Gregory Octal 55 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Comfortable, lightweight, good set of features, large stow pockets
Cons: Simple suspension, lacks support
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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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
— Elizabeth Paashaus