Gregory Contour 60 Review
Cons: Somewhat over engineered. Pocket and zipper access can be limiting in some situations. Material ripped easily.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gregory Contour 60 stacks up well against the competition when it comes to overall comfort. Engineered to offer an extensive variety of adjustment options, the Contour 60 shoulder and waist straps can be extended and contorted quite extensively allowing you to fit the pack to your personal frame and move and shift the weight to where it is least noticeable. The shoulder straps are a bit thinner than desired and if the pack is not adjusted properly to keep the weight in the hips, we find the straps to dig quite a bit on long multi-day hikes. We love the padding the Contour provides both on your back and waist. Specifically the waist belt is extremely versatile to fit both a large and small frame and offers give in both the vertical and horizontal axis eliminating edges that tend to chaff or dig into your skin. Even though there are a lot of straps, we find that they are well organized and don't get caught against your body creating an uncomfortable situation.
The Contour 60 is not an ultralight pack like the Osprey Exos 58, but for a middleweight pack comes in at the lower end of the spectrum. It's hard to believe that the Contour 60 is so light given the number of pockets, adjustable straps, and the amount of material providing overall cushion, comfort, and adjustability. We found the Contour 60 ideal for multi-day hikes where leaving that extra weight behind could mean summiting in time for sunset.
The Contour 60's extremely light weight steel wire frame gives an amazing balance of flexibility and stability. We found the suspension system was able to transfer loads off of our shoulders and into our hips and legs when adjusted correctly, although as you pack and re-pack and adjust the contents of your load we also found ourselves tinkering with the straps quite frequently to get it just right. That said the suspension system does an amazing job for how essentially non-existent it is and we found that it worked great for small, large, light and heavy loads. The suspension system is flexible enough to meet the contour of your back and hips, and yet firm enough to distribute the weight across your frame. The suspension system works particularly well on medium to taller frames and we recommend people under 5'5" make sure to get the smaller version.
Ease of Use
With so many compartments, pockets, hidden zipper pockets, hidden zipper pockets within compartments, straps and clips the Contour 60 is both extremely functional and a bit overwhelming. We love that so much thought and design went into this pack, but unfortunately for a climber it was sometimes way too much. In fact some of the pockets are so well hidden I didn't realize the pack came with a waterproof cover until I got around to watching the video. For a climber this is overkill and we'd much rather see the majority of the 60L of space available in a single main pocket with only a few side pocket options. For the extremely organized packer with an exceptional memory this pack may be perfect for you.
As an overview, the Trail Smart packing system separates the pack into three general areas to organize your gear. Large heavy things go in the main pocket (Camp section) with top and side zipper access. Unfortunately for climbers the access width for your rope and your rack will make you wish you had a haul bag instead. There is room for ultra-light camping gear, but it is not as easily packable and accessible as the Arc'teryx Altra 65. The second Trail section is on the outside of the pack with an open pocket for immediate access needs, and a larger internal zipper pocket with additional internal sub-compartments for things needed on the go. This is where we kept our extra clothing, lunch, and other things that you don't want to dig for. This section has nested pockets and sub-pockets in pockets that leave you wondering where your keys actually are at the end of your journey. The third On-The-Go zone are side access pockets, both open and zipper close for water, camera, snacks, or other quick access goods. We found these had limited use and we preferred to use the top pouch and the trail section of the pack. Finally the top pocket is a water-tight compartment that allows easy access for gear that needs to be protected. With all of the intricate pocket systems throughout this pack it would be nice if the top pocket, which we used for storing keys, wallet, headlamp, toothbrush, etc., had one or two separate compartments to help organize our quick access goodies.
One minor complaint is that the side pockets, well sized for many water bottles but too small for some, are positioned in a way that make it extremely difficult to reach back and remove and replace your water. We found it annoying to have to take the entire pack off to get water, making these pockets less functional overall. We would have like a mesh outer pocket for storing wet clothes on the fly.
The Contour 60 is at the top of the pack when it comes to overall adjustability. This pack not only had adjustment straps in every place you needed them, but had a few extras that took some time to figure out how they were used. An example is the lid pouch that covers the pack. Although not removable (something we wished we had for day time excursions), the pouch offers dual adjusters to ensure that it will sit over top of your pack protecting rain and snow from getting inside. In general all of the adjustments meant you could manipulate the Contour 60 to sit comfortably on your frame under both light, heavy, and unevenly distributed loads. It was also extremely easy to adjust the pack on the fly as your shoulders get sore and you want to move weight from hips to back to shoulders to give certain areas some rest.
The Gregory Contour 60 is a great bag for the extremely well organized multi-day adventurer. Lots of pockets give you plenty of options for storing a variety of goods. This pack is comfortable, reasonably priced, and adjusts well to a range of body sizes and types. Climbers and more extreme adventurers would benefit from a pack more specifically designed for your particular needs.
At $279 retail the Contour 60 falls into the middle of the pack with respect to price, and offers an excellent value for your money. It has lots of features, lots of pockets, and is very comfortable for its price. It does not handle very large loads the way more expensive packs do, but for its price will provide a great pack that can be used for a wide range of activities.
The Contour is a great reasonably priced backpack for the extremely organized adventurer. If you are looking for a multi-purpose, multi-day backpack that serves many needs and you are not looking to break the bank we recommend this pack or the Osprey Aether 60 which is a little less comfortable, a little cheaper, and offers better pocket access and day pack use of the top pouch. For a specialty climbing pack or for longer expeditions that require more gear we recommend going with the Gregory Baltoro 65 or the Arc'teryx Altra 65.
— Chris McNamara