I wanted to do something different, so this is going to be an “in the field” review. I took the Stout 45 out for its first outing on a 2 day wild camping Welsh adventure. You can read my Field Report here, where I gave some general thoughts on my Config, but for this field review I’m honing in on the pack itself.
I remember chatting to a fellow pack nut in the early days of Pack Config and they were raving about their Gregory Pack. Admittedly I took a half hearted look into the company and decided their offering was not ‘tactical’ enough for my own preference or the followers of the blog.
However, over the years, many tactical pack companies have been scaling back the bombproof, PALS covered style in favour of the lighter materials and features you’d expect from mainstream companies like The North Face and Osprey.
For our adventure I was looking for a lightweight, larger capacity pack. Gregory Packs came firmly back on my radar and I’m so glad it did. I’m a firm believer in going for a smaller pack. My weakness is I tend to over pack. I want to be prepared for every eventuality, but this leads me to having unnecessarily heavy packs.
Preparedness is good, but a measured preparedness is better.
My solution is to choose a smaller pack than I think I need. When I don’t have enough space for everything I think I need, each item is reconsidered, possibly dropped or I find items that have multiple uses.
I almost regretted not going for the next size up, but after going through my process and fitting it all in (just!) I was glad I’d lightened my load.
Having one large cavern for the main compartment worked out great for my pouch organisation style. Pouches are great for accessing the specific equipment you need and for that inevitable reorganising on the trail or at camp. I used a couple of SealLine Blocker drybags and some Prometheus Design Werx Stash It Pouches.
The Stout has an opening at the base which allowed me to keep my sleeping bag and roll mat immediately accessible without the need to dump the rest of my pouches on the ground. This seemed like a no brain-er for a trail pack, but not all the ones I looked at had this.
Inside the main compartment is a water bladder pocket. It’s a simple expandable divider with an elasticated top. It was useful to be able to keep a bladder separate, but once you’ve packed the rest of the compartment full of stuff it’s a little hard to access.
As it’s made of a thin layer of material, it didn’t stop my soft bladder from catching on items resting against it. If the top of the pocket was higher up it might avoid some of the extra hassle.
The top opening is spot on. The speed and ease of use left me marvelling at the design and it was quickly one of my favourite features. Constantly changing situations on our trip meant that I was opening and closing it more than I might have expected. EVERYTIME it worked flawlessly and I loved it more each time.
There is essentially a draw cord, with a plastic tube on the end to reinforce it, that you simply pull to close it. To open you grab the orange and grey tabs apart. It’s simple but effective.
There are three outside pockets on the Stout that are made of a stretchy mesh fabric. The two side pockets, which I used as water bottle holders, have a reinforced opening. This raises them off the pack a little which makes it easy to pull out and put back bottles. I also kept my hiking stick in one of these.
There is a strip of webbing outside these pockets that can be used to cinch down items for a snug fit. Packs (especially larger capacity ones!) aren’t meant to be upside down, but one time I dropped the pack down on the back panel, without the cinching tight, and both bottles started slipping out. So while the cinching is maybe necessary, the ease of use make it a good trade off.
There is also a front pocket of doubled layered mesh that has a tighter weave and a softer feel. I stored a 1 litre Platypus in there, but it’d be perfect for stashing an extra layer of clothing too. There is a clip and strap at the top that can be used to secure the opening, and you need to clip and tighten this to stop it looking saggy.
I also got it confused with the main opening clip a couple of times when I wasn’t paying attention – they’re pretty close together. I personally would have preferred to see a different solution to closure, or perhaps having the pocket clip a bit lower down, so it could be accessed without adjusting the lid.
The main compartment’s draw cord closure allows you to fill it to the max, expanding it beyond the specified 45L. This is accommodated for by the lid that has an adjustment point on each corner. The lid of my friends pack was fixed where it met the back panel, so it couldn’t be expanded in the same way, much to his annoyance!
We were in and out of waterproofs, and adjusting our layers throughout the day, so this expansion proved handy. Rather than disturbing my well packed main compartment, I could throw something under the hood and cinch it down with the lid compression.
The lid has a reflective logo on the front, which is great for darker conditions. Having done night hiking, including some traveling on roads, I’m grateful for touches like this that give an extra element of visibility.
The lid is as robust as you need it to be. On our trip we took a wild detour through a route that had not been frequented for a LONG time. This decent took us through thorn bushes, under fallen trees and through constant undergrowth, all of which involved abrasion for my Stout which it survived — no problem!
You can’t be worried about baby-ing your gear when out on the trail.
The lid is essentially made up of two pockets with a divide in the middle. The first pocket, accessible when closed, is the largest and reaches across almost the whole area of the lid. This is where I kept my first aid kit, snacks for the day, some paracord and a glowstick. It’s the only true pocket that is accessible from the outside so it got used for temporary things too.
I did have to learn the lesson of making sure this pocket was zipped back up again before dashing into the main compartment. Unnecessarily repacking your lid contents gets old quickly!
The second pocket is located underneath the lid when you flip it open. This one has less capacity to it, and ended up being great for my cold weather gear, mainly my shemagh, gloves and hat. The material between the two pockets has a lot of give in it, so they’re both internally flexible.
The handle is a pretty solid piece of webbing. I get disappointed by handles that aren’t reinforced, especially in the case of a pack that’s weighed down by a bunch of camping gear. It was a little hard to find sometimes, but I do have to admit it generally performed as I needed it to on our trip.
It’s often the good design that doesn’t stand out because it just works.
Using this backpack was my first multi-day period with a steel frame chasis. The Stout has a 3mm & 4mm spring steel wishbone frame with dual-density CLPE foam across the back, straps and hipbelt. After I’d initially adjusted the suspension system, the support was a dream. No hotspots. No digging in. Just a great snug fit.
Having previously done a number of hikes that have taken 9+ hours, I knew pack weight can gradually make a journey suck over time. What can feel like a manageable weight at the beginning of the day, feels like attempting to carrying a sumo wrestler as your body gets tired.
The great support of the frame combined with the well thought out adjustment system made for a great overall experience. The waist belt was really comfortable and sat in just the right position. The way it adjusted just works.
There are also two hip belt pockets that are pretty sizeable and worked well for carrying a snack, trauma kit, head torch, lighter etc. Plus they were just right in terms of being accessible, but not in the way.
The shoulder straps well amply padded and held comfortably to my body. There was an elastic loop to feed my Camelbak hose through and even a plastic clip lower down, that kept the hose in just the right place. Externally speaking, this is one of the better executions of dealing with a water bladder that I’ve experienced.
The hose clip is actually a part of the sternum strap, which obviously saw a lot of action over our adventure. It was easy to operate, even with gloves, so ticked the boxes for me.
My one slight gripe overall with the pack is that there was a fair amount of excess strap. There were some flimsy elastic keepers on the compression strap over the base of the pack, but I think various tactical packs that have this nailed have spoilt me over time and I quickly got frustrated with the excess flapping about in the breeze.
But I’d have to admit that I was operating various straps frequently over the course of the trip, even pushing some of them to their limits at times. I used them to shift the weight from my shoulders to my waist as the terrain changed, so perhaps not having them bunched up in tight, nicely arranged rolls was a good thing in the end.
I’ve actually not come across a truly adaptable and effective solution to excess straps yet, so I’ll let Gregory off this one, but it could have used some further consideration.
The Stout did a cracking job at flexible with my movements. On our little Welsh adventure we cover steep inclines, slim paths with drops either side, slippery paths through marshes, mud drenched slopes, clambering up, down and across rocky terrain and through undergrowth.
Essentially our route gave us a wide range of testing for our balance, and by extension the flexibility of our packs. Gregory have developed a pack that truly felt like part of me and never hindered.
Other extras to the pack include attachment points for solar panels, which I looped a carabiner through for clipping things to the pack, and ice axe loops. They look to be ok with some parts being reinforced with plastic tubing and an elastic loop with an adjustable holder which look to be useful but I didn’t need or use them so I wouldn’t like to comment.
All the zipper pulls (except for the internal lid zipper) had a long plastic bar weaved through them to give the user something solid to grab hold of when using them. They were different to the usual paracord that I’m used to, but they did worked well.
I also found a bonus pocket in that behind the back panel there was a slot that was just perfect to slip our OS Map into.
Oh and a rain cover. Ha ha. I tend to pack my items in dry bags and let my pack get wet if it comes to that. Thankfully it didn’t rain much on our trip but I did check that it fit over the pack. That is all.
Obviously as this is a review from the field so I can’t speak much about the long term durability of the pack. Their website says they’ve used a “200D x 900D high-strength dobby polyester & 210D ripstop polyester” and the base has a “630D ballistic polyester with 135 high-density polyester reinforcement layer”.
This all sounds like it should keep carrying for a good number of years yet and I look forward to testing this out more.
Overall I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this pack. That goes for both my experience in using it, and discovering some of their clever design touches. The Stout handled everything I threw at it with ease and made carrying the load more fun that it could have been. I get people asking me what brands I recommend all the time, and what you get for your money with a Gregory Pack is a quality, solid pack that is great value for money.
I’ve been informed that my specific pack actually was from a “unique” batch that have a few tiny details that have now been tweaked. On the newer model the white buckles are all grey to match the rest of the trimmings, the air mesh has been reinforced and the zipper pulls are all moulded ring pulls (good move). Minor things, but worth mentioning.