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64422Field Report - Gregory Keeler™ - Coy Boy

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  • Coy
    Jan 31, 2005
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      Just under the wire. May add one pic but haven't decided for sure
      yet. All edits and comments welcome. Enjoy

      Gregory Keeler™
      Field Report
      January, 29, 2005

      Tester: Coy Starnes
      Gender: Male
      Age: 42
      Weight: 230 lb (104 kg)
      Torso: 20 in (51 cm)
      Waist: size 38 (97 cm) pants
      Height: 6 ft (1.8 m)
      E-Mail: cstarnes@...
      Location: Grant, Alabama

      Tester Bio
      I live outside a small town in northeast Alabama. I enjoy hunting,
      fishing, canoeing and most other outdoor activities.

      Backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with my friends
      and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike
      the least in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and
      steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for
      comfort and durability. A typical 3 season load for me is around 20
      lb (9 kg) not counting food or water. I usually sleep in a hammock
      and cook with an alcohol stove. My backpacking trips are usually 2,
      3 or 4 days in length.

      Product Information
      Test item, Gregory Keeler™ (backpack)
      Manufacture URL, http://www.gregorypacks.com
      Year of manufacture, 2004
      Size, Large
      Capacity, 5300 cu in (86 L)
      Weight Listed, 5 lb 12 oz (2.6 kg)
      Verified Weight (at post office), 6 lb 1 oz (2.8 kg)
      Load Range, up to 40 lb (18 kg)
      Color, Midnight Blue (with some black trim etc)
      MSRP, $249 US

      Product Description
      The Keeler™ is the newest of four packs in the Escape Series of
      packs. Gregory describes the series as "Our aptly named Escape
      Series packs are your getaway vehicles. Made for the kinds of short
      trips that keep you sane, their pared down single-stay suspension
      systems offer comfort, fit and performance—without weight and bulk.
      So you can move fast when time is short. They're designed to carry
      loads less than 40 pounds, and three models offer different
      capacities and features for different kinds of trips. Count on them
      to facilitate your disappearing act. How long you stay gone is up
      to you."

      The website goes on to describe the the Keeler™ as "NEW FOR 2005.
      The Keeler™ rounds out the Escape series with a more full featured
      version of the Forester™, like the Whitney™ in the Adventure series.
      It offers expanded access, pockets and organization."

      I would describe the pack as a mid-sized to large pack which seems
      to uphold the Gregory tradition of well designed packs. My test
      pack consists of the large frame, bag and suspension components. It
      is rather hefty which is understandable given all the features on
      the pack. Briefly, it is an internal frame, top loader (with access
      from both sides) hydration ready pack. In addition to the main
      compartment, there is a top lid, a separate compartment in the
      bottom of the pack (usually called a sleeping bag compartment) and a
      fairly big front pocket which I always want to call a rear pocket
      due to the orientation of the pocket when the pack is being
      carried. Please see my Initial Report for a more in-depth
      description of all the packs features.

      Field Testing Locations and Conditions
      Testing was conducted on local trails within a 50 mile (81 km)
      radius of my home in Grant, in the northeast corner of Alabama. I
      also used the Keeler™ for several overnight hikes in the woods
      within walking distance of my home. The temperatures were mostly
      warm for winter but a few hikes were in cold weather. The lowest
      temperature encountered was about 29 F (-2 C) as I hiked 2 miles (3
      km) uphill at The Walls of Jericho. The warmest temperature
      encountered was 70 F (21 F) on an afternoon hike to the holler
      behind my home. I encountered very little rain but did hike when
      the woods were soaked from recent rains. In fact, dry trail
      conditions were rare.

      Trail conditions in all areas hiked were a mixed bag, steep in
      places and had plenty of rocks and roots. They were also wet and
      slick most of the time. The hike to the Walls of Jericho was
      especially slick from a 2 in (5 cm) rain the day before my hike. On
      the hike in Bucks Pocket I had to cross a stream with ice on the
      rocks in a couple of places. I encountered blow downs and other
      obstacles and even had to remove my pack once where the trail went
      under a log with no easy way around readily available.

      Field Test Results
      My hiking gear for each trip has almost never been the same and that
      is a testament to the versatility of the Keeler™. I used different
      shelters, sleeping pads, and clothing along with various other odds
      and ends that I usually take. For instance, on different trips, I
      used a tent, two different hammocks and two different sleep pads. I
      also finally carried a full sized tripod for the first time on my
      last trip.

      Most of my hikes with the Keeler™ have been fairly short. I started
      with several day hikes of around 3 miles (5 km) each with fairly
      light loads of around 25 lb (11 kg). My overnight campouts were
      also of similar distance only the loads were slightly heavier.

      Packing the Keeler™
      I found I could pack everything inside the Keeler™, including extra
      winter clothes and my trusty winter pad. This "winter" pad is the
      the Hinman from Big Agnes and not a typical backpacking pad. It
      measures 25 in (64 cm) wide by 78 in (198 cm) long by 2.5 in (6.3
      cm) thick and weighs in at a brick like 5 lb 10 oz (2.55 kg). The
      Hinman pad would not fit under the Keeler™ where I could put my more
      traditional sized foam pad because of its large rolled up size of
      approximately 24 in (61 cm) circumference. I considered strapping
      it on with bungee cords across the back of the Keeler™ but the pack
      is not set up to make this practical. In fact, the Keeler™ is
      pretty streamlined as far as outside attachment points go. After
      much head scratching I unsnapped the divider shelf and found it
      worked great to just roll the Hinman pad up loosely and slide it
      inside the Keeler™ and then cram all my gear in the resulting
      hollow cylinder the pad made. As I crammed my gear in the pad would
      expand to accommodate my gear. I tried this with my closed cell
      foam pad and it did not work as easily. The foam pad wanted to
      stick to itself instead of sliding into a cylinder matching packs
      interior.

      I did use my blue foam pad on the trip to The Walls of Jericho and
      carried it rolled up and strapped under the Keeler™ with the straps
      which seem intended for that purpose. On a different trip to Bucks
      Pocket I carried the Hinman pad inside the pack but did carry my
      camera tripod on one side of the pack. In fact, before using the
      Keeler™, I had never taken my full size tripod backpacking. I used
      one of the reinforced gear loops (there is one on each side, covered
      with a plastic sheath to protect the loops and whatever is hung from
      them) to help hold my tripod by putting one leg inside the gear loop
      and using the side compression strap to secure it up higher. This
      proved to be very stable and I had no concern that the tripod would
      come off. I was careful not to catch it on anything when I got into
      thick stuff.

      With all my main gear inside the Keeler™ I used the rear pocket and
      the top lid pocket for my toiletries, snacks, maps, first aid
      supplies, and anything else I felt I might need during the day. I
      never did fill either pocket completely full. I did add my gloves
      and a watch cap to the tip lid to help fill it. It just looks
      better when it is reasonably full.

      I usually carried my 24 oz (710 ml) water bottles on each side of
      the pack in the deep mesh pockets. I never could get them back in
      without removing the pack. I also carried my umbrella here. The
      tripod I carried the one time rode over one of the outside mesh
      pockets. I didn't carry a water bottle on that side so it would
      ride flat against the pack, instead I just substituted a 32 oz (946
      ml) water bottle on the other side.

      I used the interior mesh pockets for my truck keys and wallet on one
      side and extra socks in the other one. It was handy to help keep
      these smaller items from getting lost in the pile of gear in the
      main compartment.

      Alternate Packing Styles
      I don't really have a specific packing method but over the years
      have noticed I usually pack certain things in pretty much the same
      fashion, depending on my pack. When I used the bottom compartment
      on the Keeler™ this changed a little. I normally put my food and
      cooking gear in the bottom of my single compartment packs followed
      by my shelter and clothes toped of by my down sleeping bag. With
      the Keeler™, I packed this way only when I placed my Hinman pad
      inside the pack with the compartment separator shelf unhooked.
      However, on several hikes I carried my blue foam pad strapped under
      the pack and carried my sleeping bag and a down jacket in the bottom
      compartment. This left the top compartment and various pockets for
      my food, other clothes, snacks, and toiletries. I was still left
      using the mesh pocket for my water bottles and no good place for my
      camera. I settled on wearing my camera in its case, hung from my
      neck in the front. I kept it from bouncing by unsnapping the belt
      loop and working it under my belt on my pants. I may go back to
      using my fanny pack worn backward as I continue testing the Keeler™
      but was trying to use the pack as it is designed. Actually, I will
      feel a little silly using my fanny pack because the Keeler™ has so
      much room I really don't need the extra volume from my waist pack.
      Nevertheless, I do need a better way to access my camera and water
      while hiking.

      Access to Pack Content
      The Keeler™ does make life in camp simpler. I could dig out my tent
      or hammock from the main compartment without disturbing my sleeping
      bag or all the small gear I kept in the various other compartments.
      It also makes packing up the next day a breeze. I didn't have to
      carefully plan where to put everything. On the trail I did not
      really need to dig anything out of the main compartment because I
      had all my toiletries etc in the easily accessible back pocket and
      top lid.

      Comfort on the Trail
      My longest single day hike was 4 miles (6 km) in approximately 5
      hours. OK, I'm slow, but I stop to take pictures and rest when I
      fell like it. My total pack weight on overnight hikes seemed to
      always be around 35 lb (16 kg) no matter which gear setup I used. I
      would have chosen lighter gear for a long distance hike to offset
      the extra food I would have needed.

      My first couple of practice hikes with approximately 25 lb (11 kg)
      did not reveal any problems with comfort. I adjusted the shoulder
      straps to where I could easily slide a finger under them and used
      the load lifter straps to transfer most of the weight to the hip
      belt. Then a few weeks later on an overnight hike with 33 lb (15
      kg) I became concerned when my right arm went to sleep within the
      first 30 minute of hiking. It was much cooler than previously and I
      started the hike wearing a loose fitting wool top with another loose
      fitting button up wool shirt over that. Apparently the thicker
      layer of clothing combined with a slightly heavier pack made a
      difference in how the pack needed adjusted. After adjusting the
      pack to give my arms a little more room I was fine. On the hike
      back to my truck the next morning it was all uphill. I soon lost
      (put it in the pack) the extra wool shirt. It was very easy to just
      snug the shoulder straps just a little to get the fit back just the
      way I liked it.

      My neck is pretty big and I found the self adjusting Auto-Cant™
      harness worked flawlessly. In fact the whole shoulder harness setup
      on the Keeler™ is easy to adjust. The self adjusting Auto-Cant™
      harness just meant I didn't have to fiddle with picking a width
      setting like I have done on some packs.

      The hip belt on the Keeler™ is superb. I usually adjusted the pack
      so that most of the weight rode on the hip belt. It is sturdy
      enough to really settle firmly on my hips and soft enough to not
      cause any discomfort. I can not imagine how the fancier Adjust-A-
      Cant™ system would be any more comfortable.

      The back panel was very comfortable. I won't say it is the most
      ventilated back panel but I had no more sweat build up than I
      normally do. Like the hip belt, it is soft but not to soft.

      The frame sheet also did a fantastic job in keeping sharp objects in
      my pack from annoying me while I hiked. The frame sheet and single
      7001-T6 stay is fairly stiff and stabilizes the load from the hip
      belt very effectively. The complete suspension system is not as
      flexible as the ever popular speed/race type packs but it makes up
      for that in overall comfort.

      Durability Thus Far
      This pack is made of some pretty hefty materials and while no pack
      is "bomb proof" this pack fits that moniker thrown around when
      describing heavy duty gear pretty well. I did not intentionally
      abuse the Keeler™ but it did see some tough trail conditions and
      handled it all with ease. Even the side mesh pockets did not tear
      despite hanging them on brush etc several times. The tote handle
      held up while swinging the pack on and while putting it in my
      truck. All zippers are still functioning flawlessly but honestly, I
      never did cram the pack to the maximum to stress them. So far a
      quick wipe with a wet wash cloth has worked in removing the mud and
      trail grime from the pack.

      Future Testing
      As winter fades into spring I anticipate getting out even more. I
      will not need the Hinman pad so will most likely use my blue foam
      pad. This will make loading the Keeler™ to capacity a challenge but
      maybe I will be able to take a few longer hikes and carry more
      food. Regardless, I will continue to monitor the pack for any signs
      of failure. I have already convinced myself that the Keeler™ is a
      very comfortable and versatile pack. I will continue to look for
      better ways to pack my water and camera.
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