Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Product Review: Gregory hipbelts last forever

Pack: Palisade 80
My rating: 4.75 stars (out of 5)

Easy to Load
Good Padding
Good Suspension
Large Capacity
5 different hipbelt angles
Interchangeable hipbelts

Nothing worth listing

Extended Hikes

Unlike most of the people who write product reviews, I've put my gear through hell. My gear is my home. If you want to know what you need to know about Gregory packs, read this review thoroughly because it will be very helpful.

You've probably read a lot of Gregory reviews that mention broken hipbelts, bad zippers, and weak seams. These are mostly old reviews, and these reviews are about old models. Gregory has made a lot of improvements to their packs since 2009, but these improvements don't seem to be showing up in reviews yet, so I'm gonna start that discussion.

Problems prior to 2010
I bought my first Gregory pack in 2008. I loved it. However, shortly after I began using it, the hipbelt panel broke. When I took the pack to the retailer I'd bought it from, they replaced my broken panel with a new one from a pack in their stock. The new panel quickly broke, too, so I exchanged it for a new Whitney 95, which also ended up breaking even though I took extra special care of that pack.

Frustrated with all the broken belt panels, I wrote a review on the retailer's web site, giving the Palisade one star (out of 5). I also wrote a nearly identical review on this blog. After reading my review, a Gregory representative contacted me and and informed me that Gregory had fixed the hipbelt problem. He said the unsatisfactory belt panels were an isolated incident caused by a bad batch of plastic, and he offered to send me a new pack, which I happily accepted.

The belt panel on my new pack lasted a lot longer than the others, but it wasn't quite as durable as it needed to be, and it ultimately broke, too. However, it did give me a clear signal that Gregory was making an effort to get it right.

The turnaround since early 2010
In January 2010, shortly after the panel broke on the replacement pack, I dropped in to Gregory's headquarters in Sacramento. When they replaced the panel, someone told me the new one was made of a prototypical material that is also used to make guns. He said if I could find a way to break this one, he'd buy me lunch.

The panel never broke. Even after carrying the pack another 1,800+ miles, the belt panel never showed any signs of breaking. After replacing the Whitney with a new Palisade, I carried the Palisade 1,900 miles, from La Junta, Colorado to New York City. This pack is still in very good condition.

So here's pretty much everything you need to know: Gregory hipbelts are now made to last. The zippers on the newer packs are also made to last. Additionally, I've had no further issues with seams, either. So basically every problem I've ever had with a Gregory pack has been fixed. Not just improved, but fixed. These pack components are rock solid.

Things I really like about Gregory packs:
  • Adjustable hipbelt angle. I almost always use angle setting #5, which cannot be simulated on other packs.

  • Interchangeable hipbelts. I use a medium pack with a small hipbelt. I absolutely need the small hipbelt because a month or two on the road makes me very skinny. (By the time I got to New York, I was so gaunt that even the small hipbelt was too big.)

  • General stuff about hipbelts. To me, the hipbelt is by far the most important part of a backpack. I pull my hipbelt as tight as it'll go because I prefer to carry my pack almost entirely on my hips, not my shoulders. Gregory's hipbelt system kicks ass.

  • The people who work for Gregory. When I went to the headquarters in Sacramento in early 2010 (before they moved to Salt Lake), I met just about everyone who worked there, including Wayne Gregory. They really impressed me. When I've had problems with packs in the past, the people at Gregory went out of their way to fix my problems.

  • Gregory packs cost less than comparable packs from other brands. I haven't tried the other brands' packs because I haven't wanted to. I haven't even tried them on in stores because I've found that Gregory packs work for me.

I have one or two minor issues with certain components of Gregory packs, but nothing really worth mentioning. For example, sometimes it's kinda difficult to return my water bottle to its holder when I'm carrying the pack, but that's not really a big deal. I can't even think of any other issues.

I'm about to begin a 48-state walk that will last two years and will cover over 10,000 miles. Care to guess whose pack I'll be carrying?

If you ever have any unexpected issues with your Gregory pack, contact the company because they will take care of you. It's a hassle you shouldn't have to deal with, just like I shouldn't have had to deal with it, but I'm convinced they really are working hard to make everything right. If I didn't honestly believe it, I wouldn't have written such a positive review.

BOTTOM LINE: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

48-state walk

Less than three weeks ago I started thinking about doing a 48-state walk that'll last two years, covering around 10,000 miles. Within a few days, I had pretty much decided to go ahead and do the walk. I plan to begin this walk late next month, even though my legs still don't work very well. (Actually it's my hips, but when your hips don't work, it feels like the problem is in your legs.)

The plan is to start in Maine in late August. From there I'll go down the east coast to Florida, veering a little bit out of the way to hit WV, KY, and TN. I should make it to Florida by December, then spend the winter walking across FL, AL, MS, LA, AR, and into TX. From there I'll start heading north in February or March of 2012, hitting OK, KS, MO, NE, IA, and MN before heading west again as summer begins.

I'll spend the summer walking across SD, ND, MT, WY, ID, WA, and OR. From Portland I'll head south toward Los Angeles during the fall of 2012 and into winter. From southern California I'll head back east beginning in early 2013, following much of the same route I took last year, veering a little bit out of the way to hit NV, WI, and MI. State #48 is Ohio. I could end the walk in Ohio if I choose, but I'll probably continue on to NYC again, to make it a coast-to-coast-to-coast walk.

No, I'm not gonna have "a cause" because I'm not a fraud or an attention whore. Yeah, some media attention would be nice, but I'm not going to seek attention. After a while, media attention will probably be unavoidable anyway because nobody does what I'm about to do. Also, since I'll probably be able to blog more regularly this time, the blog might generate a little buzz, even though that's not my objective when I blog. (My objective is to share parts of my story with people who find it interesting.) I refuse to do anything specifically to attract attention to myself. If I get attention from the media, it'll be the result of others telling the media about me. If you ever want to tell the media about me, I would certainly appreciate it.

Do you really want to know my true cause? I'm warning you, the honesty might disappoint you. Well, here's my true cause: Like everyone who goes out and walks for thousands of miles, my true cause is that I'm sick of all the unnecessary bullshit that everyone loves to dish out in "normal" life in this country. I feel at peace when I walk, even with the police harassment, extreme cold, extreme heat, extreme hunger, extreme pain, poverty, etc. I choose not to have "a cause" because I have integrity. Due to the fact that I never portray or promote myself as a hero with a cause, I actually meet real people when I walk, instead of people I fooled into believing I'm some kind of hero. You probably can't understand this, but my way is a million times more gratifying and worthy of your respect than it would be if I walked for a phony cause like everyone else does.

I will wear sandals through the entire walk, just as I did for the previous walk, for more reasons than I can mention here. I probably won't disclose the brand name of the sandals ever again, though, because the manufacturer apparently does not understand why it would be in their best interest to hook me up with 8 or 10 pairs of sandals, which would cost them essentially nothing. They offered me one free pair when I contacted them regarding prospective sponsorship. I told them they're funny.

You know what's the first thing people notice about me when they see me walking or when they meet me? The first thing people notice is that I wear sandals, because almost everyone expects to see boots. Regular people notice my sandals, and journalists notice them, too. And if there's one thing I know about journalists, it's that they love stories like what I'm about to do. Furthermore, they love the sandal story just as much as everyone else does. So my offer to the sandal manufacturer was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them, since I alone could give them countless avenues to free advertising, as well as my genuine endorsement on TV and in newspapers. As someone walking 10,000 miles exclusively in their product, they should've seen dollar signs with me, but they just didn't get it.

Last but not least: If I have to spend any more time in jail for knowing my rights when cops perpetrate crimes against me, I'll probably quit the walk because I have nothing else to prove to anyone ever again.

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