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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Gregory Jade 40 > Owner Review by Lori Pontious
GREGORY JADE 40 BACKPACK
September 11, 2010
I backpacked, camped and fished all over the lower 48 states with my family as a kid, and then life happened. I restarted these activities about four years ago - I dayhike or backpack 2-6 times a month. I am usually between light and ultralight. I have a hammock system and own a Tarptent. I am a side sleeper and typically use a NeoAir on the ground. My base weight depends upon season and where I go. My backpack size varies depending on brand, usually a small.
This is a new model in the Jade series of women-specific Gregory backpacks. It's described as one of their "Ventilated" packs - it has a mesh panel between two stiff foam pad areas, one at the shoulders, one in the lower back. The bottom pad has a channel down the middle, unlike the solid single wedge of foam I've noticed on some other models of the Gregory pack line. This provides a bit of relief for my backbone from the pressure of the pad. There is a similar channel in the shoulder pad. The manufacturer calls this the Jetstream LTS suspension.
The pack itself is composed of two fabrics - the documentation lists them as 210D double diamond ripstop and 210D x 420D HD flat weave. The fabric seems durable and initial inspection revealed no apparent weak points - the stitching and overall construction seems solid and no fraying or exposed thread is noticeable. There is a single aluminum stay down the frame panel; the panel appears to be made of tough plastic with parts cut out, I am assuming to cut down on pack weight and increase ventilation. The frame is not removable and while it bows slightly into the main pack bag, it does not impede loading of the bag, and most importantly for me, does not interfere with my placing a bear canister inside. The frame seems solid and does not flex much vertically, but if I hold and twist it will give, indicating that it might move with me if I am scrambling across difficult terrain rather than becoming an impediment.
Going by my measurements, I ordered the medium after perusing the size charts; I did so with some trepidation. I was unable to try this pack on anywhere locally, since local stores appear to have only stocked Jade 50 and 60 or Deva models. After receiving it, the medium-sized pack turned out to be slightly too large for me, so I had to return it and re-order a small.
Historically, I have found very few packs that come in a wide range of sizes, or in sizes small enough for a woman's shorter back size. This has been changing, if one pays attention to manufacturers' websites. However, women seem to be chronically mis-measured and fitted with packs that are a size too large. I have been mis-measured myself several times and ended up figuring out by trial and error that I have been the victim of inexperienced pack fitters. Gregory has partially solved my problem by making their hip belt adjustable, and on their small and extra small packs, that includes a medium notch. (All the ladies with hip measurements that never return to our youthful pencil-proportioned dimensions, high five!) This is accomplished by tearing the belt wings out of the frame of the pack where they are fastened with very heavy hook and loop and sliding a plastic tab into the other slot, then reattaching the belt to the frame. See the picture below. To my surprise, I can wear the belt set to small. Hiking pays off! If I gain back some of the pounds I've lost hiking, I can always bump it up a notch and the pack will still fit me, since my torso size stays the same. The hip belt is thin foam backed with mesh. I wasn't certain this would be enough padding for me to be comfortable. I found that in Gregory packs the hip belt does not ride on the hip bones but wraps around them, with the top of the belt aligned with the top of the iliac crest (putting hands on hips, feel along for the high point on the hip bone - this is the iliac crest).
Another nice feature on the hip belt are the two mesh pockets. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a small bottle of sunscreen, small bottle of bug spray, and a lip balm fit snugly in one pocket, leaving the other for my small point-and-shoot camera.
The shoulder straps are similar to the hip belt, thin foam padding with mesh backing. There are load lifters and information from Gregory suggests that I keep them at a specific angle of 10-15 degrees (this angle varies greatly from one model of Gregory to another according to the chart in the instructions for fitting their packs).
The Jade 40 has a lot of buckles and straps. Accustomed to minimalist packs with only one or two buckles, I found myself accidentally buckling the wrong straps together, but soon had it figured out. This is a top and side loading pack. On one side there is a loop for quickly connecting a rod or ice axe or other tool to the outside of the pack; on the other side, a water resistant zipper allowing access to the inside left of the pack. Since I use a pack liner most of the time, I shall have to alter my packing habits somewhat to see if this feature works for me.
The Jade 40 has good external storage options without going overboard. The pack lid has plenty of space inside, with the obligatory mitten hook to fasten my keys in. My headlamp, compass, map, toilet paper supply, and glasses already call this space home. The pack's side pockets have elastic on the top edges to keep them shut around whatever I put in them. I don't use bottles for water, so the pockets will be holding my bandanna, fuel bottle, pack cover, a snack, gloves, or anything else I think I will want during the day (that does not go in my pants pockets). I like that there are openings in the pockets so the compression straps can be used properly without sacrificing use of the pocket. On the front of the pack, a long stretch pocket with mesh at the bottom invites overloading - I have decided to leave this space for rain gear. There is a short extension collar and a top strap to keep anything stored in it from shifting backward; the top closure for the extension of the pack's main bag is a drawstring and cordlock. The lid fastens with two strap/buckles and is adjustable up and down with strap/ladder locks on the frame side, to accommodate carrying either a full extension or possibly a rolled pad fastened under the lid. The Jade 40 also has straps on the bottom for putting a rolled up pad or possibly a tent on the bottom of the pack.
Inside, there is a wide pocket for a hydration bladder, plenty big enough for my Platypus Big Zip 2 liter, plus a couple of other low profile items. There is a port on each side of the pack for the tube so I can pull it over either shoulder, and elastic strips sewn into the shoulder straps to keep the tube in place. The bottom of the pack tapers quite a bit, but since I stuff my quilt directly down in the pack liner instead of compressing it into a solid ball in a stuff sack, it settles into the bottom without wasting space. The main bag swallowed my Bear Vault Solo - with a minimalist approach to gear, I hope to pack a Bearikade Weekender with a week's worth of food in the Jade 40.
The construction and features of the pack on initial inspection meet my expectations. I have downloaded and reviewed the fitting recommendations from the Gregory website (a pdf you can access from any of the product pages) to be sure I have it adjusted correctly while in use.
Field DataI have used the Jade 40 on the following occasions:
July 17: Castle Rock State Park, 6 mile (9.7 km) loop dayhike. Low elevation, brush and forest. Temperatures ranging from 75 - 85 F (42 - 47 C). Carried 15 lb (7 kg)
July 21: Kaiser Peak Wilderness, Sierra National Forest. 10 mile (16 km) out-and-back dayhike to the top of Kaiser Peak. Evergreen forest to alpine ridges. Maximum afternoon temperature 75 F (24 C) Carried 15 lb (7 kg)
July 24 - 25: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, Sierra National Forest. 12 miles (19 km), loop trail with some cross country hiking. Subalpine and alpine terrain. Carried 23 lb (10 kg)
July 30 - August 1: Mono/Parker Pass, Yosemite National Park. About 12 miles (19 km) on and off trail. Mostly alpine and above 10,000 feet (3,000 m) in elevation. Temperature ranged from 30 - 60 F (19 - 33 C) Carried 25 lb (11 kg)
August 3 - 5: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, Yosemite National Park. About 30 miles (48 km). Elevation ranged from 9,000 feet (2,700 m) to below 5,000 (1,500 m) and up again. Temperature ranged from 45 - 85 F (7 - 29 C) Carried 25 lb (11 kg)
August 13: Search and Rescue Training, Sierra National Forest. About 4 miles (6 km) of slow grid searching in rough terrain. Elevation around 7,000 - 8,000 feet (2,000 - 2,400 m). Temperature ranged from 45 - 75 F (7 - 24 C) Carried 15 lb (7 kg) of dayhiking/search and rescue gear.
I took the Jade 40 on a last minute dayhike in Castle Rock State Park. Much of the trail was exposed hillside in hip-deep brush that sometimes encroached into the trail. I carried two liters of water, lunch, and a windbreaker plus the ten essentials. I tend to overheat easily, so as the day progressed and it got hotter, I began to sweat a lot. Prior packs I've used had solid foam back pads; the Jetstream LTS suspension of the Jade 40 was an improvement over a solid foam back, judging from my experience on this hike. I was more comfortable while hiking and while my back of my shirt was still wet I could feel some air movement between the upper and lower pads on the frame.
I used the Jade 40 again as a daypack while summiting Kaiser Peak in the Sierra National Forest. This was a strenuous uphill all the way to the peak. Again I carried a light load with the addition of a water filter, since this was a group hike and I tend to be more prepared than others. I kept a steady supply of 2 quarts (1.9 liters) of water by refilling at every stream while filtering for others, as much of this hike is on exposed ridges above treeline. Temperatures were cool at the summit due to wind chill and became warmer on the return down the steep, crumbly trail, though not nearly as hot as it was at Castle Rock. The Jade 40 is quite comfortable in these conditions. As a daypack the Jade 40 is more pack than I needed, but it still rode comfortably and compressed with the use of the straps to the point that the excess pack bag did not flop around or get in my way.
I next used the Jade 40 on an overnight backpack into the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness in the Sierra National Forest. I experienced more of the same - the pack was comfortable to carry, and with the increase in weight I noticed it settled on my hips quite well as it is supposed to. The hip belt conforms to the hip bones in a way that it wouldn't be able to do with more padding. The narrower profile of the pack bag did not get in my way even while fishing with the pack on. Here I am casting a fly into Island Lake, and catching a very small rainbow trout in Mystery Lake. Dinkey Lakes is a wilderness area with many subalpine lakes, most of which are within a short distance of each other; it was more convenient to fish lake to lake by simply carrying the rod and never removing the pack.
I next took a leisurely backpack with a group of friends over Mono and Parker Passes off of Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park, where I had to bring a Bare Boxer Contender (bear canister) for food storage, even though we camped outside the park; there were no trees large enough to hang a bear bag. We stayed near alpine lakes for two nights. On the second day we went to explore an old silver mine and associated cabins, and from there we scrambled roughly east over a ridge. In the picture I am ahead of my companions and hiking toward the false summit, beyond which we found ourselves on a steeper slope littered with granite and no free hands to take pictures. I went straight over the ridge, up a steep boulder field and snow patches, using my hands with my trekking poles fastened to the back of the pack in the single attachment loop on the right side of the pack. With the baskets in the ice axe loop on the pack bottom and the poles collapsed and snugly secured in the shock cord/cordlock fastener, I made it to the top of the ridge without losing a pole. The pack with my complete load of gear and provisions did not distract me from my efforts by sliding off balance, as all the compression straps were tightened down. I never felt encumbered and was able to be as active as necessary to safely navigate boulders and suncupped snow.
After a layover day to obtain a wilderness permit and refill the bear canister (and dayhike out to fish), I resumed backpacking from Tioga Road in Yosemite, this time from Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin and through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, coming out at White Wolf. The trail winds along the river for most of the hike with some steep climbs up and over rocky outcroppings. Day temperatures climbed higher until in the late afternoon on the second day, we were struggling up exposed switchbacks toward White Wolf, the sun beating down on us, and suddenly I hit the end of my water supply. The temperature had risen to a point that I usually find uncomfortable for hiking, about 85 F (28 C), and I had gone through my water faster than usual. The ventilation of the Jade 40's frame was no match for this; my back was soaked and my body temperature rising. Fortunately for us, Morrison Creek is a reliable water source year round and I only had to walk for a mile or so before we could filter up a new supply and I could cool off in the creek. Again, the Jade 40 let me carry my load without difficulty (all the difficulty was from the heat!) or soreness in spite of it all. Here is a shot of me in the canyon, standing on the trail among the rocks, looking out for rattlesnakes as we began to get some early morning sun.
I used the Jade 40 while on a Search and Rescue training with the Fresno County Sheriff's Department. Our training exercises are often a return to an unsolved missing person case. Along with about 30 of my fellow volunteers, I combed steep hillsides in the area that a hunter went missing a couple of years ago. We were aided by the Posse (mounted members of search and rescue) and were required to grid search carefully where the horses could not go, thus we were scrambling in rocks, steep terrain and through dense brush. My fourth gridline took me through manzanita for about fifty feet. I thrashed and smashed through increasingly deep branches of live manzanita, a very hard wood that does not break easily when green. I became hung up in it at a couple of spots. Afterward I was picking broken branches out of my straps but the pack stayed with me and did not hinder me. I also scrambled up steep granite faces and through boulders in a creek bed without having the Jade 40 shift or pull me off balance. This was the most thorough test of how the pack works when I am very active and needing to move sideways, crawl or scramble on hands and toes. I was quite happy with the performance of the pack, which has no tears or rips after encountering many sharp manzanita branches.Over the past few years that I have been hiking more and more often, I have had no less than six packs of various sizes, for different purposes - long dayhikes, short dayhikes, weekend ultralight backpacking, a 60 liter backpack for week-long lightweight backpacking, and a large durable daypack for search and rescue volunteer work. I do not, however, have two sets of gear. Too many items were being swapped in and out of too many packs. When I found myself out on a search and rescue training without a headlamp, I realized things had to change - I left a piece of critical gear in my other pack. My choice - buy a bunch of duplicate items, or buy a single pack that could do most of the work.
So I searched for a pack - it had to be good for anything up to a week in the field, with or without bear canister. I also needed a pack that would survive rough stuff; ultralight packs with mesh pockets were not made to withstand being lowered down cliffs or dragged around in brambles. My ideal pack would have a lower profile, so I could duck under or through fallen trees, while still carrying a full load of gear - my 60+ liter backpack held everything I needed with room to spare, but also tended to resemble a large barrel on my back and I had gotten hung up in low hanging branches already with it. The new pack should also be able to temporarily haul more weight than I normally carry without riding too hard on my shoulders or throwing me off balance. In short, I needed a lightweight load-hauling pack just big enough to do the job without holding me back. Good compression, bomber frame, sized to fit me - and I have had a tough time finding packs that fit. A tall order.
The Jade 40 is still a 3 pound (1.4 kg) pack (I liked so much having a 23 oz (652 gm) backpack!) but it does well with small loads, puts heavier weight on my hips where the wide belt distributes it evenly, and all my gear fits in with a bit of room to spare. I have been pleased so far with how the pack allows me free range of motion, which I will need for search and rescue efforts especially. The Gregory Jade 40 thus seems to be just what I have been looking for - a pack into which I can put a full complement of backpacking gear including bear canister, while not increasing my bulk and being able to maintain more activity than trail hiking while wearing it.
I did not, however, find an occasion to use the zipper to remove or return items to the main body of the pack. Perhaps on future outings this will become necessary. The pack works fine as a top loading backpack regardless.Pros:
Wide range of sizes available, with some additional adjustment of the hip belt possible
Will accommodate larger bear canisters without straining seams
Compresses well to dayhike loads
Narrower profile does not get in the way of swinging arms/elbows
Lower compression straps run through side pockets and don't interfere with pocket contents
Cons:Must be ordered online, or special ordered by a local outfitter - does not seem to be widely available in stores.
Tradeoffs/Compromises:Pack weighs more than many packs of similar size (cannot expect a max weight limit of 40 lb (18 kg) plus durability under abuse from a light pack)
Cannot put the Bearikade Weekender or larger horizontally into pack bag (only fits vertically)
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