The Gregory Paragon 68 is an excellent all-around backpacking pack. It keeps weight down without giving up much in the way of features or suspension. In fact, it has a noticeably more robust suspension than many packs that weigh a pound or more. We wouldn't consider it a load hauler for users that regularly carry 40-45 pounds, but it can get the job done for 2-4 day trips. The Paragon 68 excels at carrying loads better than some packs of similar weight and is a great option if your back appreciates more help along the way. If you are looking for exceptional suspension with a little more of everything else as well, we recommend the Arc'Teryx Bora AR 63 or the Gregory Baltoro 65.
Gregory Paragon 68 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Good set of features, supportive frame, excellent lid design
Cons: Uncomfortable fit for users with narrow shoulders, no additional access
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Paragon 68 is a pack that sports a supportive suspension system while keeping weight in check. It features one of our favorite lid designs, and though we do think its fit isn't right for everyone, it offers decent comfort.
Solid suspension and features keep this backpack solidly in the middle of the bunch.
Suspension and Comfort
The foam found in the shoulder straps is exceptionally supportive, and the shape articulates nicely. Compared to other models, the shoulder straps are slightly stiffer and wider; this is a benefit for heavier loads, where the foam will be more supportive, and the wider surface area will spread out the load evenly and effectively.
Narrower-than-average shouldered folks likely won't find this pack to be as comfortable as other models. Our team thinks that its comfort is comparable to the The North Face Banchee 65 and Gregory Zulu 55.
This model has a surprisingly supportive suspension, especially considering it's a lighter pack. It also has a reasonably robust frame and waist belt, which we found do the job of effectively transferring load, essentially doing more to save our hips and backs at the end of the day. In our direct comparisons, we noticed the frame of the Paragon 68 is significantly stiffer (and subsequently more supportive) than the Osprey Volt 60 and is bolstered by its supportive waist belt.
We found that it scored similarly to the Osprey Atmos AG 65 and Osprey Aether AG 60, but does not handle heavier loads as well as the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, Gregory Baltoro 65, or Osprey Xenith 105. It works fine for moderate loads, but there are other better options out there for really hauling.
Features and Ease of Use
At first glance, the Paragon 68 has a simple design. While we found this to be accurate, it still has all the features that most backpackers desire the most, plus a handful of extras that have top-notch designs. Like most bags in our fleet, this one features a sleeping bag compartment and lower external straps. The straps can be configured to carry items either below or in front of the sleeping bag compartment found at the bottom of the pack.
This pack also features a stretchy mesh beavertail style pocket. We did, however, have a preference for this pocket on many of the Osprey packs because it is generally deeper. In any case, all of our users found themselves taking full advantage of this feature, as it was a great place to put wet rain gear or flip-flops. The Paragon 68 also comes with an included rain cover that stows nicely in a low profile pocket (underneath the stretchy mesh beavertail pocket).
The size of the hip belt pockets is nice, though they are not as big as many of the Osprey models (but we found to be more usable than the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 and similar to the The North Face Banchee 65) and are one of the more natural models to open and close while hiking. The lid pockets on the Paragon 68 feature one of our favorite designs; there's one smaller zippered pocket on the top of the lid and a much larger "U" shaped zipper that gains access to the much larger lid-pocket. The "U" shaped opening offered easy access to the pocket and allowed us to find gear easily.
The internal hydration sleeve is also a removable daypack, complete with shoulder straps that are nice for day hikes from camp or for a stroll around town; for folks wanting to shave even more weight, it can be left behind. The Paragon 68 doesn't have any additional access points beyond the sleeping bag compartment zipper and the primary top-loading opening. We felt like this was only a minimal downside, especially considering how many other sweet features this pack has.
This pack weighs 3 pounds, 15 ounces, keeping it light enough. It is similar in weight to the Osprey Volt 60 and Osprey Aether Pro 70. It is heavier than the Osprey Exos 58 (2 lbs 8 oz) which starts to truly blur the line between a classic backpacking pack and an ultralight pack, but the Paragon carries loads 35+ pound loads far better.
Adjustability and Fit
The Paragon offers a similar amount of adjustability that is comparable to the Osprey Atmos AG 65 and The North Face Banchee 65 and features a very similar design. The shoulder straps are attached to a Velcro-covered flap that slides up and down in a sleeve. The sleeve is found inside the back panel and allows the height of the shoulder straps to be finely tuned.
We found this design to be simple but effective and we never had a problem with it slipping out of place. Like the Osprey Volt 60 and The North Face Banchee 65, this model's waist belt is adjustable and can be extended to help better fit its wearer. The zippered pocket of the waist belt also moves forward as the belt extends, allowing for easy access.
The Paragon 68 is a great all-around backpacking pack. It is light and large enough for long-range missions, but also supportive enough for shorter weekend trips with more weight. If we knew we were going to carry 50+ pounds regularly, we would look for the Gregory Baltoro 65 or Arc'teryx Bora AR 63. We found that the Paragon 68 is light enough and has a slim profile, making it one of the more versatile backpacking packs that also make it viable for some mountaineering or multi-day ski touring applications.
At $250, this pack is fairly average in terms of both price and value. It costs more than the Osprey Volt 60, but it has a far more supportive suspension system and a better feature set overall, but it isn't necessarily more comfortable when carrying loads under 35-40 pounds. All in all, this pack has a fair value.
The Gregory Paragon 68 has most of the features we want. It's lighter than some top-scoring competitors, and can still handle moderate loads. Overall, we think it's a pretty solid pack with just a few downsides. It's certainly more comfortable than the lighter weight Osprey Exos 58, but if you are going to carry 45 or more pounds regularly, we would get something more robust.
— Ian Nicholson