User Review: Gregory Makalu Pro 70
Design: internal frame
Size: approx. 4,000 to 4,500 cubic inches
Number of Pockets: 0 (external) + lid
Max. Load Carried: 47 pounds
Height of Owner: 5'8"
Price Paid: $325 US (May 2000)
I have been curious about Gregory's Pro series packs since I first learned the company is using 7075-T6 aluminum alloy in its frame stays. Since I was looking for a new pack with about 3000 to 4000 cubic inches of volume, I decided to test a Makalu Pro size small, which is the correct size for my 5'8" and 140 pound body. The pack has an extended volume of about 4,000 to 4,500 cubic inches (Gregory's volume figures represent non-extended pack volumes and so understate the total volume capacities by several hundred cubic inches). The most notable feature about this pack (and, by extension, all Gregory's Pro series packs) is its use of 7075-T6 aluminum alloy. This alloy is considerably stronger and more resilient than the aluminum alloy most other manufacturers use and really should not be compared to those other alloys at all.
When wearing the pack with 47 pounds (combined weight of pack and contents) and viewing myself sideways in a mirror, there was a noticeable gap between my lower back and the pack itself. Gregory Customer Service personnel informed me that the pack is designed to comfortably carry 50 to 60 pound loads, and the pack certainly controlled 47 pounds without any trouble at all. I agree that weight range probably is close to the upper limit of comfort since any more weight might be troublesome to carry in this pack unless you have a linebacker's or lumberjack's physique or unless Gregory uses 7075-T6 aluminum in larger dimensions.
I wanted to try the pack with more weight, but not before I adjusted the frame to eliminate the gap between the pack and my lumbar region to bring the pack close to my body -- where it should be. I was surprised to discover that I could not remove the stays without unstitching one or more main seams or poking a couple rather large holes in the bag's bottom. A phone call to Gregory Mountain Products confirmed this. Their suggested method of stay bending was to have me bring the pack to a dealer and have one of their trained personnel bend the stays while still in the pack. I suspect Gregory does not desire to have owners try this themselves for concern we might damage the frame sheet to which the stays are attached and thereby void any warranty conditions associated with pack ownership.
I have a rather pronounced spinal curvature so it is not likely too many other people will experience the same frame-fitting problem as I. Nevertheless, I found it disconcerting that Gregory discourages owners from bending their own frame stays and makes it impossible to remove the stays from the pack once assembled.
To properly fit the pack, I also needed medium-size shoulder pads and waist belt so I actually tried two packs and swapped components between them. While examining the two bags, I noticed that the fabric colors were noticeably different hues of cobalt blue. The bag with the less richer shade of blue almost looked as though the color had faded due to sunlight exposure. However since both bags could not have been more than several weeks old, I ruled out that possibility, which leaves (poor?) quality control as the culprit.
Despite the lightness of the 210 denier Micro-Spectra fabric, it certainly is strong enough to contain virtually any load you can fit into this pack. If you require a heavier, more durable fabric for abrasion resistance, this pack is not for you. This is a single compartment bag with no interior dividing shelf or zipper access. The lid floats but does not convert to a hip pack, but it does accommodate Gregory's Hydro-cell hydration system. The pack comes with very large mesh, non-removable side pockets, twin daisy chains in the rear, and two ice-axe loops and retention ties.
The automatically adjustable harness and manually adjustable belt in addition to the 7075-T6 aluminum alloy frame result in a pack that is very comfortable to wear and relatively easy to fit. However, be prepared to take the pack to your dealer for a customized fit of the frame. For loads up to and possibly in excess of 60 pounds, this is a great pack for its intended purpose (that is, don't use the pack in situations or environments that provide repeated opportunities for abrasion).