Gear Review: Gregory Optic 58L
The Optic is Gregorys newest ultralight backpack released earlier this year. Sporting snappy features like a fully ventilated and moisture-wicking suspension system, lightweight 7001 aluminum perimeter frame, luxurious shoulder and hip belt padding (including extra for lumbar support), hip belt pockets, and a stretchy front-mesh pocket, the bag is an adequately engineered product that does what it sets out to do: carry all your gear while prioritizing comfort.
It isnt the lightest pack on the market, but the 100-denier nylon (with 210-denier nylon bottom) is durable and all business. Its hard not to compare this pack to Ospreys current selection of similar backpacks like the 2018 Levity and Lumina, which are lighter by almost 11 ounces, but are made out of more fragile silnylon fabrics. Where Osprey tried to cut corners to make a lighter product (such as with flimsy clips, straps and fabrics), Gregory developed a more robust product with materials that work well and dont appear likely to break anytime soon.
The Optic is a great pack for someone who values all the bells and whistles of a mainstream pack but doesnt mind the extra weight penalty for a more durable product. It carries well, has plenty of space for four-season overnight excursions, and is competitively priced compared to other packs in its class. It isnt the best pack on the market, but it gets the job done, and will get you outside with good comfort and reliability.
Circumstance of Review
I tested this pack on a traverse of the 42-mile Lakeshore Trail located in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The hike was completed over the course of two nights and two and a half days in dry conditions.
The padded hip belts and shoulder straps are the highlight of the bag. It was clear Gregory was not fooling around when it came to padding. As a result, the bag feels great to carry. Over the course of my trip there was very little discomfort from the hip belt or shoulder straps. The total weight of my bag was roughly 12 pounds for the trip for summer weather, but I dont believe the pack would have any trouble carrying a load near to its capacity of 30 pounds.
The pockets on the hip belt are a nice addition to the pack, too, although they could be slightly bigger. I could barely fit my cellphone in one of the pockets (an iPhone SE with waterproof casegood luck trying to fit something larger), but they were big enough to adequately carry snacks and a paper map. It would have been nice to have slightly larger pockets, especially considering Gregory went through the effort to add them in the first place.
The side and front mesh pockets are roomy and stretchy and are great to use. I had no problem taking out and putting back water bottles in the side pockets while walking (something I was unable to do with the Levity). The side pockets are large enough to hold two one-liter water bottles for situations that may require longer water carries, and the back mesh pocket is large enough to keep any items you would want quick access to, like rain gear or bathroom supplies. The front pocket seems average in size compared to other packs on the market and you can certainly fit a large number of items in it. I dont tend to use these outside compartments much, and found I had a lot of room left over with just a rain jacket and my bathroom kit (including trowel, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer).
Lastly, the overall feel of the bag is good, even if it is slightly bulky and stiff. It is easy to use while both packing and unpacking gear items, and the variety of tightening straps, both on the sides and on the top, kept all my gear snug and in place. The clinching mechanisms are more complicated than they need to be (the big brands cant seem to get away from this) but that often comes with the territory of having an extra brain compartment on the top of the pack. More on this in the next section.
The Optic has a detachable top compartment (brain) that is used to cover the opening of the main compartment of the bag. The pocket of the top compartment is adequately sized but I didnt really know what would be useful to put in it that couldnt already be placed in the front mesh pocket. This is a personal preference, but I have never been a fan of top pockets as I find them unnecessary and a waste of material. Since Gregory and Osprey have not gotten rid of them yet, I am inclined to think market research indicates a large portion of people would rather have this feature available to them. However, unlike the Levity, the top pocket on the Optic is removable, which would reduce the pack weight by around four ounces if you choose not to use it; a shame that you had to pay for it though.
If you are a person who finds this top pocket useful, it is worth noting that the straps that connect the top compartment to the bag are quite short. This is something to keep in mind if you intend to sandwich a sleeping pad or other piece of gear in the space between the top and main compartments, as there is not a lot of space to work with.
The lumbar pad that rests on the lower back has a seam in it that is slightly uncomfortable. In other reviews Ive read of the Optic on both Gregorys website and on Amazon, this is the biggest problem some users have had with the pack. Although it wasnt a big problem for me, I can see how an ill-fitting pack could possibly rub on your lower back and create discomfort. Regardless, this extra lumbar padding is a bit unnecessary and bulky and detracts from the otherwise well engineered waist straps. Hopefully Gregory will redesign this in future iterations of the pack.
The Optic likely wont win any awards, but it is a more than capable bag for a weekend hike or a longer multiweek or month trek. Although I believe there are better bags on the market, the Optic is a good deal for the price point. I can see this bag working well in colder months where I would have a need to carry more gear, as the suspension system and hip belt would make carrying a heavier load more comfortable. However, for warm weather excursions, I dont need the support or extra features of the pack, and would prefer something simpler.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
This product was donated for purpose of review.
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