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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 / Model||Weight||Adjustable Torso Length|
|Osprey Exos 58||2 lbs 13 oz / 1276g||Yes|
|Gregory Focal 58||2 lbs 9.3 oz / 1171g||No|
|Osprey Levity 60||1 lb 15.2 oz / 885g||No|
|Zpacks Arc Blast 55||1 lb 3.9 oz / 565g||Yes|
|Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60||1 lb 3.6 oz / 556g||Yes|
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.
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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