Gregory Pack Baltoro 75 Men’s
Unlike many other backpackers out there, my experience with the type of internal frame backpacks purchasable at REI or AnyMountain or any other sporting goods stores is rather limited. In fact, I only have one. The Gregory Baltoro 75 Men’s.
My other packs are all great and each has its advantages, but there was one feature missing, and I combed the internet looking for a pack that had integrated this feature, finally finding it in the Gregory Pack Baltoro Series: A high-belt, side-mounted and angled bottle carrier that was easy to access while hiking.
That feature alone has proven very convenient on several trips already and on long hiking trips, it’s hard to imagine not having it. There is a tendency for thinner bottles to slide out of this angled bottle holster when bending over, but a simple, quick release tie is more than adequate in fixing that issue, and still allows the bottle to be out of the way, yet easy to access.
For those who also use hydration bladder, the Gregory pack has the standing pass-through for the tube, velcro hooks inside to keep the hydration pack standing, and of course, the pocket to keep the hydration pack separate from the rest of your pack contents. Personally, if I could find a side loader hydration system for a backpacking, that would be my preference. I think there is one, but can’t remember what it’s called and haven’t been able to find it.
Like many of these modern internal frame packs, the top pocket flap is removable. Unlike some other manufacturers this removable component is not designed to act as a day pack or hip belt pouch. Still, it is rather large and has three pockets in addition to the ties on top. The upper pocket is front access, revealing the larger compartment. In that is a smaller zippered compartment. Every top flap should have that smaller zippered compartment for things like wallet and keys and maybe some loose change. The tie-downs on top are fairly strong and there are four of them. I use them to tie down a solar panel to charge while hiking, but you could easily add an extra pouch, or bungee cord a jacket to the top.
Underneath the top flap is a rear access zippered compartment which is typically used for storing the rainfly. I think rainflies are pretty useless since they don’t protect the space between the pack and your back, preferring a poncho with pack extension, and store one of those in that spare rear access pocket instead.
At first glance, the Baltoro appears to be a top loader, and the cord system for the top opening is quite a nifty feature, designed to tighten easily and loosen easily as well. Each action requires just one hand. It has proven useful on a number of occasions when my hands were full of other gear that I didn’t want to set on the ground. It is also a double tie down system, so you can extend some above the top of the pack if you have more gear.
That useful top loader feature means that I generally don’t use the larger zippered opening that vertically spans the front of the pack, allowing total access to the pack. But, for the beginning and end of the trip, it is useful.
Also, like many backpacks, there is a special horizontal zipper for quick sleeping bag access. Since the Baltoro is a 75L, it is wide enough to store fairly large 3-4 lb sleeping bags. pretty useful, but pretty standard. Some other backpacks use an inner flap that zips all the way around for a true separation between the upper main section and the sleeping bag section. The Baltoro uses a mere flap with simple buckling system. I’d have preferred the full zippered inner flap for total separation, but this is just a personal preference and takes nothing away from the pack.
The front smaller pocket is large enough for the first aid kit, hygiene kit, repair kit, and other smaller items, and makes up in width and height what it lacks in depth. Again, nothing truly special here.
While one side has the awesome angled bottle holder pocket, the other has a more standard elastic mesh pocket common on many backpacks. This is ideal for small quick access items, but I generally like to store my fuel bottle here. Either an alcohol fuel bottle for when i use the Trangia 27-2/25-2, or a kerosene or white fuel bottle for my liquid fuel stoves. This allows for the possibility of any accidental leakage to be left outside. On this topic, it’s worth noting that alcohol leakage leaves no trace when it dries and is safe for the environment, while white fuel/kerosene can leave a stain, is toxic to the environment, and makes any textile material more flammable long term.
There are also two vertically tall side pockets. These are not designed for very thick items, but can be stuffed and are deep enough to accommodate the bulk of a jetboil if need be. They are better suited for taller items. One piece of camping gear I always have with me is a 9.5” tall folding slate windscreen/heat reflector. This fits in one of the pockets very well. Another item I often carry is a camping knife, which fits well in the other pocket. spare rags sometimes go in here, and thinner stoves fit here as well.
There are also two small pockets on the left and right waist belt. Frankly, these are way too small, and they barely accommodate a single snack or a tiny item. My wallet has a hard time fitting in there, so it’s not very useful. Better than nothing I suppose.
There are two side cinches that work really well, and with the top flap coming low on the front and fitted tightly, along with the cinches done tight, this bag is very still and stable when filled to about 40L worth of gear. This has proven useful for camping where a lot of food is brought as it helps to keep everything cinched tight and compact, even on a longer multi-day trip where day 1 is almost double the bulk and weight of the last day.
There are the usual straps at the base to drop through and flip over a pair of ice axes or other similar tool. There are also four tying loops (two on either side that are good for bungy’ing a jacket or sleeping pad, or perhaps a helmet.
Interesting, there are also two large velcro loops (one on each side). They are wide loops and can accommodate thick climbing rope, hiking poles, or in my case, rafting paddles. They are not long enough to accommodate wide items like skies, but could easily help secure snow-shoes.
All in the all the Gregory Pack is a shining example of a high-end backpacking pack with some really unique and convenient features.
The back padding is done very well, breathes just right, and has the right amount of rigidity for long haul comfort with some torsional flex to accommodate movement.
The shoulder straps have a rather sharp and rigid curve that excels in taking pressure off the collar bone when using the chest cross-strap. There are some extra webbing straps on the shoulder straps to accommodate extra pouches (with a little creativity).
One thing though, the straps aren’t removable, so make sure you get sized before picking one up.
With my looming desire for other types of backpacks (e.g. Cuben fiber pack, also a waterproof pack), along with the sheer flexibility of this pack to accommodate large amounts of gear for longer trips and less gear for shorter trips, this will likely be my only high-end standard pack of the type available at an REI or AnyMountain, and it’s worth it.