The women's specific Gregory Octal 55 is a part of the new wave of women's specific ultralight-inspired packs hitting the market. Though perhaps not designed for the extremely lightweight missions, the Octal works well as a transitional pack for those trending toward a completely ultralight set-up. It can be slimmed down to a seek, two pounds three ounces, or can have a bit more storage and added durability with a large removable lid and rain fly. These options make the Octal versatile. The pack also has an integrated mesh suspension system, providing support for heavier loads.
Gregory Octal 55 - Women's Review
Cons: Heavy, minimal features
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gregory Octal 55 impressed us; it's a comfortable, full frame pack with inspiration from the world of ultralight gear. It has a frame that is substantial enough to support heavy loads but remains relatively light. It is sleek and simplistic, to the point of being hardly noticeable. The features on this pack were also simple, reducing the overall weight of this full-size pack.
The Octal ends up with a fairly high average in this metric, with a weight-to-volume of 20.6 g/L. This is comparable to the Mountainsmith Scream, which is also a women's specific pack, with an average of 21 g/L. Both of these packs are on the far end of the ultralight spectrum, closer to a traditional backpacking pack than an incredibly light, technical pack like the Gossamer Gear Murmur. That said, this score is relatively good for a full frame pack. The Octal is lighter than the Mountainsmith by only a few ounces.
Load Carrying Comfort
In the case of the Octal, comfort is the pack's strong suit. The AeroSpan mesh suspension system provides plenty of ventilation and lower back support. The suspension system and waist belt are fixed and lack adjustability, but if the pack is fitted, it carries heavy loads with ease. Much like the Mountainsmith Scream, the Octal is more of a traditional backpack with ultralight inspiration; this should be taken into account when comparing this pack to minimalist packs, like the Zpacks Arc Blast or the ULA CDT. The Octal is going to provide much more support, with a bit of added weight, than minimalist models. If your base weight is between 15-20 pounds, this pack could be a good option. It has adequate support capabilities, but performs best under slightly heavier loads.
The Octal 55 is outstanding in its overall design. There are no superfluous pockets, bells, or whistles on this pack, which we greatly appreciated. The design of this pack reminded us a lot of the Osprey Exos 48, with its large, stretchy mesh outside pocket and large mesh water bottle pockets. The lid is easy to remove, making it slightly more adaptable than the Mountainsmith Scream. For those who are transitioning into a lighter set-up, this pack will help you streamline your backcountry kit, as there isn't room for extra items! We loved the mesh pockets on the outside, and the large lid, which boasts two roomy pockets.
The Octal is impressive in its range of weight, from fully equipped to stripped down. Complete with a rainfly and a substantial lid (with two zippered internal pockets), the Octal weighs 2 pounds 11.2 ounces. Once these items are gone, the pack weighs in at 2 pounds 3.2 ounces. This eight-ounce difference is significant, and greatly reduces the overall weight of the pack. Unfortunately, the suspension system and waist belt are fixed in place, which lessens the pack's adaptability. There are some attachment points on the outside of the pack, for additional carrying options, much like the Osprey Exos 48. The Octal closely compares to the Exos and the Mountainsmith Scream when it comes to adaptability.
Like most packs with a large, stretchy mesh pocket, the Octal runs the risk of blowing out in this area. The stretchy mesh can catch on branches and sharp objects that are stored within and can rip easily. The main body uses fairly durable fabric, but it seems like Gregory cut the overall weight of the pack down by using fairly thin nylon. We could foresee this material ripping with consistent use over a longer period.
We found this pack best suited for short overnights or weekend trips that are focused on bringing less. There are a few pockets on the outside for extra storage, but the majority of your kit will be stored inside the main body of the Octal. This requires strategic packing, making the Octal a good option for those transitioning into a more ultralight set-up. It is also important to note that the Octal is a women's specific pack, one of the few ultralight packs that come in a women's specific design. For the men's version, check out the Gregory Optic 58. The Octal is a slightly lighter option than the other women's specific model in this review, the Mountainsmith Scream 55.
For $210, the Octal 55 is a pack of fairly good value in comparison to other models on the market. With only a ten-dollar difference, the Octal falls alongside the Osprey Exos 48 which is has been a favorite for those on a budget for years. Less expensive models are the new Best Buy Award winner, the Mountainsmith Scream 55, or the super lightweight ULA CDT. Both of these packs are under $200, but the Octal provides more versatility with its slightly higher price tag. The Octal makes a good women's specific alternative to the old favorite, the Osprey Exos 48.
Overall, we were fans of 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 confusing. The Octal is between an ultralight pack and a traditional backpacking pack with style and ease.
— Jane Jackson