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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Gregory Targhee 45 pack > Test Report by Andrea Murland
Description & Initial ImpressionsThe Gregory Targhee 45 pack is a winter-focused internal frame with Gregory’s VertFlex Suspension system. The loading comfort zone of the pack is 16 kg (35 lb). The fabric of the pack seems to be a quite heavy nylon.
The VertFlex Suspension system consists of an internal wire frame which runs along the outer edges and top of the main compartment of the pack, and can be removed. The back panel of the pack is stiff, and I can feel another wire that runs horizontally across the back panel as well. The length of the back panel is not adjustable. The hip belt is sewn in place on either side of the back panel, so it does not rotate in any way. The shoulder straps connect to the side of the pack, just above the hip belt. The back panel, hip belt, and shoulder straps have fairly stiff padding on them. Straps connect the top of the shoulder straps and the top of the back panel, to adjust how far away from my head the top of the load sits. The pack has a sternum strap which can slide up and down along the shoulder straps, and the buckle has a built-in whistle. At the top of the back panel is a sewn-in haul loop, which also continues to the outer edge of the pack on both sides, where it is sewn again, creating two side loops in addition to the main centre one. The hip belt is adjustable by pulling forward on the straps, and there are also straps which connect back to the side of the pack, to help stabilize the load.
This pack has a lot of pockets, access point, straps, and features. Let’s just start at the top. The lid of the pack has a two-way zipper to access its main pocket, with very large nylon zipper pulls. On the underside of the lid is another small pocket, which contains a key clip. The lid of the pack is sewn in place, and the lid pocket fastens to the front of the pack with two straps which run up the sides of the avalanche tools pocket and buckle to the lid. The main compartment of the pack is top-loading, and closes with a drawstring closure with a cord-lock. The cord-lock is an interesting design. I simply pull on the string to tighten it, and too loosen I pull up on a large tab (similar to the large zipper pulls), which loosens the cord-lock, and the opposite side of the opening. Once closed, a rope compressor strap connects the front and back of the top of the pack. On the front of the pack is a separate pocket, designed for avalanche tools, with a two-way zipper (with large pulls) in a U-shape. Inside this pocket there are two sleeves, for keeping a probe and shovel handle in place. The main compartment can also be accessed from the back panel, which has a two-way zipper which runs from the bottom edge of the pack around the framesheet. Once opened, this area has a hydration bladder sleeve directly on the back panel, with a small loop and buckle for hanging the bladder. There is a 12.5 cm (5 in) high piece of fabric sewn across the bottom of the main compartment, to prevent items from falling out when the back panel is opened. Inside the main compartment are three small fabric loops. These are for directing the hose of my hydration bladder up through the body of the pack to the exit of the main compartment at the right shoulder strap. There is an insulated, zippered pocket that runs down the right shoulder strap for holding the hose. The hip belt has a small zippered pocket on the left side, with a large zipper pull. On the right side is a nylon gear loop.
Trying It OutAfter fiddling with the many straps and watching a video online about the features of the pack, I was finally ready to load it up. I use a 45 L (2746 cu in) pack for Search & Rescue, so I thought that I’d see how all of that stuff packed in. I filled a hydration bladder and put that in first, and then threaded my hose through the pocket on the shoulder strap, through all the little loops in the main compartment, and connected it to my bladder. I am not sure that this would be possible with a bladder that had a hose that didn’t disconnect, but I do have one and will try it during testing. I noted that my hydration bladder with a right-angle bite valve on the hose was a tight fit in the zippered hose pocket. After getting my water in, I started to try and pack the pack as I normally do, and discovered that the Targhee is quite shallow. My small, round dry bag was too large in diameter to fit down into the bottom of the pack. After some fiddling with all of the pieces of gear I got everything inside the main compartment. My shovel handle and probe fit nicely into the sleeves in the avalanche tools pocket, with the shovel in front of them. I was able to get my saw in there as well, but my assorted snow study tools did not fit. I then packed the lid pocket, and there were a few things that didn’t manage to get stuffed into there, but it’s packed very full. I was able to get a small camera into the hip belt pocket. My conclusion was that although I could get all of my Search & Rescue gear into the pack, there is no remaining space for food, a thermos, or any extra gear that I need to carry for a specific task. I may need to re-arrange some items to make better use of the space before using the pack for SAR, as right now there is nothing accessible from the back panel that I would need on a regular basis, which doesn’t make best use of that feature. I also noted that with the back full and closed up, when I opened the back panel things seemed to redistribute (whether the items in the pack or the water in the bladder or both, I’m not sure), and it was very difficult to get the back panel closed again.
After loading up the pack, I hoisted it up on my back. I have a 16 in (41 cm) long torso, so the medium pack is actually a size up from what the sizing guide would put me in. The pack felt a bit long in the torso, but not bad. The hip belt is quite long, and I had it snugged down most of the way, with long tails, but I was also not wearing full winter clothing. The main thing that I noticed was that the shoulder straps felt too wide for me, and the outside edges of them were digging into my arms.
I tried to attach my snowshoes to the pack and tried a few different configurations. I wasn’t sure if there was a method to prevent the snowshoes from sliding down the pack during activity. With the tips of the snowshoes towards the top of the pack, I found that the top straps of the snowshoe carry system weren’t long enough to go around. I flipped the snowshoes around so that the tips were pointed down, and that seemed to work, but I’ll be trying a few different methods through the test. I was able to access my avalanche tools by unclipping the top buckle holding my snowshoes.
I then tried to attach my skis to the pack. For reference, my skis are 127.5 mm (5.0 in) wide at the tip, 100 mm (3.9 in) wide at the waist, and 119.5 mm (4.7 mm) wide at the tail. For the diagonal ski carry, I was able to easily slide the tails of the skis into the lower carry loop and tighten it up, so there was some extra strap available for wider skis. The upper strap was easy to connect and tighten, as well as lock with the slide-lock. My ski bindings prevent the skis from sitting as low as some other bindings in the ski carry, though I may try to adjust that through the test. Once on my back, the carry felt comfortable, and the tails of the skis fall to the side of my right leg, so as a first impression I think it will be a comfortable carry. I was able to access my avalanche tools without moving the skis, though it was a bit awkward to get the zipper around behind the skis. Removing the skis from the carry was simple, as was re-stowing the straps. The last thing I tried was the A-frame carry. Gregory states that the A-frame carry can be done with skis with up to a 130 mm (5.1 in) wide tail, so I had no trouble sliding my tails into the loop on the side of the pack. Again, my bindings prevent the skis from sitting as far down as some other bindings would. The top strap was easy to connect around the skis and tighten. I was unable to connect the tips of the skis together (to make the A-frame) with the pack fully loaded, but the carry with the skis vertical was comfortable enough. They didn’t seem like they’d interfere with my stride. I was able to access my avalanche tools without removing the skis.
SummaryThe Gregory Targhee 45 pack is a feature-loaded winter-focused pack. It appears to have good features and organization, so I am looking forward to tailoring how I carry my gear to best use those features. I especially like the large zipper pulls, buckles, and tabs, which look like they will be easy to use with gloves or mittens on. I am not sure how I feel about the sewn-in-place lid, and how that will work with expanding loads or if I wanted to use the rope compressor for a rope. I also hope that the pack will be comfortable, as I have an initial concern about the width of the shoulder straps.
Field ConditionsIn the past two months, I have used the Targhee 45 for five days of ski touring, two days of snowshoeing, an evening hike, and one Search & Rescue response. All activities took place at temperatures between -10 C (14 F) and 15 C (59 F). The ski tours ranged from 300 m (980 ft) to 850 m (2785 ft) of elevation gain, over distances of up to 3 km (1.9 mi) one-way. The snowshoeing trips were a bit longer, up to 6 km (3.7 mi). Some of the trips took place in bright sunshine, but there was also some rain and snow encountered during the field testing phase...mostly rain.
ObservationsThe first outing that I took the Targhee on was a ski tour in the rain up a local (closed) ski hill. It wasn’t very nice skiing, but I got to see how the pack stood up to a bit of water. Water beaded nicely on the fabric, and never soaked through in the couple of hours until it stopped raining. I also got the pack thoroughly soaked with road spray (yuck) during the Search & Rescue call that I took it on. The pack dried out by the next morning once I got it home, and then the muck wiped off quite easily. I haven’t done a full wash on the pack yet, but plan to do one soon.
I have been almost exclusively using the back panel access to pack the Targhee, get out things throughout the day, and unpack at the end of the day. It is a very convenient access, and I like that I don’t have to put the back or bottom of my pack in the snow in order to get stuff out. I also like the separate pocket for avalanche tools; they are easy to access without disturbing the other contents of the pack, and without being exposed to the elements or potential loss. The large zipper pulls and cord-lock system on the top opening are great for using with gloves; I haven’t had any troubles at all.
On my snowshoe trips, I ended up carrying the snowshoes more than wearing them. I found that it was quick and easy to attach the snowshoes to the pack, and they stayed in place through the entire hike. Once they were on my back, I didn’t even notice that they were there. I have also been clipping my traction spikes to the outside of the pack for day trips in case I need them, and clipping them to the upper snowshoe carry strap. My bearspray holder also clips easily to the compression straps on the side of the pack. Thanks to a very extended winter, I haven’t had a need to use the ski carry yet. Every time I go out I think I’ll have to carry my skis partway up, and so far there’s always been snow down to the bottom...I have hopes that it will soon start to melt!
As far as comfort goes, despite my initial concerns about the shoulder straps sitting too wide on my shoulders, I haven’t had any troubles. The pack has been comfortable on all of my day trips. I will be trying it with some heavier loads during the long-term testing stage, so will see if my opinion changes.
SummaryI am enjoying the test of the Targhee 45 so far. It has been interesting to test out all the features of a winter-specific pack, and I have some more that I need to try out a little more, like the ski carry. Despite my initial concerns about the width of the shoulder straps, the pack has been comfortable to this point. I will be interested to see how much stuff I can cram into the pack as temperatures warm and my trips get a bit longer and the pack heavier.
Field ConditionsDuring the Long Term testing phase, I used the Gregory Targhee 45 on one final ski tour, one overnight backpacking trip, three day hikes, and for carrying gear on two days of rock climbing. The overnight trip was for a total distance of about 16 km (9.9 mi) and quite flat, and the day hikes ranged from 6 km (3.7 mi) to 15 km (9.3 mi) in length, with elevation gains of up to 460 m (1500 ft). On the overnight trip it was pouring rain for the majority of one of the days, but it was dry on the rest of the days.
ObservationsFirst off, I’ll address any final winter or skiing-related issues. The last ski tour that I took was basically an excuse to hike around with my skis...there really wasn’t enough snow for much skiing! I tried both the diagonal and vertical carry. Again, even with a pack that wasn’t stuffed full, I wasn’t able to connect the tips of the skis to make a proper A-frame. I found the vertical carry to be a bit more balanced side-to-side, but found both very comfortable. My skis were stable and didn’t flop around in either configuration. They didn’t interfere with my walking, even going downhill, though the section that I walked was quite flat. The skis were easy to attach to and remove from the pack.
Once my winter gear came out of the pack, I found that the front pocket was a handy place for my gaiters, trail guides, and a hat. I also experimented with attaching my poles to my pack while on a scrambling descent from an alpine lake. I put both poles through the ice axe shaft attachment, with the loop just below the handles, and then put the bottom of the poles through the lower strap for the diagonal ski carry. This seemed to work fine, and the poles stayed in place and out of my way.
For my overnight trip, I was skeptical that I’d get everything in the pack, but with some different organization than I usually use it all went in. The main pocket was full to the top but closed fully, and I had some small items in the lid pocket. The problem was that with the lid pocket fixed it didn’t want to stretch over the top of the pack. It seems that the lid pocket either has to be empty or the pack can’t quite be full, because those two pockets end up using the same volume. I experienced this to an even greater extreme when carrying rock climbing gear. I had the pack completely full of gear, lunch, and clothes, and then put my rope on top of the main pocket, under the rope compressor. The rope compressor was long enough to clip over the rope (just barely), but even getting the empty lid pocket to reach the straps on the front of the pack required a lot of squishing of the contents. I would find the pack much more versatile with an adjustable lid.
Other than a couple of dirty marks, the pack is showing no signs of wear. I did wash it by hand once and hang it to dry, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the pack.
SummaryI have really enjoyed testing the Gregory Targhee 45 pack. I like the winter features for carrying avalanche tools, skis, and snowshoes. It also works for summer and compresses for acceptable use as a day pack. The pack is comfortable while loaded and almost empty. The major drawback is the fixed lid, in my opinion.
Winter organization & attachments
Back panel access & large zipper pulls
Thanks to Gregory Mountain Products and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test the Targhee 45 pack!
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