Extensively tested and reviewed by Cairngorm Treks throughout late summer through to early winter 2018/19 in the Cairngorms and surrounding mountainous areas.
Gregory have a great reputation for making comfortable and very well-built packs. We have never had the chance to use one of their backpacks before so when we received the Gregory Paragon 58 we were eager to get it out into the hills and see for ourselves what all the hype was about.
Firstly, and also importantly, if counting grams is of importance, we recommend you probably look for an alternative choice as the Paragon is certainly not the lightest. Weighing in at 1.798kg (size S/M), by today’s standards this is certainly a scale tipper with most packs of a similar volume coming in at around the 1kg mark. It has to be said that with a bit of stripping, which we will discuss more within the review, the working weight is more like 1.5kg but even at this lowered weight there will be many that won’t look past this spec to reveal the true nature and qualities these extra grams bring.
“If you're looking to log miles and need room to haul the gear you want, the Paragon 58 will keep you light on your feet. The Lightweight Aerolon adjustable suspension keeps things comfortable as you burn up the trail.” A good place to start is always with the manufacture’s description, with Gregory describing the Paragon as a pack to withstand the abuse of long-distance journeys whilst being able to carry lots of heavy equipment and still being comfortable. Designed to carry up to 23kg this is a pack which pointed perfectly towards one of our guide’s needs. As a photographer, Myrddin spends most of his hill time carrying large amounts of camera gear and his choice of backpack often prioritises the bulk a pack can handle before considering comfort, then weight. He’s also a keen winter mountaineer, so add to this all of the extra equipment needed for this time of year, it’s fair to say the Paragon is going to get a bit of a beasting.
Once we received the Paragon we quickly got to work stripping it down to suit our needs. Gregory have included lots of extras that, although we didn't use within the Paragon itself, are a great addition elsewhere. We are not big fans of hydration packs and instead prefer to take a water bottle. Included within the Paragon is the Sidekick Pack. This is a Removable lightweight daypack which doubles as a hydration sleeve. It’s a fantastic little daypack weighing in at 132g and we found this to be a great choice for short walks, a run in the woods, or out for a ride on the bike.
The next saving of weight comes from removing the internal compartment divider and also the waterproof cover. This will cut a further 124 grams off the original weight. The waterproof cover, it does have to be said, made its way in and out of the paragon dependent on predicted weather conditions. It's generous in size and will cover the entire pack even when fully loaded and can be accessed easily due to a zipped pocket included at the front of the Paragon. If the weather looked particularly wet, then we often included the rain cover, as once the material of the pack itself gets soaked through this could outweigh the rain cover itself. It’s also included within the pack itself (not at an additional cost that you find with most other brands). The problem with an external waterproof cover is the dreaded flapping in high winds, something that can be very annoying over the course of a day and the Paragon cover is no exception.
With carrying large amounts of equipment it’s important to have a pack that’s fully adjustable to better distribute the weight and suit the individual shape and size of the user. Gregory have certainly delivered in this department and offer some great features to make the Paragon one of the most comfortable packs we have ever used.
Aerolon adjustable torso with a Matrix breathable back-panel makes it easy forprecise adjustments to suit the wearer. The Matrix Ventilated Dual-density LifeSpan EVA foam adds much needed comfort whilst also creating decent airflow for a pack of this type. The gription lumbar pad offers great support and keeps the Paragon firmly in place without slipping down your back.
Die-cut dual density shoulder harness with sternum strap and quick adjust hip-belts again give complete control to better distribute weight evenly. They both use the same Matrix EVA foam as on the back-panel which molds to the wearer and becomes more comfortable with prolonged use. Very rarely did we have much moisture build up against the back panel. Although due to the thickness of padding on the shoulders and hip-belt after a day’s use a build-up of moisture becomes unavoidable. It's hard to get the correct balance of comfort and airflow with a pack of this type. Gregory have pushed more towards comfort, and although one of the best packs we have used in providing this we have found alternative brands have created a better balance between the two.
The internal structure is a wishbone 7mm tubular aluminium frame and 3mm alloy anti-barreling cross-stay for stable load management. Once each area is properly sized and correctly tensioned the Paragon feels supportive and stable. Even for multi-day winter expeditions, which is when we maxed out the capacity of the Paragon, we found this system to feel very comfortable. Carrying close to its 23kg max capability it never felt overloaded or unbalanced.
The materials used throughout certainly aid in giving the Paragon its impressive stability. The main body is constructed from 210 CryptoRip Nylon / 100D High Tenacity Nylon with a re-enforced 210D High Tenacity Nylon / 135D High Density polyester along the bottom and key strengthening areas. We have hammered the Paragon, using it on mostly every outing throughout late summer, to winter expeditions, and the main body still appears almost as new. The bottom of a pack is usually the first area to show signs of wear and albeit a few scuff marks from brushing against coarse granite, no abrasions or holes have developed. Gregory have certainly lived up to their reputation and would make a perfect pack for long distance trekking when you need to trust in your gear to stand up to a multitude of environments with little to no repairs along the way.
Often manufactures try to fit far too many features within a pack with an abundance of pockets, and bits dangling all over the place, often getting in the way. The Paragon is not completely guilt free of this but keeps the basics how we like. In terms of storage space, it has a large main entry with a removable divider. This divider can also act as a lightweight lid, although we never used it in this capacity instead removing it completely to provide one large space. We all have our own preferred system to how we pack but most follow the idea that important items that will be used throughout the day to the top. There is a zipper at the bottom of the Paragon for easy access to sleeping bags or shelters. Although the Paragon utilise toughened fabrics the main storage isn’t stubborn to stay in one shape, instead flexing to accommodate equipment of differing shapes. This is great when considering that sleeping systems for summer and winter vary greatly and being able to keep key items in a similar order makes for an efficient and consistent system.
A large floating top pocket with two zippered compartments is a great addition for easy to access items without having to enter the main storage area. The large zippered compartment we used mostly for storing waterproofs, spare maps, gloves, first aid kit, and other key items. The smaller compartment is a great space for storing items such as a spare compass, PLB, headtorch, etc. Two zippered pockets located on hip-belt are also good for storing compact items such as a compass, mobile phone, whistle, midge spray, buff, etc.
Dual side stretch mesh pockets are common place among most modern packs with the paragon utilising high side pockets with compression straps to keep items securely in place. This is a feature our guide and photographer Myrddin takes a special interest in as items such as a camera tripod will often be attached to the outside of the pack ready for quick removal, and we found this system to be very secure. The right-hand side mesh pocket also has easy access for a water bottle without the need to remove the pack. Compression straps have been cleverly positioned above this area and it’s surprisingly easy to access and store a water bottle whilst on the move.
The large front stretch pocket became an important feature for us. It’s a great size and can easily hold wet gear including waterproofs or small tent. In winter or whilst scrambling it can hold a helmet with spare gloves stashed inside. The mesh fabric also folds back on itself to make sure any items inside don’t work their way out. Both the side pockets and mesh front would have been perfect if only a tougher material was in use. Unfortunately, where the rest of the Paragon has been built so robustly, the mesh falls short and signs of wear and a small hole have appeared on one of the side pockets.
The total amount of space available within the 58L model fitted life for us perfectly, with extra room for extended journeys in summer and packing big in winter when extra layers and equipment are needed. We pushed it to its limit when adding gear including a snow shovel, extra camera lenses and a larger sturdier tripod, but even at full capacity the weight felt well distributed and shoulder straps never dug in or became uncomfortable.
There are lots of extras located around the Paragon with plenty of additional compression straps, ice axe/walking pole loop, all of which can be adapted to fit your needs, for example, we used the sunglasses holder to loop a watch as the elastic can be pulled for better vision especially in winter whilst wearing goggles. There’s an argument to say there’s a bit too much going on in additional loops and straps added to the Paragon, but most are removable without needing to be cut so they can be stored for use later. The rest could be cut off if undesired to further shed some unwanted grams.
Overall, styling of the Paragon may not be loud enough for some, but we quite like the simple approach that Gregory adopts. The focus is on the functionality over style and the Sunset Grey colour choice is pleasing enough.
The Gregory Paragon 58L is a great choice for those who need to pack big without compromising on comfort. The Aerolon Suspension system provides unrivaled stability even when reaching the Paragon’s high load 23kg capacity, with the adjustable back and the Matrix Ventilated Dual-density LifeSpan EVA foam making this a pack which can be fine-tuned to suit the wearer. Ventilation is decent enough although other brands have engineered better systems. Internal and external space is well thought out with ample space for summer and winter activities. Loads of extras have been added including the Sidekick daypack and waterproof cover both of which will come in to use when required, but can be easily removed to lower the weight of the pack. The 1.798kg (size S/M) of the Paragon 58 is a spec which may deter many, but if you value a pack that’s built to last in a multitude of environments. With a bit of trimming can easily be brought down to around 1.5kg. The build throughout the majority of the Paragon lives up to Gregory’s high quality reputation, although unfortunately the mesh pockets need to be updated to a more robust material otherwise this would have been a near perfect pack of this type.
Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...