GREGORY CAIRN 58 BACKPACK
TEST SERIES BY THERESA LAWRENCE
INITIAL REPORT - July 31, 2013
FIELD REPORT - October 22, 2013
theresa_newell AT yahoo DOT com
Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada
5' 8" (1.73 m)
125 lb (56.70 kg)
I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Gregory Mountain Products
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://gregorypacks.com
MSRP: not available
Listed Weight: 3 lbs 15 oz (1.79 kg)
Measured Weight: 4 lbs 3 oz (1.90 kg)
Sizes: XS, S, M
Listed Volumes: XS (56 L), S (58 L), M (60 L)
Listed Torso Lengths: XS 14-16 in (35.6- 40.6 cm), S 16-18 in (40.6-45.7 cm), M 18-20 in (45.7-51 cm)
Intended Load Limit: 45 lbs (20 kg)
Colors: Magnetic Grey, Teal Green, Hibiscus Pink
Size and Color Tested: M - Magnetic Grey
Warranty: lifetime guarantee from manufacture workmanship defects
Product Description (obtained mainly from the website):
The Gregory Cairn 58 backpack is designed specifically for women with the intent of good fit, comfort, lightweight construction and packing organization. The pack is made out of 420D and 100D Robic fabrics with UTS (ultimate tensile strength) coating, which is a silicone based coating that makes fabric waterproof without making it brittle. It also bonds better than other coatings so it ends up being more permanent instead of just on top of the fabric. The pack is designed with a lot of unique features such as the highly water resistant roll top closing top pocket with waterproof zipper and sealed seams. The pack boasts Gregory's Response LT suspension and Response LT formed auto-fit waist belt with ventilated channels on a Wishbone Wire frame with a harness of Monobond Architecture featuring thermo-bonded, four layer construction. That was a mouthful. Moving on to Gregory's new Trail Smart Packing System, this pack is divided into 3 functional sections for Camp, Trail and On-The-Go items. Other features include a rain cover, external hydration sleeve attached to the internal frame (sounds like an oxymoron and is definitely unique), side stash security pocket, large front dump pocket, dual waistbelt pockets, two-stage compression on lower bag and over main top opening and clip for hydration hose (right side only).
My first impression of the Cairn was that it was pretty sleek looking in color and design and is very light. Previous Gregory packs I've owned (years and years ago) were very heavy, nice bags though. So, I was much impressed that despite all the added features, pockets, zippers, etc. it remains lightweight. That is the next thing, this bag is full of surprises, pockets and hidden areas all over, which also lends itself to being the most confusing pack I've ever seen. All that means is that I don't just throw all my stuff into one big sack, everything will have a home when I'm done figuring it all out.
So, there are 2 pockets on the belt, a pocket for the rain cover on the bottom and 2 big side pockets with an elastic neck (thankfully not mesh). A zippered pocket lies behind one side pocket (the other side has a zipper going into the main body). A big dump pocket is found on the back and behind this hides a zipper access into a large area which is separate from the main body. The zippered access has a zippered mesh pocket on its underside and inside this large separate area is a large mesh pocket making another separate area to keep from losing things. The main body is top access, with drawstring, and separate from this next to the frame is the hydration sleeve. Finally there is the top pocket with the roll top closure with a zippered pocket on its underside. I am hoping this bag will have enough storage options for me, I'm not sure that it will (sarcasm). If you didn't follow all that, let's just say there are a lot of pockets!
There are tool loops on one side and a bungee type cord and clasp to fix said item(s) in place, but there are also some loops attached to the bottom compression buckles (area that can hold extra gear externally like a sleeping pad). I'm not sure they are ice axe loops, but maybe they can be used as such, though there aren't any corresponding fixtures on top that would hold it in place. However, there are multiple compression straps and quick-closures in the vicinity, I'm sure can double as such ... something to test later.
There's a lot of quick-closures and some seem unnecessary, like the two on the bottom that seem to connect just to compress the sack vertically. Certainly one can store something in there like a sleeping mat, but I'm sure the same thing can be achieved with compression straps alone that don't come undone. The front drop pocket has 3 quick-closures and there are 2 more on each side for compression straps, one on the top access, but oddly the roll top closure doesn't have any. It just rolls then cinches down with compression straps that don't come undone ... this one's quite interesting, I'm curious how this will work on the trail.
Trying on the pack, while it's not fully loaded, is very comfortable so far. The frame isn't adjustable, however, with the different torso sizes available, options are provided for different sized people. The medium fits my torso perfectly it would seem. The shoulder straps adjust easily, as does the hip belt. The chest sternum strap has several height options, which is easily adjusted with a metal clasp that secures to different heights along the shoulder strap.
I'm somewhat disappointed with how small the hip belt pockets are, I can just barely get my digital camera (slightly smaller than a deck of cards) in there. It's such a tight fit, that I may have to find a new spot for it because it takes some effort to get it in and out ... I'll see, I have hunch there may be another pocket option I can try.
Well I'm excited and looking forward to loading this Cairn up and taking it into the backcountry to see how all these unique features can be used and abused (of course I wouldn't do that). If all works well, it will make my life easier on the trail, here's hoping. Check here in about 2 months to see how it goes.
- Lots of pockets, organizing features
- Attractive pack
- Fits comfortably, great adjustability of waist and shoulder straps (not yet loaded though)
- Small waistbelt pockets (too small for my digital camera - Olympus Stylus 790 SW; a tad smaller than a deck of cards)
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I took the Gregory Cairn on the following trips and experienced a range of conditions:
- 3 week trip to Scotland where it was used in the following ways:
* carried my travel items on and off planes, trains, buses, underground tubes and a campervan
* day hike on Ben Nevis, 570 m (1870 ft) - weather was misty, 22 C (72 F)
- 1 overnight to Willamina Lake, Elk Valley, British Columbia, Canada
* 350 m (1148 ft) elevation gain, 6 km (3.7 mi) return trail
* weather - snow, sleet, gale force winds, temperatures -1 (30 F) to 2 C (36 F)
- 2 overnights to Bowman, Lower and Middle Quartz Lakes, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
* 610 m (2000 ft) elevation, 17 km (10.6 mi) loop
* weather - dry, sunny, 1 C (34 F) to 13 C (55 F)
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
COMFORT AND FIT
So far the Cairn has been great to wear. It sits comfortably on my hips/ shoulders and it was easy to adjust to my torso and waist. The chest strap was a bit tricky with the metal clips that were difficult to remove, but now that they are set they won't need moving again. I like how the waist straps adjust by pulling from the sides, but I'm left with long tails that have nowhere to be tucked away. I may just cut these eventually. The wishbone frame works well to distribute the weight on my hips and shoulders. I have no concerns with my back and it does allow for some venting.
I'm usually one to just stuff everything into a big sack of a pack, but my eyes have been opened to just how efficient a smaller pack volume can be with the use of the Trail Smart Packing System. This system is brilliant and doesn't add to the weight of the pack. Somehow with all the additional pockets and zippers, the pack is still lighter than most packs I've used of this size. What's great is that I don't have to pack my water bladder first to ensure it fits in the pack once full of water. Because of the external sleeve between the frame and the backpack, there's always enough room for it and it can easily be taken out to fill it up on trail and put back in. The waist pockets are quite small. So far all that I've used them for are lip balm and snack bars. My small camera doesn't fit in it, but there is a vertical zippered pocket beside the frame that can be reached by my right hand when I'm wearing the pack, which is convenient. The rest of the compartments have proved useful for maximizing the space inside the pack. The top lid pocket with the roll top and zipper is easy to access and provides an extra secured water resistant area. Though when it was raining I just used the rain cover, which has gotten good use so far, and has proved to be reliable.
I haven't made up my mind on the system used to hold my hiking poles. It has proved useful, but the bottom loops don't adjust, and seem like the poles will fall through them, though that has never happened. I might suggest making these loops smaller, since they are elastic, they would still fit a range of sizes. The top clasp and bungee on this tool system works well.
I have no concerns about the durability of the pack. Everything appears to be well constructed and reinforced where needed. Having said that, I will be looking at this closely in the long term testing phase to see if it does indeed hold up to my expectations.
So far the Cairn has met my expectations and has helped organize my packing making everything I need on the trail accessible. I am very impressed by the lightweight fabrics and materials used and it still feels of superior quality. I look forward to taking it out on more trips and testing its durability.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
- Easy to organize and pack
- Comfortable and fits well
- Efficient use of space
- The waist pockets could be a little bigger
- The loops for the poles may be a little on the large side to hold them in place
Thank you to Gregory Mountain Products and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to take part in this test series. In another couple months I will be able to add more comments on its durability in the field. Stay tuned.
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