The Gregory Optic 48 is a very impressive backpack. It’s designed for someone who wants a balance between comfort and being ultralight. The Optic comes fully featured with a trampoline-style suspension system, a large amount of padding for comfort and support, and many compartments for storing all your gear efficiently. For this review, I tested the pack on a rugged 43 mile backpacking trip. Here is a break down of all its features and my experience with it.
Pack Volume: 48 Liters (medium size tested)
Weight of pack with top lid that has no pockets: 40 oz
Weight of pack with top lid that has pockets: 41.95 oz
Fabric: Pack body 100-denier nylon; pack bottom 210-denier nylon
Frame: Perimeter aluminium wire
Suspension System: Ventilated Trampoline-Style System
Max Load Rating: 30 lbs
Gender: Men (Gregory Octal 45 is the female version of this pack)
Pockets & Storage Compartments
Side Pockets: The Gregory Optic backpack has two side pockets that are made out of a stretch mesh that allows the pockets to conform to the size and shape of your water bottles. Gregory designed the pockets so you can have two different configurations to carry your water bottles in. You have the usual upright way, or you can choose to store your water bottles in a holster-style by sliding them through a hole in the front of the side mesh pocket. This allows you to have easy access to your water bottles without having to take your pack off.
In my testing, the usual upright way of storing the water bottles worked great. The pockets kept the bottles secure and they never fell out. However, when I tried the other configuration, by storing the water bottles on their side, anytime I leaned over the water bottles would just fall right out. After experimenting a little with it, I found that the longer water bottles do not work well with the holster-style configuration. You need shorter length water bottles, then they won’t fall out. Since most backpackers tend to use longer 1 liter smartwater bottles or something similar, I hope Gregory can come up with a better design that can accommodate for longer sized bottles because this is a really good idea.
Hip Belt Pockets: This is one of my favorite features of the Optic backpack. I wish all backpacks had hip belt pockets, because they allow you to have easy access to small important things like a map, compass, and snacks. On this pack the hip belt pockets are reasonably sized. Not too big, where they get in your way when hiking, and not to small, where nothing ends up fitting inside them.
Pack Lid: The Optic is your typical top loading backpack that has a pack lid. It comes with two different types. One lid has two pockets for storing small items. The other lid is a stripped down version, with no pockets, to save on weight. Both pack lids work well to help compress your gear in the main compartment and to block rain and dirt from getting inside your pack. I really like that Gregory gives you options in how you can setup your pack.
Front Pocket: On the front of the pack you have a large stretch mesh pocket. This pocket is great for storing wet gear you need to have dry out. You can also utilize it to store things you need quick access to, like a water filter or rain gear.
Main Storage Compartment: The main storage area of the pack offers plenty of room for your gear. If you prefer hydration bladders, there is a large hydration sleeve inside where you can store it and there is a universal hanger to keep your bladder vertical. To close up the main storage compartment there is a drawstring that cinches the pack close.
Attachment Points & Compression Straps
Attachment Points: There are a couple of attachment points on the Gregory Optic backpack to carry gear on the outside. To start with, there is a dual attachment system to hold your trekking poles or an ice axe. It uses a loop at the bottom of the back and an elastic cord higher up that you can cinch up to hold the shaft.
On many hiking adventures you may want to bring sunglasses for those sun-exposed ridge lines. But, often times you don’t want to wear them all the time and then you’re not sure where to put them so that they don’t get scratched. Well, Gregory has a nice feature called the Sunglasses Quickstow System. It’s located on the left shoulder strap of the pack. The system is made up of a loop where you can slide the folding arm of the sunglasses in and an elastic cord that you pull around the glasses. I really like that Gregory figured out a way to make an ultralight backpack with these extra exterior features.
Compression Straps: The Gregory Optic backpack has upper and lower V-shaped compression straps located on both sides of the pack. In my testing these straps worked great and did exactly what they’re intended to do. When I went up steep sections of the trail or navigated around boulders the compression straps kept my gear from moving around inside and kept things tight to the pack frame for good stability. The lower compression straps wrap around the bottom of the backpack and if loosened give you the added benefit of allowing you to strap a sleeping pad or tent to the bottom of the pack, as shown in the picture below.
Backpack Frame & Suspension
The Gregory Optic backpack uses a ventilated trampoline suspension system that creates an air gap between you and your backpack, which promotes air to pass through to help prevent your back from getting sweaty in warmer temperatures. This system worked fairly well in my testing, however, the pack body tends to cinch fairly close to your back which reduces that air gap and some of the ventilation capabilities of this system. On the other hand this allows for greater maneuverability in challenging terrain.
The Optic backpack uses an internal perimeter wire frame that is made out of aluminum in conjunction with a high density polyethylene (HDPE) frame sheet that gives the backpack structure. This frame connects to the hip belt for load support and helps keep the weight off of your shoulders and directs it onto your hips. At the top of the pack, load lifters are anchored to the frame for additional support. This system worked very well on my hike. Even after long days of hiking my shoulders were not sore. I could feel most of the weight being transferred to my hips, which is what you want.
The pack body is made out of a very strong 100 denier nylon fabric and for the pack bottom they use an even more durable 210 denier nylon fabric. On my hiking trip, I was scraping it on rocks and branches and the pack still held up very well, with no visible tears or holes. The one area of concern for durability that I have, is the stretchy mesh side and front pocket. They seem like they could easily get snagged on something and tear. That being said, I had no issues in my testing.
The highlight of the Gregory Optic backpack has to be how incredibly comfortable it is. It starts with how Gregory uses a very thick and wide EVA foam for the shoulder straps which prevents it from digging into your shoulders. The hip belt is made from that same EVA foam which is beefy enough to provide great comfort. The trampoline system aids in keeping you comfortable by creating an air gap between you and your pack, thus preventing you from getting a sweaty back. Also, the frame does a great job of keeping the pack stable and transfers the weight to the right places for great comfort.
Ventilated trampoline-style suspension system
Many storage compartments
The stretch mesh pockets could have trouble holding up over time (my speculation)
The holster style configuration to store your water bottles so they are trail accessible only works well with certain bottles
The Gregory Optic backpack performed better then I had expected. Since Gregory is not really known for their ultralight gear, I was skeptical about how good this pack would really be. To my surprise, this pack is well refined and even rivals the very popular Osprey Exos backpack. Some of the things I love most about this pack is the level of comfort you feel when wearing it, all of the additional features you have even though it’s an ultralight pack (hipbelt pockets, trampoline suspension system, sunglasses stow system), and how the compression straps do a great job of keeping the pack very stable in rough terrain. I would highly recommend this backpack to someone who wants to go ultralight, but doesn’t want to make a lot of sacrifices to do so.
Women’s Octal 45 Liter (Click Here for Price, Weight 2.39 lbs)
Women’s Octal 55 Liter (Click Here for Price, Weight 2.4 lbs)
Men’s Optic 58 Liter (Click Here for Price, Weight 2.52 lbs)
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