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Gregory Optic 58 Backpack Review

Gregory Optic 58 Backpack Review

Gregory Optic 58 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Ultralight Ventilated Backpack

The Gregory Optic 58 is an ultralight ventilated backpack that weighs close to 2.5 pounds. A stiff internal frame provides excellent comfort and efficient handling under heavy loads.

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The Gregory Packs Optic 58 is an ultralight backpack with a ventilated frame that helps evaporate back sweat and keep your shirt dry when hiking. Weighing 40-45 ounces, the Optic is a fully featured backpack with a lightweight wire frame, large hip belt pockets, an optional speed lid, front mesh pocket, and a max recommended load of 35 pounds. A women’s version of this lightweight backpack is also available called the Gregory Octal 55.

If you’re looking at the Osprey Exos or Levity backpacks because they have ventilated frames, I’d encourage you to compare them against the Gregory Optic 58. While it has a more conventional appearance, the Optic carries heavier loads closer to your back and core than the Exos or Levity, making it much more responsive when scrambling or hiking uphill, in addition to having hip belt pockets and a comfortable hip belt.

Specs at a Glance

  • Volume (L): 58 (size large, tested)
  • Weight with speed lid, no top lid, no rain cover: 40 oz.
  • Weight with top lid, no speed lid, no rain cover: 41.95
  • Weight with top lid, rain cover: 45.35 oz.
  • Sizing:
    • (Large:) Torso: 20″-22″; Hipbelt: 32″-53″ – tested
    • (Medium:) Torso: 18″-20″; Hipbelt: 28″-48″
    • (Small:) Torso: 16″-18″; Hipbelt: 26″-45″
  • Frame: Perimeter Wire, Ventilated with Mesh
  • Fabric: 100 denier nylon, 210 denier nylon bottom
  • Max Recommended Load (lbs): 35
  • Gender: Men’s (the Gregory Octal 55 is the Optic’s female variant)

Backpack Organization and Storage

The Optic 58 is a conventional top loading backpack that closes with a drawstring. It has a top lid with two pockets, one external and one under the lid for storing small items like gloves, maps, and keys. The top lid can be replaced with a speed lid that does not have pockets, but covers the drawstring opening to block out rain or dust. While the top lid is technically a floating lid, it has very short straps which make it less suitable for compressing bulky gear against the top of the main compartment, which is how floating lids are normally used.

The side mesh water bottle pockets are large enough to carry two bottles
The side mesh water bottle pockets are large enough to carry two bottles

The pack has a front stretch mesh pocket which is good for storing layers or wet items and two mesh side water bottle pockets. The bottom of the side pockets is not reinforced with solid fabric and I’d expect them to get torn up pretty quickly with backcountry use. The side bottle pockets are large enough to fit two 1L Smartwater bottles, but they have holster-style front cutouts so I’d be careful about what you put in them, lest it fall out. While you can pull a bottle stored in the side pocket out through the holster-hole, you need to take the pack off to get it back into the side pocket. If you prefer to use a hydration system, there is a large hydration pocket in the main compartment and a central hang loop to keep it vertical.

The top lid can be swapped out for a speed lid without pockets to cover the drawstring closure at the top of the main compartment
The top lid can be swapped out for a speed lid without pockets to cover the drawstring closure at the top of the main compartment

The hip belt has two large zippered solid pockets with large zipper pulls, so you can open them when wearing gloves. The pockets are large enough to store cell phones, a point and shoot camera, or snack bars. There are no pockets on the shoulder straps.

External Attachment Points and Compression

The Optic 58 has side compression straps on each side of the pack – a top strap and a bottom one – threaded in a diagonal pattern. They work “ok” as compression straps, but the diagonal pattern and the lack of side release buckles makes it difficult to use them for holding snowshoes and other larger items along the sides of the pack. This is less of an issue for three season use and more of a winter backpacking concern.

You can attach a foam pad or tent body to the back:bottom of the pack, something that's missing on a lot of backpacks
You can attach a foam pad or tent body to the back:bottom of the pack, something that’s missing on a lot of backpacks

It’s possible to attach a sleeping pad or tent to the bottom/back of the pack with accessory webbing. This is a nice feature to have on a backpacking pack and one that’s often missing on 60 liter backpacks. The bottom side compression strap is threaded to come out the bottom and back of the side compression pocket and has enough slack in it to hold a pad or tent, as shown here.

The pack also comes with a pair of ice axe loops that can also be used as trekking pole holders. Two adjustable elastic shaft/pole holders are included along the sides of the front mesh pocket, another feature that’s left off many packs.

Closeup of the webbing used to attach a pad or tent to the front of the pack
Closeup of the webbing used to attach a pad or tent to the front of the pack

If you want to rig up your own external attachment points there are four webbing loops on the corners of the front mesh pocket for this purpose. Just tie some elastic cord between them, add a cord lock to help tension it, and you can attach snowshoes or wet clothing to the back of the pack with ease. There are additional webbing loops on the top lid that can also be used to hang a solar panel when hiking someplace with sustained sunlight

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Gregory Optic 58 is a ventilated “trampoline-style” backpack that’s optimized for effective airflow behind your back.  Breathable mesh is suspended in front of the back panel creating a large ventilated space behind your back that’s designed to evaporate sweat before it can soak your shirt. The mesh is tightly stretched across the aluminum frame, hence the name, trampoline, which also serves to anchor the hip belt and load lifters. While many backpacks claim to provide foam air channels to facilitate ventilation, you really need a deep cavity behind shoulder straps to keep your back and shirt perspiration free.

The Optic 58 has a lightweight wire frame with horizontal reinforcements that help stiffen it up. The mesh trampoline is suspended from it, with a cavity that’s 1 to 2 inches deep behind it to facilitate air flow. You can feel the mesh on your back, but there’s no noticeable backwards pull to throw you off-balance when the pack is heavily loaded, and load transfer to the hip belt is really superb. Load lifters are included and anchored to the wire frame for maximum effectiveness.

The Gregory Optic 58 has a very responsive carry with a max recommended load of 30-35 pounds
The Gregory Optic 58 has a very responsive carry with a max recommended load of 30-35 pounds.

The hip belt has beefy hip belt pockets and is pre-curved to wrap around your hip bones. It’s covered with wicking mesh and has a slight lumbar pad at the rear, that’s well cushioned and hardly noticeable. The hip belt also has a pull forward cinch system that’s easy to tighten.

Recommendation

The Gregory Optic 58 is a fully featured ultralight ventilated backpack with several optional components that weighs 40-45.35 oz, depending on how you have it configured. Ventilated, trampoline style backpacks are desirable because they help reduce perspiration and keep your shirt dry when backpacking. Some ventilated frames can throw you off-balance because they shift your center of gravity behind your hips. That’s not the case with the Optic 58, which sits closer to your hips and core muscles where it can be carried more comfortably and efficiently.

Gregory has done a really nice job with the Optic 58 and demonstrated that you can make a fully featured, ventilated backpack that weighs close to 2 and 1/2 pounds. If you prefer a more conventional top-loading backpack but have been looking for one that’s under 3 pounds, I’d encourage you to put the Gregory Packs Optic 58 on your short list for serious consideration. I’m pretty impressed with this pack and thank the reader who encouraged me to review it.

Disclosure: The author purchased this pack with his own funds.

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Written 2018.

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59 comments

  1. Phil,

    Perhaps I missed it, but how is the pack adjustable? I’m trying to decide between the circuit and this. I really have never had a properly fitted pack and looking to shed weight.
    Thoughts?

    • I think you’re asking about the sizing. After matching your torso length, the key variable is hip belt length. I plan to write some more about this in the future. The key variable is not the total length of the hip belt but the part that is padded. The padding should wrap around the front of your hip bones. On this pack, the large I tested has a padded hip belt portion of 27”. Unfortunately NO manufacturers spec their hip belt length using this method. Regardless, you need to try both backs on to see if you’re comfortable in the. Size isn’t everything. It’s like buying a suit. Some work some don’t. The two pack you’ve mentioned are VERY different in how they feel because they have very different frame systems,

      • Sorry to be unclear, I meant to ask how do you adjust the torso size?
        I do appreciate your insight about the hip belt and do agree with you in that regards.

        Thank you

      • It’s a fixed length pack. You pick the right size based on your torso length and pull down on the shoulder straps to dial it in for your torso length. Luckily, they’re long enough to do that which is not always a given. If you want a great pack with an adjustable torso length – I’d recommend the Osprey Talus 44.
        https://sectionhiker.com/osprey-talon-44-backpack-review/
        While you can move the circuit hip belt up and down a few inches in its velcro sandwich, it’s really much less adjustable than a truly adjustable torso length pack.

    • I really love everything about this pack – it’s adjustable, lightweight and hugs your hips – except the durability of the plastic hardware is questionable. On the second day of backpacking (with only 28lb total pack weight), the plastic on the synch strap that goes over the top opening of the pack broke while synching it down. I called Gregory and they said to send it back to the retailer. I think Gregory went too far in trying to get this pack (size large) down to 2.52 lbs. I would love this pack if the hardware was more durable – everything about it is wonderful except for the cheap plastic. By the way, I love your site – very informative!

  2. What did you think of this one compared to the Paragon? I know you weren’t able to test the Paragon 58, which is the one I own. The Paragon 58 is rated to 50 lbs but it does weigh a little more than the Optic.

    • The ventilation on the Optic is a million times better. The Paragon 58 is fully adjustable – both torso and hip belt length. Otherwise they’re fairly similar in feature set. Pick which is more important to you.

  3. Zachary G Robbins

    How do you like this compared to similar weight/volume packs like the Crown 2, Circuit, Mariposa, etc.? Those are 3 I thought might be appropriate. I’m assuming you like this way better than the new Exos so I didn’t consider it.

    • It really depends what you’re looking for. Of those, I like the crown2 38 the best for general purpose 3 season east coast use, but I have preferences and gear requirements that might not be the same as yours. Yes, I like the Optic better than the Exos. I don’t like being pulled backwards and off balance by ventilated frames and the Optic doesn’t do that.

      It was a lot easier to match packs to people when they’re weren’t many good ones available. It’s much tougher today when so many are quite good.

      • You say that like it’s a bad thing! Ha!

      • I used to be able to respond to everyone who asked me which pack they should get, but now I can’t keep up with the requests.
        There’s no one right answer…

      • Zachary G Robbins

        Sorry forgot to hit the appropriate reply button

      • It’s nice to see Gregory return from the dead with this pack and the Paragon. I seem to recall that Black Diamond had bought the company but they seem to be independent again and innovating. The Optic is a nice pack and a good alternative to the Exos. I doubt it will be smash hit though. Gregory’s marketing just sucks compared to the Osprey Machine. The specs for this pack aren’t on their web site or any of their retailers. I had to call Gregory customer support to get them. Seriously?

        As for how the Optic stands up to other lightweight packs, I don’t really see the backpack landscape in those terms. There are lots of good packs and people are not as choosy in what they actually buy as you might think. I try to educate interested buyers where I can, but what the great majority of people buy is often a matter of luck and what they can try on in a store.

      • Zachary G Robbins

        You are right about Gregory’s marketing and appeal. They barely pop into my head when looking for packs.

      • Gregory is owned by Samsonite now.

  4. Zachary G Robbins

    I was only curious how you think the new Gregory stands up to what many consider are the top lightweight manufacturer packs. (I’m excluding cuben fiber packs, I think they’re in a slightly separate category.) I have the Massdrop Crown X60 on the way so I’m not looking to buy. I never heard of this Gregory model until you posted it, but I can see it becoming a mainstay based on all the specs.

  5. Can you discuss room in terms of bear canister. Will this pack hold a BV-450 in the horizontal position?

    • I don’t have one, so I can’t tell you definitively. But I doubt it. Vertically, no problem. It can’t hold a Garcia horizontally. Only vertically.

      • According to the Gregory specs the pack is LG: 30 x 12.5 x 12.5. The BV-450 is reported as 8.7 x 8.3″, the BV500 is 8.7 x 12.7″ and the Garcia is 12 x 8.8″. So I can see where the BV500 would not fit but the other 2 should. My opinion is we should test before drawing a conclusion (Trust but verify…). Billy Bob

  6. Did you mean a PAS camera rather than one than a POS one?

  7. So much of backpacking seems to focus on removing weight. Does anyone prepare for backpacking via strength conditioning/training? If so what are the exercises and regimen?

  8. Thanks for the review. Question re: bear canisters

    You mention that the floating top lid has shorter straps. Are they so short that a bv500 probably wouldn’t fit underneath them or under the flap if you decide to go without the lid? I prefer to carry an empty canisters outside the pack and just load it up at the end of the day. Thanks!

  9. I seriously considered buying this pack, but did not trust at all the durability of the mesh side water bottle pockets, which are essential to me. It is a real problem since Gregory does not repair or replace packs for free like Osprey does. Their warranty only covers defects in materials or workmanship, which does not include wear and tear. So this pack becomes pretty much useless as soon as the side pockets rip, which might not take long, even if you’re careful. For that reason, I went instead with the new exos, which has partially clothed side pockets and the all mighty guarantee in case something goes wrong.

    • Perfectly understandable. Of course given the price difference between the two packs, Osprey’s baked in the price of the free repair.

      • Osprey indeed surely includes the cost of the free repairs in the price of their packs, which is notably obvious with the new Levity.
        Thank you for your comprehensive reviews and for answering every comments.
        Much appreciated.

    • I am sorry to contradict you with the facts regarding Osprey full guarantee. Few weeks ago my Exos 58 got damaged – the aluminium frame bent in a way I cannot wear it. I contact Osprey guarantee department and they reply that there is nothing that can be done. than I contact customer service and had a long debate with them and still they refuse to repair and said that the aluminium frame is irreplaceable.
      I know that they claim to have all mighty guarantee but that’s not the true.
      I am glad I run into this review – the Gregory in now my first option since I will never buy any Osprey again (and I have 3 Osprey backpacks) .

  10. This looks like my next backpack. Thank for the review

  11. I bought the 48l and compared to the exos its way better imho. Im not really worried about the mesh pockets because they are pretty strong compared to the exos. It’s a great backpack

  12. Phil,

    Thank you for responding to each comment. I’m very much interested in this pack, Ij ust never had a correct fitting pack, and I’m pretty sensitive to getting on that does, not just making do for years. With this Gregory your telling me to winch down on the straps and that will bring the belt to a level where it will be in my hope . Correct?

    It is a fixed length, no rip Velcro to move the yoke up and down. Correct. May have to order the circuit and this at the same time, winner takes all.

    If you could please respond to the first paragraph please.

    I really appreciate all your work. You sure is the one I check daily.
    Thank you

    • You still need to measure your torso and get the appropriate range, but that’s how you do it. Get both. In fact try on a dozen packs, and you’ll become an expert.

    • Thinking about this more. Buy an adjustable length backpack if you’re really worried about getting a good fit. Try to get one with an adjustable length hip belt. I think the Osprey Aether has both. Of course, once you get it you’ll still have to adjust it properly. Ask a friend who knows what they’re doing to help.

  13. Nice review, I think I might have been the one to mention possibly reviewing this pack. Anyways, I have this pack, the Optic 58 and the Paragon on my very short list. I’ve been making a concerted effort to reduce my weight and my current pack is the Baltoro 65 which weighs about 5 1/2 lbs so both packs will be a good reduction. Most of my trips will be 2-3 nights in the Whites and Adirondacks, 3 season. Which pack would be a better option or is it splitting hairs? Is the 1 1/4 lb weight savings worth any trade offs with the Optic or are they pretty much equally fully featured?

    • Fit, fit, fit. One has an adjustable length torso. One doesnt. P.

    • I backpacked all summer last year with the Maven 55 (women’s version of Paragon/based on PW’s review) and absolutely loved it, after using the Deva 60 (women’s Baltoro) for many years. I think it is worth the weight saving without sacrificing comfort and fit, which I love about Gregory. Now they are coming out with the Optic/Optal…maybe when the Maven wears out. ;)

  14. Great review! Could you please compare it with Exped Lightning 60, esp. from the load carrying perspective and comfort and ventilation?
    Thank you.

  15. I just got this pack in last week. Loaded it up and can say it is very comfortable. If its compared to the exos, its very similar with the addition of the rain fly and the hip belt; The hip belt is more substantial, more padding and has pockets on both sides.
    Fit: The pack fits snug on your back so it definitely doesnt have the feeling like its pulling you back or off center. I’m sure you could load to where it would but thus far I haven’t had that experience (obviously not long term).

  16. Great review! I am recently looking for a new backpack to replace my Kestrel 38L, what I need mostly are suspension and comfort , lightweight is also what I considered. I usually go on 3-5 days trips and have all my gears weight about 10-15kg including water and food.
    I think I will pickup one between Atmos AG 50 and optic 58, what’s your recommendation? Thanks a lot!

    • That’s easy. The optic. The Atmos is a heavy beast.

      • Thanks, Phi

        I think I’m going to have them both. The Atoms is unbelievably comfortable and Optic is the best UL Choose.
        I’ll be back after I try them both…

      • Also consider the Gregory Paragon as an alternative to the Atmos. I’m really pleased with mine, and it can carry a surprisingly big load for a relatively (compared to the Atmos at least) light pack.

        I like my Exos, but I don’t love it. I’m giving some serious consideration to the Optic (the Paragon is for heavier, larger loads than the trips I use my Exos on).

  17. Super close to pulling the trigger on this backpack, but the hesitation is in regards to the mesh side pockets. I’ve seen several reviews saying they (could – yourself) rip easily, but have also seen comments suggesting that the mesh is more durable than the exos. What is your opinion on this?

  18. Very good review. Thank you for posting it.

    I see in one of your photos you have a pocket attached to the right shoulder strap. Which pocket are you using and did it work well on this pack?

    Thanks!

  19. Thank you for the review. I have a Peak design capture V3 camera clip and I’m wondering how wide in inches the shoulder straps are, I can’t find the spec anywhere. The capture V3 can attach to a strap up to 2.5 inches wide.

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