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May 16, 2010

Gregory Diablo Pack Review

It was probably inevitable that a Boy Scout became the founder of a backpack company; go on enough campouts, wilderness treks, and Jamborees, and you quickly develop an appreciation for materials and designs that are comfortable, durable, and versatile enough to deal with a wide range of conditions.

That’s the back story for Gregory Mountain Products, a Sacramento-based company founded by former Boy Scout Wayne Gregory. Throughout his career, Gregory has proven to be an innovator in backpack design, and pioneered several developments that improved both the ergonomics and performance quality of all the packs in his catalog.

That catalog has grown pretty extensive, as today you can find more than 35 different men’s models (and an equal number of female-specific models) on the company website. They’re divided into categories that a novice shopper may find hard to distinguish – what exactly is the difference between All-Mountain and Mountaineering, anyway? – and offer something for everybody, whether you’re leading alpine climbing expeditions (scroll to Chris Warner on that link) or just cruising around campus scoping out the babes.

Gregory Diablo pack

Towards the latter end of that spectrum is a category of Active Trail packs that are designed with running in mind, and the lightest of those is the Diablo, which I’ve been using for the better part of three months. (Incidentally, two other packs in this line are called Miwok and Wasatch – think there’s a chance someone at Gregory is an ultrarunning fan?). It incorporates several of the innovations Gregory developed for its larger packs, with a low overall profile that isn’t nearly as bulky as standard backpacks.

Main compartment with 70-oz CamelBak reservoir

The Active Trail models are also designed to be used as hydration packs, but they don’t come with their own fluid reservoirs. I used a 70-oz Camelbak reservoir which fits perfectly in the compartment closest to my body. The rest of the main cargo area has two additional sleeves to separate items if necessary. Overall cargo capacity for the Diablo is 6L (352 cubic in), and most of it is in this main compartment area.

A bit of tube trouble

Lacking a dedicated hydration reservoir of its own production poses some minor concerns for Gregory that I experienced firsthand. While the 70-oz CamelBak bladder fits perfectly, the Diablo wouldn’t be compatible with a 100-oz reservoir, or a 70-oz offering from other companies (such as Hydrapak, whose rectangular reservoirs seem to be showing up more and more often lately). And with my particular CamelBak tube, there was a definite fit problem with tube placement: while the mouthpiece easily made it through the main exit port, it couldn’t fit through the narrow sleeve of the shoulder harness (see photo above). I ended up tucking the end of the tube below the chest strap to minimize bouncing, but it would be nice to see this element of the design updated for future versions.

Alos visible in the picture above, on the opposite shoulder strap as the bite valve, is a small bungee loop where you can hook the mouthpiece of your hydration tube. The bungee attachment is mounted with Velcro, so you can keep the cords around the mouthpiece when you pull it towards you to drink, and it snaps back into place afterward. It's kind of a cool idea, although I felt like I had to stretch my neck a bit to get to the mouthpiece when trying this.

Air-mesh back panels

Aside from the awkward tube placement, the Diablo rides very comfortably on my back even when fully loaded. Bouncing is minimized by an internal compression system with a cord on the shoulder harness to tighten the pack against your body as the fluid volume in the reservoir decreases. The aero-mesh moisture-wicking back panel also contributes to a high degree of comfort even on runs of several hours.

Multiple cargo options

Empty weight of the pack is 1.0 pounds, which is a minimal amount of weight for the amount of cargo storage it affords. In addition to the main storage compartments, the Diablo also features two mesh pockets built into the waist straps, which are large enough for cell phones, cameras, GPS gadgets, compressed maps, energy bars, or any other accessories that you need to access quickly on the go. They’re not as convenient as having pockets directly in front of you, but if you’re not hammering along at top speed, they’re not too difficult to access. The rear of the pack also has a large mesh pocket with bungee support for wet or sweaty items – this is where I stash my gloves, hat, and arm warmers after the sun has come up and I’ve still got a few hours of running to go.

If you’re into long adventure runs, or travelling light for speedy day hikes, the Diablo is a nice option to load up all the essentials you need along with your hydration system - as long as it’s a 70 oz. CamelBak. It’s not the best hydration pack option for ultrarunners seeking pure speed (in my book, Nathan still holds that honor), but if you’re OK with spending a little extra time on the trail and want to take a lot of stuff along with you, this pack is certainly worth a look.

The Gregory Diablo pack retails for $60 from Amazon.com as well as other online vendors.

*Product provided by Gregory Mountain Products
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at


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