, I feared the frame would exacerbate this problem, but to my delight, it did the opposite. By lifting my pack from direct contact with my back, the frame alleviated the rubbing and friction. The frame fit snugly and hardly ever shifted - never causing any irritation or sores of its own. 

Overall Thoughts

Each day of testing, I hiked between 15 and 25 miles. While sweating is an unavoidable reality of hiking, the Vaucluse Ventilation Frame offers an effective solution to make it more bearable. This innovative piece of gear significantly enhanced my hiking experience in the extreme conditions of Arizona, keeping me cooler and drier, even on steep, strenuous, all-day climbs and long-mile days.

I’ve employed several other simple, common gear modifications into my hiking routine to be more effective and comfortable in heat (like wearing wicking socks  and opting for a visor vs. a ball cap). Incorporating the Vaucluse frame into my hiking system seems like another uncomplicated yet impactful way to combat the discomforts of heat and make any hike more enjoyable.



Additionally, the frame boasts exceptional durability. It’s constructed from lightweight plastic (high-density poly-ethylene or HDPE) and proved to be a reliable companion. Especially with my rugged handling of it: tossing and dragging my bag on the ground, sitting and laying on it, and even checking my bag with the frame attached during flights, it endured flawlessly without any loss of integrity.

But I know what you’ve all been truly curious about…The Cons. I did experience a few minor inconveniences while wearing the frame. For example, occasional unclasping of the attachment arms. While the frame never shifted as a result of this, I do believe there would be benefit to adding a second male/female clasp onto each arm. The second is that my bag felt more cumbersome to put on because of the additional bulk of the frame. However, overall the benefits outweighed these.



It's worth mentioning that ventilation frames are present in other backpacks, like various models of Osprey packs. Osprey's version, AirSpeed™, strives to achieve a similar outcome. However, this system isn't transferable between packs and doesn't offer the same open concept like Vaucluse. I'd be interested in comparing them directly. Another notable distinction is that Osprey's ventilation system includes mesh, possibly providing a more cushioned feel. Based on user feedback, Brice is developing a third-generation model of the Vaucluse frame, which will feature a removable mesh sleeve.

Would I recommend that YOU try the Vaucluse Ventilation Frame?

Yes. For anyone looking to enhance their experience of wearing a backpack, especially in hot conditions, this lightweight and effective frame is worth giving a try. Ultimately, the best test is trying it out yourself – your feedback could help improve the product even further. Why not make your backpack journey a bit more comfortable and a little less sweaty? 


Alli is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada. She believes in embracing silliness, taking small steps towards personal goals, and inclusiveness for all body sizes in the outdoors. Her message emphasizes that extreme fun isn't limited to extreme athletes. Apart from writing, Alli enjoys backpacking, hiking, snowboarding, trail running, and snuggling with her dog. Find her on Instagram at @bucketsofmoonbeams.



Vaucluse Ultralight Backpack Ventilation Frame on GGG Garage Grown Gear
Vaucluse Ultralight Backpack Ventilation Frame




GGG Moderator

GGG Moderator

We’re sorry the Vaucluse ventilation frame didn’t work for you, but we’re so glad you got in touch and returned it for a refund. We strive to supply gear options for everyone, and also, not every piece of gear works for each individual. Always feel free to reach out if you have any issues. Happy trails!

GGG Moderator

GGG Moderator

Great to hear that you are taking steps to modify your pack to fit you best! Regarding the Vaucluse vent, you’d be surprised how flexible the frame is and how well it distributes weight across your back. The structure makes it so that there isn’t a feeling of rails against your back at all. While we supply gear for everyone, no one piece of gear is for everyone. We hope you give this a try to see if it might work for you!



Wish I could post the picture I have of my back after carrying a 30 pound pack for about 3 miles while using this device: deep gouges near the bottom of my shoulder blades. Another mile or so and they would have been huge blisters. The good news is I returned the item for a full refund.



Have been backpacking in Arizona for a year and a half now. Mostly in the Mazatzals, sometimes as late as June. (But not this June. It’s HOT!) I have a 2019 Baltoro 65. I typically carry 33 lbs. A few comments:
I don’t seem to sweat as much as I should. Don’t know if it’s old age or acclimating to the Phoenix summers. (40 years now.)
Still, I sweat and last year, I used to drench the bottom back of my shirt even during short, local training hikes. But this year, I switched to 32 Degree Tee shirts. And I “dialed in” my backpack (by 3d printing some spacers for the shoulder harness), pulling it up an inch higher than last year. Fits my back better (doesn’t press on my lumbar as much) and I don’t drench my back as much.
Still, I wouldn’t mind not drenching at all and would try the Vaulcluse. Except that I don’t want to move the Center of Gravity of my load aft by an inch. (Or whatever the gap is in the Vaulcluse.) If it were a quarter inch, I might try it. And, yes, it does look uncomfortable with hard plastic rails against your back. I’ll wait for v3 with the mesh.(Or maybe Aerogel?)

Marc Levi

Marc Levi

So far, all of the research I’ve done concurs with your conclusion, that it’s a very effective piece of equipment. One thing that I’ve never seen anybody address, however, is whether or not the extra gap shifts the pack weight away from your body enough to feel additional tug on the shoulders. High and tight has always been a mantra of mine when loading my pack, so this is my primary hesitation. FWIW, I’m a light, but not ultralight backpacker, with the base weight of around 20 pounds; I’m guessing this is less of a concern for ultralighters . I’d love to hear your (and anyone else’s) experiences on how this affects the pack load. Thanks!

Foamy Fingers

Foamy Fingers

Wow, I would have never thought a frame like this existed. Thanks for showing opportunities to make hiking in hot conditions more comfortable, Alli. Love your writing and the pictures! Greetings from Austria

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published