Gregory Focal 58 Backpack Review

Gregory Focal 58 Backpack Review

The Gregory Focal 58 Backpack is a lightweight ventilated backpack weighing 2 lbs 9.3 oz / 1.17 kg that is designed for general backpacking and thru-hiking. It’s an internal frame backpack with a 360-degree wire perimeter frame, a floating top lid, load lifters, side water bottle pockets, an open front stretch pocket, with a pair of large hip belt pockets. Two tiers of side compression straps make it painless to strap gear to the outside of the pack and the main compartment is large enough to store a BV500 bear canister vertically or horizontally, making it a flexible gear hauler.

Specs at a Glance

  • Mfg. Weight: 2 lbs 9.3 oz /1.17 kg
  • Weighed (size Med): 2 lbs 11.1 oz / 1222g with floating lid (minus speed lid)
  • Optional component weights
    • Floating lid: 4.1 oz
    • Speed lid: 1.3 oz
  • Volume: 58L (also available in 48L size)
  • Type: Internal frame, Perimeter Wire with Anti-barrelling Stay
  • Ventilated: Yes
  • Pockets: 5 closed including main, 3 open
  • Hydration compatible: Yes (internal elasticated pocket)
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Rain cover: No
  • Gender: Men’s (Women’s model is called the Facet 55)
  • Sizes: S (Torso: 16-18″, Hip: 27-45″), M (Torso: 18-20″, Hip: 28-48″), L (Torso: 20-22″, Hip: 30-53″)
  • Materials: 100D and 210D High-Density Nylon with 45% Recycled Content and DWR; the bottom of the pack has 2 x 210D HD Nylon layers.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Gregory Focal 58 is an internal frame pack with a 360-degree perimeter wire frame that gives it good rigidity despite its low weight. The frame has a horizontal back-stay to prevent anti-barrelling so that the back panel doesn’t round when the pack is overstuffed, and you don’t feel hard objects like a bear canister poking you in the back.

The Focal 58 is a standard lightweight pack with a top lid, side mesh pockets, and a front stretch pocket.
The Focal 58 is a standard lightweight pack with a top lid, side mesh pockets, and a front stretch pocket.

The Focal 58 is ventilated so that air can pass behind your back and help you stay drier in hot or humid weather. The back suspended mesh is seamlessly integrated with the hip belt providing excellent comfort. The shoulder straps and hip belt are not actually anchored to the frame but to the tightly stretched mesh so the pack moves with your shoulders and hips more dynamically, something that Gregory calls their FreeFloat suspension. While this increases comfort, it limits the frame’s ability to transfer weight to the hip belt. It’s barely noticeable under 30-35 lbs, but the pack gets increasingly ungainly if you try to load it up much heavier.

The mesh back is floats over the ventilation cavity and is seamless for increased comfort
The mesh back floats over the ventilation cavity and is seamless for increased comfort.

The shoulder straps and hip belt are covered in mesh with pre-curved padding weather. Both shoulder straps have 2 elastic hose keepers for a hydration system, which can double as sunglass holders or act as anchors for accessory pockets. The sternum strap is rail-based for ease of adjustment with an integrated whistle and large clip that can be used while wearing lightweight gloves. The pack comes with load lifters that are anchored to the frame and shoulder straps for precise control.

The hip belt has two large pockets that can be used to store a smartphone and other trail essentials. The pockets have large zipper pulls attached which are easy to use wearing gloves. The hipbelt has one large center buckle and pull forward straps that provide a mechanical advantage.

The hip belt pockets are enormous - with room for a Smartphone, 3 ProBars, and more!
The hip belt pockets are enormous – with room for a Smartphone, 3 ProBars, and more!

I was particularly impressed by the hip belt sizing, despite the fact that the hip belt isn’t adjustable in length but pegged to the torso length. The hip belt of the size medium Focal 58 fits me perfectly, the hip belt pockets are positioned where they are easily reachable and not positioned too far back.

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Focal 58 has a floating lid so you can scrunch gear underneath it, like this bear canister.
The Focal 58 has a floating lid so you can scrunch gear underneath it, like this bear canister.

The Focal 58 has a floating top lid with two zippered pockets, one on the top and one on the underside of the lid. Floating lids are great because you can scrunch gear under them that is too bulky to hold inside your backpack. As noted above, a BV500 bear canister fits vertically as well as horizontally in the pack’s main compartment, with room to spare. It can also be stored under the pack’s top floating lid which is wide enough to cover the ends of a BV500 so it doesn’t slide out sideways.

That said, the pack becomes noticeably top-heavy and harder to control if a bear canister is packed under the lid. If you have to pack a canister, I’d recommend packing it horizontally in the main compartment and closer to your core muscles. There’s still plenty of room to pack your gear inside, even with the canister in this position.

The Focal 58 comes with a speed lid (Gregory calls it an “ultralight weather flap”), which is just a flat piece of fabric without pockets, that can replace the floating lid if you don’t need it. The speed lid is necessary to cover the drawstring closure at the top of the main compartment so dust and rain don’t get inside. The speed lid can also be used to hold a bear canister on top of the pack, but it has a smaller surface area than the floating lid and is less secure.

The pack has a front stuff-it pocket that’s good for holding extra layers or wet gear.
The pack has a front stuff-it pocket that’s good for holding extra layers or wet gear.

The main compartment has an internal hydration pocket and a hook for hanging a reservoir, with two hydration ports located between the shoulder straps. The front of the pack has a large open pocket which is solid-faced in the middle by has two stretch panels along the side to expand. There are no drainage ports a the bottom of this pocket, however, so it may leak into the pack seams if you store wet objects inside. We recommend using a pack liner if it rains where you hike.

Gregory Focal 58 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Lightweight ventilated backpack

The Gregory Focal 58 is a great lightweight pack for multi-day backpacking and thru-hiking on maintained trails. The ventilated suspended mesh back makes it cooler to wear in hot weather and the ability to store a bear canister horizontally is a huge win

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When comparing other packs to the Focal 58, you need to understand how Gregory computes their pack volumes. Unlike other companies, most notably the smaller ultralight “cottage” backpack manufacturers, Gregory only measures the volume of the closed pockets on their packs and not the open pockets (this is actually an industry standard). In this case: the main compartment to the top of the frame, the top lid pockets, and the hip belt pockets are counted, but not the extension collar, the open side mesh pockets, or the open front pocket. I mention this because you can fit an enormous amount of gear into the closed storage areas of the Focal 58 and much more than backpacks from other manufacturers that include both closed and open pockets in their volume calculations.

The side mesh pockets are large and tall. They can easily fit two side-by-side Smartwater bottles.
The side mesh pockets are large and tall. They can easily fit two side-by-side Smartwater bottles.

There are two side mesh pockets that can be used to hold water bottles. They’re very large and tall and can easily fit two side-by-side SmartWater bottles. They’re open at the top and have a second side opening in the front above your hips. While you can’t reach back to pull a bottle out of the top of the side pockets, you can reach back and pull a bottle out of the side opening, even if it’s stored vertically in the pocket. You can also slide it back in, and re-orient it vertically. I’ve never particularly liked side pockets that have a side opening like this, but they work well, you adapt to them quickly, and bottles don’t fall out of them when the pack tips over.

The Focal has two side compression straps. the bottom strap can be route over or through the side mesh pocket.
The Focal has two side compression straps. The bottom strap can be routed over or through the side mesh pocket.

External Attachment Points and Compression System

The Gregory Focal 58 has two tiers of compression straps on the side, both configured in a Z-shaped pattern, that can be tensioned but don’t have buckles. The bottom compression straps can be routed over or through the side mesh pockets and are long enough that they can be used to lash a sleeping pad or a tent body horizontally across the back of the pack. The side compression straps can also be used to lash your trekking poles to the sides of the pack quite easily.

The side compression straps can serve double duty for holding a pad or tent body.
The side compression straps can serve double duty for holding a pad or tent body.

The pack has a single ice axe loop at the base and an elastic shaft holder which is a nice touch because a lot of manufacturers leave it off. There are additional webbing loops distributed around the front open pocket on the lid as well where you can hang accessories or add on additional cordage.

 Comparable backpacks

The Gregory Focal 58 reviewed here is very similar to the Osprey Exos 58. The biggest difference between the two packs is that the Focal 58 is lighter weight, has larger hip belt pockets, and has an easier-to-use compression system. That said, the Exos 58 has an adjustable torso length in addition to being ventilated, which is a big value add.

Make / ModelWeightAdjustable Torso Length
Osprey Exos 582 lbs 13 oz / 1276gYes
Gregory Focal 582 lbs 9.3 oz / 1171gNo
Osprey Levity 601 lb 15.2 oz / 885gNo
Zpacks Arc Blast 551 lb 3.9 oz / 565gYes
Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 601 lb 3.6 oz / 556gYes

Both Gregory and Osprey sell other ventilated, suspended mesh backpacks, but with the exception of Zpacks ventilated backpacks, including the Arc Haul 62, your options for lightweight (sub-3lb) ventilated backpacks with suspended mesh frames in a 60L size are quite limited.

Recommendation

The Gregory Focal 58 is a ventilated, suspended mesh backpack with a lightweight perimeter frame that weighs 2 lbs 9.3 oz. The pack’s setup is fairly conventional with large hip belt pockets, large side pockets, an expandable front pocket, and a floating lid with two large zippered pockets. A lightweight replacement lid is included if you want to save a few ounces. While the main compartment is quite large and can store a ton of gear, the pack sits close to your hips (for a ventilated pack) making it easy to carry and pack. We also think the ability to carry a large canister horizontally inside is a huge win.

Who is the Gregory Focal 58 for? It’s a great lightweight pack for multi-day backpacking and thru-hiking on maintained trails. The 58-liter size (30-35 lbs max recommended load) is perfect for people who are in the process of replacing their heavier gear with lighter weight alternatives and still prefer a pack with top lid pockets over a roll-top, or lightweight backpackers who need to up to a week’s worth of food in addition to their gear. The external nylon fabric is sufficiently durable for trail use, but you can expect to snag and wear holes through the side mesh pockets eventually.

Disclosure: Gregory donated a backpack for this review. 

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42 comments

  1. I have the Gregory Paragon and snagged the mesh on a bush, creating a slight rip. Gregory told me they do NOT repair mesh, even for a fee.

    I also have an old Osprey EXOS (previous model) and it’s like a sea of patches (including the mesh) after I sent it into Osprey to be repaired.

    • Can’t say I’m that impressed with their warranty, but on balance, a lot of other companies (like the cottages) are even worse.
      If you like mesh, buy some tenacious tape and shoegoo. The pair go a long way to repairing mesh and rips in backpacks.

      There is a company called ruggedthread.com that does repair mesh.

      • I got a rip clean through the bottom of my Gregory Citro30 daypack on one of the first hikes with it. Contacted support and they told me their “Lifetime Warranty” was on the manufacture of the pack, not the pack itself. Since the rip was not a manufacturing defect, it was not covered. Lol, thanks alot, Greg. A circular patch of Tenacious Tape on the inside and outside and problem solved, but I hear about people contacting Opsrey about a broken zipper and getting an entirely new pack mailed out to them for free. Makes me jealous a bit, have to say.

      • Sure its on me, I’m saying thats when I found out their Lifetime Warranty isn’t as lifetimey as some of the other pack companies out there.

        “Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday.”

        • Osprey is exceptional in that regard although they’re not as generous as they once were. They were just acquired by a consumer goods holding company, so we’ll have to see if that generosity survives the acquisition.

  2. I greatly appreciate your habit of reporting the off-trail suitability of packs. In junior high, as we called it then, I got in the habit of taking off through the farm fields and brush behind our house, and have never fully given it up. Thanks.

  3. This looks like a great pack. Interesting that Osprey has apparently listened to customer feedback and is bringing back hip belt pockets on the Exos, hopefully in a reasonable size with better zippers. Do you have any idea when the new Exos is expected to be available?

  4. Interesting how comments are not on the tested pack (very thorough review), but on mfg warranties. Believe it or not, claims depend on the human handling the paperwork. Ive heard plenty of pos and neg on Osprey and Gregory as part of the industry.
    If you need a bullet-proof pack, get a Baltoro. Philip knows what he is talking about. UL doesn’t mean Bushwhack. Heed his words!

  5. Would it be possible to securely attach shoulder pockets, such as gossamer gear pouches, waymark bottle pouch or Justin’s ultralight?

  6. One thing I did not like about the Exos 58 was that, due to its ventilation system, it has (as you described in your review) “a tendency to pull you backward and off-balance” if it is heavily loaded. Does the Focal 58 do the same? If not, the pack sounds great – particularly because it can hold a bear canister horizontally.

    • Not as much. The ventilation cavity is only about 1.5″ deep at its widest, so it isn’t very deep and you can pack much closer to your core. You still want to put your densest items right behind your mid-back but the pack carries very nicely.

  7. I really wish that more packs had the shoulder strap pockets sewn in like Six Moons. My perfect pack would be a 45 liter wide enough for a BV 4500 to fit horizontally; side water pockets and frame like an REI FLASH; hip belt and shoulder strap pockets like Six Moons; front mesh pockets like Gossamer Gear; and a rolltop like HMG.. All at about 2#.

  8. Seems like an update to the Optic which you reviewed last year. The Optic is now on sale and I can’t seem to see any advantages that the Focal has over the Optic especially since people on the Interwebs say you can also fit a BV500 horizontally in both the Optic 48 and 58. Am I missing something?

  9. “An EXOS 58 by any other name…” Thanks for this very complete review Phil.

    Seriously Gregory make VERY high quality packs with excellent designs. I had a Greogory Wind River internal frame pack decades ago and when the metal buckles began to go I sent it back to Gregory at their direction and they replace buckles plus some straps! All at no cost but one way shipping.

  10. Folks expecting any company to repair or replace a product due to abuse, are obviously not running a profitable business. Defects are one thing, ripping a hole in a pack, sleeping bag, jacket, ect. By not being careful with it, mishandling, or just all around abuse..is not the fault of the product or the manufacturing process. Give credit to companies like the “good old days” Craftsman, or todays Darn Tough.. who would repair or replace a product regardless of how it was damaged or just basically wore out. Its hard to stay in business if you give things away on request.

  11. Could you tell us more about how this compares to the Optic?

    The sales on the Optic, though they won’t last long, make it almost a hundred dollars less than this pack right now.

    I knew someone who had trouble with the hip belt coming unstitched on the Optic; that, at least, looks less likely with this design…

  12. I was wondering if you might be able to provide some insight on this Gregory pack compared to the REI Flash 55. Thanks!

    • First off – the Flash 55 is a rolltop so you can remove the top lid. If you remove all of the annoying optional pack mods – its weight drops 7 oz, so it also becomes lighter weight. It’s also not ventilated with a suspended mesh frame like the Focal/Facet. Yes, there is some ventilation but the Flash does not have a large ventilation cavity like the Focal/Facet (or Exos) and is therefore not as good in that respect. They’re really different packs – the Flash is much more like an ultralight-style pack.

  13. I have the flash 55 and love that pack but I also have had several Gregory packs and loved them all both fit and feel including the Optic. That being said, is it redundant to use both the Focal and the Flash? Like you said, they are really different packs just curious if you think they are both different and versatile enough to have both in the arsenal?

  14. Lol, not literally is it ok, more specifically do you think the feature set is unique enough for these two packs specifically. They seem like they are similar but different enough but was just curious your thoughts.
    Btw, just did an overnight Sunday-Monday at Zealand Falls hut, what an awesome experience in the winter, we had the whole place to ourselves with perfect trail conditions…

  15. Good day! Do you think that the frame not anchored to the hip belt is kind of a deal breaker? Or is it not that noticeable. It seems like they missed the mark on that as I thought that was one of the purposes of the frame… To distribute the weight to the hips. Thanks!

    • I don’t really think it matter with the weights that you’ll be carrying with this pack. For what it’s worth the new Exos 58 hip belt coming out next month doesn’t attach to the frame either. You have to remember that you don’t even really need a hip belt until you get over 25 pounds of weight.

  16. Bought the Focal 58 to replace my Atmos 65. Netted an almost 2lb savings. Gear fit perfectly; pockets and attachments points are great. Not a fan of the one sided / single trekking pole attachment.

    Took it out for 8 mile shake down hike with a full 4 day set up. All started great until around mile 4. I started dealing the top bends of the frame rubbing/digging into my back and shoulders. Not awful but not something your body can not sustain for respective days.

    Got home and sure enough, two pissed off raised areas on both of my top shoulder area. Inspected the pack and found the top corners of the frame are pronounced, a little rough and with only the outer pack material between you and the frame.

    Double checked my torso length measurements before buying and the medium was what was recommended.

    Will be reaching out to Gregory for their input and possible solutions. I thought I had found my thru hiking pack for 2023. Not so sure now.

  17. I see that you’re wearing snowshoes in one of the photos. Were you able to strap the snowshoes to the backpack when not wearing them? I have this backpack, so I’d like to know if there is a good way to carry snowshoes with it.

  18. If comfort was top priority ( i know thye are different packs ) what would you say feels better on a trip for sheer comfort. The focal? or a Gorilla?

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