Gregory Alpaca Review
Compare prices at 2 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 delighted 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.
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.
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.
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 some other bags. 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. 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. We like the diamond rip-stop of the Alpaca and found it to be puncture-resistant overall.
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. In the long run, this isn't a massive amount heavier, and it remains half the weight (or less) than most rolling or wheeled luggage. This duffel may appeal to certain users who will appreciate its extremely robust material, as well as the fact that it's among the best performers in our weather resistance tests, and consider it worth the extra ounces.
The Alpaca was nearly the most weather resistant full-function duffel we tested. The fabric holds up, but the seams and zippers are vulnerable. This is a familiar story, as the vast majority of tested duffels meet this description.
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 very similar in price to its closest competition. While we like all three of these duffels and they are similar, they do each offer their own subtle but specific advantages. Especially if you find a good deal, you can't go wrong with its value.
The Gregory Alpaca scores high across the board. Its performance is highlighted by its comfortable shoulder straps, numerous lashing options, and top-notch durability. The Alpaca gives the Editors' Choice a run for its money. In the end, the two top award winners edge ahead in terms of durability but yield a little of that back to the Alpaca in weather resistance.
— Jediah Porter & Ian Nicholson