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Gregory Octal 55 Review

The Octal 55 is lightweight, well-featured, and provides for tons of storage space
Gregory Octal 55
Photo: Gregory
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Price:  $210 List | $209.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, lightweight, good set of features, large stow pockets
Cons:  Simple suspension, lacks support
Manufacturer:   Gregory
By Elizabeth Paashaus ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 15, 2020
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 16
  • Comfort and Suspension - 45% 7
  • Organizational systems - 20% 6
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Adjustability - 15% 3

Our Verdict

The Octal is a great specimen that hits the mark in weight, comfort, and functionality with a women's specific fit, light fabrics, simple suspension, and comfortable padding for loads that don't quite make it into the ultralight category. We love the large stow pockets on the outside and the breathable, light back panel on this Gregory model. It was hard to find aspects of this pack we didn't like and found ourselves using the Octal more frequently than many models in this review. For comfort and ease of use, this pack takes the cake. It didn't win any awards this year but is certainly a model worth taking a closer look at.

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Gregory Octal 55
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Gregory Octal 55
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $209.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$255 List$269.95 at Backcountry
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$269.95 at Backcountry
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$199.00 at REI
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Pros Comfortable, lightweight, good set of features, large stow pocketsComfortable, supportive suspension, simple design, large pockets, durable, customization from manufacturerHuge main compartment, customizable compression straps, super lightweight, comfortable with heavy loadsComfortable, plush padding, wide range of fitting options and adjustments, good number of pockets, easy-to-remove top lid,Lightweight, easy to access side pockets, removable pockets and straps
Cons Simple suspension, lacks supportNon-ventilated back panel, less organizational featuresDark material makes pack contents difficult to see, hip belt difficult to adjust, rigid padding might not last over timeLarge, spring loaded waist band is hard to get into, suspension can feel bulky, expensive, hip belt can sag uncomfortably on some usersFixed torso length, rigid feeling hip belt
Bottom Line We really like the overall design of the Octal; with its large mesh outer pockets and roomy main compartment, this pack is top notch when it comes to simplicity and storageComfortable suspension for all day use, all the right pockets, and durable fabric make the Circuit a top choiceThe Granite Gear Blaze is built for hauling heavy loads over vast distances with comfort and easeThe Aura 65 AG is a comfortable pack that is fully featured, well ventilated, and sleek in designWhen pack weight is a priority, the REI Flash 55 keeps the pounds and ounces low and works well for weekend trips and ultralight adventures
Rating Categories Gregory Octal 55 Circuit Blaze 60 Osprey Aura AG 65 REI Co-op Flash 55 - Women's
Comfort And Suspension (45%)
7
9
7
8
6
Organizational Systems (20%)
6
8
8
8
8
Weight (20%)
8
8
8
4
8
Adjustability (15%)
3
4
7
9
4
Specs Gregory Octal 55 Circuit Blaze 60 Osprey Aura AG 65 REI Co-op Flash 55...
Measured Weight (pounds) (medium) 2.62 lbs 2.68 lbs 3.0 lbs 4.65 lbs 2.68 lbs
Volumes Available (liters) 45, 55 68 60 50, 65 55
Organization: Compartments Lid, front pocket, side pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment Side pockets, front pocket, hip belt pockets, main compartment Lid, front pocket, side pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment Lid, front pocket, side pockets, dual front pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment Lid, double side pockets, front pocket, hip belt pockets, shoulder strap phone pocket, main compartment
Access Top Top Top, front Top, side, bottom Top
Hydration Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rain Cover Included Yes No No No
Women's Specific Features Women's specific fit S-Curve Shoulder Straps Women's Specific fit & sizing Women's specific fit Women's specific fit
Sleeping bag Compartment No No No Yes No
Bear Can Compatible Yes - Vertical, tight fit Yes - Vertical Yes - Vertical and Horizontal Yes - Vertical Yes - Vertical
Main Materials Nylon 500 Cordura 210D HD nylon Nylon Ripstop nylon; Oxford nylon (bluesign® approved)
Sizes Available XS, S, M S, M, L, XL, Kids Short, Regular XS, S, M XS, S, M
Warranty Limited lifetime Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime

Our Analysis and Test Results

From comfort to weight to overall design, the Gregory Octal 55 wowed us in almost all categories. The pack took very little time to break in and was comfortable carrying loads around 40 pounds. The frame is sleek and straightforward, to the point of being hardly noticeable. We also loved the feature set on this new pack. The Octal is a superb choice for backpackers who have lightened their base weight and want to put in big miles or those who prefer to take weekend adventures and just don't need to haul a lot of gear.

Performance Comparison


A supremely light pack that has both the suspension and space to...
A supremely light pack that has both the suspension and space to haul a lightweight kit plus a few luxuries is hard not to love.
Photo: Adam Paashaus

Comfort and Suspension


Comfort is the most important metric in our eyes; if a pack isn't comfortable, then the other aspects of it, like weight and features, are irrelevant. Luckily, the Octal 55 is an incredibly comfortable pack. The market seems to be trending away from heavy-duty, overly built full-frame packs, and the Octal is a great example of a lightweight pack that still manages to be very comfortable, even after miles on the trail. The waistband is wide, but not overly bulky, and the shoulder straps provide enough padding to avoid chafe.

The hip belt is well padded, comfortable, and wraps around our...
The hip belt is well padded, comfortable, and wraps around our medium tester's iliac crest pretty well but without the ability to lengthen, it's harder to get a custom fit.
Photo: Adam Paashaus

The suspension of the Octal 55 was one of the features about which we were most excited. The AeroSpan suspension and moisture-wicking back panel make this pack breathable and comfortable, even on hot days with heavy loads. The suspension system is enough to provide support and stability but does not overpower the pack or add a ton of extra weight. Some women may not like the protruding curve to the lumbar region on the Octal but we found it to be soft and helped keep the ventilation behind our backs.

Look at all that space for the breeze to flow! We love the...
Look at all that space for the breeze to flow! We love the breathability of the Octal, something not many packs outside the Osprey line manage to achieve.
Photo: Adam Paashaus

Organizational Systems


The Octal shines in this metric because of the overall simplicity of its design. The main body of the pack is large and open, making it easy to stuff items into the very bottom to maximize storage. A bear can fits vertically, but it's tight. The Octal also has three large mesh pockets on the outside. These pockets are great for extra jackets, snacks, or water bottles. Ultralight gram counters that need a pack that can haul, will appreciate the removable lid.

The hip belt doesn't offer pockets large enough for accessories like...
The hip belt doesn't offer pockets large enough for accessories like phones, but two full-sized Snickers bars will fit!
Photo: Adam Paashaus

The hip belt pockets are a bit lacking and while you can fit a small snack or compass inside, a standard smartphone won't fit. If you use your phone for navigation or want a map at hand, you'll want to consider the always fashionable fanny pack as an add-on.

There are no extra pockets, bells, or whistles on this pack, which we much appreciated. For a simple, straightforward, easy to use pack with a basic feature set, look no further than the Octal. This pack is for light trips into the backcountry. It will help you streamline your backcountry kit because there isn't room for extra items! We loved the mesh pockets on the outside and the large lid, which has two roomy pockets.

Large, stretchy, and deep, each side pockets on the Octal is able to...
Large, stretchy, and deep, each side pockets on the Octal is able to accommodate both a water bottle and a not-so-tiny camp chair at the same time.
Photo: Adam Paashaus

Weight


Gregory is known for heavy packs capable of comfortably hauling serious gear but has successfully made their way into the lightweight market with the Octal. It is one of only a few packs in our test that weighs under 2 pounds and is more than capable of carrying loads of 25 to 30 pounds.

The materials used are light but not overly so. We didn't feel much fear of destroying them except when squeezing through some slot canyons that were a bit too tight for our fully loaded side pockets, but we won't fault the pack for that.

The fully removable lid can also expand upwards giving you a great...
The fully removable lid can also expand upwards giving you a great place to strap bulky gear like a climbing rope or foam camp chair.
Photo: Adam Paashaus

Adjustability


Aside from the removable lid, this pack doesn't offer much in the way of adjustment. The fixed torso length and fixed waist belt mean that if you are on the larger side, you may not be able to get the best fit. We aren't too surprised here since most of the other ultra-lightweight packs in our lineup follow suit.

The back panel on the Octal is reminiscent of the suspension system...
The back panel on the Octal is reminiscent of the suspension system on both the Osprey Octal and the Lumina.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Value


TheOctal 55 is a pack of good value in comparison to other models on the market. It is priced a little below the mid-point of packs we tested but offers a lot in the way of comfort and weight savings. Because the design is thoughtful in its feature set, and the Octal seems durable overall, this pack is a great choice for a reasonable price.

Conclusion


If you can't tell, we love the Gregory Octal 55. This pack is lightweight, simple, but still has all the features we look for in a good pack. It carries heavy loads well because of its suspension system and felt comfortable from the moment we put it on. The mesh pockets and large lid provide enough extra storage and organizational features to keep your kit dialed, without causing confusion. It also helps limit overpacking, which for us, was a plus!

For those with a lightweight kit that aren't quite ready to commit...
For those with a lightweight kit that aren't quite ready to commit to a pack that can't haul their 25 to 30-pound loads, the Octal is a great blend of weight and ability.
Photo: Adam Paashaus

Elizabeth Paashaus