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Gregory Jade 53 Women’s Backpack Review

The Gregory Jade 53 (2019 model) is a ventilated, adjustable-length backpack that weighs 3 lbs 6 oz. While the Jade 53 has been on the market for many years, this latest version has been completely redesigned. The pack frame has an adjustable torso length so you can get a personalized fit as well as a ventilated frame, so you’ll stay cooler and sweat less. There are other improvements, including enlarged hip belt pockets, a pivoting and flexible hip belt, and more durable external mesh.

Gregory Jade 53 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Ideal Weekend Backpack

The Gregory Jade 53 has been completely redesigned with a new ventilated and adjustable-length frame. Fully featured, it provides top and panel access with numerous pockets to keep you comfortable and organized on the trail.

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Specs at Glance

  • Weight: 3 lbs 6 oz
  • Volume (liters): 53L
  • Gender: Female, the men’s model is the Zulu 55
  • Frame type: Internal, Perimeter
  • Adjustable Length: Yes
  • Ventilated: Yes
  • Bear Canister Compatible: Yes
  • Rain Cover: Included, weighs 3.2 oz.
  • Pack Access: Top/Panel/Sleeping Bag
  • Exterior Pockets: 6
  • Pack Size Tested: XS
  • Torso Sizes:  (XS/S: 14-18 inches),  (S/M: i16-20 inches),
  • Hip belt sizes: (XS/S: 27-46 inches) (M/L: 29-51 inches), S/M: 27-46 inches
  • Pack body: 210-denier nylon/210-denier high-tenacity nylon
  • Pack Bottom: 630D high density Nylon / 135D high density Polyester
  • Max recommended carry weight: 35-40 lbs

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Gregory Jade 53 has a new perimeter frame suspension system that replaces the criss-cross wireframe of the previous model. The new frame has an adjustable length torso, so you can dial in a custom fit that fits your exact body measurements, even if you’re between sizes.  It’s also ventilated with a mesh backing that gently wraps around your waist and back. I like that I can keep the pack snug, and yet not have the weight bearing down on my shoulders. While the cavity behind the mesh is curved to enable airflow, it’s doesn’t intrude noticeably into the pack’s main compartment or interfere with packing.

The Gregory Jade 53 has a ventilated women’s specific frame, shoulder straps, and hip belt.

The wire frame is a 360-degree loop that terminates in the hip belt behind your hips for excellent load transfer. It flexes naturally when you walk and scramble, providing excellent torsional flex and stability. The bottom lumbar area at the base of the frame is covered with free-floating padding that adapts naturally to your body shape and doesn’t cause any unwanted pressure in this sensitive area. I like how my hips have complete freedom of movement for climbing and scrambling across uneven terrain without feeling any restriction.

You can adjust the torso length by adjusting the distance between your shoulders and hips

The torso length is easily adjustable by releasing the velcro yoke that connects the shoulder straps to the frame. When sized properly, most of the pack weight will rest on your hips and only lightly touch the top of your shoulders. Sizing is marked on the yoke so you can keep track of your preferred torso length and adjust it accordingly. The velcro holds firmly when reattached and won’t slip under load. The shoulder straps are connected to the frame by load lifter straps and are covered by the same breathable mesh covering the hip belt. The shoulder pads are designed for women with soft interior foam and a sliding sternum strap. Both shoulder straps have external sunglass holders and hydration loops.

The Jade 53 hipbelt has a center buckle and closes with pull-forward straps. Internal foam cutouts in the pre-curved hipbelt wings wrap above and below your hip bones to prevent slipping and help dry perspiration. When adjusted correctly, I like how the hipbelt and frame keep the weight on my hips and off my back.

The Gregory is a top-loader with top, panel, and bottom hatch access

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Jade 53 has a floating top lid pocket and drawstring top access. It also has a U-Zip front opening providing panel-style access and zipper at the base that provides access to a sleeping bag compartment with an optional divider.

The pocket on the underside of the lid holds a rain cover

The top opening is very big making it easy to see the contents inside. The top lid has two zippered pockets, one on top and one on the underside of the lid where the optional rain cover is stored. It’s nice having the two pockets, as I like to store personal items in the underside pocket that I don’t want to lose or that I need to keep separate.

The floating lid can be raised four inches if you need to overstuff the pack and use the extra extension collar at the top of the main compartment. You can also use the lid to hold over-size items between the lid and the top of the main compartment, like a sleeping pad, rope, or tent body.

The pack’s main compartment has a hydration pocket and an optional sleeping bag shelf if you want to create a separate area at the base of the pack for extra organization. An external zipper provides direct access for extra convenience.

A sleeping bag hatch provides additional gear access
The front stretch mesh pocket is surrounded by a zipper. Opening it provides panel access to the pack’s interior. Panel access is very convenient for travel because you can access deeply buried gear without having to unpack the pack’s contents. There’s also a separate sleeping bag hatch at the base of the pack with an optional shelf.

Front panel-based access lets you retrieve deeply buried items without unpacking the backpack

The pack’s two mesh pockets that can be used to hold gear or water bottles. The mesh covering these pockets is quite robust and tear-resistant. The front of these pockets has a holster-style opening so you can reach back and pull a bottle out one-handed or replace it while wearing the pack. There’s also a loop on the pocket that you can clip your water bottle too. This feature works best with 1L Nalgene bottles: longer soda and water bottles have a tendency to pop out of the pockets when you bend over. You can still carry taller water bottles, but you have to position them vertically toward the rear of the side pockets to do so.

The side water bottle pockets are easy to reach and hold bottles horizontally or vertically

The front stretch mesh pocket is fairly narrow and best used for storing layers and snacks. Unfortunately, it’s not large enough to store a pair of crocs in, for instance. It too is covered with the same heavy-duty mesh found on the side pockets, with a small weave that won’t catch on overhanging shrubs and vegetation.

Finally, the hip belt has two oversized zippered pockets that can fit a smartphone, point and shoot camera, or snack bars. Both are hard-faced for better durability and water resistance.

The Jade 53 has two tiers of compression straps

 Backpack Compression System

The Jade 53 has two tiers of side compression straps that both close with easy to open and close squeeze buckles. I like how the lower compression straps are set up to pass through or over the pocket. This makes it a much easier to secure bulky gear, like snowshoes, to the sides of the pack.

A trekking pole holder is included.

You can also carry items between the top of the main compartment and the floating lid such as sleeping pads, tent bodies, or rope coils. The Jade also comes with a pair of sleeping pad straps. These are not removable, but it’s still a nice feature that helps extend the range of this 53L backpack.

The pack has a single ice ax loop with an elastic shaft holder that can also be used to secure trekking poles on the front of the pack. In addition, there are four gear loops on the top lid that could be used to hang a solar panel or secure a climbing helmet to the top of the pack.

Comparable Ventilated and Adjustable-Length Women’s Backpacks

The number of ventilated and adjustable-length backpacks available today is quite small, as you can see below. The number of sub-4 pound packs in this category is ever smaller, but includes the Gregory Jade 53.

Make / ModelWeightPrice
Osprey Aura AG 504 lbs 2 oz$240
Osprey Renn 503 lbs 5 oz$155
Osprey Ariel AG 554 lbs 14 oz$290
Deuter Futura Vario4 lbs 7 oz$230
Gregory Jade 533 lbs 6 oz$200

Recommendation

My very first backpack was a Gregory Jade. That was years ago, but it’s nice to see how far the comfort has improved on this Jade 53 and how much lighter the backpack weighs. Weighing 3 lb 6 oz, the Jade 53 great pack for overnight and multi-day trips backpacking trips or overseas travel, with a variety of organization options and access methods that make it easy to pack and extract gear. It’s well balanced with a back-hugging ventilated and adjustable frame that doesn’t lean into to much or pull me backward, like so many other ventilated backpacks. But the thing about the Jade 53 that really stands out for me is how natural it feels when you strap it on, especially the hip belt. It’s ideal for any woman who wants a reliable, comfortable weekend backpack.

Disclosure: Gregory provided the author with a backpack for this review.

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About the author

Beth Zimmer is an expert backpacker who's backpacked all over New England and Eastern Canada, with a long list of hiking accomplishments to her name. She's section hiked the New Hampshire Appalachian Trail, climbed the New England Hundred Highest and the New Hampshire 200 highest (mostly bushwhacks), redlined the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles), and climbed the White Mountain 4000 footers several times over. Beth also teaches GPS and off-trail navigation classes as a volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club and is co-chair of the New Hampshire Excursions Committee, which oversees all volunteer hiking and leadership training activities. When she's not hiking and backpacking, Beth resides in New Hampshire where she can usually be found sipping coffee and planning her next adventure.

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