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Gregory Packs Paragon 48 Backpack Review

The Gregory Packs Paragon 48 is an alpine style backpack with a floating top lid and rear mesh pocket.
The Gregory Packs Paragon 48 is an alpine style backpack with a floating top lid and rear mesh pocket.

The Gregory Packs Paragon 48 is a lightweight, alpine-style backpack designed to fill the void between minimalist ultralight backpacks and the plush and deluxe, monster capacity backpacks that Gregory is known for like the Denali 100 or the Baltoro 85. Weighing 3 pounds (minus an optional rain cover), the Paragon 48 has an adjustable length torso, a lightweight frame, and a pre-curved hip belt that make it very comfortable to wear, even when heavily loaded. I was pleasantly surprised by the range of capabilities and comfort that Gregory was able to add to the Paragon 48 backpack, while still keeping it relatively lightweight.

Key specs

  • Pack Weight: 3 pounds (size M/L)
  • Rain Cover: 3.4 ounces
  • Maximum recommended load: 40 pounds
  • Style: Top lid, alpine-style
  • Body: 210D CryptoRip Nylon and 100D High Tenacity Nylon
  • Base: 210D High Tenacity Nylon w/ 135D High Density polyester reinforcement
  • Lining, Harness, Hipbelt, Lumbar: 135D High Density Embossed Polyester
  • Torso sizes: 18″-22″
  • Waist sizes:  25″-53″
  • Sex: Men’s only – the Women’s version of the Paragon 48 is called the Maven 45.

The Paragon is available in 38L, 48L, 58L, and 68L sizes. I chose to review the 48L size because it’s large enough for multi-day backpacking trips, including thru-hikes, but not so heavy to disqualify from consideration for lightweight backpacking. Truth is, the pack feels a lot bigger than 48L in terms of the amount of gear it can hold and carry comfortably, but that’s probably the result of having a good frame and suspension system.

Let’s take a closer look at this backpack.

One of the benefits of a floating top lid is the ability to scrunch gear underneather it when it won't fit in your pack
One of the benefits of a floating top lid is the ability to scrunch gear underneath it when it won’t fit inside your pack.

Internal Storage and Organization

Floating top lid

The Paragon 48 is an alpine style backpack with a floating top lid pocket, so you can raise and lower it if you want to stuff gear underneath against the top of the main compartment like ropes, tent bodies, or a sleeping pad. Unfortunately a bear canister doesn’t fit under the Paragon 48 top lid because it’s not wide enough, but you get the idea.

The Paragon top lid has two pockets, but they’re both quite shallow. The bottom pocket is sized for maps and the top pocket, for small navigation devices or personal items. This is good…because the top lid acts more like a flap instead of a lid, and doesn’t flop awkwardly backwards when the main compartment isn’t full. Nicely done. This is a common problem with many other packs that have floating top lids.

Main compartment

The main compartment is cavernous and closes with a draw string. There’s an internal hydration pocket along the back panel, that runs all the way down to the base of the pack, so quite long. It has a single hook at the top where you can hang a reservoir, with ports that come out the center top of the pack, between the shoulder straps.

You can also access the bottom of the pack through a sleeping bag zipper from the outside, although there isn’t an internal shelf to segregate a sleeping bag from the rest of the main compartment. When you unzip the sleeping bag compartment, the entire base of the backpack is accessible so you can reach gear packed there without having to take out everything out of the top of the main compartment.

While the base of the pack unzips to provide access to gear stored there, it's not much use if you line your pack with a pack liner.
While the base of the pack unzips to provide access to gear stored there, it’s not much use if you line your pack with a pack liner.

Despite the sleeping bag zipper, my advice is to line the inside of this pack and all backpacks with a white plastic compactors bag to keep your gear dry if you plan on hiking in a climate that has rain. Rain and moisture leak through the seams of all backpacks, (even ones made with waterproof fabrics and when you use a rain cover) but a plastic bag will keep your gear dry. It does however make having a bottom zipper pointless because you’ll just see the plastic when you unzip the zipper.

Side water bottle pockets

The Paragon 48 has mesh side water bottle pocket that are large enough to hold a Nalgene bottle wrapped in winter insulation. They’re both reachable when the pack is worn and it’s easy to take a bottle out and replace it. The base of the mesh pockets is flush with the bottom of the pack and not protected by an extra fabric panel, so expect the mesh to rip and abrade fairly quickly.

Rear shovel pocket

There’s a deep mesh shovel pocket on the back of the pack for storing loose or wet items. There’s also a hidden zippered pocket inside it which Gregory uses to store the optional included rain fly (weighs 3.5 ounces). That hidden pocket is great to stash flat items like plane tickets or guide-book pages, stuff you want convenient access too, without having to open the pack.

The Paragon has a hidden pocket behind the mesh shovel pocket that's used to store the packs optional rain cover, but can be used for storing other items
The Paragon has a hidden pocket behind the mesh shovel pocket that’s used to store the packs optional rain cover, but can also be used for storing other items.

As for the optional rain cover, I’d discard it. As  I recommend previously, I’d line this pack with a big plastic bag to keep the contents dry. Backpacks like the Paragon, made with modern nylons, don’t absorb much water when they get wet. I think carrying a rain cover is fairly pointless as long as you line the pack, but YMMV.

Compression and External Attachment System

The Paragon has plenty of external attachment points in keeping with its alpine-style character. In addition to the floating lid pocket, described above, the pack has two tiers of side compression straps, which are good for securing long items to the side of the pack. The straps are long enough to comfortably store snowshoes on the sides of the pack, but they don’t unbuckle with a clip, so it takes a little fiddling to get them under the straps. The bottom side compression strap can also be routed on the inside of the side water bottle pocket, so you can have compression that won’t compromised the pocket’s use.

The Paragon has two tiers of side webbing compression straps
The Paragon has two tiers of side webbing compression straps. The bottom tier can be routed through the side water bottle pocket behind the bottle, so you can have compression and reach the bottle more easily.

The Paragon 48 also comes with a pair of webbing straps along the bottom of the pack that are good for securing items like tents or sleeping pads to the base of the pack. You don’t see these straps on many backpacks anymore but they are very handy for hauling awkwardly sized gear. These same straps perform double duty on the Paragon as a pair of ice axe holders, although the pack only includes one elastic shaft holder. None of these straps are removable however, at least not without a pair of scissors.

If you want to rig up your own external attachment system with cord and cord locks, there are a few external loops you can leverage for this purpose. I count six possible attachment points on the perimeter of the rear mesh shovel pocket and four on top of the floating lid. That Paragon is not really optimized for this, but you can bend it to your will if you’re motivated.

Webbing straps at the base of the pack let you attach awkwardly sized gear
Webbing straps at the base of the pack let you attach awkwardly sized gear, like a sleeping pad or tent.

Backpack Frame and Suspension System

While the Paragon 48 is a bit heavily “featured” with old-school comforts and organizational features, the adjustable length torso size and lightweight frame are surprisingly streamlined and top-notch. They really “make” this pack special, even if some of the pack’s bells and whistles aren’t perfect from a more minimalist perspective.

There’s also a lot to be said for buying a backpack with an adjustable torso size, especially for beginner backpackers, who may have a hard time understanding how a well-fitting backpack should feel when they buy one. Having an adjustable length pack lets you really dial in a personalized, precise fit that’s unobtainable without having a custom backpack made just for you. The weight trade-off is often worth it.

The Paragon 48 has a rip and stick adjustable torso system that's a cinch to resize
The Paragon 48 has a rip and stick adjustable torso system that’s a cinch to resize.

Adjustable torso length

The Paragon 48 has a rip and stick style, velcro-based, torso length adjustment system that lets you raise and lower the height of the shoulder straps. It’s very simple to use and doesn’t slip under load. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to correlate the height of the shoulder straps with your torso length, if you already know what it is, because the size indicators don’t have printed torso lengths in inches or centimeters.

Ventilated frame

The front of the torso adjustment system touching your back is ventilated and well cushioned for comfort. It flares out slightly as it drops behind the lumbar region, but not uncomfortably, and helps with load transfer to the hip belt. The rear wings of the hip belt connect to the frame behind the lumber pad. They are stiffened with plastic to prevent the hip belt from buckling and hip belt wings are pre-curved, providing a nice wrap around the sides of your hip. Pocket placement is a little farther back than I prefer, but still usable.

The Paragon 48 has a vented backpanel to help keep your back dry and accelerate evaporation
The Paragon 48 has a vented back panel to help keep your back dry and accelerate evaporation.

The Paragon 48’s frame is an aluminum tube that runs along the perimeter of the back panel and slots down into the hip belt. It has a horizontal plastic stiffener located inside the main compartment behind the small of your back, but is fairly minimal as frames go. When coupled with the adjustable torso length system and ventilated backpack, it provides plenty of rigidity for the Paragon 48 and excellent load transfer to the hip belt. I’ve carried a ton of heavy gear on hikes using the Paragon 48 and rate its max load at a comfortable 40 pounds.

Hip belt

The hip belt length is fixed on the Paragon 48 to the S/M and M/L sized packs (the hip belt is not interchangeable like some of Gregory’s other packs), but still generously sized. While covered with mesh, the hip belt is not overly padded, which I prefer on a pack this size, because it provides a more responsive fit.

Note: The hip belt on the larger Paragon 58 and 68 is adjustable and can be resized. Too bad they left this feature off the Paragon 48. 

The hip belt has two zippered pockets, one mesh (and prone to rips) and one solid, both large enough to be useful. The hip belt size is adjusted using the two-way, pull-forward Scherer cinch that many other backpacks use. There are also hip control webbing straps linking the hip belt to the base of the pack, to let you pull it closer to the hip belt for better load control when scrambling. These straps are handy for clipping an insulated water bottle to with a carabiner, if you use the Paragon 48 for snowshoeing and other winter hiking pursuits.

The aluminum frame slots into the hipbelt behind the lumbar pad
The aluminum frame slots into the hip belt behind the lumbar pad. You can see the gold colored rods in the picture above.

Shoulder straps

The Paragon 48 has load lifters that let you pull the top of the pack closer to your shoulders and help align it with your hips. These can be hard to identify when reaching back behind your shoulders blindly, because they’re co-located near the front straps of the floating lid. Nothing much you can do about that. It’s something most packs with floating lids suffer from.

The shoulder straps on this men’s only pack are J-curved to wrap around your chest. They’re also ventilated using the same foam and cutout pattern found on the back panel. Beside hydration hose keeper straps, they’re aren’t any good places to attach accessory pockets on the outside of the Paragon’s shoulder straps, something to consider if you like to attach a Delorme InReach, a GPS unit, or a camera pocket there.

The Paragon makes a good technical winter pack with lots of storage and a narrow profile which makes it easy to carry when loaded with gear.
The Paragon makes a good technical winter pack with lots of storage and a narrow profile which makes it easy to carry when loaded with gear.


The Gregory Packs Paragon 48 does an admirable job balancing light weight, comfort, and features while weighing exactly 3 pounds, without the optional rain cover. The aluminum frame, pre-curved hip belt, and adjustable torso length make this an excellent backpack to try if you like a more traditional, alpine-style feature set. Having an adjustable torso length on a backpack this lightweight is also a big benefit compared with packs that only have fixed torso length ranges.

While there are a few features on this pack that I could do without like the bottom sleeping bag compartment zipper and the rain cover, those are easy to live with and trumped by the Paragon’s excellent frame and suspension system. I like body hugging packs like the Paragon that move with you, even when they’re loaded with 35-40 pounds of gear and food. I recommend that you add the Paragon 48 to your shortlist if you’re looking for a top loading backpack with the Paragon’s feature set.


  • Adjustable torso length
  • Lightweight, but stiff frame transfers weight to hip belt
  • Pre-curved hip belt wings provide great fit
  • Top lid doesn’t flop around uselessly when main compartment is less than full


  • Mesh on side water bottle pockets and hip belt pocket is prone to damage
  • Bottom hatch is useless if you line your pack with a pack liner, which I still recommend even though this pack comes with an optional rain cover
  • Limited attachment points on shoulder straps

Written 2017.

Disclosure: Gregory Packs provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.
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  1. I have the 58L in this pack. The top lid is removable and the sleeping bag separator can be used as a lid. The inner hydration sleeve is a 20 liter summit day pack. The hip belt is adjustable on the 58. I like the pack very much. I can remove the regular lid, the raincover and the hydration sleeve/pack and it brings the weight down to close to 3 lbs.

    • When you say the hip belt us adjustable, could you clarify that? Does it have wings the let you lengthen it or are you talking about the normal webbing straps?

      • Just rechecked the 48L it does not have any of those features. Sounds like the 58L version is the one to get. Those features you mention make that size a slam dunk. Wow!

      • Gregory designed the hip belt on the 58 and I believe the 68 to actually adjust so the wearer can customize it to their waist. Under the pockets there is a large velcro patch that can be un-velcro’d and the length of the pad can be adjusted. Once the adustment is made, securing it is as simple as sticking the velcro back together.

  2. In your opinion, how would these compare with the recently evaluated Granite Gear Crown 2 – 60L?

    I can’t yet backpack… but I can dream!

    • Grandpa,

      IMO, they are two different packs entirely. The GG is geared towards ultralight with a removable plastic framesheet. The Gregory leans towards a lightweight alpine style pack with a non removable aluminum frame. The GG is rated to 35 lbs and the Gregory is rated to 50 lbs for the 58L pack which I own. The GG is under 3 lbs and the Gregory is under 4 lbs. I spent many hours researching the ultralight packs and makers but went with the Gregory because I own 2 Gregory packs already. I like the way the pack fit me and carries my stuff.

      • Thank you very much! I thought they might be designed for different types of end users.

      • My question exactly. Was set on the GG, but also own 2 Gregory packs which I love. The Deva (W 60L) is quite heavy though, so looking to find a lighter pack for backpacking and eventually thru hiking. May try both and see which I prefer.

  3. I just added this to my shortlist but will get it in the 68 liter size which is my favorite size, the 9 oz are worth it. I also have the redesigned ULA Catalyst on my list as the other option, weight aside from high one would you recommend?

    • I’m testing the updated Catalyst right now. Backpacking this weekend with it if the weather’s anything short of a monsoon. I’d try a Seek Outside Divide and a HMG Southwest 4400. Very different options but also large and reasonably light.

      • Thanks, I’ll check those out too, let us know how you like the Catalyst if you can

      • I’ve been considering the SMD Fusion 65. Just saw the Gregory Paragon 58 at REI today. It’s a bit heavier than the SMD, but would now like to see the Paragon 68. I’ve read your review of the Fusion 50. What’s your feeling about the larger size versions of these bags?

  4. Any chance you can make some comments on the Paragon 48 vs Gregory Zulu 40?

  5. I’m thinking of the Paragon 48 as my winter hiking pack for the Adirondack high peaks. Is there any way to easily attach modern snowshoes like the MSR or Tubbs to the outside?

    • You can strap them under the side compression straps or get 2 pieces of cord/cord locks and tie them to the back.
      This is an excellent winter pack, by the way. I really like it and I winter hike a lot.

      • As do I. I am 7 peaks away from my ADK 46; half done in winter. I’m thinking of the two “sleeping pad” straps to lash snowshoes on to the pack. Do you think those straps are long enough to wrap around two Tubbs Flex VRT’s? Thanks for replying!

  6. Hi

    Do you think that this backpack is best for winter skitouring than the exped thunder 70 ?


  7. I made a test and I noticed that all my gears (tipi tent (locus gear), sleeping bag and food for 5 days…) didn’t fit in the Crown2 60l so I am thinking about the Paragaon 68 or the Exeped 70.

    I’ll plan to put my new backpack in a pulka.

  8. What’s the dimensions of this pack?

  9. I bought the Paragon 48 in large part because it fits within official airline size requirements, so long as you don’t fill the top (lid) compartment, unlike almost all other packs in this approximate size, which have frames that are a bit too tall.
    I’ve rarely actually been made to measure my pack at the airport, but I love having the peace of mind that I could get it to fit if need be (though perhaps after a bit of repacking / wearing some extra layers of clothing).
    The pack is also very comfortable and reasonably light (though by no means ultralight).
    Also, the hydration pack pocket nicely fits my 13” MacBook (in a third-party soft case).
    So it’s not just a great overnight/2-3 day camping pack, but also great for the globetrotter / digital nomad. At least whenever the dark clouds of Covid lift.

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