Gregory z35-r

I’ve taken a long time to make up my mind about the Gregory z35-r. But, I’ve finally got a handle on it.

Tha carry is the important thing, and here it’s right on the money. I was intially suspicious of both the air-gap back system and the prominent lumbar pad, but it works well. I quickly lost the sensation of the packfeeling like it’s being supported just on the lumbar pad and hips, it feels secure and unobtrusive, and also allows good lower body movement. The hip fins and shoulder harness have a nice low profile and it’s comfortable with a load over just a baselayer, always the real test. The shoulder straps have an unusual attachment which allows a bit of flexibility and good upper body movement despite the rigid load bearing back system.
The back system is curved away from you to allow an air gap. There’s an unending debate about these features, especially about the effect on the stability which here I felt was minimal. I took it on scrambles with a full load and never once felt like I was badly overbalancing or that the pack was taking over the controls of the aircraft.

So, I like the carry, but to get it to the levels of usability I have to supplement it’s diet with some ingredients of my own. It has good storage, the internal space is good, it has a huge external pocket and two external pockets with waterproof zips. I’ve used all of these for stowing stuff and the capacity is plenty much for a few days in the field. The wee hip fin pockets are handy for gloves, a compact camera and munchies, but…
There’s nowhere to stow a bottle that’s accessible on the move. This drives me crazy in the head. The big pocket that takes in the whole central red section you can see above along with the grey bits at the sides could be split up and you could have two side mesh pockets accessible by the wearer. Maybe it’s just that bladders are more popular in Gregoryville, and it’s well set up for that with a neat internal sleeve and good hose routing. But, I’m a bottle man so I installed shoulder strap mounted bottle pockets, and my OMM chest pouches help, I always use one on an overnighter anyway.

The external strapping is good as well. It’s all functional including the top straps that have to be undone to open the roll top closure (aye, it’s a roll top, did I mention that? It works well, roll tops kick ass), These straps are loops, so you can attach a sleep ma or a packed tent and hold in a good position that doesn’t mess with your centre of gravity too much. You don’t have to undo the loops to access the inside of the pack either, two buckles and they’re out of the way. In the photie above they’re hanging loose anyway.

More than any other item I’ve had on test, this has benefitted from extended use over the time I’ve had it. The first time I thought, “Ach, nowhere for my bottle” and I was all perturbed. But I solved that and got on with it and over time it ceased to be an issue, as did the unusual feel of the lower carrying contact points.
What I see now is a neat pack that carries extremely well, that I’d love to tweak with those extra pockets. Also, it’s got about 300g or more on most other packs in it’s size range and I can’t feel it on my back at all, so I don’t give a shit. Praise be, it’s a sign.

And I’ve confirmed from using it that testing is very different from reviewing.

35 thoughts on “Gregory z35-r”

  1. “And I’ve confirmed from using it that testing is very different from reviewing.”

    This parting shot is a can of worms. An article in itself. From our recent trade discussions, seems like the old general public are under the impression that ‘reviewers’ actually use these things rather than going for a bimble ‘up the back’…

  2. I had to think about what you thought of this pack. I have had two Gregory packs – not now. The hip belts wrapped to far round the hips with little left to tighten up after a week on the trail. They have less models in their range this year. I think they are losing sales as they are: up against Osprey, over weight and not as good as other brands. I tried the Atmos 50, by Osprey with the curved back and it was good and has more space than the Z-35 with not much difference in weight. Shame as Gregory have a good reputation.

  3. Aye Martin, reading it back I’m not entirely sure what I thought either. It is heavy, but I don’t feel its weight, it’s well thought out with some odd ommissions.
    I’ve grown to like it despite the niggles. It’s still in the range for ’09, so it must be doing okay.

    And Craig, I’ll come back to that stuff at some point. Maybe.

  4. I’ve got a Makalu Pro, which is pretty good design-wise – single compartment, mesh side pockets and…er… thats about it. But it is a bit heavy (2.4kg) and a bit big (70 litres) more most trips. The world has moved on a lot in the three years since tgo gave it a ‘Best Buy’ :-)

    I see that Gregory now market it as a Mountaineering sack, rather than the ‘fast and light’ one it used to be. I echo others concern about the way Gregory are going.

    Are you going to try and get any GoLite sacks to play with? I like the look of the Pinnacle (700g), which is also 70L, but can be yanked in and up to a more sensible size.

  5. I haven’t seen any GoLite for a year or so, I’ll need to make enquiries, good call!

    The Gregory line up for next year looks good, I’ve no history with the brand, so I don’t know really where they are relative to a before.
    I’ve got updates coming on the two small packs I have, one of which is okay, and the other is fantastic.

  6. I’m disappointed that Gregory don’t seem to cut it over here compared to Osprey. I really don’t get on with Osprey pack backs, finding them positively painful, but the two Gregorys I own are brilliant – the Juxt (sadly discontinued) seems like overkill at 1.3kg for a (cavernous) 28 litre climbing daypack, but the framesheet is a work of genius and it carries ridiculous weights comfortably filled with a full winter load or a rope, helmet and rack. And this year the truly light 20 litre Iso has been my summer daypack of choice – strangely though I bought it for using on the bike and haven’t actually ridden with it yet!

  7. The Iso is a neat wee pack right enough. I’ll need to get my update of that and the Reactor sorted.
    Really stable carry from them both which you don’t really expect from what’s percieved as just a backpacking brand.

  8. I’ve not seen a lot of the Gregory packs up-close-and-personal until I met a couple of French guys who’d each used a Palisade Pack to go North to South across Iceland. They were finishing along our route. We shared notes on kit and a sip or two of the Macallan Elegancia from our Platybottle.

    They said the Palisades were nice packs but both chunky zips on both packs had failed badly. They reckoned it was the result of volcanic grit getting into them and popping the pulls of the teeth, but I’m not sure that should happen even then. Four zips failing in 19 days of walking isn’t a good record.

    More interestingly, they said they’d never carry such packs again. They’d met another French guy who was doing the East to West after having completed the North to South – all in fine Ultralight style. Golite pack, trail shoes, tarp, the works.

    That probably says as much about where Gregory are (or aren’t) than anything else.

  9. That’s interesting. It’s a thing I’ve always wondered about US gear, that it’s designed for the conditions experienced immediately outside the factory door.
    I had a look at the Palisade, and I can see how that zip would be stressed.
    Aye, on a big pack it’s a roll top or a single big buckle for me every time. The single buckle is pure laziness, there’s nothing wrong with two :o)

    The weight as well, I can’t see me ever carrying heavier than 1500/1600g in a pack ever again.
    But although the Z35r is heavy for the capacity, the comfort is fantastic and that pleasantly surprised me. I’m happy taking this out stuffed with kit. It keeps it’s shape as well no matter how badly you pack it, which I shoiuld have mentioned in the review.

    I’ll use it through winter and see how it copes.

  10. The ability to retain shape is something that I value. More than that, retain shape and keep things from poking you in the back. I’m a lazy packer. I’m lazy on a Thursday evening after I’ve packed for the weekend and I’m lazier when I’m tired in the morning in the tent and just want to get going.

    It’s the main thing that would probablyhave me choose a Granite Gear Vapor Trail over a Golite Pinacle.

    Although the Pinnacle might even have a more comfy carry (those “wings” instead of a padded belt really do work) the fact that a Vapor Trail would let you pack cast-iron replicas of pineapples like an utter moron and still have that thick foam and stiffening sheet protect your back is something I’d miss in the Pinnacle.

    That being said – I’m sure that getting poked in the back by a wayward pan-handle would improve my packing rapidly. And after swapping packs for a morning with my Pinnacle toting friend Kev I’m very impressed…

    I’d be interested to hear if you’ve tried one *PTC?

  11. That’s the same reason the Villain’s been on my back more than any other pack. It’s very forgiving of poor packing and keeps it’s shape plus it ticks all my other esoteric rucksack boxes.

    I saw the whole Golite range a couple of years ago and tried a few models out from tiny bike sacks to surprisingly heavy mountaineering affairs, but nothing from that has stuck with me, and my ifotrmation would be well out of date anyway.
    I’ve been talking to Golite UK the last couple of weeks, so we should be seeing some kit in from across the range for test.
    I really need to try a couple of their packs, there’s so many references to them and just watching the bloke next to me carrying a Jam doesn’t help my mission!

  12. I was mooching around the rucksacks Craigdon Sports this morning (strange mix: lots of Haglofs but no LIMS, lots of Ospreys but no Exos). I ended up trying on the Atmos 50, which looked good (if over featured) and seems a pretty useful size.

    It seemed to fit okay (although I traditionally don’t get on with Osprey), but it is surprisingly heavy (1.8kg for a large I discovered later) and various reviews suggest that its not a great carry for loads over 12-13kg, which seems daft for a 50L+ pack. Interesting Chris Townsend makes a similar point about the Exos 46 in the current tgo.

    Anyhoo, it got me wondering about the Gregory Z55. 200g lighet than the Atmos (and only 200 heavier that the Z35), and I know I get on with the Gregory harnesses.

    Are you still using the 35, and have you seen a Z55?

  13. I haven’t used the 35 for a wee while, since the Villain update and the Jam came in for test. I think it’s great wee pack though, the weight is a bit high for the capacity maybe, but it’s dead comfy, and I like using it.
    1500g sounds fine the capacity on the 55 and I know the harness is a cracker.For me the only deal breaker in “z” range is the lack of bottle pockets.
    If it fits and you like the layout of the features, I reckon it’d be a good choice.
    Different from the current favourites too.

  14. I think the Z55 has side bottle pockets, but they are not accessible on the move. Not really a deal breaker for me, as the side mesh pockets on my current packs are similalrly arranged so I’m used to it :-)

    Also seen a new pack on the Granite Gear website.

    52, litres, 1.4 kg, 14kg capacity, sensible lid and no frills.

    So potentially good that its unlikely to be on sale over here!

  15. Trail and I both tried to get Granite Gear to send a test sample in for a feature last year and they weren’t interested at all.
    It’s a bugger, a lot of their packs look great. I’ve always fancied a Vapour trail.
    They’re definitely an option.

  16. Can highly recommend the Vapour Trail but make sure you get the correct (fixed) back length so the loadlifter straps work properly & the waistbelt sits snugly. I’m just on the limit of my Regular & wish I’d got the Long. I bought the GG lid but it doesn’t really serve any useful purpose other than to cover up the untidy top closure straps & still looks odd (& the lid pocket is only a useless A5 envelope sized). I do like the cut of the lids on the heavier GG sacks that have them, though.
    I haven’t had durability problems despite the lightweight materials, but my outings are a bit less “scrambly” these days. I’ve slit (& stitch-reinforced) the stretch bottle pockets to route the lower side compression straps inside the pockets. Previously tightening the strap interfered with the pockets use, which was my only gripe. Looking at the new sack spotted by DavidG, I notice that GG have taken that modification on board, but not for the other models on their website.
    Like the VT so much that I’m waiting on a long Virga from Ultralight Outdoor Gear who are expecting a batch from the US soon. I’ll ask them if they intend to stock the new sack. It will be interesting to see if the later Virga pockets have been modified?

  17. I’ve thought about doing that same pocket mod to the z35r (I’m sure they’re not going to ask for it back now…), I would definitely take it out more. It’ll a bit more involved as it’s a huge single back pocket, but it’s worth a look.

    The Virga looks interesting, it’ll be good to hear how you get on with it.

  18. DavidG – I’ve been using the Gregory Z55 as my main backpacking sack over the last 18 months. The harness and comfort are excellent for me, and the air gap doesn’t affect packing much; and only on more scrambly stuff might there be a more stable option.
    I particularly like the large bucket pocket as it suits my backpacking style – usually containing rain gear and items to be accessed during the day.
    Personally I don’t usually access a water bottle on the move (even with a pack where this is ‘easy’) so that is not an issue for me.
    I think the Z55 is a great compromise of reasonable weight with very good harness and pack structure. And I’d rate it over the larger Atmos sacks (though conversely I’d rate the smaller Atmos sacks over the Z22/30. It also feels much more robust than 1kg packs, despite the relatively small weight difference.
    At this point I should say that I’ve just got a LIM 45 as with ligher and more compact gear, I no longer need the capacity on short trips, but the Gregory will continue be a great option for longer backpacking routes.

  19. Good info, and now that I think about the harnesses on the z35 and the LIM aren’t a million miles away from each other.
    I’m going to dig the z35 next week.

  20. Lots of good info.

    rp610 – I like Gregory harness/big lumbar pad arrangement, and the hipbelt on the the Z55 looks better than the one on my soon-to-be replaced (when I can make my mind up what to replace it with) Makalu. I also like the look of the LIM 45, which has attracted much praise around this parish. IS there a substantial difference in volume between the two?

    thinkgreysky – I have also like the idea of the Vapor Trail, although lack of easy to access ‘pocketry’ and thought of negotiating the bin bag like volume extender have put me off a bit. I’m wondering if the new one with the conventional lid and the sorted lower compression straps might be spot on.

    Decisions decisions

  21. It’s a comittment isn’t it? Shoes and a pack are the things that’ll ruin your day pretty quickly if they don’t fit you and the way that you do your stuff.

  22. DavidG: Don’t let the pockets put you off on the Vapor Trail. Other than the strap issue, I think they are better than many competitors (but different, being quite deep & of stretch material). I perservered for 2 years before rerouting the lower compression straps & though it niggled, it wasn’t that big an issue for me. Modifying them was very straightforward & I managed it myself, though the missus would have done a neater reinforcing stitches (possibly using the buttonhole attachment on her sewing machine to edge the slits?). Similarly, the extension sleeve does occasionally get a cursing, (being of fine silnylon-type material it is prone to getting tucked in the body of the sack when packing) but I’m now in the habit of rolling it well out of the way before I start. Others have shortened the sleeve,which wouldn’t be difficult but would need a sewing machine because of the amount of stitching involved. In the interests of seeking perfection it’s likely I’ll sweet-talk the missus to do it soon.

    However, it does rankle that you have to buy & sack which needs modifications when GG must be aware of these widely- acknowledged minor problems with an otherwise excellent piece of kit. That said, the Lasercomp isn’t perfect as sold & we take pleasure in sorting them out! I’d suggest that when gear is this good it’s worth making the extra effort to perfect it.

    Two final observations:
    1) The long sleeve seems to be the source of the extra 7 litres volume in the VT, compared to the “lidded” GG sacks which share the same Vapor suspension system. Reducing this shouldn’t be an issue as I’ve never been near “topping out” volume-wise within the suggested 30lb carrying capacity.
    2)I don’t know if Ultralight Outdoor Gear are going to bring in the new sack but they do already stock some lidded Vapor models, which are a little heavier/lower volume but might suit you better if you have an aversion to the exposed sleeve/cross strap closure. (Unfortunately they seem to have only short backlengths in stock at present but they are expecting that delivery from GG soon.)
    As PTC suggests these are important & very personal items. What suits me might not suit you… I can’t get on with Golite sacks but find the VT back/waistbelt/shoulder straps are superb for a sack of this weight.

  23. You’re not wrong there folks – fit is everything.

    When I was looking for a new sack last year I thought the Granite Gear VT would be the answer as it had a great hipbelt and good padding. However, I couldn’t get on with the fact the framesheet finished below the top tension straps. It just felt wrong when fully loaded. I then tried OMM and Golite and found the hipbelts didn’t fit me. I then tried Gossamer Gear and found my ideal fit in the Mariposa Plus.

    So long live the independant shops so we can all have a choice.

  24. DavidG (& others who are interested): I’ve just heard from Ultralight Outdoors that their Granite Gear delivery has now arrived. I took the opportunity to ask about availability of the new Vapor Flash ‘sack. They have received a few, which will go on their website shortly. They also confirm that they now have a selection of sizes for other ‘sacks in their Vapor range.

  25. Magic stuff.
    I’ve just been out with a prototype OMM backpacking sack and I got on very well. Fit is indeed everything.

  26. DavidG – sorry for the delay in reply (been away for a while). I think the Gregory Z55 and LIM45 are significantly different in volume (enough for it be worth me keeping both). I guess the roll top means you can’t overload the main body of the LIM. With the LIM I was looking for something a little smaller, lighter and perhaps more stable for faster and possibly more scrambly overnighters and backpacking trips. I think the Z55 would probably handle heavier loads with greater ease.
    If you have light/compact gear 45l may suffice: like so many I was lugging a full Karrimor 65+15L rucksack a year or two ago, going to 55L and now 45L.

    It is actually quite a strange comparison as the packs are so different in may ways, but they both work. The one thing they have in common is the large external pockets.

    Maybe the LIM55/Z55 is the comparison if you need the volume, but I seem to recall some mixed reviews on the LIM55 compared with the smaller models.

  27. A very belated update/contribution to this debate.

    I recently fondled/tried on a LIM45 in Escape Routes and (shock horror) declined to join the growing band of devotees. It didn’t seem all that much bigger than my Golite Continuum and – more importantly – I have a thing (nae, a neurosis) about adjustable backlengths.

    As the continuum can happily accommodate overnighters for much of the year, so I need a pack for winter and multi-day trips (sitting between the continuum and the soon to be on eBay 70L Gregory Makalu).

    As I also like lumpar paddery, I have thus decided not to flirt with the Vapor trail and will await the arrival on these shores of the new Gregory Z45 in February.

    Various z -series quibbles (noted above) seem to have been sorted in the 45. The only potential fly in the water bottle, is that pre production models are quite heavy (1.8kg for a Large – ouch!), but I’m hoping that some lard will be shaved off between now and then (either that or the carry will be so good that the extra fat will will be negated)

  28. Aye, I loaned my LIM45 out and it took me ages to get the back length right again.

    I like the z-35r, it is heavy for the capacity, but if feels great on my back. Gregory’s definitely worth a look, I can’t understand why they’ve got such a low profile over here.
    I was talking to them a few weeks back about 2010 kit, I’ll maybe need to follow up and see if I can get one of the new models in for test so we can have a proper look at it.

  29. Gregory seem to have their own philosophy – the carry is more important than the weight, and they will not strip out and lighten up the pack (especially the harness) if it is going to affect how a loaded pack feels on the back.

    Whether a 35L or 45L really needs to be able to comfortably handle 18kg+ these days is another matter entirely, however.

  30. I just sent a parcel away that weight 18kg, and I know I used to carry more than that on my back. Scary stuff.

    I do think they could lighten the packs up without compromising the carry, some of the dertailing is a bit clunky, straps/pockets etc.
    I like them because they’re different, and the Reactor is one of the most stable multisport packs I’ve ever used.

  31. Horrified to revisit this thread and discover that I’ve been procrastinating over a new pack for over a year. Crivens.

    Anyhoo, after flirting with the Lib Dems…er I mean.. the Matrix, LIM45, Pinnacle, Z45, etc. I eventually opted for the Granite Gear Vapor Flash, So ta very much Thinkgreysky for the input

    The clincher was that (the marvellous) Ultralight Outdoor Gear were able to fit a large hipbelt to a regular size pack, enabling the GG to hit my sizing ‘sweetspot’.

    Very impressed so far with weight in around the house, and looking forward to trying it in the field next week. Also happy to provide feedback for anyone who wants it.

    The matrix 50 did come a close second, however, and desite the hype no one seems to stock the gregory Z45.

  32. It’s not procrastinating, it’s making sure you get right :o)

    Let us know how you get on,

    Here, Gregory and Black Diamond are now one company, thet’ll be interesting to see what happens there.

  33. Aye – it’s probably not very environmentally sustainable to buy a pack that you are not 100% happy with, only to dump it when the ‘Next Big Thing’ (as they use to say in the NME) comes along.

    Regarding Gregory and BD, a bit like the Tories and the Lib Dems then! Lets hope its not a meeting of mediocrity

  34. It’ll go one or the other, big brand bland or pooled resources allowing innivation and sexy kit.

    Nothing like the ConDems them.

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