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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Gregory Denali Pro > Owner Review by joe schaffer

Gregory Denali Pro

by Joe Schaffer
 May 1, 2013

NAME: Joe Schaffer
AGE: 65
HEIGHT: 5'9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.4 kg)
HOME:  Hayward, California USA

    I frequent California's central Sierras, camping every month; up to 95 nights a year; about half the time solo; moving nearly every day.  As a comfort camper I lug tent, mattress, chair, etc. Summer trips last typically a week to 10 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food-related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter camp most often at 6,000' to 7,000' (1,800 to 2,100 m); 2 to 3 nights; 55 lb (25 kg); 1 to 4 miles (1.5 to 6 km) on snowshoes. I work occasionally at an outdoor store.

The Product:
            Gregory Denali Pro backpack
            Gregory Mountain Products
            Web site:      
            Purchased: 01/2013

My bag: (medium)
            Weight:  7 lb 13 oz (3.54 kg)

Factory specs (medium, from website):
            Weight: 7 lb 12 oz (3.52 kg)
            Volume: 6450 ci^3  (106 L)
            MSRP: US $549

Product Description:
    Gregory's Denali Pro 105 tops out their civilian line. It features the brand's typically stout hip belt with form-fitting lumbar pad and back panel. Frame sheet and twin aluminum stays fortify the bag. Twenty-two buckles provide load and compression adjustment. The (roughly 700 ci^3 / 11 L) lid detaches easily for a fanny pack; or removes for a weight savings of 18 oz (500 g). Front pocket (roughly 350 ci^3 / 6 L) offers access to the pack's interior. Access is also available through the bottom compartment; and, of course, from the top. Mesh pockets with ski tail pass-through cover the bottom sides.  Gear loop hangs on each side; 4 buckles offer anchors for lashing gear across the pocket; and a 4-loop reinforced daisy chain is sewn on the front pocket face. 500d Cordura; not waterproofed.  Top anchor points for shoulder straps have two slots for torso adjustment of 1" (2.5 cm). Hydration sleeve, though I don't find a port. No hip belt pockets.

Field conditions:

    I took an easy 45 lb (20 kg) snowshoe test run in Yosemite (California, USA) shortly after getting the bag in January, logging about 3 miles (5 km) for a 3-day outing at 6,400' (1,950 m); and 7 miles (11 km) trimmed down to about 15 lb (7 kg) as a practice weight for a summit bag.  Hard snow and mild conditions. Mid-April I buckled up 57 lb (26 kg) for a 3-day outing on Mt. Shasta, (Cascades, California, USA); intending a summit attempt on the Avalanche Gulch route anticipating about 20 lb (9 kg) with the Denali Pro for the approach (which didn't happen). Crampons from 6,950' (2,100 m) Bunny Flat to camping at 9,500' (2,900 m) 50-50 Flat; about 8.5 miles (14 km) round trip.  Torturously soft snow and gale-force gusts foiled summit intentions. Wind blew hard enough at 50-50 to catch the pack where I'd set it down and start it sliding off the icy flat. Fortunately my buddy pounced on it as I chased down his tent pole. I packed at the car in the sun, where it is easy to fit, caress and hug everything into place; but blew camp in a mini-snowgale still managing to slam everything inside.


    I bought this bag not intending to carry the crippling tonnage it's meant to bear but to load everything inside for snow camping trips; including 8 feet (2.4 m) of 25" x 3/8" (64 cm x 9.5 mm) closed cell sleeping and sit pads.  With an 80L (4,900 ci^3) bag I have to tie that and a bunch of other stuff outside--axe, helmet, shovel; as exemplified by my buddy's 80L (4,900 ci^3) bag in the picture; both of us carrying the same weight.  Denali Pro swallows it all.  I carried outside only a water bottle; and the fuel bottle which I don't want inside. The lid holds all of my on-demand stuff; and the front pocket keeps the hard shell handy.

     With a volume priority I could've found a much lighter alternative. The bag doesn't look as cool as it should.  If I'm going to have a coronary lugging this colossus, the recovery team should at least be impressed with my fashion choices. Stuffed, it towers into the clouds and gains a lot of leverage on the sideways axis; perhaps a function of the lugger being kind of short for a bag this big.  The chest strap adjusts up and down on the shoulder straps; but I don't think the elasticity makes any sense or will last very long. I find it impossible with gloves on to tell the difference between the pocket and the pass-through until what I meant to stow slips through to the snow. With warm bare fingers I can get a snack out of the mesh pocket, but getting the wrapper back in proves excessively troubling; and there's no belt pocket to save the work.  Two or three hands can finesse a water bottle into the mesh pocket; and the bottle sitting vertically in a deep pocket has little chance to fall out. Hence no retaining loop. But restoring it to the pocket and not the pass-through requires a level of dexterity fully beyond my capacities. (I tied a string anticipating fumbling a return on the way up to Red Banks.) I probably don't care there's no hydration port as I got the bag for cold camping when a hose would often freeze up anyway. The front pocket zipper is at the pack, so the bulk of the pocket comes undone. I'd rather the zipper be outboard to preserve "walls" for the pocket when unzipped.

    Material feels strong. Zippers work smoothly. Webbing slides where it is supposed to and locks on command. Under great pressure the hip belt buckle has made me work to release both tangs; though more importantly it has never popped loose. The hip belt looks similar to earlier Palisade/Baltoro belts (which I felt were uncomfortably dense), but Gregory says the belt structure is unique to Denali Pro. I find the belt as comfortable as current P/B belts; and a sturdy match to the capacity of this behemoth.

    Gregory packs I've tried fit me really well, as does the Denali Pro.  I find it a supremely comfortable cargo bag, which I think justifies the incremental tare.

    The lid/fanny pack can't hold everything I need for a Shasta summit attempt; and I could agree that using the pack as a summit bag compares to carrying a backhoe for a toilet trowel.  I do like the feeling of comfort and security all the time and I'm not adding extra pounds (1 kg) for a pinching day pack.  However, after a lot of tent time with rubbery muscles cramping and whining from working too hard in soft snow to get to base camp, I may not stay fixed on intending the pack as a summit bag where those 5 extra pounds (2.5 kg) could be the straw that does the evil deed.  

Denali Pro quick shots:

    a) Huge
    c) Comfortable
    d) Heavy
    e) Pricey

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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Gregory Denali Pro > Owner Review by joe schaffer

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