Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.
What is it?: Gregory Paragon 38 backpack. I think this model is being discontinued however, as the Gregory website has it on clearance. There’s a bigger 48 model still available I think.
How much?: about $200 CAD including tax
Where, when, how do I use it?: I bought this in the spring of 2019, because I was planning to start doing some long multi-day walks. By multi-day, I mean anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months. That said, this pack is more for walks with accommodation along the way than it is for pure backpack wilderness hiking. Think of things like the Camino de Santiago.
To date, while I haven’t taken it out of Ontario, it has been used for my 200km Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto walk. On that trip, I booked B&Bs and hotels for each night, so I was just carrying clothes, rain gear, shaving kit, first aid kit, an iPad, sundries, snacks, and water. Even so, my full pack weighed in at around 11 or 12 kg for the 6 day walk. I could have been more economical in packing, and with more planning and experience I am sure I could make it work for longer trips without adding too much if any weight.
I picked it because it fit well. Gregory packs are sized by length, and since I have a long torso I needed the medium/long model. When I tried it in the store, with a couple of 5 kg weights tossed in, I was able to adjust it easily to my frame and get the weight sitting on my hips. The belt system is good, and the straps allow you to adjust it pretty much however you need it.
This has an aluminum internal frame to carry the load and the material is relatively heavy nylon for durability. The back is meshed as are the cushions, and properly adjusted it will float a bit off your back so that there is some air circulation.
I like the storage. There are side pockets on the waist belt that are big enough for multiple Clif bars. The side mesh pockets can hold a 1L Nalgene bottle. There’s a big stretch mesh exterior pocket on the back that I used for my rain jacket and the rain cover. Inside, there are multiple pockets including one for a hydration bag, and the top cover has multiple pockets too that worked well for handy access to snacks and the first aid kit. I like that you can get into the main compartment from the top or from the bottom.
Another plus is that there are multiple strap and clip-on points. I used the ones on the bottom of the pack to strap on my walking poles, but I could still reach around and unclip the straps to get the poles while walking if I needed to. With a couple of bungee cords, you can use the exterior tie-down loops to hold other stuff too.
The pack kept my stuff dry in light rain, though I did have moisture inside the pack from sweating through the fabric. The rain cover works well in heavier downpours, and it’s a nice bright dayglo yellow so if I’m walking along a busy road I’ll use the rain cover just for the visibility.
The biggest con is the weight given the size. This is a 38L pack after all, yet it weighs nearly 1.5kg empty. There are lighter ones on the market that hold more, though they are also more expensive than this one.
Would I buy it again?: Not sure. I like the fit of the Gregory packs, and the versatility of the pockets and straps. However, if I could find something lighter with the same or greater volume, then I think I’d go for that as long as it wasn’t too much more expensive. All that said, if this model is discontinued then I’d have to look for a new bag anyway. I’d probably start with Gregory to see what they have, and if I couldn’t find what I needed then since I have an Osprey and a Deuter daypack, I’d see what those manufacturers had.
Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.