With 30 years of pack making under its waist belt, Gregory Packs should know something about knapsacks. Indeed, if recent hype can be trusted, Gregory stands atop the heap. Backpacker, Consumers Digest and National Geographic Adventure all lauded Gregory last year with awards and glowing reviews. Gregory even won a Popular Science Best of What’s New award, a prize given to the best technological innovations of 2006.
I’ve toted a variety of Gregory packs since the company’s inception, and I have always admired the innovation and design of Wayne Gregory and his stable of engineers. Add impressive durability and it’s not hard to see why Gregory garners the reviews it does. For example, Gregory is the only company that uses a center-locking bar tack on high stress areas. More importantly, Gregory packs are comfortable. A variety of suspension and harness systems and waist-belt designs make it easy to customize your pack and find a rig that fits, the single most important element in buying a pack. Gregory is one of the few pack makers with enough variation in designs that almost anybody with a torso can dial in a perfect fit.
I carried Gregory’s two new alpine/climbing offerings, the Alpinisto and the Z 35, on alternate days over the course of the 2006 climbing season.
The Alpinisto is Gregory’s top-of-the-line alpine pack for loads up to 35 pounds (2,900 cubic inches). Though I almost doubled that weight packing for overnight excursions, the pack still carried well. The main selling point for the Alpinisto is the removable waist-belt padding, bivy pad, frame sheet and stay. Stripping them out lightens the pack by a full pound. This pack fit me well and the harness system (Auto Cant and All Terrain) and stabilizer system (Wraptor) suited my build — six feet and 160 pounds. I liked the familiar top-loader design with extension sleeve and adjustable pack lid. The Alpinisto’s design is old school, but done better than ever. Features: Compressible, contoured top pocket for helmet clearance, hydration sleeve and port, ski slots, bivy pad, rope straps, gear loops, crampon straps and ice-axe tubes (that accommodate leashless tools, too).