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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Gregory Advent Pro Pack > Test Report by Chad E. Fike

GREGORY ADVENT PRO
TEST SERIES BY CHAD EMERSON FIKE
LONG-TERM REPORT
October 20, 2007

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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chad Emerson Fike
EMAIL: chadfike"at"hotmail"dot"com
AGE: 35
LOCATION: Oakland, Maryland USA
GENDER: m
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I have gone camping, usually very close to home, since my teens but only started seriously backpacking around age 30. I do mostly weekend trips and often take day hikes. My backpacking experience has been mostly in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, including parts of the Appalachian Trail. Each trip has been a learning experience about techniques and equipment. I try to balance weight, durability, and cost with my gear choices.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

photo from Gregory website
PHOTO FROM www.gregorypacks.com

MAY 7, 2007

Manufacturer: Gregory Mountain Products
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.gregorypacks.com
MSRP: US $149.00
Listed Weight: (Large) 2 lb 14 oz (1.3 kg)
Measured Weight: (Large) 2 lb 10.8 oz (1.21 kg)
Capacity: (Large) 2425 cubic in (39 L)
Color: Flame Orange
Lifetime Guarantee

The Advent Pro is part of the "Anti-Gravity Series" described on the Gregory website as "Quick and lightweight versatile packs for hikes, bikes, sprints, and races". The Advent Pro came packaged with a hangtag providing some general information about Gregory and describing the pack as a "Perennial best seller among adventure racers and lightweight thru-hikers. Self-healing G 30 fabric keeps weight low and Wraptor Stabilizer secures pack snugly against back during even the most rigorous workouts". A chart is included to help select the correct pack. The Advent Pro is listed under the "Multi-Sport Day Use" section of packs that have a comfort range of 25lbs or less.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Although the pack is described as lightweight, it is not a minimalist design. Instead it took some time to investigate the many straps, zippers, adjustments, pockets and other features. The following quotations are found in the hangtag. After each I included my initial impressions about the feature.
wraptor detail
WRAPTOR STABILIZER

"Wraptor Stabilizer: Increases Stability and Weight Transfer" - This feature gets a special section of the hangtag further explaining that the Wraptor is "designed to stabilize the backpanel and alleviate pack bounce during high aerobic activity. By pulling the backpanel of the pack up and in optimal stability is maintained". Other benefits are that it "transfers weight over a wide area" and "prevents backpanel collapse". The Wraptor consists of a hard piece of plastic that provides an attachment point for the shoulder straps. Whereas many shoulder straps connect to the main pack body with a single strap, this system allows the strap to connect at two points. Pulling on the Wraptor does seem to pull the bottom of the pack "up and in", but further testing is required to determine the veracity of the rest of the claims.

"Molded Foam Backpanel: Comfortable and Supportive" - The pack does not have an internal frame. At the top of the pack where the shoulder straps attach, I can feel a stiff piece of plastic running the width of the backpanel and extending down about 6 inches (15 cm), but there is not a full length plastic framesheet. Instead the backpanel is made of molded foam about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) thick. Thinner channels are cut out of the foam in areas such as the spine. This foam is not particularly stiff, but bends and folds very easily, especially in the thinner channels.

"Aerotech Mesh Harness and Waistbelt: Promotes air flow and increased comfort" - The Aerotech Mesh consists of a porous looking surface full of lots of tiny holes.

"Top Load With Giant Front Access: Easy and Quick To Reach All Your Gear" - The top lid closes via two webbing straps with quick release buckles. Under the lid the main section has a top collar with a draw string closure. The dual zippered, horseshoe-shaped, front panel provides another means of access. There seems to be a lot of room inside this pack. I loaded the pack full of some blankets to expand the pack and get a general idea of its size. With nothing in any of the external pockets, the pack stood about 27 inches (68.5 cm) high, 11 inches (28 cm) deep, and 10 inches (25.5 cm) wide.

"Side Stretch Mesh Pockets and Front Zippered Pocket" & "Front Helmet Pocket" - These pockets are all made of a light stretchy mesh. In the photos of the pack these are the light gray material. The helmet pocket attaches with a single piece of webbing with a quick release buckle and is big enough to fit my bike helmet. This pocket is made of a double layer of the mesh material. A side zipper allows access to a pocket located between these two layers of mesh material. A one liter water bottle slides into the side mesh pockets almost up to the cap. I can also fit my compact binoculars and case inside one of the side pockets but since there is no way to tighten or close the tops of the pockets I am a little concerned about such items falling out.

"Waistbelt Pockets" - There is a zippered pocket along each side of the waistbelt. The sides are made of the same mesh material described above. I am glad to see these pockets since I really like the convenience they provide. These appear large enough for items like energy bars.

"Integrated Non-Slip Top Pocket" - The top lid of the pack has a dual zippered pocket on the very top with a hook inside for items like keys. I do not know what makes this pocket "Non-Slip". The underside of the top lid has another small pocket that closes with a hook and loop fastener and looks like it would hold a large wallet. I was not really sure what this was intended for but the Gregory website reveals that it is a battery pocket.

"Hydration Ready" - There is an elasticized pocket inside the pack that will hold a hydration bladder next to the backpanel. There is a hole near the top lid for the tube to exit and three pieces of elastic webbing on each shoulder strap for securing the tube. My Camelbak bladder fits inside, but tended to slump towards the bottom of the pocket since there is not any means of attachment to hold it in position.
bottom detail
BOTTOM DETAIL

"Free Floating Quickdraw Compression System: On-The-Fly Compression Adjustments" - The pack has a compression system consisting of cord that zig zags through a channel along the sides of the pack and exits at the top and bottom of the pack. The cord goes through the black fabric I have labeled "Quickdraw Cord Channel" on the SIDE DETAIL photo below. At both ends where the cord exits it can be pulled taut and cinched with a cord lock. This seems to compress the pack down pretty tightly. The adjustments tended to tighten only one side at first. I untied a knot in the adjustable cord and pulled some slack through the cord lock and now it seems to work fine. I am just able to reach around and operate the bottom drawcord while wearing the pack, so on-the-fly adjustments may be possible but somewhat akward. The Gregory website also describes a "Unique Bungie Side Compression System : For on the Fly Adjustments and Stashing Gear". These external adjustments are located on each side above the water bottle pockets. They consist of elasiticized shock cord that help cinch down the pack even more. When I placed some tent poles in the side pockets these bungies also served to help cinch them to the side of the pack. I can reach these bungies with the pack on but I have a hard time operating the cord lock very efficiently, so "on-the-fly" adjustments could be problematic.

"Bottom and Top Webbing Compression" - There are two pieces of adjustable webbing with quick release buckles at the bottom of the pack. I was able to attach my Therm-a-rest Z-Rest with these straps. On the top of the pack there is a single piece of adjustable webbing (no quick release buckle). This seems to be a rather odd location, since anything attached here would be located right behind and bump into the users head.
side detail
SIDE DETAIL

"Side Lashing System" - This consists of a section of daisy chain webbing along each side of the pack. A small piece of elasticized cord and cord lock allow items to be lashed to the webbing. This system could help secure long items such as tent poles placed in the side pockets. The system could also be used in conjunction with the "Pole and Axe Loops/Lashing" which consists of two webbing axe loops and two smaller unadjustable elasticized loops at the bottom ot the pack.

"Siliconized G 30 Nylon Ripstop: Silicone Coated for Tear Resistance and Light Weight" The "Flame Orange" (looks more like red to me) sections of the pack are made out of this material. It is "75% lighter than other pack fabrics" and thin. Really thin. I could literally read a newspaper when I placed it on the opposite side of the material. An additional hangtag about the material explains that "its fibers stretch under pressure instead of locking together and tearing". I could not find an explanation of how this material is "self-healing".

"210 HT Nylon Fabric Reinforcements: Used in Stress Areas to Prevent Ripping and Tearing" The bottom of the pack and other stress areas are constructed of this thicker, more traditional, material.


READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The hangtag contains instructions about getting a proper fit. The torso measurement chart that is also found on the website recommends a size medium for a torso measurement of 18 to 19.5 inches (48-49 cm) and a size large for a torso measurement of 20 to 21.5 inches (50-54 cm). My measurement fell towards the middle of the two, so I chose a large.

There is also a diagram and four steps to follow for a "perfect custom pack fit". The steps are as follows: "1) When your leg is lifted so your thigh is at a 90 degree angle to your body, the bottom edge of the waistbelt should be level with the top of the thigh; 2) With the shoulder stabilizer strap loose, there should be a minimum of 2" of strap from the buckle at the bottom of the shoulder harness pad to its lower attachment point; 3) The curve in the shoulder harness should be level with your arm pit ; and 4) When slightly tensioned, the shoulder stablizer straps should be at a 25 degree angle". I am able to make the pack fit these parameters but most of the adjustments are tightened down a lot. It appears that I am probably on the small size for the large pack since there is a lot of leftover waistbelt and shoulder harness strap.
sternum strap detail
STERNUM STRAP


Not much instruction is provided for the sternum strap other than it should be comfortable and not restrict breathing. I have never seen a sternum strap that attaches the way this one does. Instead of simply attaching to a piece of webbing, the sternum strap has a "C" shaped piece of plastic that grips a "rail". The strap seems to move very easily up and down the "rail".

Finally, care instructions are provided including: "Hand wash with a mild detergent or soap solution" & "Rinse and air-dry with all zippers open". Solvents, using the dryer, and incomplete drying are to be avoided.

SUMMARY

Overall this pack seems very well made. I do not see any defects. All of the zippers and adjustments seem to operate smoothly except for the issue with the Quickdraw compression I detailed earlier. The pack is actually a little larger and has more features than I imagined. I have not really had a chance to try out the many features of this pack in the field but look forward to doing so.

This concludes my initial report on the Gregory Advent Pro. The field report will be amended onto this report in two months time and will include field testing data. Please check back then for further information about the Advent Pro.

Thanks to Gregory and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

AUGUST 21, 2007
iceberg lake
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK


The majority of testing has taken place in the forested terrain of the Appalachian Mountains of western Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia in elevations ranging from around 2500 to 4800 ft (762 to 1463 m). Testing also occurred during a two week vacation that included hikes in Glacier National Park in Montana, Great Basin National Park in Nevada and in the Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho. Elevations on this trip ranged from around 5000 to 10800 ft (1524 to 3292 m). Overall most of the hikes occurred in dry conditions with little rain being encountered. Temperatures encountered while testing ranged from around 35 to 90 F (2 C to 32 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I used the Advent Pro mostly while dayhiking. These dayhikes varied in duration and style from short little strolls to longer trips. During short hikes when I had a total pack weight of less than 10 lbs (4.5 kg) I found the pack comfortable. The shoulder straps and hip belt, while not especially thick, seemed comfortable and conformed well to my body. I did not really notice whether the "Aerotech" material of the harness and waistbelt promoted airflow. After most of my hikes I found my back to be sweaty, but this is common for me and whether the material was more or less breathable than other packs is hard to tell. No matter what size load I carried the pack always seemed very stable with little sway or movement. The pack has much greater capacity than I imagined. I never had any problem getting all my gear inside on dayhikes. Most often there was room left over so it was easy for my wife and I to find room to stuff both of our soft shell jackets inside when temperatures rose after a cold morning. During most hikes it seemed like my gear was buried deep inside the pack with plenty of leftover room. I rarely filled the upper one-third of the pack and on shorter hikes the pack felt like it had much more capacity than I really needed
backpanel
BACKPANEL DETAIL

During our vacation my wife and I were able to do several dayhikes in the 8 to 10 mile (13 to 16 km) range. I carried all of our rain gear and extra clothing in addition to camera equipment and binoculars resulting in an average total weight of about 16 lbs (7.3 kg). I appreciated the large capacity of the pack during one hike when my wife was not feeling well. I took her gear and was able to stuff her entire hydration pack inside very easily. This resulted in a load of about 19 lbs (8.6 kg) and by the time we returned 5 miles (8 km) back to the trailhead my shoulders were aching, with a sharp pain between my shoulder blades. This is my biggest complaint about the pack. Whenever I had it loaded much over 10 lb (4.5 kg) I did not find it comfortable. The foam of the backpanel is so thin that it easily folds and buckles. The backpanel does not give much structure to the pack, causing it to feel as if it is sagging and hanging off my shoulders. In the area of the backpanel just above the waistbelt the foam is not very wide and has several thin channels that create a hinge effect. I found that the Wraptor Stabilizer did snug the pack tightly to my hips, but I did not feel it really helped "transfer load weight over a wide area". The Wraptor was also advertised as preventing "backpanel collapse" but that is sometimes exactly what it felt like was happening. I sometimes carry a small piece of an old foam sleeping pad on hikes to use as a sit pad. Instead of attaching it outside of the pack I slipped it inside the pack along the backpanel. This seemed to help stiffen up the pack and transfer some weight to my hips. I think a lightweight internal frame, plastic framesheet, or even a stiffer foam backpanel would help transfer some of the load to the hips. I should state that the last time I purchased a daypack for my own use I specifically looked for one with an internal frame, so perhaps I am somewhat biased in favor of packs with more support. When reading about the pack I came away with the idea that the Advent Pro could achieve the same benefits of a framed pack in a lighter package, but I do not feel that is true.

backpack trip
OVERNIGHT TRIP LOAD

The Advent Pro is described as a favorite of "lightweight thru hikers". That does not describe me, so I had applied to test this pack for dayhikes. However, a short overnight trip of just under 8 miles (13 km) seemed a good time to try the Advent Pro as an overnight pack. I found I had to be rather selective as to how I packed the bag. I think of "lightweight thru hikers" perhaps having gear such as a very compressible down sleeping bag and tarp. On the contrary, I began by packing my heavier and bulkier synthetic sleeping bag and my half of a shared tent. The pack has a lot of room inside but it is rather tall and narrow, so my sleeping bag with a packed size of around 6 x 13 in (15 x 33 cm) was a pretty tight fit when packed horizontally. The tent and bag made a pronounced bulge in the rather thin foam backpanel and it took some pushing and repositioning to stop these items from protruding uncomfortably against my back. I had planned on attaching my REI Lite-Core inflatable sleeping pad to the outside attachment straps on the bottom of the pack. The pad has a rolled size of about 11 x 6 in (28 x 15 cm). Since the attachment straps are only about 10 in (25 cm) apart it did not seem as though the pad was very securely attached. Since it was also a very tight stretch to even get the straps to buckle around the pad I opted to put the pad inside the pack and put the tent outside. This seemed to work much better since the bag that held the tent was much wider and was compressed more easily by the straps. I used the outside helmet pocket for a few bulky items like a water filter and first aid kit. The rest of my gear all fit inside. The total weight was about 21.4 lbs (9.7 kg). This is near the top end of the comfort range of "25 lbs or less" listed by Gregory. Once it was all loaded the pack seemed pretty comfortable. Having the pack full seemed to give it more structure. Even though our hike to the campsite was not a long one, I did not find the comfort to last long. As we hiked it felt like the load was sagging and putting all the weight on my shoulders. I had the waistbelt as tight as I could comfortably adjust it, but I just could not seem to get the weight off of my shoulders. This seemed to be mainly because of the lack of an internal frame or way to transfer any of the load to the belt. While I was impressed that with a little planning I could get my usual overnight load in the pack, I was not as impressed with the comfort level.

When I applied to test I thought the pack might also work as a hydration pack for biking. My first impressions were that the pack was much larger than I had imagined, and larger than needed for biking. I did try it out on a 12 mile (19 km) mountain bike ride. My 6.4 lb (2.9 kg) load consisted of a pump, first aid kit and hydration bladder. This did not take up much room so even when compressed as much as possible the pack still felt bigger than required. The trail was rather rough with rocks and roots, but the Advent felt secure. It conformed to my body very well and did not bounce around much. I found that when pedaling my thighs sometimes pushed the hipbelt up into my ribs, especially if I was somewhat bent over while pedaling hard up a hill.

The following are some miscellaneous observations about some of the pack features. As much as I have always thought the panel loading option would be helpful, I usually opened the top lid of the pack out of habit. The panel loading option was very handy to help clean and dry out the pack when a leaky hydration bladder spilled sports drink throughout the pack. The bottom drain holes will also effectively channel spilled drink out of the pack and onto the back of your legs alerting you of a leaky bladder. I never used the ice axe loops. I loved the waistbelt pockets for items like tissues, multi-tool, and compass. My only suggestions would be to add a little more material since the pockets seemed to be stretched a little tight and to perhaps add a clip to securely attach keys inside. While there is a sleeve inside that worked well for my hydration bladder, there is no attachment point to keep the bladder from sagging into the bottom of the sleeve. The rail system of the sternum strap allows for very easy adjustment and fine tuning, but unlike conventional systems that use webbing, it does not allow easy attachment of items like a knife case. I found the bottom webbing attachment straps for the top lid to be somewhat awkward since they originate from inside the side mesh pockets. I often had to fish them out in order to attach the buckles. It was easy to attach trekking poles to the pack with the "side lashing system". The "side stretch mesh pockets" held water bottles, cameras, and binoculars well. I never had any problems with items coming out but a drawcord top would add some security. My wallet fit perfectly in the "battery pocket" under the top lid.

The workmanship and quality of the pack seem very high. All of the zippers and buckles have worked flawlessly. I have had no serious durability issues with the pack. I have noticed one slightly distressed area in the siliconized G 30 nylon. It is not really that noticeable but I will be watching to see if it worsens. This material is so thin that I was skeptical about its durability but other than this one small spot it has performed well. There is one small hole, just large enough to push the tip of a pencil through, in the mesh material of one of the waistbelt pockets. A close inspection of the pack did not find any other problems. Most of my hiking is on trail with just a few bushwhacks. While on our two week road trip vacation storage space was limited so the Advent Pro took a little abuse since it had to be stuffed wherever I could find room. After that trip I did wipe the pack down with a little soapy water as directed and it seemed to clean up nicely.


SUMMARY

Overall I have had mixed feelings about the Advent Pro. Quality and workmanship are very good and I have only seen two small durability issues. I like the look and design of the pack. The pack feels very secure and does not move around much on my body. The pack also holds lots of gear, but I found it to hold more gear than I can comfortably carry. This lack of comfort when carrying heavy loads was my biggest disappointment. The thin foam backpanel did not offer much support and left most of the weight on my shoulders. It was more comfortable with smaller loads but then I felt like I was carrying a lot of excess pack.

TESTING STRATEGY

This concludes my Field Report on the Gregory Advent Pro. I expect to continue using the pack during dayhikes. The Long Term Report will be amended onto this report in two months time and will include further field testing data. Please check back then for further information on the Advent Pro.

Thanks to Gregory and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

OCTOBER 20, 2007
Roaring Plains
MONONGAHELA NAT. FOREST DAYHIKE


During these final months testing has taken place in the forested terrain of the Appalachian Mountains of western Maryland and West Virginia including the Monongahela National Forest, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Blackwater Falls State Park and the Potomac Garrett State Forest. Elevations ranged from around 2500 to 4800 ft (762 to 1463 m). It was a very dry fall with no real precipitation occurring during testing. Temperatures were above average during most of this test period and ranged from around 55 to 85 F (13 C to 30 C).


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I used the Gregory Advent Pro exclusively for dayhikes during the Long Term Report period. These hikes varied in length from shorter strolls to several mile outings. Overall this period of testing did not really lead me to many new conclusions about the pack but rather served to reinforce some of my opinions from earlier testing.

My biggest frustration with the pack continued to be the lack of any kind of internal frame or rigid framesheet to provide structure. A total weight of less than 10 lb (4.5 kg) continued to be comfortable. Since I had previously found the pack to be uncomfortable with a heavier load, I continued to insert a rolled up piece of foam sleeping pad inside the pack whenever I was out for a longer hike. This seemed to provide enough structure to help transfer some weight onto my waist and to prevent the buckling and collapsing of the thin foam backpanel that often occurred with heavier loads. This simple item made such a difference that it seems like an opportunity was missed to make some minor improvements to the frame of this pack that could have really increased its comfortable carrying capacity. The rest of the pack design such as the lightweight shoulder harness and hipbelt were very comfortable. It seems that the extra capacity of this pack is somewhat wasted since I did not find it all that comfortable when completely loaded. All the extra room in this pack came in handy at times, but if I can not comfortably use that extra space then I am basically carrying around a heavier, bulkier pack than I need.

Hipbelt pocket detail
HIPBELT POCKET
I continue to be impressed with the durability of the pack. After close inspection the only new issue is some fraying around the edges of a small piece of elasticized webbing used to hold excess waistbelt. The distressed area of the G 30 nylon I had noticed during previous testing did not change. This area is not really that noticeable and not something I thought a picture would convey very well. This extremely thin material was much tougher than I thought it might be at first glance. I rather expected the small hole I previously found in the mesh hip pocket to expand. However, even though I carried items in that pocket on each hike, it has remained about the size of a pencil tip. The many features such as buckels, straps, cord locks and zippers continued to function flawlessly. Whenever dirty, the pack seemed to come clean easily with a wet rag or sponge. I would rate the quality and workmanship of the pack very high.

I never used the "Free Floating Quickdraw Compression System" to make "On-The-Fly Compression Adjustments" since the adjustments were not easily accessible while wearing the pack. I usually made all the adjustments before I put on the pack and did not feel the need to adjust afterward. This system worked to compress the pack but I did not notice any real advantages over a more conventional system of adjustable exterior webbing straps.

I will end this section with a few random observations. The exit ports for the hydration tube were large enough to allow the tube to easily pass through even with an angled bite valve. When cinched down all the way the top drawcord closure still leaves a hole of about 1.5 in (4 cm) in diameter. My torso measurements just barely qualified me for a size large. Judging by the 16 in (41 cm) of leftover shoulder strap and 19 in (48 cm) of leftover waist strap around my 32 in (81 cm) waist, the large is made to fit anyone from me up to about Shaquille O'Neal.

SUMMARY

I found much to like about the Gregory Advent Pro. It is loaded with lots of features and extras, has a large capacity, was durable and exhibited high quality workmanship. However, looking back at my initial application to test the pack I had wondered if comfort might be sacrificed to produce a lighter pack. In my experience that seems to be the case. Perhaps this is just a personal preference, but I would much rather have the added weight of an internal frame or at least a stiffer plastic framesheet in order to produce a more comfortable pack. The lack of overall support and comfort tended to negate some of the positive features.

CONTINUED USE

While there were many things I liked about this pack I am not sure how much I will use it in the future. With a light load the pack is comfortable but rather bulky with a lot of leftover room. It is advertised for "multi-sport day use" but it seems like more pack than I really need for short hikes or mountain biking. A smaller, sleeker and lighter pack seems better suited for such occassions. When utilizing the large capacity of the pack with a heavier load the pack sometimes became uncomfortable. I have a daypack with an internal frame that carries a similiar load much more comfortably.

This concludes my test of the Gregory Advent Pro. Thanks to Gregory and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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