By Jason B.
Gregory Mountain Products was founded in 1977 by Wayne Gregory. The original philosophy of “a properly designed pack is worn, not carried” is carried over to today’s packs. They offer a full range of backpacks, daypacks, and hydration packs. Their website is easy to navigate and provides easy to read descriptions and videos featuring their products.
This fall I will be reviewing the Paragon 68, the largest pack available in Gregory’s new “lightweight” series. Gregory describes it this way “Nine times out of ten, a pack this light with this kind of capacity would be stripped of anything close to comfort or convenience. The Paragon 68 is the exception, tearing up the trail with lightweight, ventilated ease thanks to Aerolon suspension, and offering deluxe features you’d be hard-pressed to find inside its weight class.” The Paragon is also available in 38L, 48L, and 58L sizes. The 68L pack retails for $249.95.
I will begin my description with the suspension and then cover the specific features of the pack.
The Paragon series features the Aerolon suspension which is “a customized lightweight 7001 aluminum chassis design to deliver uncompromised ventilation and load stabilizing trail performance to reduce energy expenditure on the trail.” Basically, the main structure of the pack is the aluminum chassis and everything else is tied into it. The back panel features their “Matrix Ventilation System” which is foam with triangular shaped cutouts behind a mesh panel that is supposed to increase air flow and moisture evaporation while remaining comfortable. The shoulder straps have the same foam with triangular cutouts. The pack also features Gregory’s “Gripton Lumbar Pad which is “soft-molded silicon gription pad technology for enhanced load transfer and energy savings.”
To say that the pack is fully featured is an understatement. The pack is a standard internal frame with a large main compartment that is separated by a divider. This is where the comparison to a standard internal frame pack stops.
The hood features two pockets – a large pocket with a “C” shaped zipper that allows the pocket to be completely opened and a smaller pocket with a key holder. The top of the hood also features four webbing attachment points. In addition, the sleeping bag divider in the main body of the pack can be removed and used as an Ultra-Light top flap option by using it to replace the pocketed hood.
Access into the main pack bag is from the top and features easy one hand closure via a rubberized loop and one hand closing by pulling the yellow webbing loop.
The pack features a large elastic shove it pocket on the front and inside of the pocket there is a smaller zippered pocket where the included raincover is stored.
Inside the main compartment of the pack is the Sidekick Day pack which doubles as the hydration bladder storage and an easily removable lightweight summit pack.
The pack bag features standard mesh side pockets. However, the right pocket features what Gregory calls a “Sidewinder Bottle Stash” pocket where a water bottle can be stowed for easy access from the side instead of from the top of the pocket. There is also a sewn loop that could be used for a tether to ensure a bottle did not go far if it fell out.
The side of the pack also features Z shaped compression straps with molded webbing keepers to help manage excess webbing and keep it from flapping around.
The hip belt features a pocket on each side, one mesh and one fabric. The pockets are attached to the hipbelt with a Velcro type of fastener and can be adjusted along the belt so that the pockets are easy to reach for the user.
I am really excited to try out this pack while backpacking this fall. There are a couple features described above that really stand out to me. I like the Gripton Lumbar Pad. I am hopeful that it will help the pack stay in place. I find that my pack tends to slide off of my hips and back over time and requires adjustment. Maybe this will happen less with the Paragon. I also like the adjustable hip belt pockets, they seem easy to adjust and should enhance my ability to maximize the use of these pockets. A third item that jumps out in my initial thoughts is the ventilation on the back panel. It is hot in the South, even in the winter, so I am looking forward to see how well this pack keeps my back dry.
I also like that many of the straps are connected to the pack via a girth hitch. This makes the straps easily removable and when combined with the numerous webbing attachment points throughout the pack provides numerous options to maximize the carrying ability of the pack.
When I am reviewing a pack, I use the following criteria as the basis for my evaluation: fit, durability and usefulness. A sampling of the things that I look for include – how is easy is the pack to adjust before using and while on the trail? How does the pack handle on trail and off trail backpacking? Am I able to keep my contents relatively organized?
This ends my initial review, please check back in a month or so for my update.
Thanks to 4alloutdoors and Gregory for providing the pack for this review.