Gregory is a brand that any serious hiker will know about, I myself have known about them for years, so when I heard that Simply Hike was stocking them I found it very hard to contain my excitement. The hiking gods must have been looking over me because four days before I set off for Wales, they turned up in the warehouse. I ended up choosing the Baltoro 65 Litre rucksack, an award winning rucksack! So I had to test it out.
Before choosing any rucksack the first thing I always check is the pockets and extras, and the Baltoro will not let you down. The first thing I noticed was the front access point - nine times out of ten the thing you want to get to is always placed at the bottom of the rucksack and even if you have access from the bottom you normally have to move a lot of things out of the rucksack just to get to what you want. With the front access you really don’t need to worry about where anything is in your pack as it opens up just like a suitcase and it doesn't interfere or compromise the fit or the structure of the rucksack. Compression straps do play a key part in this rucksack; you can adjust the head section of the rucksack give you more room to play with in the top section, which ties in nicely with the top section compression strap which will help you hold anything you place in the top. The two compression straps along the side of the rucksack will help add structure and stability when the rucksack is full, these straps also help cover up the main zip as well which is a great little feature from the security side of things as well as keeping equipment of the side in place like a tent or roll mat. A nice touch was the water bottle holder that I located in the rear section of the pack, this is big enough for most shaped water bottles and it is also cored and toggled so once your bottle is in you can tighten it up securing it in place.
The key feature with Gregory is the fit, this rucksack uses their response AFD system - in a nut shell, the straps and hip belt are shaped/curved from the get go, giving you a better fit straight out of the box. They also flex meaning that they will fit the shape of your body, giving you a better fit that is perfect for carrying. I really wanted to see if this system works - I broke my collar bone over ten years ago and since then I always have had problems getting a pack to fit me properly that won’t put too much pressure on my collar bone. I was carrying quite a lot of weight as not only was I going to use this rucksack for wild camping but also it will be carrying my gear and equipment for the whole week I was in Wales, so this would be a great test for the response AFS system.
The pack did not let me down on the way to and from Capel Curig and during my wild camp. The hip strap felt amazing and it really helped me with weight distribution and supporting the massive load that I had on my back, which in turned, helped take a lot of pressure off my shoulders and collar bone. It didn't stop the ache that I get (nothing will get rid of that) but it did delay it and even after a night of wild camping in the middle of nowhere, hiking our way back to the car I didn't feel that much of an ache, which for me is amazing and made me appreciate why Gregory’s main focus and ethos is about getting the right fit.
My overall verdict is the Baltoro is a great backpack tons of pockets, compression straps and other features - you can really get the pack to suit your needs. The Response AFD system works a treat one of the best fits I've ever had with a rucksack of that size. The only downside really was the overall weight of the bag, although when it was on my back it really didn't make much of a difference.