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Gregory Jade 53 Women’s Backpack Review

gregory Jade 53 Backpack Review

Gregory Jade 53 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Fully Featured Lightweight Women's Pack

The Gregory Jade 53 Backpack has a low-profile ventilated suspension, female shoulder harness, hip belt, and lumbar platform that provide increased comfort in all terrain. A wide variety of pockets make the Jade easy to pack for many different kinds of trips from overnights and thru-hikes to international travel.

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The Gregory Jade 53 is a women’s ventilated backpack that features female friendly shoulder straps and a hip belt. Weighing 3 lbs 9 oz (3 lbs 1 oz minus optional extras) it’s one of the lightest weight but fully featured women’s packs available today and well worth a look if you’re shopping for a multi-day gender-specific pack. If you prefer a lightweight backpack with a lot of pockets and great organization, this is the pack for you.

Specs at a Glance

  • Volume: 53L
  • Weight:
    • Total: 3 lbs 9 oz.
    • Rain cover (optional): 3.7
    • Side kick pack (optional): 4.5 oz
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Type: Internal frame
  • Ventilation: Yes
  • Exterior pockets: 7+ main
  • Torso sizing:  XS: 14 – 16 inches; S: 16 – 18 inches; M: 18 – 20 inches
  • Waist Sizing:  XS: 26 – 45 inches S: 27 – 45 inches; M: 28 – 48 inches
  • Bear canister compatible: Vertical
  • Max recommended load: 35 lbs.

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Jade 53 is a top loading backpack with a floating lid, including two internal pockets, that can be completely removed or raised if you need to overfill the main compartment. An additional U-shaped front zipper provides panel-style access to the main compartment so you don’t have to grope blindly for items stored deep in your pack, making this a good pack for backpacking or travel.

The Jade 53 is a top loader is additional zippers that provide direct access to the main compartment
The Jade 53 is a top loader is additional zippers that provide direct access to the main compartment

The main compartment is huge and you can see all the way to the bottom. It’s big enough that I can easily pack my tent inside, with all my backpacking gear. The Jade 53 also has a separate sleeping bag zipper at the base of the pack along with a removable internal shelf, if you want to segregate your bag from the rest of your things.

The internal hydration pocket is removable and doubles as a day or summit pack
The internal hydration pocket is removable and doubles as a day or summit pack.

The internal hydration pocket doubles as a day pack with shoulder straps, making it perfect for travel or summit attempts when you don’t want to lug your entire pack with you everywhere you go. While I can see why some people would like having this extra pack, it seemed like extra weight to me.

The front stuff pocket is large enough to accommodate camp shoes or wet layers
The front stuff pocket is large enough to accommodate camp shoes or wet layers

If you have wet gear, camp shoes, or layers you want to stuff away, there’s an open stretch pocket on the front of the pack made with a durable but soft mesh material. Behind that is another hidden pocket, good for travel, that holds a rain cover. You don’t need to carry it if you hike in dry weather, but I can see how it would be useful for someone just getting started as a backpacker, since it’s one less thing you need to buy.

Stretch side water bottle pockets on the sides of the pack are also available to accommodate any size water bottle. The mesh isn’t super well protected at the base of the pockets, so you need to be careful not to rip them up when you place the pack on the ground.

Large hip belt pockets are big enough to store a smartphone or camera.
Large hip belt pockets are big enough to store a smartphone or camera.

One of the best features on the Jade is the size of the hip belt pockets, which are large enough to fit a camera and most smartphones. Both pockets close with zippers. One pocket is hard faced, while the other has a mesh front, best used to hold bars and other snacks.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Jade is a ventilated backpack with a suspended mesh panel that helps promote airflow behind your back to keep your shirt dry, so you feel less gross in the evening. But not all ventilated packs are alike. Some packs (most notably Osprey ventilated packs) suspend their mesh over huge curved cavities that jut into the main compartment and pull you backwards and off-balance when packed. No so with Gregory’s ventilated packs, which have a more modest curve and carry like normal backpacks. It’s a very noticeable difference that makes the Jade easier to pack and carry, especially if you need to carry a bear canister.

The Jade 53 has a suspended mesh back that ventilates your back and helps keep your shirt dry.
The Jade 53 has a suspended mesh back that ventilates your back and helps keep your shirt dry.

The Jade’s mesh is suspended over a lightweight wire frame that slots into the hip belt behind a well padded lumbar pad on the back of the hip belt. The frame has some spring to it so the pack moves with you as you hike, while the lumbar pad rests on your sacral arch and prevents the pack from slipping down your hips when it is heavily loaded. It’s a really nice feature that is often left off of lighter weight packs, but really improves pack performance and comfort. The lumbar pad was noticeable when I put on the pack for the first time, but I soon got used to it.

The Jade’s shoulder straps and hip belt are padded with soft die-cut foam. The sternum strap moves up and down on a rail so it’s easy to adjust its height while load lifters and hip belt control straps let you pull the pack closer to your torso for better control. I did experience some rubbing near the armpits that I couldn’t get rid of with minor adjustments, but you’ll need to try the Jade to see if it affects you in the same way.

External Attachment and Compression System

Sleeping pad straps let you attach extra gear to the bottom of the pack. The straps are removable if not needed.
Sleeping pad straps let you attach extra gear to the bottom of the pack. The straps are removable if not needed.

The Jade has two tiers of side compressions straps, which is pretty normal for a pack this size. There are also two sleeping pad straps at the bottom of the pack, which you can remove if they’re not needed, which I liked. There are two ice axe loops with elastic shaft holders on both sides of the front stuff pocket, that can serve double duty as trekking pole holders, along with numerous gear loops if you want to tie extra gear to the outside of the pack.

Comparable Women’s Backpacks

Make and ModelVentilatedWeightPrice
Arc'teryx Bora 49No4 lbs 11 oz499
Deuter AirContact Lite 45+10No3 lbs 12 oz200
Deuter Futura Vario 45+10L SLYes4 lbs 7 oz230
Gregory Amber 60No3 lbs 9 oz180
Gregory Deva 60Yes4 lbs 10 oz300
Gregory Jade 53Yes3 lbs 9 oz200
Gregory Maven 55No3 lbs 6 oz230
Osprey Aura AG 50Yes4 lbs 2 oz250
Osprey Ariel AG 55Yes4 lbs 14 oz290
Osprey Ariel Pro 65No3 lbs 12 oz375
Osprey Kyte 46Yes3 lbs 9 oz180
Osprey Viva 50Yes3 lbs 12 oz180
REI Flash 60Yes3 lbs 5 oz199
REI Trail 60No4 lbs 12 oz189
REI Traverse 65Yes4 lbs 11 oz249
The North Face Banchee 50Yes3 lbs 5 oz199
Two tiers of compression straps make it possible to last gear to the side of the pack, including snowshoes
Two tiers of compression straps make it possible to last gear to the side of the pack, including snowshoes.

Recommendation

The Gregory Jade 53 is a lightweight, multi-day women’s backpack with lots of organization options making it easy to use for many different kinds of trips. A lightweight wire frame and ventilated mesh back make it a comfortable pack to carry, with a female-specific suspension system cut to accommodate womens’ curves. Numerous pockets and access methods make it easy to pack the Jade and locate gear store in it, while tool holders and external straps make it easy to transport awkwardly sized objects. Weighing just 3 lbs 9 oz, the Jade 53 is one of the lightest, fully featured women’s backpacks available. It is also available in a several narrow torso ranges, so you can dial in a good fit.

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.

Gregory provided a backpack for this review.

Published 2018.

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10 comments

  1. Thank you for the review. It sounds like an excellent, well-designed backpack, and I would definitely consider it if I were in the market for a pack. I especially like the big hip belt pockets that fit a cellphone – they are so useful!

    • I was impressed by how much Beth likes it. She keeps muttering in delight, “cavernous, cavernous.” Sounds like it holds a lot.

    • Yes, the hip pockets were pleasantly “roomy”… and the pack, also “roomy,” allowed me to pack ALL of my backpacking gear on the inside. I really enjoyed this aspect of the pack.

  2. So nice to see a women’s specific gear review, thanks Beth and Philip! I love Gregory women’s packs, own 3 of various sizes (Deva, Jade, Maven). The Maven 55 is the one I settled on for backpacking after reading Section Hiker review…the Jade 53 seems similar with perhaps added benefits of more ventilation and bigger hip belt pockets. I’m also intrigued by the newest lightweight pack, the Octal…wondering how it stacks up to the Maven, other than being lighter?

    • I’ve been using Gregory packs for years now. The Octal, at almost a pound lighter, will be interesting to check out.

    • I bought the Octal for my wife, and she loves it! She says it’s the best pack she’s ever tried and that includes the GG Blaze, Crown2 38, and Deva.

  3. I am absolutely partial to any denomination Jade, own a 34 and 38. After several years of ill or non-fitting backpacks stumbled on the Jade 34 as a heavily discounted clearance item at EMS. What an aha effect when I put this loaded pack on. Bought the 38 just in case and used it in winter with all necessary winter equipment. It seems to be more roomy than the difference of just 4l indicated. I can only agree on nearly all terms of 53 review to fit the 38 as well. Also own an REI Traverse 65 and a Deuter AirContact 70, which I haven’t used that often as appropriate situations haven’t arisen so far. For backpacking in NH and thereabouts the Jade 53 has been on my list since a while. Great timing for your appreciated Jade review. Also thanks for this, past and future women specific reviews and articles.

    • Having used a larger Gregory for years, I tried a smaller Jade 34, and enjoyed how it fit on my smaller frame. Have worn it out pretty good! Having enjoyed the newer Jade 53, and how easy it is to get items ‘in and out,’… I’m contemplating making this my winter pack for the upcoming season.

  4. Thanks for the review. And I’m glad to learn I’m not the only person who has multiple Jade packs! I’ve got a Jade 28 and 38, plus a Deva 70 that I bought when my kids were smaller and I had to carry more of their gear. Now that they can carry the their own, I’m thinking about downsizing to a Jade 53 or Deva 60. So my questions is this… I love the Deva because, while heavy, it’s just so darn comfortable. Does the Jade 53 carry as comfortably as a Deva? I’m curious about how the Octal compares to those two, too.

    Philip, it was lovely to meet you in person on the Brookside on Monday! Thanks for chatting with me!

    • Kate, great running into you too. I’ve only used the men’s versions of these Gregory packs, which are quite similar the the women’s. The Baltoro (Deva) is exquisitely comfortable and nothing matches its comfort. But it’s also intended for heavier loads. The Optic (Octal) is far less padded but also quite comfortable since you’ll probably carry less with it.

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