There are few packs we'd rather haul with a heavy load. 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 has extremely well-designed and nicely articulated shoulder straps that use high-quality foam. The face fabric is also among the best in the review and performed above average. The shape of the shoulder straps are very ergonomic, 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) faces forward. With practice, it's easy to retrieve and stow without removing the pack. The pocket in this photo is also collapsible and stows 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 allows 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 is 5'8) liked the wider shoulder straps and felt they were one of the reasons this pack felt so comfortable.
For smaller or more narrower shouldered users, this design might not be as comfortable. The fabric on the inside of the shoulder straps is certainly above average. However, if you were shirtless or wearing light clothing, we like 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 testers agreed that it's an important addition. However, one in seven of our testers thought the lumbar support was a little much. Fortunately, it's removable, which makes the pack fit a broader range of consumers. When we use the lumbar pad, the pack feels like a classic Gregory. Once we take it out, the level of lumbar support felt more similar to other packs available on the market.
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, reviewed here weighs 4 lbs 14 ounces. The main reasons it isn't lighter is that its suspension is one of the most robust in our review and it has a 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. It's slightly lighter than packs with similarly robust suspensions like the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 (5 lbs). 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 like to save a little weight and don't need a 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 has one of the burliest suspension systems currently available. If we knew we had heavier loads in our future, this pack would be on our list — along with the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 and Osprey Xenith 105. 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 when negotiating rough terrain with heavier loads.
We love this pack's dual front zippered pockets. These pockets are big enough to easily fit a 1-liter Nalgene bottle and help keep track of easily lost items or pieces of gear.
Features and Ease of Use
This competitor stands out for its excellent pockets and features. The 2018 model is an upgrade and offers a great overall design.
Our testers enjoyed the two zippered pockets on the top of the lid. Not only did this pocket allow us to stay more organized, but we were able to see inside with ease. As a result, we were able to find items more quickly than we could with a more traditional full-length pocket. This design is significantly more user-friendly than the top-lid pocket found on the Osprey Atmos or Osprey Xenith.
Our testers love the stretchy mesh beavertail style pocket on the back of this pack. It's perfect for storing hard-to-pack items like flip-flops or a fuel bottle.
The two zippered pockets on the front of the pack are favorites. Each one is large enough to fit a 1 liter Nalgene bottle. These pockets keep you organized and keep important 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 a mesh water bottle holder on one side of the pack and a stowable forward-facing bottle pocket on the other. The forward facing pocket makes your water bottle relatively easy to remove and return. The straps underneath and around the sleeping bag compartment are 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. 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 are big enough to fit a small camera, chapstick, and a bar at most, but not all smartphones. The left pocket is mesh. 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.
Another feature that is standard on this pack is a completely detachable "side-kick" hydration backpack that doubles as a water bladder holster. 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.
The Baltoro includes a functional rain cover (also commonly called a pack cover). We like that it's not permanently attached so we can leave it behind or use it with other packs. We used this pack cover on several days in the pouring rain and were impressed with how nicely it kept our pack dry.
A 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.) This bonus rain-cover is a nice perk.
For folks that like a lot of pack access who 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 and the Thule Versant 70 offer 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 for 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 some vertical movement in the shoulder straps.
While it's not an adjustment in the classic sense, the shoulder strap attachment points pivot and automatically create the best fit for the wearer. We found this design pretty useful. It only added to the pack's overall comfort, particularly with heavy loads and long days.
The Baltoro also has a sleeping bag compartment that can open to connect to the main compartment. We like this design for longer trips when just pack all the items we needed for camp, like a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad, at the bottom of our 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 pockets. We also like that the 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 many of its direct competitors but is on the less expensive side of the models with similarly robust suspension systems. It is still quite a bit less than the $500 Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, which is slightly heavier and has fewer overall features but is slightly more adjustable and weather resistant. It's less expensive than the Osprey Xenith 105. (But, if you buy a larger volume Baltoro, the prices are similar.) When it comes to comfort and suspension, this pack doesn't give up anything, which makes it an exceptional value.
The Baltoro 65 comes with a fairly functional hydration pack that doubles as a bladder sleeve 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.
The Baltoro is a little more expensive than some of our other Top Picks, like the Osprey Atmos 65 AG or The North Face Banchee. 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. It is now a quite respectable weight. If anything, it is on the lighter side of models with a similar level of comfort and suspension. It is also on the lighter side of models that handle heavier loads well.
Aside from its comfort and suspension, the Baltoro has one of our favorite overall designs and offers 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 is among the very best in our review.