The Low Down:
Gregory Jade 60 in Tuololmne Green
3 sizes: XS (54L capacity, 1.7kg); S (59L capacity, 1.8kg); M (64L capacity, 1.85kg)
$229 CAD at MEC (as of Sept 2011)
Top and front access / Bottom, top and side compression straps / Exterior side pockets / Dual ice axe loops with secure attachment points / Hydration system compatible
Yays: Pretty, Comfortable and breathable, Lightweight
Nays: Pricey, Lacks shockcord system
I tend to forget my body type until I come across things that need to properly fit me right. Like a backpack carrying 16kg of stuff for a weekend trip. The weight is supposed to be distributed to your hips through the waistbelt, which is fine if I have hips to begin with! I tried the MEC Brio 60 backpack – a great entry-level unisex pack but even with the smallest pack size the waistbelt was not small enough for me. I bought the Gregory Jade 60 size small hoping that it would fit me better.
My torso measurement is 46cm and the small size fits me well (read Gregory’s General Fit Guidelines for more information). The waistbelt is able to adjust 3 sizes further which is a really nice option for even better sizing. The foam and padding on the waistbelt is thick without feeling bulky, and the padding in general for the pack is well ventilated and comfortable. My first outing with the Jade 60 was a 6 hour hike with roughly 1300m in elevation gain. The weight (about 16kg) was well distributed, I found it easy to climb steeper ascents and still keep my balance, and there was no chafing and or soreness. The backpanel is built for a women’s specific fit: the middle is slightly recessed allowing airflow, and extra padding on the top and bottom – this meant that the weight distributed through my hips had extra support with the back padding that sits on my lower spine.
The two quick access pockets on the waistbelt is great for stashing your keys, mobile phone, and a small snack. The removable top lid (with a key clip) and exterior front pocket can keep items that you need quick access to. The exterior side pockets give plenty of stretch to hold stuff, and the two side compression straps running through the pocket and above ensures that nothing falls out. If you are attaching an ice axe also be sure to secure it with the compression straps on top of using the bungee cord provided. I do wish there was a shockcord system on the front of the pack to hold my sleeping pad or other things if the main interior is full, but I just attach it to the front of my pack with biners. It’s more a personal preference.
The interior of the pack is a roomy enough to hold my sleeping bag (MEC raven 0C), tent (MEC Camper 2), clothes and food for a two day trip, a small pot and pan, my Primus classic trail stove with a 225g fuel canister, and a 2L hydration system (I did have to slip this in sideways close to the top though). Note that I did have my sleeping bag, tent and clothes in compression sacks which allowed me to compress their volume down.
Overall a great pack that has good features, and is comfortable to use for long periods of time. The fabric seems pretty thin which makes it lightweight but I hope that it’s durable considering the price. I’ve used it on several trips since and it’s holding up well!