User Review: Gregory Baltoro 65
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $169 (discounted)
This is a load-hauler for a backpack of this size. It has proved to be not only comfortable but also very durable. Plethora of features is nice. Customer service from Gregory is outstanding.
- Comfortable under a heavy load
- Great durability
- Multiple access points to the inside
- Bottle pocket not often used.
I had done a preliminary review of this backpack shortly after purchase. Nearly 18 months later, I like the backpack more than I thought I would. A few observations from use:
- The shoulder and hipbelt padding is fairly firm on this pack out when it is brand new. it became more forgiving as I used it. otherwise, the adjustments to fit the pack and get the suspension comfortable are excellent. I really like the way it supports weight comfortably.
- A mouse ate through a hipbelt pocket not long after i got the backpack; i had left a clif bar in the pocket overnight. i tried to buy a replacement hip belt pad from Gregory; they refused, and instead sent me a set of hip belt pads for the cost of shipping only. extremely impressive.
- Despite quite a bit of use, the pack looks barely used. even taking 'the mouse incident' into account, excellent choice of materials to build this.
- I have grown to like most of the features. love the ice axe tool holders, the hip belt pockets, the multiple access points and pockets. great hydration reservoir solution. the only one i would re-think is a side water bottle pocket that i don't often use.
with that, my first impressions follow:
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Consider this a preliminary review of a recent acquisition, designed to help people who are thinking about purchasing the backpack. I plan to follow up with a review based on significant use by mid to late summer.
My overall impression is that this backpack is comfortable, versatile, and has more features than I immediately need. I bought the large, which weighs nearly six pounds and holds 68 liters (4150 cubic inches). this isn't, by any definition, a lightweight backpack.
the suspension consists of a single metal stay, a flat piece of 7075 aluminum that is very rigid, which connects two hard flat plastic pieces in the vicinity of the shoulder strap attachment point and the lumbar region. Otherwise, this backpack does not have a plastic frame sheet. the only way to adjust torso length is a manual adjustment of the shoulder strap attachment point, a metal clip that passes through a slot. I think this gives about 2 inches of variation, but it explains why this pack is sold in three sizes, small-medium-large.
the back pad and lumber pad are made of a moderately firm foam; the lumber region has additional padding and a sticky silicone layer that is supposed to keep the pack from sliding down. the back pad has a few channels that might help with air circulation, but i won't know for a while how effective that is.
the back pad does not look like it will ventilate as well as the partial mesh on the Osprey Aether 70, for example. there are two hand-sized loops near the bottom on either side, in case someone might want to grab them and use their arms to support the pack bag. to me, they look a little thin for the job.
For me, the comfort of the suspension and load-carrying capabilities of this backpack are a strength. like most good packs this size, it has a sternum strap and dual load-lifter straps, as well as dual straps to tighten the pack to your lower back. the shoulder straps and hip belt wings are independently bolted to the top and bottom plastic pieces. as a result, the shoulder straps pivot in and out, and the hip belt wings pivot up and down. the angle of the shoulder straps and hip belt is not adjustable with a tool that can fix the angle - they pivot freely as you walk. as a result, as you walk and move, you can feel the pack body move slightly relative to the hip belt.
i don't think the pivoting hip belt is revolutionary, but it does help the belt consistently ride at the top of my pelvic bone where it is supposed to be - so far, this does not appear to be a pack that will have problems slipping off my hips. also, the pivots and the lack of a full-length frame sheet do help the backpack feel like it moves and flexes with you, more so than packs with a rigid plastic sheet.
the hip belt tightens from both sides via straps that pull inward - which is very easy to adjust. the shoulder strap pivot is barely noticeable as you walk. the hip belt and shoulder straps are made from foam that is noticeably thicker and more firm than the back pad, with the foam pre-curved. the stiffness of the foam was noticeable, particularly the hip belt, and might send some potential buyers elsewhere, because it feels harder than most other backpacks.
on the other hand, this backpack did a better job keeping fifty pounds from slipping off my hips than most other packs of comparable size, and did a better job handling that amount of weight generally than the competing packs I tried. i will be watching those attachment points, the swivel bolts, to see how durable they are.
The backpack has numerous 'features,' some more useful than others. the hip belt has two small zippered mesh pockets, but they are small - each could hold two regular clif bars or one small point and shoot digital camera, but my smart phone w/case doesn't fit. there are two side mesh pockets that are asymmetrical. the left pocket is vertical and can hold small items (gloves and hat or a one liter bottle) easily; i can reach it while walking with a little work.
the right pocket is more easily accessible because it angles toward the front and appears designed to hold a one-liter bottle - it actually has an adjustable shock cord designed to keep the bottle in place. But, a longer camelbak liter bottle had some trouble staying in place, so i will have to stick with shorter bottles. i think the angle and relatively shallow depth may make this pocket prone to losing things on a trail.
the pack has two long zippered side pockets that run shoulder to hip on each side, i like these for spare rain shells, or they could hold a camera tripod or tent poles. the front has a zippered outer pocket in the same place other companies put a "shove it" pocket. it can swallow my rain parka, but with the pack fully loaded, you would need to keep the top compression straps pretty loose if that pocket is full.
the pack has a good-sized hydration pocket that should hold two 100 liter reservoirs, and it has hydration ports near each shoulder strap, and loops on both shoulder straps to secure the water tube. the hydration ports each have velcro to keep them shut when not in use. there are three small hooks that look like they could hold the top hook of a hydration system, but they looked sufficiently small that i haven't used them and would have a concern about breakage.
access points to the interior are a strong suit - there is a bottom U-shaped zipper for a sleeping bag compartment, and you can unhook the top part of the compartment if you prefer one large bag (ps - unhooking the sleeping bag compartment could be easier - it's a similar system to the shoulder strap adjustment and takes a little time and focus). you have to unclip the outer bottom straps (eg for a sleeping pad) to unzip the lower compartment.
further up the front, there is another U-shaped zipper that roughly runs around the zippered shove-it pocket and gives you panel-loader-like access to the entire top half of the pack. But, you have to unclip the top pocket and the upper compression straps to unzip it. finally, it has traditional top access with a nice pull-cord system that is easy to open and close, even with gloves on. in general, i like the zipper pulls on this pack because they have a hard plastic piece that is pretty easy to use with gloves.
the inside has a load-compression strap to keep things in place, and the outside has a middle strap that could turn this into a roll-top if you don't want to use the top pocket.
the top has a relatively shallow top pocket, and a very small zippered pocket underneath - for things like car keys and a wallet. the top pocket can come off and serve as a fanny pack, though i haven't tried that yet. the pack has a number of outer attachment points that seem sturdy, two ice axe loops and two fairly sturdy fabric loops for holding axes or tools. the haul loop at the top of the pack seems very solid.
overall, i couldn't find loose seams, ragged edges, or fit and finish issues with the backpack - good quality control. the pack material is either solid or some kind of diamond-shaped pattern, both appear better suited for durability than for weight reduction.
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my conclusion is that this is a top-notch backpack in its size/capacity range.
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