Gregory Alpaca Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable and weather resistant, comfortable carry options, convenient storage design
Cons: Shoulder straps are somewhat difficult to remove
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gregory Alpaca is one of our favorite all-around duffels and is well-suited for everything from remote expeditions to daily trips to the gym. The one external and two internal zippered pockets provide just enough organization for your smaller items, and the durable and weather-resistant materials keep your contents protected from the elements. The comfortable carry options make it ideal for almost any type of travel application, and the daisy chain attachments provide plenty of tie-down points for far-flung travels on a bus, 4x4 vehicle, or pack animal. The Alpaca scores well across the board and has no significant weaknesses.
Ease of Transport
The Alpaca is convenient to haul around with many of the same carrying features as other top-tier contenders in a well-executed design. It can be carried briefcase style, backpack style, over the shoulder, dragged by its grab handles, or lashed down through its daisy chains.
Its comfortable shoulder straps are well-padded and have a wide range of adjustment. They can be cinched down tightly for a comfortable backpack-style carry or fully lengthened to sling over one shoulder. Most other competitors in our lineup don't provide the same extended adjustment length that allows for a comfortable and balanced shoulder sling option. While the shoulder straps are easy to adjust, it takes a little more effort to remove them altogether. The upper ends of the straps must be carefully threaded through a buckle, while the lower ends more easily pass through a small fixed attachment loop.
The traditional briefcase-style carry handles are permanently attached to the bag and join together with a comfortable velcro clasp. Grab handles at each end of the duffel provide an easy target for a quick grab out of the trunk, off a luggage rack, or at the airport baggage claim.
Each side of the duffel includes a set of full-length daisy chain attachment points. These loops make it far easier to transport and strap down this bag to alternative modes of transportation like sleds, jeeps, snowmobiles, llamas, or various other pack animals. Not only do these daisy chains 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 material on the loop and doesn't skimp on the stitching.
Storage and Ease of Packing
The Alpaca has an efficient storage design with a large main storage compartment, two internal zippered mesh pockets underneath the top lid, and one external zippered storage pocket. We tested the 90-liter version, and it is also available in 30, 45, 60, and 120-liter volumes.
A large D-shaped zippered opening extends nearly the entire perimeter of the bag to reveal the massive main storage compartment. The heavy-duty zippers used to close the lid are burly and glide smoothly without getting snagged. The large zipper pulls are easy to grab, even with gloves on, and have a contrasting reflective thread color to make them easier to find in the dark or low light conditions.
The Alpaca also sports a single external zippered pocket at one end. While the pocket is reasonably large and extends across the entire end of the bag, the zippered opening is a little smaller and could potentially limit the items that you could stash inside. Our testers still appreciated the convenience of this pocket. Accessed from the inside of this pocket is also a small clear ID window that allows you to add a business card or a label with your contact information.
The dual compression straps on each side of the duffel are appropriately located and sized for maximum effectiveness. They are easy to use to help prevent your gear from sloshing around when the bag less than fully loaded. They also make the bag easier to handle and make hauling the load more comfortable when carrying it like a backpack.
The Gregory Alpaca is an incredibly durable duffel bag. It is constructed with a 900-denier diamond rip-stop material throughout the main body, with an additional 630-denier nylon reinforcement layer across the bottom panel. Only a few products in our lineup use a similar or slightly thicker body material. The diamond rip-stop fabric resists puncture and abrasions, and the additional bottom layer helps maximize the duffel's durability and overall lifespan.
The Alpaca's overall construction quality and fit and finish are second to none. All of the seams are strong and are thoughtfully reinforced, and the webbing, buckles, and zippers all match the high quality of the bag. When push comes to shove, the Alpaca is plenty durable for the vast majority of users and should withstand several rugged expeditions or years of general travel. Gregory also stands behind their products with a lifetime warranty on materials and workmanship.
At a measured 3.8 pounds with our hanging scale, the Alpaca certainly isn't the lightest model in our lineup. Still, it falls right in the middle of the other similarly size high-quality expedition duffels.
The Alpaca is surprisingly light, considering that it has some of the most robust material in our lineup and doesn't skimp on high-quality hardware or thoughtful design features. In the long run, it provides a great blend of performance, comfort, durability, and weather-resistance at a reasonable weight. When loaded up to its maximum capacity, you probably won't notice the weight of the bag itself, but you'll definitely appreciate its quality.
The Alpaca is one of the most weather-resistant duffels that we tested with its 900-denier body material with a waterproof TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) coating. While the fabric itself creates an impenetrable barrier against moisture, the seams and zippers are not completely waterproof and remain vulnerable to water seepage. None of the products in our test group have fully sealed seams or waterproof zippers.
In both our real-world experiences and our side-by-side garden hose tests, the Alpaca performed well time and time again. The TPU laminate coating does a great job of repelling water from the bag's surface, and the top lid has a generous weather flap that does an excellent job of protecting the main D-shaped zipper from the elements. Both of these features help keep your contents dry in most normal travel conditions, aside from extended heavy downpours or full underwater submersion.
While our lineup of high-end duffel bags has a surprisingly small price range among the top competitors, the Alpaca has one of the lower prices of the top contenders, earning it our Best Value Award for a high-end bag. The Alpaca performs well across the board with no significant weaknesses, thanks to its durable and weather-resistant material, comfortable carry options, efficient storage design, and an impressive list of thoughtful features. Other models may shine just a little brighter in specific areas, but none combine the all-round performance and reasonable price tag of the Alpaca.
The Gregory Alpaca is one of our favorite duffel bags with its comfortable shoulder straps, extensive daisy chains, top-notch durability, and consistently dependable performance. Combining all of this with one of the more reasonable prices for a high-end duffel, it earns our Best Value Award. Whether you're packing for a rugged glacier expedition, a casual family camping trip, or an exciting weekend getaway, the Alpaca is ready for the adventure.
— Nick Bruckbauer