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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