A few months ago, I received the Gregory Packs Paragon 58 backpack from the iconic American brand in return for an unbiased review. Since then I used it on one backpacking trip and on several short hikes where I focused on testing its performance in terms of functionality, comfort and features. I really wanted a backpack with a capacity of around 60 liters which is suitable for hauling heavy loads. Such a backpack is perfect for up to 5-day longs hikes. Until I got the Paragon 58, I haven’t had a backpack for hikes lasting more than a couple of days.
I was choosing between Gregory Baltoro 65, Gregory Zulu 55 and Gregory Paragon 58. I decided for Paragon because I read that Zulu is more suitable for lighter loads. Gregory Baltoro, on the other hand, seemed a bit of an overkill for my needs. It’s a very robust backpack perfect for those who are regularly carrying very heavy loads. However, it’s quite heavier than the Paragon. It weighs 5 lbs. 5 oz. (2.4 kg) and I found that a bit too heavy.
Paragon seemed like the best option for me because it’s a lightweight backpack which provides good support for carrying heavier loads and enough space for several day long hikes. Here is my review of the Gregory Paragon 58.
The Gregory Paragon backpack is available in three different capacities: 38, 48 and 58 liters. I tested the largest model. However, besides the capacity, there is little difference between the three models. The Paragon series backpacks are fairly light but also suitable for hauling relatively heavy loads. For example, the 58-liter model weighs merely 3lbs and 8 oz. (1.7 kg) and has a maximum carrying capacity of 50 lbs. (22.7 kg). That’s indeed enough for spending a few nights out in the nature.
When I unwrapped the Paragon 58, I was pleasantly surprised over the fact that it has well padded shoulder straps and hip belt while still being lightweight. Now, the Paragon is not an ultra lightweight backpack but considering the comfortable construction I think it has a really good ratio between comfort and weight. The Paragon is also available in women’s version. It is called Gregory Packs Maven. The Maven backpack is available in the following capacities: 35, 35 and 55 liters.
Suspension System, Sizes and Fit
The suspension system consists of a frame, backpanel, shoulder straps and hip belt. It connects the backpack to the wearer and is directly responsible for comfort. The Gregory Paragon comes in two sizes to ensure a good fit to the suspension system: S/M and M/L. The S/M pack fits torso lengths from 15 – 19 in. (38 – 48 cm) and the M/L pack fits torso lengths from 18 – 22 in. (45-56 cm). I chose the latter size. The backpack features an adjustable FreeFloat suspension system where the torso length can be adjusted for custom fit. Adjusting the torso length is super easy. You simply detach the Velcro and “glue” it back together at the desired length. The backpack even has an indicator which shows you if the torso length is set to M, L or somewhere in-between.
The backpack has a thin metal frame which traces the entire perimeter of the pack. The frame ensures that the weight gets transferred from the shoulders to the legs. I was surprised how much padding there is on the shoulder straps and on the hip belt. The padding makes the backpack super comfy to carry, which I noticed immediately when I put it on for the first time. I was also very happy with the fit, and my opinion didn’t change after I started carrying heavy loads in it. The hip belt and shoulder straps are of course adjustable. Adjusting the pack for a perfect fit was easy and smooth. If you have any doubts how a backpack should fit you, you can read our article How to Fit a Backpack.
Weight and Comfort
The Gregory Paragon 58 is with the weight of 3lbs and 8 oz. (1.7 kg) a fairly lightweight backpack. Nevertheless, it’s not light enough to fit in the ultralight category. I think the Paragon is a really good tradeoff between a lightweight and comfortable pack. It has loads of padding on shoulder straps, hip belt and backpanel for good carrying comfort but weighs surprisingly little for the comfort you obtain. For example, my Osprey Talon 44 is around 30% lighter but has very little padding and is thus not particularly comfortable when you are carrying heavier loads.
Pockets and Compartments
The Gregory Paragon 58 excels when it comes to organization and access. The pack has a big main compartment which can be accessed from the top, through the zipper at the bottom, as well as through the side zipper. The side zipper is especially useful because it allows you to easily reach items that are packed in the middle of the pack. This side zipper runs almost the entire length of the pack. The main compartment can be divided into two compartments with a divider (piece of fabric) which attaches to the loops at the bottom. By attaching the divider, you get a bottom compartment which measures approximately ¼ of the pack in height. The bottom compartment is perfect for storing sleeping gear such as a tent and a sleeping bag.
The Paragon also has two side mesh pockets, an external lid pocket, internal lid pocket, two hip belt pockets and a big stash pocket at the front. The side pockets are large and fit both my Camelbak Chute bottle and the slimmer Camelbak Multibev bottle. Only one side pocket has a second opening at elbow height which allows you to grab things out of it without putting the backpack off (see images). The hip belt pockets are also easily accessible and quite large. My smartphone (6.5-inch screen) fits into both of them without a problem. The stash pocket on the front is also very large and perfect for storing items you don’t want to put directly in the main compartment, like sweaty or wet clothes. The external lid pocket has very large opening so it’s easy to get stuff out of it. The internal lid pocket is smaller and contains the rain cover which comes with the backpack. I was a bit surprised that the backpack doesn’t have a pocket on shoulder straps. A small pocket there is very convenient for storing energy bars.
The Gregory Paragon 58 comes with attachment systems for an ice axe, trekking poles, sunglasses and climbing rope. Now, I was a bit disappointed that the pack uses the same attachment system for an ice axe as for a pair of trekking poles, in that it is placed on the back of the pack as as it’s normal for ice axe attachment systems. Not because you’ll ever want to attach both ice axe and trekking poles at the same time but because that means you have to put the backpack off to attach or detach trekking poles. I really like Osprey’s Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachment system which allows you to attach trekking poles to the sides of the pack, without having to put the backpack off. I thus consider the attachment system on the back for trekking poles/an ice axe the biggest downside of the Paragon 58 pack.
The backpack also has super cool attachment system for sunglasses. It’s positioned on the shoulder strap and enables you to easily attach your sunglasses (see image). I found this really awesome. It’s so often that I fiddle with sunglasses in the summer but now I’ll be able to simply attach them to the shoulder strap when I don’t need them.
Hydrations System Compatibility
The backpack is hydration system compatible which means that it has an entry for the hose, internal sleeve for hydration bladder and a loop (without a buckle) for attaching the hydration bladder. I’m not very happy with the concept because it seems to only work well with Gregory 3D hydration bladders. Since the loop doesn’t have a buckle, I can’t attach my HydraPak hydration bladder to it. The HydraPak reservoir has a hole at the top through which you put the strap that holds the hydration bladder in place. So, I thought I’ll at least be able to attach my Camelbak Crux hydration bladder but that’s also not the case. The loop is too small to attach the Crux hydration bladder.
So, I have two options. Either I leave the hydration bladder at the bottom of the pack in hydration sleeve or I attach a small carabiner (HeroClip) to the loop and then the hydration bladder to the carabiner. However, I’m not really satisfied with any of these improvised solutions.
I’m really happy with drawcords on this pack because they’re made so you can easily extend or shorten them even when you’re wearing gloves. The backpack also has an emergency whistle on the sternum strap, as well as straps at the bottom which enable you to attach extra gear. I was also very happy to see that the backpack comes with a rain cover.
What I really like about the Gregory Packs Paragon 58 is that it’s provides good carrying comfort despite being lightweight. The backpack has a lot of padding on the shoulder straps, hip belt and backpanel. Therefore it’s very comfortable even when you’re carrying heavier loads. The suspension system is very good and efficiently transfer the weight away from the shoulders. The backpack is also great when it comes organizing gear. It has many pockets and compartments. The main compartment is accessible from the top, from the bottom as well as through the side zipper. This a really nice feature because it enables you to quickly pull items out of the main compartment.
What annoys me about this pack is the attachment system for trekking poles and the attachment system for a hydration bladder. You can only attach/detach trekking poles if you put the backpack off or if somebody else does it for you. The hydration bladder attachment system seems to only work with Gregory hydration bladders. Nevertheless, I’m impressed with just about everything else on this pack.
If you have any questions about the Paragon backpack, drop me a line in the comments below.
We field tested this product. The rating shows its overall performance.About Rating
- Carrying comfort
- Relatively lightweight
- Suitable for carrying heavy loads
- Attachment system for sunglasses
- Side access to the main compartment
- Divider in the main compartment
- Big hip belt pockets
- Rain cover is included
- Attachment system for trekking poles
- Attachment system for hydration bladder
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