There are few packs we'd rather carry a heavy load with. With its rock-solid suspension and plush padding, this pack makes potentially oppressive loads feel manageable. Even beyond this pack's load-hauling prowess, our testers loved its well-designed feature set, complete with fantastic pockets and a top-notch access zipper, ensuring all of your gear is easily accessible and as organized as possible.
If we knew we had to carry a heavy load there are few packs we'd rather do it with than this one. With its rock solid suspension and plush padding, this pack was a contender for our Editors' Choice Award, thanks to its comfort and array of well-designed user-friendly features.
This pack is one of the most comfortable in our review and is comparable to our other top performers, such as the Osprey Xenith 75, Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, and the Osprey Atmos 65 AG. This model utilizes extremely well-designed and nicely articulated shoulder straps that use high-quality foam and the face fabric is among the best in the review and performed above average. The shape of the shoulder straps was among or review testers favorites. It is heavily ergonomically shaped, and every one of our testers enjoyed using it.
The Baltoro sports two water bottle pockets on either side of the pack. However, to make these features overall more versatile Gregory designed each side to be slightly different. One water bottle pocket is traditionally shaped with the opening on top. This pocket can also help hold items like a tripod or tent poles. The other (seen in this photo) is faces forward and with a little practice is easy to retrieve and stow without having the wearer having to remove their pack. The pock in this photo is also collapsible and can be stowed away nicely.
The Baltoro is geared for heavier loads, and its slightly stiffer-than-average foam is a product of that. While it is stiff, which is a good thing because it means the foam won't bottom out with heavier loads, it isn't too stiff. Even with moderate pack-weights, it allowed for even pressure across the surface area of the shoulder straps. The Baltoro also sports decently wide shoulder straps. All of our testers, the shortest of whom for this test was 5'8", liked the wider shoulder straps and felt they were one of the reasons this pack felt so comfortable. We would say for smaller or more narrower shouldered users this design might not be as comfortable. The fabric on the inside of the shoulder straps (also called face fabric) was certainly above average; however, if you were shirtless or wearing light clothing, we liked the feeling of the material on the Osprey Xenith and Arc'teryx Bora slightly better.
One of the biggest reasons that folks love this pack (and really, Gregory packs in general) is the remarkable lower back support it offers; the lumbar support is the most substantial in the review and support that most testers agreed was important. However, one in seven of our testers thought the lumbar support was a little much; fortunately, the lumbar support is removable, which makes the pack fit a broader range of consumers. When we used the lumbar pad, it felt like a classic Gregory; once we took it out, the level of lumbar support felt like most of the other packs out there.
The Baltoro 65 features a large "U" shaped opening that allows users to access nearly every point in their back. This feature is nice for backpackers searching for items tucked away in the main compartment but also makes the Baltoro an excellent pack for travel.
This pack keeps getting lighter and lighter, and the design keeps improving. The newest model, which was released in 2018 (and reviewed here), weighs 4 lbs 14 ounces. The older model weighed 5 lbs 3 ounces which wasn't bad, but now the Baltoro is pretty average in weight compared to others in our fleet. The main reasons it isn't lighter is its suspension which is one of the most robust in our review and its solid array of features, pockets, and access points.
For the weight, this contender has a host of usable features and a top-notch suspension system that is close, but slightly lighter in weight packs with similarly robust suspensions like the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 (5 lbs) and the Osprey Xenith 75 (5 lbs 2 oz). This model is more-or-less the same as our award winner the Osprey Atmos 65 AG (4 lbs 14 oz) and handles heavier loads far better. If you like this pack but would instead save a little weight and don't need the monster load-carrying suspension check out the Gregory Paragon 68 (3.88 pounds) or the The North Face Banchee 65 (3.63 pounds).
The Baltoro is built with comfort and load hauling prowess in mind. Its foam is slightly stiffer than average, but not by much. It has a decent amount of stiffness (for support with heavier loads) and still remains cushy enough to feel comfortable.
This pack easily has one of the burliest suspension systems currently available. If we knew we had heavier loads in our future this pack along with the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, Osprey Xenith 105, or the Osprey Xenith 75 would be on our list. While all of the packs above handle loads extremely well, if pure weight hauling comfort is what you're after, then we'd get this contender or the Xenith 105. The Baltoro's "Y" shaped aluminum is quite stiff and does a fantastic job of transferring the load from the pack to the waist belt.
One of the sweetest features of the suspension system is that the shoulder straps and the waist belt can automatically pivot into the ideal angle to maximize load distribution and increase comfort. The benefit of this subtle feature is even more noticeable while negotiating rough terrain with heavier loads.
One of our testers favorite features of this pack is its dual front zippered pockets (one shown here in this photo). This pockets were big enough to easily fit a 1-liter Nalgene bottle or something of similar size and just proved to be super helpful for helping keep track of easily lost items or pieces of gear.
Features and Ease of Use
This competitor stands out for its pockets and features. The 2018 model is an upgrade and offers an excellent overall design.
Our testers enjoyed the two zippered pockets featured on the top of the lid. Not only did this pocket allow us to stay more organized, but because there was two smaller pocket and zippers on top of the pack, we were able to see inside with ease. As a result, we were able to find items more quickly than compared to a more traditional full-length pocket. This design was significantly more user-friendly than the top-lid pocket found on the Osprey Atmos or Osprey Xenith.
Our testers loved the stretchy mesh beavertail style pocket on the back of this pack. It was perfect for storing hard-to-pack items like flip-flops or a fuel bottle.
Two new features on the 2018 model that proved to be one of our reviewer's favorite designs are the two zippered pocket on the front of the pack, as each one large enough to fit a 1 liter Nalgene bottle. These pockets were perfect for staying organized and keeping items accessible. The stretchy mesh beavertail style pocket is great for drying socks, storing a rain shell, or fitting oddly-shaped items like flip-flops.
This competitor has one extra traditional mesh water bottle holder on one side of the pack, while the other side is a stowable forward-facing bottle pocket. The forward facing bottles were relatively easy to remove and return without having to take off your pack. The straps underneath and around the sleeping bag compartment were functional in length and long enough to fit over a closed cell foam pad or a pad of a similar size.
The Baltoro features two straps that run over the sleeping bag compartment. These straps are perfect for strapping on a closed cell foam pad or other difficult-to-pack items. One thing of note is these straps are super long; they work for nearly all 3/4 length pads but not all full-length (6 ft ones).
Another nice feature is the dual waist belt pockets that were big enough to fit a small camera, chapstick, and a bar at most, but not all smartphones. A cool feature is the wearer's left side, which includes a mesh pocket, while the right pocket is all nylon and has a weather-resistant zipper.
The Baltoro 65 features one zippered waist belt pocket on either side, one weather-resistant pocket (shown here) for an item like a smartphone, GPS, or camera, and a zippered mesh pocket for other items like snacks or sunscreen.
Other features that are standard on this pack are a removable pack cover (that you could use on any of your packs) and a completely detachable "side-kick" hydration backpack that doubles as a water bladder holster.
The Baltoro comes included with a functional rain cover (also commonly called a pack cover). We liked that this rain cover wasn't permanently attached because we could both leave it behind on trips with perfect looking weather or using it other packs we own. We used this pack cover on several days in the pouring rain and were impressed with how nicely it kept our pack dry.
The rain cover comes folded in the pocket underneath the main lid but isn't permanently attached here. In reality, we'd store it somewhere else to be able to utilize this pocket better, but this bonus rain-cover is a nice perk never the less. While the daypack isn't quite as sweet as the Osprey Xenith and Osprey Aether 65 lid-turned daypack, the Baltoro's hydration bladder-holder is a functional pack on its own that weighs very little. We ended up taking it on short day hikes or to the grocery store. For folks that like a lot of access in their pack or might use this model for traveling, there is a large upside-down U-shaped opening that allows access to nearly all of the contents. This pack, along with the Thule Versant 70, had the best access of any model in our review.
The Baltoro's shoulder straps are connected to the pack via a metal buckle, which slides through a plastic hole. This is an extremely secure design that allows the shoulder straps to be attached in positions, giving some horizontal adjustment. What really makes this feature stand out is that the plastic attachment point automatically pivots to the optimum position for the wearer.
Fit and Adjustability
This competitor is available in three torso lengths and offers interchangeable hip belts and shoulder straps that are in between sizes.
Certain users will appreciate the ability to mix and match torso lengths, with waist belt and shoulder straps to help provide the best fit. The only other adjustability this pack offers is two places where the shoulder straps can be attached to provide some vertical adjustments.
While it's not an adjustment in the classic sense, the shoulder strap attachment points pivot and automatically adjust to the best fit for the wearer. We found this design to be pretty useful; in fact, it only added to the pack's overall comfort, particularly with heavy loads and long days.
Besides the huge upside down "U" shaped access panel, the Baltoro also has a sleeping bag compartment that can be opened to connect to the main compartment. We liked this design for longer trips where we would just pack all the items we needed for camp like tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad - all at the bottom of our pack. When we arrived at our destination for the day, we wouldn't have to explode our entire pack.
This pack is most at home on trekking and backpacking trips or the occasional mountaineering adventure. The 65-liter model is great for the average person on most 2-5 day trips, depending on your packing tendencies. This model does have the suspension to handle 50+ pounds so long as you do and is one of the best contenders for heinous 70+ pound loads.
The 2018 model is excellent for traveling. We like it for backpacking through Europe, Southeast Asia, Thailand, etc. It's an excellent travel pack thanks to its above-average durability and a plethora of useful pocket. We also like that front panel opens up almost entirely for easy access, acting like a suitcase or a duffel bag. This model is even easier to load than several duffel bags but naturally carries far better.
At $300, this contender is more expensive than average among comparable options in our review but on the less expensive side of the models with similarly robust suspension systems. It is still $200 less than the $500 Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, which is slightly heavier and has less overall features (but it is slightly more adjustable and weather resistant). It's $30 less than the $330 Osprey Xenith 75, and $100 less than the Osprey Xenith 105 (but if you buy a larger volume Baltoro, the prices are similar). When it comes to comfort and suspension doesn't give up anything, which makes it an exceptional value.
The Baltoro 65 comes with a fairly functional hydration pack that doubled as the bladder sleeve/holder when used inside the pack. Here we show a shell jacket and 70 oz Platypus bladder for size reference. This separate pack is designed to be taken on a summit push or day-hike from camp, but is just as suitable for use around town or going to the gym.
The Baltoro is a little more expensive than some of our other Top Picks, like the Osprey Atmos 65 AG ($260) or The North Face Banchee ($240). Fortunately, it also features a more robust suspension. This particular pack could be worth it for anyone whose adventures include extended trips where a lot of equipment is needed, or if you are the designated porter for the group. Further increasing the value of the Baltoro is its included rain fly and a separate small pack that doubled as a hydration bladder holder. Both of these extras sweeten the deal.
The Baltoro's wasit belt pockets is a small waterproof pouch (see the photo higher in the review). The other is a mesh pocket (seen here), which is perfect for small items like a Cliff bar or lip-balm.
This model might not be the lightest pack, but the latest iteration is noticeably lighter than previous models and is now quite respectable when it comes to the rest of the fleet. If anything, it is slightly on the lighter side of models with a similar level of comfort and suspension and on the lighter side of models that handle heavier loads well. Besides comfort and suspension, the Baltoro has one of our favorite overall designs and has all the features that backpackers want - plus a few extras. Most importantly, this beast is a load-hauling machine; anyone looking for a super comfortable pack with a few bells and whistles can appreciate the robust suspension and comfortable design that was among the very best in our review.