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Hands-on Gear Review
Gregory Paragon 68 Review
Cons: Doesn't fit narrower shouldered users very well, no additional access
Bottom line: A solid, versatile, and low weight backpacking back that is a great option for a variety of trips.
The Gregory Paragon is an excellent all-around backpacking pack. It's lighter than average without giving up much in the way of features or support in regards to its suspension. In fact, it features a noticeably more robust suspension than many packs that weigh a pound or more. While the Paragon is a lighter weight backpacking pack, it doesn't necessarily handle heavier loads like many packs in its weight range (in a good way). We still wouldn't consider it a load hauler or for users that regularly carry 40-45 pounds (or more) more times than not, but it can get the job done for 2-4 day trips. The Paragon excels at carrying loads better than packs of similar weight and is a great option if your back appreciates more help along the way.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Paragon 68 is a pack that sports a supportive suspension system without a lot of weight. It features one of our favorite lid designs in the review and weighs a respectable 3 pounds 9 ounces.
The foam found in the Paragon's shoulder straps was exceptionally supportive and the shape is nicely articulated. 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 thus, effectively.
Narrower-than-average shouldered folks likely won't find this pack to be as comfortable as other models. That said, we still think the Paragon's shoulder straps are above average for comfort and the overall pack's comfort earned an 8 out of 10. As a whole, our entire testing team found this pack was more comfortable than the Deuter Air Contact 65 + 10 or the Osprey Volt 60. Its comfort level was similar to the Osprey Aether 60 and The North Face Banchee 65 and was bested by the Arc'teryx Bora AR, Osprey Atmos AG, and Gregory Baltoro 65, as they scored perfect 10 out of 10s in the comfort metric (and also happen to be the three overall highest scoring models).
The Paragon has a surprisingly supportive suspension, especially considering it's such a light pack. It also has a fairly robust frame and waist belt, which we found did a solid job of effectively transferring the load, essentially doing more to save our hips and backs at the end of the day. In our direct comparisons, we noticed the Paragon's frame is significantly stiffer (and subsequently more supportive) than the Osprey Volt 60; we determined that this was mostly due to its supportive waist belt. The Paragon also had a better suspension system than The North Face Banchee 65, outperforming it by two points (out of ten) in the suspension metric - 9/10 vs. 7/10.
We found that it scored similarly to the Osprey Atmos AG 65 and Osprey Aether AG 60, but was not as robust, nor did it handle super heavy (45-50+ pounds) loads as well as the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, Gregory Baltoro 65, or Osprey Xenith 75; again, this pack works well for heavier laden trips but isn't designed to be a "load-hauler".
Features and Ease of Use
At first glance, you might think the Paragon's design is on the simpler sides of backpacks that are currently on the market. While we found this to be true, 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, the Paragon features a sleeping bag compartment and lower external straps. The straps can be configured to carry items either below and/or in front of the sleeping bag compartment found at the bottom of the pack.
Similar to many of the Osprey models, this pack also features a stretchy mesh beavertail style pocket. Our team particularly liked the Osprey pack's mesh beavertail pocket slightly better, mostly because it is deeper (AKA taller); 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. One of the sweetest additions to the Paragon is it comes with an included rain cover that stows nicely in a low profile pocket (underneath the stretchy mesh beavertail pocket).
Th size of the hip belt pockets is nice, though they are not as big as many of the Osprey models (but more usable than the Arc'teryx Bora and similar to The North Face Banchee 65) and are one of the easier models to open and close while hiking. The lid pockets on the Paragon 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 gave us easy access to the pocket and allowed us to find whatever we might be looking for.
The Paragon's internal "hydration" sleeve is also a removable daypack, complete with shoulder straps that are nice for day hikes from camp or for a jaunt around town; for folks wanting to shave even more weight, it can be left behind. The Paragon 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, and how light it weighs.
This pack weighs 3 lbs 15 oz, putting it at the lighter end of packs in our review. It is similar in weight, but slightly heavier than the Banchee 65 (3 lbs 10 oz) but has a slightly more robust suspension. 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. What's notable is that the Paragon carries moderately heavy loads just as well as packs that are far heavier, like the Osprey Aether 60 (5 lbs) or the Deuter Air Contact 65 + 10 (6 lbs 3 oz) and is lighter than most of the other "Top Picks" in our review (typically by a pound or more).
The Paragon offers a similar amount of adjustability that is comparable to the Osprey Atmos AG 65, the Osprey Aether 60, and The North Face Banchee 65, as it features an extremely similar design. The Paragon's 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 and The North Face Banchee, the Paragon's waist belt is adjustable and can be extended to help better fit its wearer. What sets the Paragon's waist belt apart is its zippered pocket, which moves forward as the waist belt extends, remaining in an ideal of a location as possible, allowing for easy access.
The Paragon is a great all-around backpacking pack. It is light and large enough for long range week+ missions, but also supportive enough for more heavily laden or comfort-oriented (AKA heavier) weekend trips up to 45 pounds. If we knew we were going to carry 50+ pounds on a regular basis, we would likely purchase a more supportive pack, like the Gregory Baltoro 65, Osprey Xenith 75, or the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63. We found that the Paragon was light enough and had a slender enough of a profile, making it one of the more versatile backpacking packs that allow you to cross over into some mountaineering or multi-day ski touring applications.
At $250, the Paragon is a solid price that is fairly average among packs in the review. It costs more than the Osprey Volt 60 ($180), but it has a far more supportive suspension system and a better feature set overall. It is similar in price to The North Face Banchee 65, and the Osprey Atmos AG 65, though it is lighter than the Atmos and offers a slightly more substantial suspension though. However, it isn't necessarily more comfortable when carrying loads under 35-40 pounds.
The Paragon 68 is a pretty rad pack that has most of the features we're looking for. It's lighter than average, but can still handle slightly heavy loads. Overall, we think it's a pretty top-notch pack with 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'd get something more robust. If you like the weight and the general design of the Paragon, but wish it had more pockets, we'd recommend checking out The North Face Banchee 65; the Banchee is similar in weight (the Paragon is four ounces heavier) and overall design, but has two large external pockets on rear of the pack that we liked (though we like the Paragon's top lid zippers better).
Other Versions and Accessories
Gregory makes the Paragon in a 38, 48, 58, and 68 litter volumes.
— Ian Nicholson
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