No other company is more synonymous with backpacks than Gregory Mountain Products and when you buy from Gregory, you buy a pack with a heck of a mountain legacy behind it. If you asked a genie for a pack that offers top-notch lumbar support, superior organizational abilities and a lightweight package, said genie would probably whip out the Gregory Contour 60. I’ve been viciously abusing this pack for the last two months and let’s just say that Gregory and I are very close now.
Gregory Contour 60 Backpack Features:
- Response™ LT Suspension
- Wishbone Wire frame
- Response™ LT formed auto-fit waistbelt with ventilated air channels
- Harness features MonoBond™ Architecture with thermo-bonded, four layer construction
- Contoured backpanel with breathable spacer mesh and ventilated air channels
- Trail Smart™ Packing System with organization for Camp, Trail and On-the-Go gear
- Highly water resistant top pocket with water proof zipper and sealed seems
- Integrated, color-matched rain cover
- Stash pocket on underside of the top lid
- Twin oversize side pockets
- Dual waistbelt pockets
- Two-stage compression on lower bag and over main top opening
- MSRP: $279.99
My Long-term Experience
Fast and light, that’s the anthem of the modern outdoorsman — Gregory played that role to a tee when they designed the Contour. At four pounds flat for the medium version, the Gregory is a few ounces lighter than the very comparable Osprey Aether. It should be noted, though, that there are still plenty of packs that are lighter than the Contour – the 65L version of the Sierra Designs Revival which we reviewed is just 3 pounds 14 ounces.
Where the Contour really kills the competition is organization. Anyone who’s taken a long backpacking trip will acknowledge that no-nonsense organization is crucial to a safe, happy and lightweight trek. Gregory designed the Contour to hold gear in three main areas with sections for at-camp gear, on-the-trail gear and on-the-go gear. So, we’ve got the usual back shove-it pocket and hipbelt snack pockets, but the Contour takes it a step farther. The main compartment is roomy and has a very generous entrance for loading gear. This compartment is intended to be left largely untouched until camp is reached, but there’s a full-length zip on the side should you unexpectedly need to reach gear at the bottom of this compartment. There’s also a separately-accessible hydration sleeve pocket with hooks to suspend compatible bladders.
The next compartment is the on-the-trail gear section and is composed of a generous zippered pocket in which there are two fat mesh pockets, one of which is zippered. This pocket is easily large enough to accommodate rain gear, field guides or meal equipment. The pocket is zippered all the way around, so you can access either side independently depending on what you need to get at.
Rounding things off for on-the-go gear stowage, there is a generous shove-it pocket with mesh drains, two static (meaning non-stretchy) water bottle pockets, the brain (or the pack’s lid, if you’re so inclined), a security pocket (which is virtually inaccessible when the pack is loaded, and the hip belt pockets (both of mine smell like Carmex). All of these things working together give you really great access to snacks, binoculars or whatever you might need on the trail.
The biggest testament that I can give to Gregory’s organizational ideas is that, having used quite a few backpacks from quite a few companies, I have to say that the Contour is probably one of the most enjoyable packs to use when it comes to easily getting to your gear.
The Contour is, as we’ve discussed, a respectably-light pack – at just four pounds, this product is designed for moderate weights. I’m a light packer, but not obsessive – when I laid out all of my equipment (no food and water) my pack and gear weighed 21 pounds for a 10 day trip. I usually carried 5 liters of water and food for four days at one time, and my pack around mid-day was probably in the mid 30’s on an average. I’m happy to say that the pack handled this load with total aplomb — Gregory’s proprietary Wishbone LT frame and the Response LT suspension work together well to stabilize loads while minimizing pack weight.
The hip belt wings are mounted on a swivel and that really does great things for how well the pack stays with you during technical moments on the trail — the pack moves very well when the trail forces you into a precarious angle, so there’s a whole lot of stability and security when you’re wearing the Contour.
Packing 30-4o pounds is all well and good, but cranking up the weight really reveals the pack’s true colors. I volunteer with a local Boy Scout troop and I’ve taken the scout on several backpacking trips. We ran into trouble on a trip where I was testing the Contour and, long story short, I ended up pushing 59 pounds of one of the scouts’ weight. That’s absolutely beyond what the Contour was designed to handle, and it really showed – the somewhat minimalist padding in the hip belt is insufficient for extended use with such high weights, and the suspension suffered as well.
So, I can say that I thoroughly tested the pack with a variety of weights, but let’s be honest – this is a lightweight pack designed for people who know how to pack smart. Don’t head out on the trail for a full day of hiking with 45+ pounds and expect to come out of it with happy shoulders/hips. If you want to push weight like that, grab something like a Gregory Baltoro or a Deuter Aircontact, which are both in for review.
One of Gregory’s mainstay features is absolutely top-notch lumbar support; trust me, I really appreciated that when I was trekking with that kid’s extra thirty pounds of weight. Gregory sacrifices some of the nifty new ventilation designs that are coming out on the market to get this incredible support, and I personally would call it a good trade off. The back panel isn’t a big sloppy mass of mesh that’s snuggling up to your back — it’s a nice, somewhat rigid padded panel that rests where it needs to. The upshot is that you get good lumbar support and your back only gets a little bit hotter than if you were using a pack with a design that emphasizes airflow. In any case, I didn’t find myself missing that ventilation.
While we’re on the back panel, this is a good time to talk about fabric choices. Gregory chose a 100D nylon for the main body, with beefy 420D nylon for reinforcement. It’s a very sturdy combination that should hold up to years of use. The brain of the pack is highly water resistant and has a sealed zipper, so if you detach it and use it as a fanny pack all of your stuff will stay dry. My only complaint is that the Contours have a very light-colored fabric on the padding of the pack. This is all well and good until you put 100 miles of dust into the fabric. My back panel looks appalling, and that’s largely because of how easily the light fabric shows dirt.
In the field, I loved the pack – the load compression straps are thoughtfully placed for easy access and load stability. The waist belt took some breaking in before it stopped creeping, but the load tensioners and sternum strap are absolutely creep-free. The forward-pull waist belt is a nice touch, but those are becoming increasingly common, even on lower end packs. Elastic on the lid (which, as I mentioned, comes off to make a fanny pack) is a very nice touch as well, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Osprey’s full-on hip belt design. Their packs have a whole belt and buckle when you need to use the lid as a fanny pack. My only other quibble is that the water bottle pockets aren’t elasticized – getting a 1L Nalgene into those when the pack is loaded is a recipe for a hernia.
- Excellent lumbar support
- Superior organizational design and ability
- Great fabric choices and construction
- Moves well in technical situations under normal loads
- Wishbone LT frame and Response LT suspension work well, minimize weight
- Pack weighs in at 4 pounds, reduces ability for wearer to complain about weight
- Water resistant pack lid with sealed zipper
- Color choices show dirt, look horrible when dirty
- Water bottle pockets need to be elasticized
- “Security Pocket” is very difficult to access when pack is loaded
- Weight-savings on the hip belt and harness translate to less comfort
The Bottom Line
The bottom line for the Contour is pretty darn simple: it’s a top-notch pack from a top-tier company. The Contour has some of the best organizational capabilities on the market and that, coupled with the low weight, make this pack a winner. Backpackers should remember that this is a fast-and-light pack and it’ll punish you if you load it to unreasonable levels. On the whole, the Contour fits very nicely into the Gregory range and, I daresay, would fit rather nicely on your back.
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