GREGORY Z25 PACK
TEST SERIES BY GREG MCDONALD
June 15, 2009
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gdm320 AT yahoo DOT com
Boynton Beach, Florida
6' 0" (1.83 m)
225 lb (102.00 kg)
I have been camping for 17 years, 12 of them have been spent hiking in the backcountry. My hikes are almost exclusively in Florida and generally range between one and three nights. My all-time favorite hike was a 10 day expedition in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I consider myself a lightweight but comfortably equipped hiker, with a pack averaging between 25 and 30 lb (11 and 14 kg).
Product Information & Specifications
Manufacturer: Gregory Mountain Products
|Image Courtesy of Gregory
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.gregorypacks.com
MSRP: US $129
Size Tested: Medium
Fits Torso Lengths: 18 - 20 in (46 - 51 cm)
Listed Weight: 2 lb 14 oz (1.30 kg)
Measured Weight: 2 lb 13.5oz (1.29 kg)
Listed Volume: 1525 cu in (25 L)
Color Tested: Onyx
Other Colors Available: Moroccan Blue, Siberian Green
Other Sizes Available:
Small (Fits Torso 16 - 18 in [41 - 46 cm], Listed Weight 2 lb 12 oz [1.25 kg])
Large (Fits Torso 20 - 22 in [51 - 56 cm], Listed Weight 3 lb [1.36 kg])
The z25 is also available in a women's specific model, the Jade 25.
My first look at the z25 came from the Gregory website. It is a new pack Gregory introduced for this year. It is the second-smallest pack in the "z Line" which is characterized by Gregory's JetStream technology (more on that later). From the photos I was able to see that it is a panel-loading design as opposed to the top-loading design more common on larger volume packs. The primary advantage of this design is that I can rummage through the gear in my pack without having to unpack everything like I would with a top-loading pack. The possible flaw in the design is if the zipper suffers any damage or is put under too much stress I could have a pretty serious gear failure on my hands. It's a balancing act for sure and is something that I will be watching like a hawk over the course of the testing period.
Gregory's website itself is very nice. I find it aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate, and very informative. I was able to easily research the z25 features, technologies, sizing, and of course fitting. I was particularly happy with Gregory's sizing guide that they provide. Making sure that I am sized correctly and am matched with the right pack for me is perhaps the most important step in a pack's selection process. To me, few things are more painful and aggravating than a pack that just does not fit right.
I did find one thing that irked me, which was how the z25 is categorized. As I mentioned above the z25 comes in a women's specific model, the Jade 25. If I click "Women's" I can find it with no problem. Logically I assumed I'd find the z25 under "Men's". It turns out I was wrong and I wound up finding it under "All". I'm not really sure why this bothers me, it just does. Having a women's specific model leads me to believe these are "his and hers" packs so it just doesn't seem quite right. But I digress....
The z25 arrived in excellent condition. Right out of the packaging I gave the z25 a thorough once-over and am very pleased with the quality of the pack's construction and materials. Specifics can be found below, but the pack generally just felt very well built and solid from the first moment I laid my hands on it.
The first thing that I generally inspect when I get a new pack is the stitching. I concentrate on two main areas, which are the completeness and style of the stitching. I was only able to notice a handful of "loose" thread ends, none of which were longer than 1/16th of an inch in length. I consider these threads insignificant since they are merely cosmetic and do not contribute to any missing stitches or pulling. All in all I would say the job is well done and complete to my satisfaction.
Gregory opted for 210 denier double box ripstop and broken twill nylon for the pack body. The double box ripstop nylon is a slightly more lightweight version of the nylon Gregory uses in its "Lightweight Backpacking" and "Backpacking" series of packs. It's too early to tell with any certainty, but it seems as if the material choice is appropriate for a pack of this type... anything heavier duty would possibly be a bit of overkill for the designed load and intended uses. Only time will tell.
From there I looked at the quality of the zippers. As I mentioned above, the zipper on a panel-loading pack is absolutely critical. If the main zipper fails, I would have one heck of a problem. That said, I am initially pleased with the main zipper. It has a nice zipper pull, it runs freely and cleanly, and feels solid enough to do the job. There are a total of four other zippers on the pack: two on the hipbelts (one on each side), one for the stash pocket on top, and one for the interior "organizational" pocket in the main compartment. All of these zippers also seem to work very well and include zipper pulls. Under a heavy load, the other important items on a pack like this are the buckles. I had a close look at and felt each buckle. The compression buckles, harness buckles, adjustment buckles, hip buckles, and closure buckles all work pretty flawlessly. I was able to snug, loosen, clip and unclip, and unthread and rethread all the buckles on the pack with relative ease. In my early testing I am finding that the buckles hold the straps at their adjusted length very well and have not noticed any notable slipping.
The pack has one main compartment, inside of which there is a mesh "organizational pocket" large enough for the loose assorted items I'd need in my pack such as a few snacks, maps, and the like. On top of the main compartment there is a small stash pocket large enough for a few small items like my wallet and keys. There are also two small hipbelt pockets, which I really find useful. On one side I keep my GPS and on the other my knife, small flashlight, and emergency whistle. The front of the pack has an expandable front pouch. If I let out the compression straps on the sides and lengthen the closure strap on the top I am able to stash my rain jacket or fleece in it for easy access. The last of the pockets to mention are the two water bottle pockets, one on each side of the pack, which are just the right size for my 1L Nalgene bottles.
|A Few z25 Features
In my opinion the most prominent feature of the z25 is the JetStream DTS suspension system. The diagram on the left was taken from the section of the Gregory website that outlines how the JetStream technology works. The DTS system is a lighter weight version of the LTS suspension used on some of Gregory's higher volume packs. Basically, a springsteel bar runs (shown in yellow) runs around top edge of the pack's backpanel, crisscrosses just above the hipbelt, and the two ends of the bar fit into two small pockets on the bottom. This bar provides tension across the entire pack and is said to maximize weight distribution. The piece shown in green in the diagram is attached to three things: the pack body at the very top, the pack straps just below that, and the springsteel bar at the bottom. The shoulder straps, hipbelt, and the piece shown in green come together to form the harness yoke. As weight is added to the pack and more pressure is put on the hipbelt and shoulder straps, tension and load is transferred to the springsteel bar to firm up the frame.
There are a few other features that are worth mentioning. The z25 sports dual ice axe/tool loops, which I will primarily use for stowing my trekking poles when I don't need them or attaching a small camp stool. There is a very solid loop on top of the back between the shoulder straps for grabbing and hanging the pack. I was very happy to see such a good strap in here because I use such a loop quite a bit and have had cheaper or poorly made ones break off before. The other big feature is that the z25 is integrated-hydration capable. There is a sleeve for a hydration reservoir up against the back panel inside the main compartment and a port on top of the back, centered between the should straps, for the tube.
The design of the sternum strap is very interesting. As seen in the photo, it is basically a slider that moves up and down on a sort of "rail" system. It is very different from the usual buckle sliders that move up and down on a thicker strap. The slider moves up and down the rails very easily and stays firmly in place. Two thumbs up for this part of the design!
The last part of my early observations is the fit of the z25. To make a long story short, it fits very well. I was initially concerned with the size Medium because of my torso length but it has turned out to fit me just as I would like. I feel very comfortable in the harness and love how easy it is to fine-tune the fit and load transfer with the multitude of adjustments on the pack. I want to withhold further discussion and judgments until I have more pack-on time with it, but it is exactly what I would be looking for if I were in a store considering purchasing it.
Down the Trail
I've never really been much for daypacks. For the most part I've only gotten any considerable trail use out of my L.L. Bean Stowaway for single day, short mileage outings. From the very beginning, I looked at the z25 as an opportunity to perhaps change all that. The z25, on paper, struck me as a daypack on steroids. Gregory classifies it as a technical daypack, which is a term that I can only now fully understand.
The pack has truly impressed me up to this point. Every time I look at it I feel like I'm finding a new feature. I love the suspension and comfort of the harness. It's very clear to me that Gregory put a lot of thought into this pack, so much so that I am yet to find a single thing that disappoints me. The z25 has really got me thinking about all the possible uses that I can find for it. Not only will I be taking plenty of dayhikes but I will attempt an overnighter with it. I've had several people look at me like I'm nuts and maybe I am, but I'd like to push the limits and see what this baby can really do.
Field Locations and Conditions
The Z25 has seen action on the trails in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and nature trails in Okeeheelee and John Prince parks - but the majority of miles have been on the rim trail of Lake Okeechobee and the spur trails of the Florida Trail.
Temperatures have ranged between 33 and 92 F (0 and 33 C) over the course of the field testing period with precipitation on three occasions. Winds have been particularly high recently with various fronts and pressure systems blasting through my area, and I have had a handful of treks with winds ranging from 10 to 25 mph (16 and 40 kmh). Factoring in the wind chill on the colder days, this has dropped temperatures as low as 23 F (-5 C). Humidity has swung between 40% and 90% during the hikes.
The photo above is more or less a typical load I'd pack into the z25 for a typical warm-weather day hike. For hydration I pack my water bladder into the hydration sleeve normally and stash my Nalgene bottle into one of the side stretch pockets. I stash my snacks, headlamp, bug spray, and camera in the interior mesh pocket (more on that below). My first aid/repair kit, rain jacket, hat, water filter, and pack towel are then stowed in the main compartment. I have also carried my rain pants and jacket in the main compartment (I have also stuffed the jacket in the stretch front pocket) when I have expected particularly wet or cold weather. The last of my small items - notably my GPS, knife, and compass - I keep in the hip belts for quick access. I also keep my car keys, ID, and a bit of cash in the top stash pocket.
The z25 reminds me a lot of the magic handbag from Mary Poppins in that I can seemingly just keep cramming an unbelievable amount of gear into it. I've easily carried day gear for two in this pack and had space to spare. One upside of this sort of testing is a really good look at the compression system on the z25. I noticed that the compression straps down by the side pockets are of the "inside-out" type so I can change them depending on my compression needs. Combined with the remainder of the side compression straps and the bottom straps, I like how easy it is to tailor the size of the z25 to my needs so I can get the best possible fit out of the pack.
One of the organizational features I like most about the z25 is the mesh pocket inside the main compartment of the pack. This pocket is very handy for keeping my miscellaneous smaller items easily accessible. It's plenty big enough for pretty much anything I want to keep in there and it really keeps my pack much more organized.
I'm really in love with the JetStream Suspension Gregory has used in the pack. To date its performance has been exemplary. The space between the mesh backpanel and the back of the pack body is something I've always been high on but like even more in practice. The increased airflow across my entire back does wonders to keep my back cool which is so critical when things start getting hot down here. I have similar praise for the performance of the rest of the harness so far in the test period. The padding on the shoulder straps and hipbelt are holding up very well and are still soft but dense. I also like the ease of adjusting the suspension, especially the angle adjustments on the hipbelt and the rail system used on the sternum strap. On my various day activities the weight and bulk of the gear that I carry can change radically from day to day so I find myself always adjusting the pack before the start of each hike or activity to get the fit right. I don't think I'd be nearly as happy with the pack if this wasn't so easy to do. Even with the lightweight components of the harness and suspension I remain completely pleased with the stability and load bearing capabilities of the z25. I haven't had any balance issues while scrambling with the pack, and it even performed very well when I took it to the climbing gym for testing one day (I have had to substitute the climbing gym for real rock walls thanks to a complete lack of natural ones down here in Florida).
Regarding durability, I have nothing adverse to report. The pack is holding up perfectly, and I'm not noticing any weak spots forming on the seams or straps. The zippers are holding their own and still slide nice and easy with no missing teeth or kinks in the main compartment zipper at all. I haven't had to wash the pack off as of yet. I'm not worried about the bit of dirt on the bottom of the pack from sitting on the ground during breaks. The only part of the pack I was remotely concerned about early in the testing period were the lightweight buckles on the top compression straps and sternum strap. From experience I know that these lightweight buckles can be a bit on the delicate side and are prone to breaking if they aren't handled carefully, but I haven't had any problems with them so far.
The Final Leg
Long story short, I'm very impressed with what the z25 has given me so far. It has rekindled my interest in day packs, which is something that had dwindled for me in recent years. The integrated hydration system has won me back into using a bladder more regularly (since none of my other packs are integrated) which makes the z25 interesting in that it is changing my hiking habits. I wouldn't have thought that a day pack could do that ... but live and learn I guess. The way that the z25 has handled the loads I have subjected it to thus far have given me the confidence to finally do what I hinted at in my Initial Report: use it as an overnight solo pack. Should be an interesting experience to say the least.
Testing Locations and Conditions
The z25 has seen the final action of this particular test series on the trails of Lake Okeechobee, John Prince Park, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and Hillsborough River State Park. Temperatures have ranged between 46 and 92 F (8 and 33 C) with humidity levels peaking near 90% over the course of the field testing period. I encountered precipitation on two occasions on the trail. This testing has all occurred at or around sea level in Southeast Florida.
The final two months of the testing phase have only served to reinforce my previous observations and experiences with the z25, which haven't been anything other than positive.
Before the z25 I'd never used a daypack with a suspension system. I had only ever used a frameless and collapsible pack for my shorter adventures. Since I'd never used anything like this, I hadn't ever been able to appreciate how much a suspension can ease the stress and strain of my pack's load. What a big difference such a thing can make, even on lighter loads. Even when loaded up with emergency gear in case I was stranded and had to spend an unexpected night in the backcountry I never felt uncomfortable strapped into the z25.
Beyond the suspension, the pack is very comfortable in general. Shoulder and hipbelt padding, for me, needs to be soft but dense so it won't flatten out and make for a very uncomfortable situation. Apparently Gregory got the memo on this one, because I'm pleased with the harness on the z25. Everything on the harness works for me from the padding, to the shape and angle of the straps and belts, to the plethora of adjustments (which actually surprised me on a pack this "small"). Personally, all of these things are of particular importance when it comes to achieving a comfortable carry and the z25 did not disappoint.
The versatility of the z25 is, perhaps, the best thing I've found about it. What I mean by that is that I have found no shortage of scenarios both on and off the trail for which I can use the z25. I used the z25 for some of my shortest dayhikes where I carried little more than a few liters of water and a rain jacket right up to my longest dayhikes where I carried several liters of water, extra clothing, my water filter, emergency gear in case I got stranded and had to spend a night on the trail... I think you get the picture. The way the z25 compresses down for smaller loads then opens up like a chasm to swallow an inordinate amount of gear was something that really pleased me over the course of the testing period.
Another thing the z25 managed to get me interested in again was integrated hydration bladders. The thing that had bugged me about my hydration systems lately was how awkwardly I had to stow them in my pack since I did not have a pack with a hydration sleeve and outlet port (pretty old school, right?). The z25 was actually the first time I'd used an integrated hydration pack, and I have seen the light to be sure. One day I read somewhere that another hiker detached the mouthpiece from the drinking tube on his bladder and refilled it while still inside the pack and it was like a light went on in my head. Maybe it's just me, but I'd never even thought of that. Yeesh did that ever make things easier compared to yanking out the empty bladder, juggling it while I pumped, getting it dry, then wrestling it back into the sleeve. The photo to the left is actually from my MSR Hyperflow filter report, showing my hydration bladder in the pack being refilled in my newly discovered magic way!
I considered for a while whether there was anything negative that I had to report at this point. I couldn't really think of anything, so I just wanted to mention one drawback of the z25. Compared to the frameless options the z25 is not particularly packable. Because of the suspension and the rigid tension bar it does not collapse or stuff down all that much which would pretty much rule out its use as a summit pack on longer treks because I don't know how I would pack it down to carry it. The additional features of the z25 also make it heavier than frameless packs or summit sacks. I suppose I'd say this inability to pack down small is a limitation more than a drawback.
After four months of field testing, I have to say that Gregory has done a wonderful job with the z25. It is flat out impressive and I absolutely love it. It has earned a permanent spot in my gear closet and I find myself reaching for it more and more often. Like I said in my earlier reports, it has rekindled my interest in dedicated daypacks, though I'm not sure that I'll even need anything else considering how versatile it is. This versatility is easily my favorite thing about it, followed closely by the JetSteam suspension. All of this doesn't even mention the monstrous amount of gear that it can swallow. Frankly I can't even think of anything negative to say about it, but I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention that it is probably not suitable as a summit sack for use on side trips while on longer treks because the suspension makes it more difficult to pack down to a reasonable size.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
It is with regret that I must admit that I was unable to achieve one of my goals during the final portion of this testing period, which was to get the z25 out for an overnight. Unfortunately, an ultralight and stripped-down-hike opportunity never presented itself.
This concludes my Test Series on the Gregory z25. I would like to thank Gregory and, of course, BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this fantastic daypack. Happy trails!
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