GREGORY BALTORO 65
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
December 06, 2015
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
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Steven M. Kidd
5' 9" (1.75 m)
185 lb (83.90 kg)
Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lb (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover between 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I also do several annual outings lasting four to five days covering distances between 15 to 20 mi (24 - 32 km) per day. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Image ©: Gregory Mountain Products|
Manufacturer: Gregory Mountain Products
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: www.gregorypacks.com
MSRP: US $299
Listed Weight: 5 lb 1 oz (2.27 kg)
Measured Weight: 4 lb 14 oz (2.21 g)
SideKick Removable Daypack Weight: 5.2 oz (147 g)
Rain cover Weight: 4.2 oz (119 g)
Total Measured Weight: 5 lb 9 oz (2.52 g)
Colors Available: Navy Blue, Shadow Black, Spark Red (Testing Spark Red)
Sizes Available: Large [69 L (4211 cu in)], Medium [65 L (3967 cu in)], Small [61 L (3722 cu in)] (Testing Medium)
The Baltoro is an awarding-winning backpack from Gregory Mountain Products that has been redesigned for the 2015 model year. This updated version has added features like the SideKick removable daypack and an integrated rain cover while still cutting weight from the previous version.
The daypack doubles as a hanging reservoir sleeve, but there is also another internal attachment point inside the packbag should the backpacker decide not to use the SideKick for this. The rain cover stows in a zippered pocket inside a much larger storage pocket on the front of pack. The compression MultiStraps on the bottom of the pack double as a hipbelt for the daypack. They are girth-hitched (or larks-headed) to a loop on the bottom of the bag and one strap has a male buckle while the other has a female buckle that allows them to marry when used as the hipbelt.
The Baltoro offers a vented and formed back panel featuring LifeSpan foam and a silicone lumbar grip zone. There is a removable 10 mm (0.39 in) insert called LumbarTune that allows the user to customize the contours of the back panel for a more precise fit. The pack also offers a QuickSwap 3D interchangeable pre-curved LifeSpan EVA foam harness and the hipbelt is available in multiple sizes for an individual fit. Additional hip belts must be purchased separately.
There are three entry points for the packbag. The main top-loading access and a U-zip panel on the front are the primary entry points, but the sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the pack also has its own access. This compartment also has a removable internal divider.
As I wear the pack there is a large mesh pocket that stretches capable of holding a large water bottle or other storage on the left side. On my right side when wearing it is a bottle holster called the SideWinder. It is said to be ergonomic and is storable when not in use with hook and loop closure. The removable lid is said to have a Double Barrel design with dual zippered pockets designed roughly at a 45 degree angle on top as well as a zippered security pocket on underside of the lid which has a key clip inside.
The hipbelt has a pocket on each side. One pocket is mesh and the other one is coated with WeatherShield PU and uses an YKK AquaGuard zipper to offer waterproofing protection for the contents.
Other features on the pack include dual ice axe loops and upper shock locks for tool or trekking pole attachment. There are exit points on either side of the packbag allowing a hydration tube to exit the pack and attach to either shoulder harness; however, the harness on only the right side when worn has a clip on the sternum strap designed to hold the water tube in place.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & SUMMARY
Over the years I've owned several Gregory packs and I've always admired the Baltoro line, so I'm excited to test this newest incarnation of the pack. When the pack arrived I looked it over and noticed that it was quite well made. The company was recently sold, but the quality appears to not have changed. The Gregory logo has been updated this year as well with the M (for Mountain) placed several places on the pack itself.
When I first picked the pack up it felt very beefy to me. The primary pack I've used in the backcountry over the last several years weighs just less than 1 lb (0.45 kg), so trying on a pack weighing just over 5 1/2 lb (2.5 kg) was definitely a culture shock. Yet this pack is designed to comfortably handle loads up to 50 lb (23 kg)! Also the weight conscious backpacker can remove the SideKick, the rain cover and even the top lid if he or she wishes.
|SideKick with MultiStraps|
I'm actually excited to give the day pack a try on the trail. I often will take a multi-day trip covering high mileage with one shorter rest day in the middle. On that day, buddies and I will take short day hikes to check out scenic views and I look forward to giving it a shot. When I read that the compression straps on the bottom of the pack doubled as a hip belt I was both intrigued and baffled. I quickly noticed the straps, called MultiStraps by Gregory, could easily be removed from one pack and attached to the other with a larks-head and that the two formed a belt since one strap was male and the other female. I found this to be a pretty ingenious design.
At first I was unsure about the double zippered pockets on the top lid wondering why I might actually need two individual compartments up there. I noticed both were pretty spacious and decided I could likely store wet gear, like my rain tarp, in one compartment and potentially keep gear in the other side dry. I look forward to testing this theory over the next few months.
The pack is covered with compression straps for pulling gear close to the body and has daisy chain loops for attaching extra items if needed. I like the idea of the shock locks to stow my trekking poles when not in use, but as they are on the front of the pack I can only access them by removing the pack or having a trail buddy get them for me. I could see that as a nuisance.
The SideWinder pocket is an interesting feature. It is clearly designed to hold a 32 oz (1 L) water bottle, which is something I rarely take into the backcountry these days. It does stow when not in use, but I will likely find a use for it even if not for a water bottle. Perhaps one of my cook pots will fit in there nicely. The pocket also has a shock cord for securing the bottle.
|Male and Female Buckle Design|
There are so many things about the pack I'm excited to try out. I will likely take a trip with the pack before I decide to adjust the frame or lumbar support. I do really like the adjustable shoulder harness as I have wide shoulders. The pivoting hip belt is interesting and I'm excited to see if it really allows support during crag and rock hopping on the trail.
One feature that really excited me was the one hip belt pocket with the WeatherShield until I realized that it was a little small. My mobile phone barely fit in and I had to fight to get it back out. I have the current version of the iPhone with a slim line case and I could see myself leaving it in the pocket all day on the trail for protection from the elements, but I can't see myself easily grabbing it to take a picture on the trail. It appears the designers were only interested in protecting smaller items or made a serious flaw in the pocket as mobile phones continue to grow larger.
I also like having the integrated rain cover, but I found the storage place interesting. I don't see myself replacing the cover to its mesh pocket inside that larger one unless it is completely dry so as not to compromise other gear stowed in there. I guess I can place it in the exterior mesh sleeve if it is still damp after use.
|Integrated Rain Cover|
There are so many interesting features to this pack that I'm certain I've missed something that I'll have to report on later on in the series! It is well made, I enjoy the color and most importantly it feels very comfortable when trying it on with light loads. Weight management of my gear is important, but the way a pack rides remains primary for me. I've often said to friends that I prefer a heavier pack that can handle loads better than a lighter one with little support. I am interested to see if this will be the case with the Baltoro. The pack is loaded with features and I look forward to reporting on them in the coming months.
The WeatherShield pocket size is clearly the only thorn I can point to after this Initial Report.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
18 - 19 July, 2015; Hoosier National Forest, Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area, near Bloomington, Indiana. My 6 1/2 year old son and I took this overnight trip to the local National Forest and met up with another gear tester that I recently learned lives just miles away from me. We hiked a little over 3 mi (5 km) each day in hot and dry conditions. Heat indexes were around 105 F (40.5 C) during the day and I believe the overnight low was still above 75 F (24 C). My little one was a trooper in these miserable conditions and the trail we followed also happened to be open to horses. Intense and record setting rain in the area over the previous three weeks in conjunction with horse traffic created a soupy mess on the trail! We bushwhacked straight downhill the final 0.25 mi (0.40 km) so we could camp directly on the reservoir. That made for a tough start to our exit on the following morning, specifically since I carried two packs back up to the trail. Loaded pack weight 33 lb (15 kg).
|Setting out in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area|
21 - 23 August, 2015; Brown County, Indiana. This was a solo weekend outing covering a 15 mi (24 km) loop. Weather was around 80 F (29 C) during the day and dropped to around 70 F (21 C) in the evening. Conditions were dry and hot, but it was nice to get into the woods alone. Loaded pack weight 19 lb (8.5 kg).
25 - 27 September, 2015; Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana. This was a three-day and two-night outing with our church at a local state park. There wasn't any backpacking involved, but I used the pack as a family duffel for the trip and took a short little ~1/2 mi (1 km) jaunt on the trail to see how the pack handles weight loads that I consider extremely heavy these days. High temperatures were 67 F (19 C) and lows in the evening dropped to 49 F (9 C). It was mostly cloudy, but there were some intermittent sprinkles on Saturday. The rain was annoying enough to require a rain shell but not miserable. Loaded pack weight 44 lb (20 kg).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The first and most important benefit I personally have noted about the Baltoro 65 during the Field Reporting phase of this series is simply that I do not notice it on my back when I am backpacking! To clarify, that doesn't mean I don't know I'm carrying weight on my back, but what it does mean is that I find the pack so comfortable that it simply fades into the recesses of my mind and I'm able to enjoy the reason I'm in the backcountry...being one with nature and achieving some healthy exercise.
As I mentioned in the Initial Review, the Baltoro is a much heavier pack than I've been accustomed to using over the last several years. I was excited about all the features the pack offered, but concerned if the pack's weight would be problematic for my style of backpacking. Well my answer to this self-imposed question during the first series of testing is a resounding NO. I haven't hiked high mileage days in seriously mountainous terrain, but I have been in sweltering weather and barely noticed it on my back.
|A little Break on a Hot Day|
The lumbar grip is amazing and the airflow on my back was luxurious. When I went on the outing with the heat indexes that surpassed 100 F (38 C) my entire body was sweating, but my back was not uncomfortably drenched in perspiration. That feature in itself had me hooked on the pack.
The shoulder harnesses and the cushioned waist belt were very comfortable, I'll use the analogy; "smooth as butter". Even with heavier loads my shoulders were not sore after hiking. The pack rode close to my torso, didn't pull away and sat comfortably as I felt it should.
After setting camp on my solo hike I did use the SideKick day pack with full 2 liter reservoir of water for a little testing/hiking trial. I didn't find it particularly comfortable or useful for me. I also used it on an early morning run during our family camping trip with about 16 oz (0.5 L) water fill in the reservoir and found it to be very unpleasing for this purpose! I can personally do without the SideKick, and will likely remove it for an upcoming high mileage outing to save some weight.
My only other thorn on the Baltoro is the weather resistant WeatherShield PU pocket. I find it too small to secure the electronic items I'd like to protect. I believe Gregory made a serious miss with this, and would love to see an improvement in future generations of the product. The SideWinder pocket is a neat feature and I haven't used it with a water bottle, but I have found a home for a one-person cook pot that I use. I don't like the pot inside my pack as it can get soot on other items, but it nests perfectly here for my purposes.
Save that minor nuisance I love the pack! I enjoy the separate top lid zippers; I like the back panel organization. Quick access organization is one thing I miss in my current pack which is slim on overall weight, but also doesn't offer these nice organizing features. I haven't experienced a rain shower while wearing the Baltoro yet, so the answer to quickly accessing the rain cover per the concern in the Initial Review is still unanswered. I expect some clarity on that in an upcoming outing that I've never done without having received at least a little precipitation.
SUMMARY & CONTINUED TESTING
To date I'm quite impressed with the Gregory Baltoro 65. The manufacturer has made some nice improvements to an already iconic pack. Most of the changes I personally find quite useful, but as with most products a manufacturer can't please everyone with the features they provide.
|Hangin' around Camp!|
I don't care for the SideKick backpack and I think the weather-protected pocket is a serious miss in the way they sized it. I love the shoulder harnesses and the waist belt comfort. I adore the ability to organize and I appreciate the airflow I receive with wearing the pack. Most importantly, I am thankful for how comfortable the pack is when I am on the trail. The fact that it fades away and I barely notice I have it on is a serious win!
I am planning a 60 mi (100 k) trip in November with a half dozen hammock camping buddies that tend to pack lightweight and move quickly. Based on those parameters, I will likely strip some of the additional weight from the Baltoro for that trip. I like the fact I can do so; I can remove the daypack, the internal divider, even the top-lid if I choose.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
16 - 18 October, 2015; Hoosier National Forest, Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area, near Bloomington, Indiana. It was Fall Break for my kids and the annual trip that my wife is willing to take with my children and me into the backcountry. We backpacked into and out of a base camp 4 mi (6.5 km) in from the parking area, but hiked around several miles each day once setting camp. Temperatures were as low as 32 F (0 C) and rose to around 60 F (15.5 C) in the day. There were some clouds but it was dry throughout the trip.
12 - 15 November, 2015; Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee and Kentucky. I backpacked for 4 days and 3 nights out of the Bandy Creek area of Big South Fork with eight other hammock campers. We averaged 8 - 10 mi (13 - 16 km) per day with elevations ranging from 400 - 900 ft (122 - 274 m). Low temperatures at night were around 24 F (-4.5 C) and in the day they rose to a high of 52 F (11 C). The weather was wonderful with cloudless skies in the day and starry skies at night.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I used the Baltoro on the two other trips during the Long-Term portion of the test series and continued to be impressed with the pack. I've always trusted and enjoyed using the Gregory brand and was excited to use one of its tried-and-true, yet updated flagship products. New ownership caused me a little concern before the outset of the test, but in the end I can happily report that I was certainly satisfied.
The Baltoro is a very comfortable pack when it is both under a light or a heavy load. The pack is beefier and offers more load weight and support than I've been accustomed to over the last several years, but that takes little away from my satisfaction with using it. When I'm packing solo it handles more weight and volume than I typically need, but when I have a child (or two) in tow I could easily maximize both features.
I believe the key features I gravitate back to are the comforts of the flexible shoulder harness and the support of the hipbelt. I also benefited from the curvature of the back panel and the lumbar support in allowing my back to stay a little drier on the trail.
Primarily I can report that I barely noticed the pack during this phase of testing. I want to clarify with the reader that I find this to be a very positive aspect when wearing a backpack. If I don't notice my pack, if I'm not concerned with how the weight is loaded or the how the load is riding on my back...then I am happy. I ascended and descended switchbacks and direct climbs with little concern. The breathability of the pack minimized perspiration when I was moving at a faster pace. On level terrain I try to cover over 3 mph (5 km/h) and in hilly country I typically only cut 0.25 mph (0.4 km/h) off that pace. A wet back can be uncomfortable, particularly in cooler temperatures. It wasn't a major concern with the Baltoro. The shoulder and hip padding kept those contact areas feeling fresh and I never experienced soreness, even when under loads as heavy at 40 lb (18 kg).
The SideWinder pocket was a 'nice to have', but I didn't find it necessary for my style of backpacking. I never used it to hold a water bottle, yet I often stored a small cook pot in it. I personally found no use for the removable SideKick pack and decided to remove it for weight saving on my later outings. The ability to change it from a hydration sleeve to a daypack with external straps was a neat idea, but simply didn't work for me.
I liked the external storage in the top-lid and on the front of the pack and the multiple entry points were nice. My two biggest suggestions for change would be to move the integrated pack cover to its own outer pocket and more importantly to make the hipbelt storage pockets larger. I was originally quite excited about the weather protective hip pocket, but when I learn it wouldn't easily hold my mobile phone I was disappointed. It'll hold a small GPS or a small camera, but as mobile phones are only getting larger in this day and age I would certainly suggest a redesign for this in the next model.
I currently own a 75 L (4577 cu in) pack that I use when I'm backpacking with my children. Although the Baltoro has a little less volume than that pack I definitely see it becoming my go-to when I'm heading out with them in the future. The comfort and load capacity (weight over volume) I enjoy when wearing it are primary reasons I plan to keep it at the top of my gear stash.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
When I'm carrying only my own gear I don't see it as my primary backpack. The Baltoro simply offers much more capacity than I need for myself, and as comfortable as it is, I find it difficult to accept the weight penalty of more than 4 lb (1.8 kg) as compared to my typical solo pack. This takes nothing away from this fine product.
A final iteration on the roses was: shoulder and hip comfort, lumbar support, breathability and the multitude and ease of access and storage. The thorns I found were: the hipbelt pockets are too small, the SideKick was of no use to me and the rain cover was awkwardly placed in my opinion.
I'd like to thank Gregory Mountain Products and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test the Baltoro 65.
Read more gear reviews by Steven M Kidd