The Gregory Alpaca is built with expeditions and exotic adventures in mind. It's one of the most durable in the bunch and is 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 make it nice and easy to pack, and its only small downfall is that it doesn't offer as many pockets as several of its close competitors; additionally, the pockets it did feature, particularly its external access pocket, weren't quite as user-friendly as other models.
Gregory Alpaca Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Highly weather resistant, easy to pack, comfortable shoulder straps
Cons: Externally accessed pocket is on the smaller side, shoulder straps take a little more work to remove
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Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
The Gregory Alpaca gives the Editors Choice The North Face Basecamp a run for its money. In the end the TNF edges ahead in terms of durability but yields a little of that back to the Alpaca in weather resistance. Overall, we like the Basecamp just a little more. You likely won't notice a huge difference.
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.
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.
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 conveyor belts) and it was nice having them ready for quicker carry type situations.
The Alpaca's shoulder straps are above average in overall comfort, and were noticeably better than the Best Buy 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.
Ease of Packing
The Alpaca was one of the simplest models to pack. 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 rarely got snagged. 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.
Similar to the Black Hole, you'll find two mesh zipper pockets underneath the lid, which our entire testing team enjoyed for staying organized.
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.
The Alpaca is incredibly durable. 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 higher performing than the Marmot Long Hauler.
After testing, we've determined that the 1000D phthalate-free TPE laminate body on The North Face Base Camp, with additional 840-denier 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.
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. As a note, we tested the 90 liter Alpaca, the 90 liter Black Hole, and 105 liter Long Hauler. 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.
The Alpaca was the most weather resistant full-function duffel we tested, just barely edging out The North Face Base Camp. The specialized, but limited application, Top Pick Yeti Panga is way more waterproof than any of the others in our fleet.
In both real-world testing and our side-by-side garden hose tests, the Alpaca performed well 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.
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, it's 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.
The Alpaca is very similar in price to its closest competition, like the Patagonia Black Hole and The North Face Base Camp. 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 , which is slightly less, has a handful of its own advantages and gives up very little in the way of durability or features.
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.
— Ian Nicholson