A great litmus test for any pack is, “Would you wholeheartedly recommend it to your best friend?”, and this one received an all-caps YES from our team. The Paragon (the Maven is the women’s version) has just the right blend of comfort, weight, features, and price, making it one of the best all-around packs we’ve ever carried on the trail.
Gregory has long been known for its load-eating suspension systems, and the Paragon continues that tradition. An alloy-and-fiberglass center stay, along with a thick, mesh-covered hipbelt that cradles the hips and moves independently from the pack body, allowed us to schlep up to 40 pounds with ease. “The suspension hugs the back, and the hip wrap is awesome. Zero rub points,” one tester said after a three-day trip in Colorado’s Sneffels Range. On steep sections of trail, it’s easy to feel the mid-lumbar swivel at work, which allowed us to tackle inclines with a natural stride, rather than fighting our loads.
The Paragon’s just-right exterior has a dialed organization plan. A side zipper grants access to mid-pack items without taking everything out—great for pulling out a stove for a hot mid-hike lunch—and two huge stretch pockets on the outside can fit a camp stool and an extra layer and allowed us to grab our water bottles without taking the pack off. A toplid pocket, hipbelt pockets, and a large shove-it pocket on the back complete the package. (The Paragon is also available in 58- and 68-liter versions, and the Maven in 55 and 65, but we think the 48 and 45 are the most versatile capacities.)
There are other packs in these pages that hit this price point, or this weight, or this carryability. But none puts everything together the way the Paragon does, which is why it’s our new go-to for weekends on the trail.
$200; 3 lbs. 8 oz. (m’s M/L);m’s S-L, w’s XS-M