The Evolution has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best external frame backpacks for 2020.
Historic Range: $215.00
Reviewers Paid: $120.00-$195.00
This is a good pack for people with bad backs. The dealer I purchased it from customized the pack fit for me, with a medium frame and large shoulder straps and hipbelt. It was a bargain too compared to some of those $300+ packs I looked at.
The Evolution carries much better than my internal frame packs (one of them is a Gregory) and you can shift most of the load to your hips to rest your back. The polymer frame crossmembers allow the pack to flex slightly with your movements. The back pad area is well ventilated and cool, a good pack for the hot sticky Southeastern US (trek thru the Smokies in August). It has a couple side pockets which are great for getting at gear quickly. It also has a little frame shelf that lets you set the pack down so it stands upright (you don't have to bend over so much to unload stuff). It's the best 150 bucks I ever spent on gear. BTW, it's a little heavy for its stated capacity @ 7 1/2 lbs, but you can stack plenty of gear on the top and lash it to the frame, which extends 7 inches above pack bag.
Design: external frame
Number of Pockets: 2 side pockets
Max. Load Carried: 52 lbs total
Height of Owner: 5'9"
Price Paid: $150 US
I wanted to see if Gregory could stand up to all the hype and warranted their exhorbitant price list. My Evolution has yet to disappoint. I have used it primarily for overnighters in the Great Smokies. The adjustability rivals any internal, but the hipbelt and lumbar pad foam is extremely hard and will make for some sore hips until better broken in. Being primarily an internal framer I was surprised how stable the pack was, but I think I'll stick with my trusty Contour IV for tricky rock hops and scrambling.
Accessiblity is awesome with the panel loading design, as well as its orginizational possibilities. I can't wait to get more extensive use of it this spring. I would probably not use it much in colder weather because it relies on a lot of plastic for the sleeping bag shelf and top lashing points. All in all, a great pack for the price I got, however the 1998 msrp is twice what I paid for mine on sale. I have been fitted with the newer model and can't find any tangible difference. If you're curious as I was about externals, I recommend this quality pack. You just better be prepared to pay for your curiosity.
Number of Pockets: 2 zippered 2 mesh
Max. Load Carried: 45 lbs
Height of Owner: 6'2''
Price Paid: $120 Campmor
I am very happy with this pack. It carries heavy loads on rough terrain quite well. I tried to jump across a creek with it and got soaked and hurt my hip. So as long as you're not skiiing, climbing or jumping this is a great pack. The only problem I have is the frame does not fit my back exactly but I have an odd shaped back. I am planning to use this pack to carry 100 lbs next year and I hope the frame will bend a bit after repeated use.
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 60 lbs
Height of Owner: 5 10'
Price Paid: $230 cdn.
After 15 years of hiking with my Kelty, necessity drove me to purchase a new pack and after looking around I settled on the Evolution and have been happy with it now for two seasons.
A lot of my friends have given up their externals for the new body hugging internals, but after carrying 50# around the Whites for four days, my back is the only one not hurting.
The pack might be a little on the heavy side (7lb 10oz) but the harnessing makes up difference, and while your going up So. Twin a little snap here and a little pull there shifts the weight right where you want it. Have fun.
Number of Pockets: 2+2mesh
Max. Load Carried: 70
Height of Owner: 6'2"
Price Paid: $195
I decided to try this pack on the basis of my mild dislike of I frame packs. I gave it a fairly heavy load and did an overnighter on the Long Trail in VT.
The pack is equipped with Internal Frame like load adjustments, including load lifters, which work every bit as well. It rides very nicely with very little "fiddling".
I have heard complaints about the hard lumbar support but I felt no discomfort. The more I wear the pack the more that pad adjusts to my shape. The model I bought is a panel loader, and thus not quite as roomy as the two other models. It has a webbed load holder inside the upper compartment. This sounds like a great idea but in practice it doesn't work out very well.
I guess I'm just not built for Internals 'cause this pack rides far better than my 1984 model Gregory Cassin. In fact I wish I'd had it on the AT in 1979 instead of that torture rack of a JanSport D3.
My only real reservations are about the materials. I would not use this pack in really cold weather because of the plastic (space-age notwithstanding). And I'm a little leary of the tubular aluminum vertical members. They look like a good hit on a loaded pack might do some damage.
Like all packs these days there are several sizes so make sure you buy the thing from someone who knows their business. All in all I'm quite pleased.
Size: prox. 3500
Number of Pockets: 2 zipper, 2 netting
Max. Load Carried: 55lbs
Height of Owner: 5' 7"
Price Paid: $235 list, $185 discount