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Best In Weight Class? Gregory ‘Optic’ & ‘Octal’ Backpacks

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The Gregory Optic 48 delivers the obvious benefits of an ultralight pack with a high ratio of features and function for its weight.

Gregory Optic 48 Backpack

Gregory launched the Optic 48 (men’s) and Octal 45 (women’s) in March with a sticker price of $190. The pack takes aim at ultralight fans who want more out of a minimalist pack than a simple rucksack. I’ve been testing the Optic 48 for two months, ferrying rock-climbing and hiking loads up the pack’s rated limit of 30 pounds.

Compared to other ultralight offerings, the Gregory Optic 48 brings added features and durability for a slight increase in weight. The trampoline-style suspension system and perimeter frame comfortably handled loads up to 30 pounds. It had adequate stability for activities short of boulder hopping and trail running.

Gregory Optic 48 Standout Specifications

Gregory Optic 48 Backpack

The Optic 48 possesses some true ultralight DNA. All accessory webbing and related hardware are on the smaller side, and the top loader doesn’t have an interior divider.

But this isn’t a stripped-down, cottage-industry ultralight pack. It has plenty of features, including a metal frame, and an overall structure you would expect out of a much heavier backpack.

The core bag is high-tenacity 100-denier nylon with three stretch-mesh pockets: one on each side and one on the front. The Optic 48 doesn’t have an adjustable torso length, but it’s available in small, medium, and large sizes.

Our large test sample has a verified weight of 2 pounds 14 ounces, which includes a fitted rain cover and weather flap to seal the top if you choose to ditch the lid. Without the cover and flap, it drops to 2 pounds 9 ounces and still has amenities expected of heftier rigs:

  • 7001 aluminum perimeter frame with AeroSpan trampoline-type suspension system
  • Dual-density FocusForm shoulder harness and contoured hip belt
  • Seven total exterior pockets
  • Trekking pole and ice axe attachments
  • Side compression straps
  • Sunglass QuickStow system on the shoulder harness
  • Hydration bladder compatibility

Climbing With The Optic 48

I used the Optic 48 for personal climbing, guiding rock-climbs, hiking, and training missions in the Texas Hill Country. The first thing I noticed was the incredible ventilation created by the AeroSpan suspension. The tensioned mesh panel maintained an air gap between it and the pack body, which allowed moisture and airflow to pass freely – a valuable characteristic in heat and humidity.

This air gap also kept climbing hardware from poking me in the back when I hurriedly packed at the end of an adventure. The aluminum-perimeter frame also did an admirable job of lifting the load off the shoulders and directing to the hips.

Optic 48 mesh panel

The mesh-lined, dual-density shoulder straps were very comfortable, the plushness reminiscent of larger packs with higher weight capacities. The hip belt used two separate webbing tracks for tension above and below the hip crest, creating a very stable and comfortable load distribution.

The two large stretch-mesh side pockets angle forward just enough to make access while wearing convenient. The front mesh stash pocket was big enough for puffy layers, and the side compression straps allowed me to attach both light and bulky items.

The top lid has a main pocket and flat bottom pocket, which houses the rain cover, key clip, and the rain flap for use when the lid is left behind. The pack’s extension sleeve is rather short but did allow for some overstuffing (think: down parka). And there’s a top compression strap that can be used to lash a coiled climbing rope.

Hiking With The Optic 48

Gregory Optic 48 Backpack

The Gregory Optic 48 really shined when hiking trails, even at a quick clip. The ventilation and torsional mobility offered by the AeroSpan suspension and perimeter frame combined to accommodate long-distance hiking and climbing approaches, all the way up to the 30-pound weight limit.

Where the trampoline-style suspension faltered, however, was when the going got rough, or the speed hike approached a jog. Boulder hopping and fast-packing caused the pack to oscillate vertically. The frequency increased with movement tempo, and amplitude grew with increasing loads.

The back panel didn’t lose contact with the body, but the loading and unloading cycle was evident. These movements created an unstable feeling at speed or when hopping down or across gaps, compounding when the pack contents weren’t compressed tightly.

A note on durability: Although the pack suffered no physical damage throughout the testing period, the stretch-mesh material used for the side and front pockets was prone to snagging. Although it didn’t happen in our test, this could potentially lead to tearing.

Takeaways On the Gregory Optic 48

The Gregory Optic 48 is a contender for those searching for an ultralight pack that offers more than the cottage packs catering to thru-hikers.

The materials aren’t super fragile, the suspension structure is effective, and the feature list is impressive regardless of weight class.

Gregory just might have hit a sweet spot on the weight-versus-features spectrum for medium-capacity backpacks.

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