The Gregory Baltoro 65 is a high-volume internal-frame backpack that’s designed to carry heavy loads up to 50 pounds in comfort. It’s ideal for off-the-grid trips, multi-sport adventures, and international travel when you want a backpack that’s loaded with features, but can be easily modified and adapted for different needs. If you need to carry a heavy pack and prefer the organizational style of a top loader, the Baltoro has an incredibly refined feature set and suspension system that’s a marvel to use.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 5 lbs 6.7 oz (actual, size medium tested – 5.7 oz heavier than spec)
- Optional hydration pocket/day pack: 4.2 oz.
- Optional lumbar shim: 0.6 oz
- Optional rain cover: 3.6 oz
- Optional sleeping bag divider: 0.8 oz
- Optional sleeping pad straps: 0.5 oz
- Volume: 65L (also available in 75L, 85, and 95L sizes)
- Frame: Aluminum hoop with sewn-in TPU stiffener and cross-piece stabilizer
- Bear canister compatibility: vertical or horizontal…wow
- Max Recommended Load: 50 lbs.
Backpack Storage and Organization
The 65L Baltoro can hold an enormous amount of gear, far more than you’d expect in a 65L backpack. I checked with Gregory about this and they don’t include the extension collar volume in their pack volume computations, which explains why the Baltoro can swallow so much gear (about 5-7 liters more than spec). In addition to the main compartment, the Baltoro also has 10 external pockets for storing gear: 3 pockets in the top lid, 3 pockets on the front of the pack, a side water bottle holster, a side mesh pocket, and 2 hip belt pockets. These pockets make it easy to pack and organize your gear, particularly smaller items that you want frequent and easy access to.
While the Baltoro is configured as a top loading backpack with a floating lid pocket, there are several different ways you can access gear stored in the pack without having to pop the lid and grope around blindly inside to find it. These extra openings can be a real convenience on high volume packs, so you can access gear without having to unpack it all.
The front of the pack can be opened with a large U-shaped zipper, panel-style, so you can pull out gear buried deep inside. There’s also a sleeping bag hatch that opens the bottom of the pack. There’s also an optional fabric “shelf” that you can attach to toggles inside the pack to create a separate sleeping bag compartment, but you get better space utilization if you remove it.
Hydration pocket/Day pack
The Baltoro comes with a removable hydration pocket in the main compartment that can serve double duty as a frameless day pack, complete with shoulder straps, but no hip belt. It weighs 4.2 ounces and can be removed to save weight, although it’s quite handy if you’re traveling and don’t want to lug your Baltoro with you when sightseeing. If you decide to remove it, there is a central webbing loop anchored to the top of the frame where you can hang a hydration reservoir, with two hydration ports that over the shoulder pads for routing a hose.
The lid has 2 “double-barrel” pockets in the top lid that split it down the middle, with zippers that run from front to back, instead of side by side. This forms two deep compartments that are handy for separating different gear types, like gloves and hats, from say, navigation equipment like a GPS, Satellite Messenger, map, and compass. It’s a great organizational feature that quickly becomes second nature to use. The top lid has a third pocket on the underside which has a key fob inside and makes a handy place to store the included rain cover, at least when it’s dry.
Front Panel Pockets
The front panel flap has three pockets built into it, an open mesh stuff-it pocket, and two more double-barrel pockets underneath it. The mesh pocket is good for storing wet gear like a water filter, rain layers, or snacks for fast access. The mesh is very durable, with small holes that resist snagging or tearing. The double-barrel pockets under the mesh pocket are long and tall, with enough capacity to hold an extra pair of shoes or sandals, one on each side. You can also easily fit a small tent body or a hammock and tarp in these pockets, so you can set them up in the rain without having to open your pack up and expose the contents.
The Baltoro is unusual because it doesn’t have symmetric side pockets. While there is a side mesh pocket on the left side of the pack, it’s not large enough to store a water bottle and is best used to capture the bottom of long skinny objects, like tent poles, glacier wants, or a collapsible fishing rod.
You can however store a water bottle on the right side of the pack in a water bottle holster, sized for a 1 liter Nalgene bottle, making it easy to reach back and grab or replace the water bottle while wearing the Baltoro. If you don’t want to use the holster, it folds away under a protective flap on the side of the pack. If you prefer carrying more water than that 1 liter, you have to use a hydration reservoir w/hose or pack extra bottles elsewhere on the pack. Not great for me personally, since I’m not a big fan of putting a hydration reservoir in my pack (for fear of leaks), but it’s not an issue if that’s your preference anyway.
Hip belt pockets
The hip belt comes with two pockets, one a water-resistant hip belt pocket with a waterproof zipper for quick access to your phone or camera and the other with a mesh front, that’s good for storing wet items or snacks. I wouldn’t count on the water-resistant pocket for hiking in all-day rain without wrapping my phone or camera in a ziploc bag, but the pocket is a good extra layer of defense.
Backpack Compression and External Attachment System
The Baltoro come with two tiers of side compression (webbing) straps that close with side-release buckles, making it easier to attach gear to the sides of the pack. The compression straps themselves are extra long, so they can be looped and connected around the front of the backpack, for example, if you want to attach snowshoes or a snowboard over the rear mesh pocket. It’s a clever capability you only find on the best backpacks.
Sleeping Pad Straps
The Baltoro also comes with sleeping pad straps that can be used to attach a foam sleeping pad or tent body to the underside of the backpack. These are girth-hitched to gear loops at the base of the pack and can be easily removed if they’re not needed. They can also be girth-hitched to loops on the optional Hydration pocket/Day pack to form a webbing hip belt because they have different male and female buckles at the ends.
Ice/Axe and Trekking Pole Holders
Webbing loops at the front corners make it easy to attach ice axes or trekking poles in transit, with separate elastic shaft holders, a detail which is left off many backpacks. While the elastic cord on the shaft holders isn’t long enough to stretch over a very long walking axe over 65cm, the cord is easily replaceable if you want to length it.
Extra Gear Loops
There are 12 gear loops sewn into the seams and distributed around key areas of the Baltoro for attaching additional gear to the outside of the pack. In addition to the 4 gear loops for sleeping pad straps at the base of the pack, there are 4 gear loops on the top lid which can be used for attaching a solar recharging panel, and 4 gear loops around the perimeter for attaching gear to the front of the pack. You can really load up the exterior of this pack if you have to go heavy or haul extra gear to a base camp.
Backpack Frame and Suspension
If the storage, organizational, compression, and external attachment features on the Baltoro haven’t wowed you, the backpack frame and suspension system surely will. This really is an internal-frame backpack designed for comfortably carrying heavy loads and dynamically adapting to a wide range of different body shapes.
The Baltoro frame is a wishbone-shaped aluminum hoop that channels the load to the center of the hip belt. It also has an additional horizontal stay for stiffness and is bolted to a TPU sheet sewn into the back of the pack. The combination is lightweight and flexible, but quite strong and won’t barrel into your back if you overstuff the main compartment.
The shoulder pads and hip belt are available in different sizes and replaceable, so you can dial a custom fit. The shoulder pads are also S-shaped, not J-shaped, so they can be used by women and men, including those with well-developed or broad chests. The shoulder pads slot into one of two positions on the pack, providing an additional 2 cm of vertical adjustment within each torso size to help dial in the torso length.
The top of the shoulder straps and the hip belt both are designed to dynamically pivot as your torso angle changes (Gregory calls it “automatic angle adjustment”), so the pack moves with you for scrambling or climbing and you don’t have to fight against its inertia. The pivot mechanism also provides an important fit benefit, even when you’re not moving, since the shoulder straps and hip belt will adapt to your body shape and curves. It’s an innovative way to address individual fit differences across a wide range of different body shapes.
The Baltoro’s hip belt has a pronounced lumbar pad which some people may find uncomfortable, especially since the wishbone frame concentrates the load at this point. But the lumbar pad has a padded shim that can be removed to reduce its intrusiveness and greatly relieves any lumbar discomfort. Equally innovative, is the textured silicon coating on the outside of the lumbar pad where it comes in contact with your waist. This coating prevents slippage down your back when the pack is heavily loaded.
While the back panel of the Baltoro isn’t a suspended mesh frame like the ones found on Osprey’s Anti-Gravity packs, it’s still quite comfortable and provides good ventilation with a mesh backing that wicks sweat away from your clothing. Cushy, wicking padding on the inside of the shoulder straps and hip belt also helps to channel moisture away from your clothing and body for increased comfort, while still maintaining moderate stiffness.
What’s the Baltoro feel like when it’s and bursting with gear? Surprisingly lightweight. The hip belt and frame do such a great job of transferring the load to your hips and keeping the center of gravity close to your spine/core muscles, that heavy loads really feel lighter. It’s an illusion of course, but one that makes hauling a heavy pack much more natural and comfortable.
|Make and Model||Price||Weight||Volume||Access||Pockets|
|REI Traverse 70||249||4 lb. 14 oz.||35, 70L, 85L||Top, front||11 exterior|
|Gregory Baltoro 75||330||4 lb. 15.4 oz.||65, 75, 85L||Top, front||10 exterior|
|Osprey Aether AG 70||310||5 lb. 3.4 oz.||60, 70, 85L||Top, front||7 exterior|
|Deuter Futura Vario 50+10||230||4 lb. 9oz.||60L||Top, front||11 exterior|
|Osprey Atmos AG 65||270||4 lb. 9 oz.||50, 65L||Top||8 exterior|
|REI Flash 65 Backpack||199||3 lb. 10 oz.||45, 65L||Top||6 exterior|
The Gregory Baltoro 65 is a highly configurable, high-volume backpack designed for carrying heavy loads. It’s loaded with features that make it easy to pack and organize your gear, with an innovative frame and suspension system that lets you dial in a custom fit. While carrying a heavy load with the Baltoro is exceptionally comfortable, the pack is definitely on the chunky side in terms of gear weight at 5 lbs 6.7 oz, fully loaded. While you can lower that to 4 lbs 13 ounces by removing all of the optional components, the Baltoro is still comparatively hefty compared to the Osprey Atmos AG 65 (4 lbs 9 oz), the REI Flash 65 (3 lbs 10 oz), and the Gregory Paragon 68 (3 lbs 10 oz).
But the advantage of the Baltoro over these other packs really boils down to the fit, especially the fit of the contoured hip belt and the shoulder straps, which are available in multiple sizes (look for the Gregory A3 QuickAwap Hip Belt and the A3 QuickSwap Harness which are available in 15 different sizing combinations, including men’s and women’s models. These coupled with the dynamically pivoting angles of the hip belt are much more sophisticated and personalized than adjustable length hip belts that you can lengthen or shorten in a single plane (like on the Atmos AG or Paragon). I was skeptical about the difference they made when I started testing out this pack, but they really are a marvel to use, one that makes heavy loads feel much lighter and more comfortable than you can imagine.
Disclosure: Gregory provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.
Published 2018.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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