the lightweight trekking pack

Be it a self-supported thru-hike, putting in a summit bid or a long weekend in an unfamiliar city a solid, on a multi-day adventure, a comfortable and ultimately reliable backpack is a fundamentally key component of your kit. As the only tool for carrying your equipment and the only connection between that weight and your body, the difference between a poorly designed and badly fitting pack and the pack of your dreams can be the same difference between successfully completing an expedition and pulling out due to an awkward niggle. So, while specifications are extremely personal, getting the right backpack for the job at hand is vital.

Enter the Paragon 58 from Gregory. A lightweight 58 litre pack. Complete with an internal daypack, plenty of features designed specifically to enhance versatile fitting and comfort. With a multi-day trip to the Tres Picos State Park in Brazil (South America’s answer to Yosemite), the offer from Gregory packs to put a Paragon – ideal for a basecamp style mutli-day trekking trip into new territory –  to the test was well received.

Pack provided for review by Lyon Equipment. Check out the full range of Gregory backpacks here.

While typically not the lightest weight packs on the market, Gregory are know for well thought out designs. Their packs are sturdy and jam-packed with features, both the ones you’d expect and those which hadn’t even crossed your mind, and while the Paragon has stripped back the weight, they’ve done so without sacrifice, producing a light, long distance trekking pack, built for hauling weight without compromise.

Sling the Paragon on your back and the first thing you’ll notice is the raised section of soft-moulded silicon at the bottom of the back panel, which they’ve named the gription lumbar pad.  Designed to optimise load transfer, it keeps the pack where you want it, meaning the bulk of the weight is supported by your hips making for a stable trek regardless of  your load capacity.

A pretty common feature of modern trekking packs, above the lumbar pad, the back panel of the Paragon has a smart design for maximum air flow to keep your back as dry and comfortable as possible. The foam-matrix back panel in this case is designed in tandem with a breathable mesh lining to create the Aerolon system. Together with the adjustable aluminium alloy frame its this back system, which Gregory claims to be the lightest and most supportive suspension in its weight class. And, thanks to the mesh system, the contact with your back is pretty minimal meaning there’s plenty of space for air to circulate and cool without excessive moisture build up.

The shoulder harnesses and hip belts have been constructed with dual density lifespan EVA foam and designed with quick and easy adjustments in mind to maximise comfort when you’re carrying a full load. With zip pockets built into the hip belts you’ll have easy access to any permits, money or snacks which you may need during your trek.

Empty, the pack weighs just 1.5kg which pitches it really competitively in the market as a lightweight pack in the same volume category, and considering the amount of features they’ve included, the Paragon makes for a great weight to comfort ratio.

Alongside the main carrying systems, the designers of the Paragon have still managed to include plenty of handy features you’ll be glad of out on the trail. Firstly, down the front of the pack is a mesh carrying system which effectively works as a stretchy quick access pocket for anything you want to temporarily stow away and grab at ease without accessing the main compartment. It’s ideal for extra layers, say a down jacket or a waterproof shell in changeable conditions or something you don’t want to mix with the rest of your kit muddy camp footwear for example.

Behind the mesh carrier is a neat little zip pocket containing a neatly stowed rain cover, but this little compartment could also be a really useful spot for key travel documents, sneaky money or backup snacks and it still allows quick access without digging into your main pack.

Attached inside of the main pack, the Paragon comes with a handy ultralight day sack. Ideal for quick side hikes, or resupply missions, it also doubles up as a hydration reservoir sleeve. (On the trip I was testing the Paragon I opted not to use the sidekick bag as it didn’t really suit the style of trek – I wanted a little more support out of a day pack. Instead, I opted to double up with my Gregory Stout 35 but there are plenty of opportunities where the sidekick would be super useful and as small as it is, its inclusion will have little impact on your setup.)

Alongside the usual trekking pole attachments, on the left hand shoulder strap Gregory have designed a simple but really effective little sunglasses attachment, stopping you rummaging in your main pack every time cloud formation changes. And, a stretchy mesh material for the right hand bottle pocket makes for even easier access meaning you grab a bottle while you walk rather than needing to stop every time you need to hydrate.

As you’d expect from a pack like this, there’s three main entry points. The main body of the bag can be accessed from both the top and bottom with an optional divider to help separate you kit – great for easy access to your day and night gear without emptying everything and there’s a small top compartment with two zipped pockets either side of the lid.

The Paragon comes in two sizes, S/M and M/L and each pack size is then still further customisable. Defining itself very much as a trekking pack rather than a travelling backpack like some of the other bags in Gregory’s range, the Paragon is designed to shave weight ultimately allowing you to go further and for longer. That said, what the company certainly has been careful not to create here is a super basic and therefore uncomfortable or overly simplified pack.

Pack provided for review by Lyon Equipment. Check out the full range of Gregory backpacks here.