Hands-on Gear Review

Gregory Alpaca Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $150 List | $129.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Highly weather resistant, easy to pack, dual mesh zippered pockets under the lid, comfortable shoulder straps
Cons:  Externally accessed pocket is on the smaller side, shoulder straps take a little more work to remove
Bottom line:  A solid all-around excellent expedition bag, this model was built with remote adventures in mind.
Editors' Rating:   
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Weight (Pounds):  3.9 lbs (90 liter model)
Size options (Inches):  30, 45, 60, 90, 120 L
Volume Size Options (Liters):  30, 45, 60, 90, 120 L
Manufacturer:   Gregory

Our Verdict

The Gregory Alpaca is built with expeditions and exotic adventures in mind. It was one of the most durable in the bunch and was also highly weather resistant. It was one of the easiest models to lash to vehicles, animals, or whatever your mode of transportation might be. The supple fabric and large opening made it nice and easy to pack and its only small downfall was that it didn't offer as many pockets as several of its close competitors. Additionally, the handful of the pockets it did feature, particularly its external access pocket, weren't quite as user-friendly as other models.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ian Nicholson

Last Updated:
Monday
November 6, 2017

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The Gregory Alpaca is one of our favorite all-around duffels that is reasonably well-suited for everything from exotic expeditions to running to the gym. While we think this model could be used for most travel applications, some people using it for more traditional travel might wish it had a few more pockets and organizational features. However, for those far-flung adventures, few folks won't be completely satisfied with this model. The Alpaca is one of the most durable and weather resistant models currently available. It offers plenty of lashing options, as well as nicely articulated, comfortable shoulder straps that performed as well as we could hope for a duffel bag.

Performance Comparison


The Alpaca is a top-notch duffel that placed second in our review. It remains our Top Pick for our favorite expedition duffel and all-purpose travel as well. Here tester Ian Nicholson uses the backpack straps as a more traditional over-the-shoulder strap.
The Alpaca is a top-notch duffel that placed second in our review. It remains our Top Pick for our favorite expedition duffel and all-purpose travel as well. Here tester Ian Nicholson uses the backpack straps as a more traditional over-the-shoulder strap.

Ease of Transport


To help you tote the Alpaca around, you'll find many of the same features as other top-tier contenders.


It sports comfortable and relatively easy to remove shoulder straps, a second set of straps for traditional briefcase style carrying, nice big grab loops at each end of this bag, and daisy chains that run the length of the duffel. These features make it far easier to transport and strap down this model when attaching it to sleds, jeeps, snowmobiles, llamas, or various other animals.

The Alpaca was one of the easiest models to lash to different things. Sporting two full-length daisy chains  one on either side of the bag  these daisies are constructed with robust webbing and stitched with a burly bartack. They are sewn in such a way to keep a little space to make threading them even easier.
The Alpaca was one of the easiest models to lash to different things. Sporting two full-length daisy chains, one on either side of the bag, these daisies are constructed with robust webbing and stitched with a burly bartack. They are sewn in such a way to keep a little space to make threading them even easier.

Not only did we find these daisies help facilitate lashing the duffel to a multitude of creatures and vehicles, but they are also easily among the most rugged of any model we tested. The Alpaca uses thick webbing on the loop and does skimp on the number of bartacks.

Our review team found the Alpaca's shoulder straps to be above average for comfort. Our shoulders were noticeably less sore than when wearing the Marmot Long Hauler or Helly Hansen Duffel Bag 2. We loaded up each duffel with 50 pounds for 20 minutes.
Our review team found the Alpaca's shoulder straps to be above average for comfort. Our shoulders were noticeably less sore than when wearing the Marmot Long Hauler or Helly Hansen Duffel Bag 2. We loaded up each duffel with 50 pounds for 20 minutes.

Some of the models we tested sport a design where the shoulder straps can be cinched to double as a briefcase style duffel. The Alpaca, however, has a dedicated second set of straps for this purpose. We didn't mind this, as we found ourselves stowing the shoulder straps while checking luggage (a good idea on any model to protect them from getting caught in the convey belts) and it was nice having them ready for quicker carry type situations.

Besides removable shoulder straps  the Alpaca features dedicated briefcase style straps. While we didn't use them that much  we did find them helpful when pulling our bag off the luggage carousel when our shoulder straps still might be tucked away.
Besides removable shoulder straps, the Alpaca features dedicated briefcase style straps. While we didn't use them that much, we did find them helpful when pulling our bag off the luggage carousel when our shoulder straps still might be tucked away.

The Alpaca's shoulder straps are certainly above average in their overall comfort, and were noticeably better than the Marmot Long Hauler or Helly Hansen Duffel Bag 2, but didn't decrease the burden of extended carry quite as much as The North Face Base Camp duffel.

We liked the small clear window (accessed from the inside) to help with labeling the bag or simply putting a business card or other contact information - in the event the bag is lost.


Thanks to its large "D" shaped opening  the Alpaca is one of the easier models to pack. Not only does this design facilitate easy packing  but it also lets the user maximize the volume of the bag (AKA cram stuff in). It was less challenging than most to close when it was near max capacity; this was due to a combination of overall design  zipper locations  giant zipper pulls  and a large gauge zipper.
Thanks to its large "D" shaped opening, the Alpaca is one of the easier models to pack. Not only does this design facilitate easy packing, but it also lets the user maximize the volume of the bag (AKA cram stuff in). It was less challenging than most to close when it was near max capacity; this was due to a combination of overall design, zipper locations, giant zipper pulls, and a large gauge zipper.

Ease of Packing


The Alpaca was one of the simplest models to al-pack-a.


It features a large "D" shaped zipper that practically extends the perimeter of the top of the bag. The large zippers used to close this lid are burly, and we rarely got caught. The zippers proved to be super durable, and their large size made grabbing the pulls easy, even with gloves on. One bonus of the zippers is they feature reflective tabs to help with finding them in the dark or low light conditions.

Our testers absolutely loved the dual-zippered mesh pockets featured underneath the lid of the Alpaca. A handful of other models featured a similar design which was useful for staying organized. Our review team enjoyed this feature so much that several of the review team commented on not having them when taking out a bag that didn't share the design.
Our testers absolutely loved the dual-zippered mesh pockets featured underneath the lid of the Alpaca. A handful of other models featured a similar design which was useful for staying organized. Our review team enjoyed this feature so much that several of the review team commented on not having them when taking out a bag that didn't share the design.

Similar to the Black Hole, you'll find two mesh zipper pockets underneath the lid, which our entire testing team enjoyed for staying organized. We liked this split design better than the single pocket design found on The North Face Base Camp.

We liked having the small end pocket on the Alpaca but preferred the pockets found on the Marmot Long Hauler and The North Face Base Camp a fair amount better.
We liked having the small end pocket on the Alpaca but preferred the pockets found on the Marmot Long Hauler and The North Face Base Camp a fair amount better.

The Alpaca also sports a single external zippered pocket on one end. While we certainly appreciated this feature and used it, most of our testers liked the slightly more substantial pockets (externally accessed) on The North Face Base Camp and Marmot Long Hauler. The Alpaca's pocket was a tad on the small size and thus limited our uses. The dual compression straps were excellent and kept our gear from sloshing around when we didn't fill this bag up all the way up. We also noticed the straps made the bag easier to handle and were far more comfortable when carrying like a backpack.

Weight


At 3 pounds, 15 ounces, the Alpaca is not the lightest pack in our review.


Compared to the Patagonia Black Hole (3 pounds, 3 ounces) or the Marmot Long Hauler (3 pounds, 8 ounces), our lightest models in the fleet, it weighs 12 and 7 ounces more. In the long run, this isn't a massive amount more, and it remains half the weight (or less) than most of the rolling or wheeled models. This duffel may appeal to certain users who will appreciate its extremely robust material, as well as the fact that its the best performer in our weather resistance tests, and consider it worth the extra ounces.

Durability


The Alpaca is easily one of the most durable duffels on the market.


It uses a 900D TPU diamond rip-stop material throughout, with an additional layer of 630D nylon on the bottom, which helps maximize the duffel's overall life. This material is similar to what the Patagonia Black Hole is constructed with, though each offers their slight advantages. We like the diamond rip-stop of the Alpaca better and found it to be slightly more puncture resistant overall. We also appreciate the padded bottom of the Black Hole just a touch better. Both of these models are FAR more durable than the Helly Hansen 2 and marginally high performing than the Marmot Long Hauler.

The fabric featured on the Alpaca was the most weather resistant and durable of any model we tested. While there is a handful of marginally more abrasion resistant models  we think the Alpaca is seriously built to last and will likely withstand even the most abusive traveler decades of abuse.
The fabric featured on the Alpaca was the most weather resistant and durable of any model we tested. While there is a handful of marginally more abrasion resistant models, we think the Alpaca is seriously built to last and will likely withstand even the most abusive traveler decades of abuse.

After testing, we've determined that the 1000D phthalate-free TPE laminate body on The North Face Base Camp, with additional 840-denier Jr. ballistics nylon on the bottom, is still the beefiest of the bunch. But, when push comes to shove, the Alpaca is plenty durable for the vast majority of users and will withstand most countless expedition and days of travel - no matter how rugged.

Weather Resistance


The Alpaca was the most weather resistant duffel we tested, just barely edging out The North Face Base Camp.


In both real-world testing and our side-by-side garden hose tests, the Alpaca won time and time again. It features TPU material that we originally associated with that of other models, but we found it to be consistently more weather resistant and it did a better job of keeping its contents dry.

Best Application


The Alpaca is at home for any travel situation but certainly excels where its distinct advantages of excellent weather resistance, easy-to-pack design, and robust construction are a benefit. As a result, we think its truly one of the best expedition models currently available because these features help facilitate easy travel while dragging it around the globe and lashing it to yaks, donkeys, buses, etc.

We liked the side compression straps featured on the Alpaca. Why? They did a respectable job of compressing the bag when it wasn't totally full  which made it far more comfortable to carry in backpack-mode.
We liked the side compression straps featured on the Alpaca. Why? They did a respectable job of compressing the bag when it wasn't totally full, which made it far more comfortable to carry in backpack-mode.

Value


The Alpaca is very similar in price to its closest competition, like the Patagonia Black Hole ($149) and The North Face Base Camp ($145). While we like all three of these duffels and they are similar, they do each offer their own subtle but specific advantages. If you want a burly duffel but want to save a little bit of money, the Marmot Long Hauler ($139), which is slightly less, has a handful of its own advantages and gives up very little in the way of durability or features.

Conclusion


Our Top Pick for far-flung excursions and remote adventures, the Gregory Alpaca scores high across the board. Its performance is highlighted by its comfortable shoulder straps, numerous lashing options, and top-notch durability. It's also the most weather resistant of the bunch. While several rolling models might be better for more traditional airline travel, this model remains our Top Pick for trips where we know we'll be strapping our bag to a truck or towing it behind us on a glacier.

Ian Nicholson

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Most recent review: November 6, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
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