The Gregory Z25 stood out for its innovative back panel design, making it the most ventilated pack we tested. However, the pack has less organizational options than a pack like the REI Trail 25, but it does have some convenient hiking specific features, like trekking pole attachments. The unique back panel pushes the weight off of the back, and carries weight differently than most of the others we tested. The Osprey Talon 22 and the Marmot Kompressor Verve 26 have similarly designed back panels while keeping the load close to your back, which means they are both a little less breathable, but also remain more flexible and more comfortable for carrying heavier loads. If you're looking for a pack that holds weight well with a narrow profile try the frameless Deuter Speed Lite 20.
Gregory Z25 Review
Cons: Partially padded waist belt, narrow shoulder straps, heavy
Our Analysis and Test Results
Discontinued - November 2016
While this product has been discontinued, Gregory has replaced it with two new packs, the Sula 24 (left) and Salvo 24 (right).
With its unique CrossFlo design, the Gregory Z25 is the most ventilated pack we tested. This is a hiking specific pack, with a few features to help make your life easier.
The Gregory Z25's most notable features are its simplicity and ventilated back panel construction. It is hydration compatible, as well as being outfitted with two trekking pole or ice axe carry options and a front bucket pocket for quick access to extra layers.
Another great detail is the stiff webbing attached to the zippers. This amenity makes the pack easy to get in and out of with gloves on!
While this pack may seem to be outfitted with the right amount of features, the trade-off is its weight. The Gregory Z25 is a very stiff pack, the frame and ventilated back panel add a lot of weight, as this pack weighs in as our heaviest at 1lb 14oz. However, Gregory did scrap a lot of features in order to combat that issue and keep it as lightweight as possible.
While this pack fit long on our female testers with more petite torsos, with the base sitting below the hips and top extending up out of the shoulders limiting head mobility, many of our male testers found the well-ventilated CrossFlo back paneling super comfortable. However, the thin, narrow straps were the first to become uncomfortable under heavier loads, and the lack of a fully padded hip belt also did not help distribute weight.
This and the Osprey Stratos 24 are the only packs we tested using a design with a stiff mesh paneling against your back, and a frame that pushes the load slightly away from the body. Obviously, with this type of technology, this is the most well-ventilated, yet the trade-off is it may begin to pull you backwards under heavier loads.
All that being said, it performed well in our weight test, and we were surprised that the stiff back panel did not pull away from the back too uncomfortably when loaded up to 30lbs. The adjustability with the load lifter straps is a great feature. Of the packs we tested, only two came with this feature: this one and the Osprey Talon.
Unfortunately, this pack has a limited amount of versatility due to its frame structure. This is not a pack that is easily packable for travel, but it would excel at accompanying you on a trail run or afternoon scramble. As the pack is pulled away from the stiff mesh backing, it also forces everything internally to be loaded at an angle. We love a simple pack, but this one takes simplicity to a whole new level. One drawback is that the accessory pocket is very small: a chapstick, a key, and headlamp fit rather snugly into this pocket.
This pack performed rather well in our 24-hour water test. We left this pack out through drizzling rain and overnight snow. After an initially light drizzle, the contents remained dry, and yet, after enduring the elements, we noted that this fabric combination seems to shed water the best with a minimal amount soaking through. This pack kept its contents mostly dry, the only precipitation that seeped through was around the zippers of the accessory pocket. The Z25 showed little signs of wear through the duration of our testing.
Ease of Use
While this pack may not be quite as minimalistic as the REI Flash 18, it's still a pretty simple bag. The few features it is outfitted with, like the trekking pole and ice axe hideaway loops, were easy to maneuver once we figured them out. All of the 10 essential fit quite well into this pack, and additionally, a 13-inch laptop easily fit.
While this is most definitely a pack leaning to the technical side, great for scrambling, peak bagging, and day hiking, it can still be used for some urban uses, such as daily gym use. If you're looking for the best ventilation you can find, then this is the pack for you.
The lack of versatility with this pack lost some value points with us, although, it still falls right in the middle price range of the daypacks that we tested at just under $90. However, if you're more interested in a highly versatile pack, with good ventilation and amazing adjustability that can perform for multiple activities, you may want to consider the Osprey Talon 22.
— Gentrye Houghton