Best known for their heavy hauling Baltoro, the all-new Paragon backpack from Gregory cuts weight to appeal to the core overnight and weekend crowd. We’ve had a chance to get out on a couple trips with the 58-liter model, and have come away pleased with the end product. The Paragon isn’t a standout in any one particular category, but its competitive price, highly adjustable fit, and good mix of features and weight make it a great option for shorter trips or whenever your bag won’t be loaded down. Below we break down the Paragon 58’s carrying comfort and fit, weight, organization, durability, and more. To see how the Paragon stacks up, see our article on the best backpacking packs.
Gregory has built its reputation around the comfort of its packs, and the Paragon 58 continues this in a trimmed down form. The beefier Baltoro is optimal for those carrying 40+ pounds, but the Paragon is a better match for lighter loads more in the 25 to 40-pound range. The padding on the hipbelt is firm and supportive, and the backpanel and shoulder straps offer enough cushioning for full days on the trail. On a trip in Utah’s Canyon Country where we needed to haul many liters of extra water, we did max out the pack’s comfort. But on subsequent and more typical backcountry forays, the pack proved to be a great choice.
Key to the Paragon’s ability to carry weight efficiently is the highly adaptable fit. The shoulder straps and hipbelt can be adjusted quickly with a Velcro rip and stick design. This was a great feature as we were swapping out the pack between testers with differing 18 and 21-inch torsos, but it’s also a very practical solution for dialing in the fit. Along with a tailored backpanel that has a substantial lumbar support, the pack hugs you more than you would expect at this $230 price point. To reiterate, this Paragon is not the most comfortable pack for big loads, but it has all the right pieces for overnight and weekend trips.
You can go lighter in the popular 55 to 65-liter range, but the Paragon’s 3 pound 9 ounce weight is no slouch. It easily undercuts many popular backpacking packs like the Osprey Atmos AG 65 (4 pounds 9 ounces) and Gregory’s own Baltoro 65 (4 pounds 13.4 ounces), and is a near match to the lightweight REI Flash 65 (3 pounds 10 ounces) and The North Face Banchee 65 (3 pounds 9 ounces). You can save weight with the Osprey Exos 58, which is a svelte 2 pounds 11 ounces, but that’s more of an ultralighter’s pack that shouldn’t exceed a 30 to 35-pound load. And the 100-denier fabric on the Exos isn’t as durable as the Paragon.
Of note for minimalist backpackers considering the Paragon: it’s fairly easy to trim even more weight from the listed 3 pounds 9 ounces. To start, you can use the sleeping bag divider in place of the standard floating lid, which does compromise on organization but is a great way to save a few ounces. And leaving behind the rain cover and hydration sleeve that doubles as a daypack should bring your total weight closer to the 3-pound mark.
For such a light pack, the Paragon 58 has a good collection of organizational features. To start, they nailed the mesh water bottle design (more on the durability of the mesh below), something a surprising number of manufacturers don’t accomplish. They’re sized right to fit a wide range of bottles, can be cinched down with compression straps, and the pocket over your right shoulder has a second opening at elbow height for easy access without removing the pack.
Additional storage includes a large mesh “shove-it” pocket along the front of the Paragon. It’s very stretchy and a great place to store items you want easy access to, as well as wet or smelly gear you want to keep separate. The top lid includes 2 nicely sized pockets for items like a headlamp or map, and there is a small zippered space tucked behind the front mesh pocket that stores the rain cover (more on this below). We do prefer zippered access to the main compartment rather than just the top and sleeping bag opening at the bottom that you get here, but this is not a deal breaker for us. A final note on storage: the large main compartment is sized to fit most bear canisters.
One organizational item we’re less impressed with is the Sidekick hydration sleeve that can double as a summit or ultralight daypack. As a sleeve for holding your water reservoir, it’s hard to fault—the Sidekick is large enough to fit our 3-liter reservoirs, but doesn’t take up much space inside the pack. But the daypack portion is where it falls short. The shoulder straps are thin and dig into your shoulders even with a light load, and the pack is too small and not adjustable enough to sit comfortably on our backs. We love the concept—and thoroughly enjoyed the convertible top lid daypack on the Osprey Aether AG on the same trip—but think Gregory could do better here.
Our first trip out with the Paragon was backpacking in the dry heat of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. And as with most packs in this lightweight category, the pack left us with sweaty shoulders, backs, and hips. Gregory did trim away sections of foam in the backpanel and shoulder straps, but there simply isn’t enough room to truly encourage much airflow (this often requires a suspended mesh panel like on the Osprey Atmos AG). On a follow-up trip in the cool Pacific Northwest, this was much less of an issue, but overall we find the Paragon’s ventilation to be average.
A surprise inclusion to the Paragon pack is a built-in rain cover. Tucked away in a dedicated pocket behind the large front mesh pocket, the bright yellow rainfly is quick and easy to deploy and fits snugly around the loaded down pack. The cover is a great feature for Pacific Northwesterners like ourselves or those that get out in the wet, and makes the Paragon an even better value overall (a typical pack rain cover is $25 or more). For those that don’t need the cover, you can leave it behind and use the zippered pocket for additional storage.
In almost all facets, the Paragon has good durability among lightweight packs. The material along the body mixes weight and toughness with a 210D x 100D ripstop nylon that has held up well through our trips so far. Packs in a similar price and weight range like the REI Co-op Flash 65 and The North Face Banchee 65 use comparable 210D nylon and have solid track records for long lifespans.
One notable area of vulnerability, however, is the side mesh pockets. The thin mesh used here is susceptible to tears, and we wound up with a hole on our very first backpacking trip (others have reported similar issues). To be fair, this was through the Canyon Country in Utah, but the other packs we’ve taken on similar routes have fared much better. At the moment, the rip is more cosmetic than a problem with the functionality, but we advise taking a little extra care when bushwacking or squeezing between rock walls. And we hope Gregory beefs up the mesh a bit on future versions.
What We Like
- A great overnight or weekend pack.
- Lightweight but not compromised in carrying comfort and features.
- Good overall organization and durability.
- Easy to adjust and dial in the fit.
What We Don’t
- There are more comfortable packs in this price range (they weigh more, however).
- The Sidekick hydration sleeve isn’t very comfortable as a daypack.
- The side mesh pockets are made with a very thin mesh that we managed to tear on our first trip out.
|Gregory Paragon 58||$230||3 lb. 9 oz.||Nylon (210D x 100D)||48, 58, 68L||Top||6 exterior|
|Osprey Atmos AG 65||$260||4 lb. 9 oz.||Nylon (100D x 630D)||50, 65L||Top||8 exterior|
|REI Co-op Flash 65||$199||3 lb. 10 oz.||Nylon (100D & 420D)||65L||Top, front||6 exterior|
|The North Face Banchee 65||$239||3 lb. 10 oz.||Nylon (210D)||35, 50, 65L||Top||8 exterior|
|Gregory Baltoro 65||$299||4 lb. 13 oz.||Nylon (210D)||65, 75, 85L||Top, front||10 exterior|
Every pack we test gets stacked up in some way to Osprey’s very popular Atmos AG. To start, the Osprey is pretty clearly the more luxurious option: it can comfortably haul a bit more weight (we’ve been happy with the Atmos up to 45 pounds), has more exterior storage, and its materials have a higher end and more durable feel. Where the Paragon has the edge is a nearly 1-pound weight savings and $30 lower price tag. Backpackers who get out a lot and occasionally needs to haul a heavy load probably will prefer the Atmos as the better all-around pack, but the Paragon meets our weekend needs at a lower weight and friendlier price.
An interesting budget option to the Paragon is REI’s $199 Flash 65. In its most recent iteration, REI actually added a little weight, but the 65-liter model still checks in at a competitive 3 pounds 10 ounces. Feature-wise, the 2 packs have their organizational strengths—REI’s J-zipper access to the main compartment is larger and better than the Gregory’s sleeping bag pocket, but the Gregory has a better water bottle design, comes with a rain cover, and has a more complete compression strap system to secure a load. The Paragon clearly is the more modern design—its hipbelt pockets are one example because they’re sized to fit a current, large cell phone—but the Flash is $30 cheaper. In truth, both are great options for the majority of overnight and weekend backpackers and a final decision should come down to features and price.
Perhaps the closest competitor to the Paragon is The North Face’s Banchee. Offered in 35, 50, and 65-liter designs, the Banchee, like the Paragon, combines a sub-4-pound weight with enough features and comfort for weekend backpackers. Their designs are similar with a top loader style and sleeping bag access at the bottom. The Banchee has 2 extra zippered pockets along the front of the pack, but doesn’t include a rain cover or the second side compression straps to secure a water bottle or hold a load. The Paragon also makes it easier to really customize the fit—especially with the adaptable hipbelt—and we find the large mesh pocket to be more convenient for storage. Both are among our favorites on the market, but the detail work on the Paragon at a similar weight gives it the edge over the Banchee.