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FIELD REPORT: Gregory Keeler Backpack -- Ken

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  • ken bennett
    Greetings, Here is my Field Report on the Gregory Keeler backpack. The html version is on the test folder at
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 1, 2005
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      Greetings,

      Here is my Field Report on the Gregory Keeler backpack. The html version is
      on the test folder at

      http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/OWNER%20REVIEWS/Ken%20-%20Keele
      r%20FR%20test/

      Thanks,

      Ken



      -----------------------------------------------------------------------

      Field Report: Gregory Keeler Backpack
      1 February 2005

      Product Information

      Manufacturer: Gregory Mountain Products
      Model: Keeler Backpack
      Type: Internal Frame Backpack
      Size: Large
      Fits: 19.5 to 21.5 in (50 to 55 cm) torso
      Listed Weight: 92 oz (2.6 kg)
      Weight As Delivered: 99 oz (2.81 kg)
      MSRP: U.S.$249

      Field Information
      Location where tests were conducted:
      I tested the Keeler on several day hikes and a long weekend backpacking trip
      over the winter of 2004-2005 in the mountains of Southwest Virginia and
      Northeastern Tennessee. Elevations ranged from 3500 ft (1067 m) to 5500 ft
      (1676 m), with low temperatures around 20 F (-7 C) at night, and highs
      around freezing during the day. There was snow on the ground, and I walked
      through an ice storm in pursuit of this test.

      This photo was made on Thanksgiving weekend in the Mt. Rogers high country
      in Virginia. The angle makes the pack look much smaller than it really is.

      Product Description:
      The Gregory Keeler is the largest pack in their Escape Series. Gregory
      describes these packs as

      "lightweight overnight packs [which] are designed to carry loads less than
      40 pounds, and are optimal for extended weekend trips. Four models offer
      different capacities and features for a variety of backcountry options."

      This series includes the popular Reality pack, the Forester, and the Acadia.
      The four Escape Series packs aren't too much different in size, ranging from
      3800 to 4800 in^3 (62 to 79 l, size medium), and have slightly different
      feature sets. Though Gregory describes these as 'overnight' packs, they have
      sufficient capacity and load support for everything from gear-intensive day
      trips to serious long-distance hikes. The Escape Series packs have an
      internal frame and are available in four sizes, covering a torso length
      range from 14 to 21.5 in (35 to 55 cm). Hip belts and shoulder straps are
      interchangeable, and available in three sizes.

      The interested reader will find a comprehensive description of the pack in
      my Initial Report.

      So what's a Keeler, anyway? A Google search returned 766,000 hits, most of
      them genealogical. Then my spouse noticed that many of Gregory's packs are
      named after mountains in California (Whitney, Palisade, Shasta). That's when
      I found Keeler Needle, 14,240 ft (4340 m), a prominent spire south of the
      peak of Mt. Whitney.

      Comfort
      This is going to be a short section: the Keeler is one sweet ride. At first
      glance, the suspension system appears simple and unsophisticated -- a hip
      belt and two shoulder straps. But that simplicity hides a lot of serious
      engineering and design work. Let's look at some of the features that might
      not otherwise jump out:

      The hip belt and the shoulder harnesses are pre-curved to fit the user's
      body without wrinkling or bunching. This means that the smooth wicking
      fabric on the inside of the suspension system lies flat against the body, so
      it won't rub or chafe. In addition, the molded foam in the suspension is
      stiff enough to provide support, especially in the hip belt, while still
      feeling soft and pliable against the user's hips.

      The shoulder straps are attached to the top of the pack with a swivel, which
      allows the harness to automatically adapt to the shape and width of the
      user's shoulders and torso. Gregory calls this their AutoCant harness, and
      it works well in practice. In addition, the two load lifter straps work to
      change the angle of the pack and move weight from the shoulders to the hips
      while hiking.

      The Keeler has a stiff foam framesheet and a single aluminum stay to provide
      shape and support to the pack. The combination easily provides the support
      necessary for my usual winter backpacking load of 35-40 lb (16-18 kg). For
      the last few years I have been using and testing ultralight frameless packs
      and very light framed packs, and all of them required very fussy and careful
      loading in order to carry comfortably. Not so the Keeler -- I can just toss
      all my gear in the top, throw it on my back, and start hiking. The padded
      back panel is covered with the same smooth wicking fabric, and the shape of
      the stay and framesheet perfectly matches my back.

      While on the trail, finding my 'comfort zone' was easy. There are very few
      adjustments that can be made while hiking: put on the pack, tighten the
      shoulder straps, tighten the hipbelt, adjust the load lifters, and start
      hiking. If things don't feel quite right, a tiny adjustment on the shoulder
      straps and lifters almost always does the trick. Like the other Gregory
      packs that I have owned and used, the Keeler just feels terrific when I
      strap it on, and still feels terrific at the end of the day.

      I did notice a couple of annoyances. The bottom half of the shoulder strap
      is a single long piece of flat nylon webbing. It runs through a locking
      buckle on the top half of the strap, but the end isn't sewn over to keep it
      from sliding back out. As a result, I would occasionally put on the pack and
      find the shoulder strap had come apart. Also, the load lifter straps are far
      too long -- walking on a windy ridgeline in Tennessee, one strap was
      constantly hitting me in the face until I tucked it under the shoulder
      harness (where I couldn't adjust it easily). Finally, this pack squeaks when
      I walk -- a constant 'eee eee eee eee' with every step. It's not that loud,
      so I can usually tune it out, but it's loud enough that my hiking partners
      mentioned it. My spouse ended up walking rather far in front when I wore the
      Keeler.

      Convenience
      In my Initial Report, I noted that the Keeler has a lot of pockets and panel
      doors and other interesting features. Let's look at how I was able to use
      these features when on the trail.

      Pockets: The top lid pocket on the Keeler is great. It not only holds a lot
      of gear, the U-shaped zipper opens the entire top of the pocket so I can see
      all my gear at once. No more digging out everything in the lid pocket to
      find the one thing buried at the bottom. On the weekend backpacking trip, I
      had my snacks and lunch, spare gloves and a warm hat, maps and trail guide,
      first aid kit, YakTrax (traction device for boots), Aqua Mira bottles, empty
      6-liter water bag, and my camera in the lid pocket, and still had room left
      over. Excellent.

      The large front pocket gave me mixed results. On the positive side, it too
      holds a lot of gear. I had my tarp, bivy sack, stakes, and guy lines in this
      pocket, and still had room when I needed a place to stash my rain shell. On
      the down side, it can be difficult to gain access to this pocket. First, the
      top compression strap covers the outside of this pocket, and when it's
      tightened down for hiking, it compresses the pocket enough that I can't get
      anything in or out easily. Loosening this compression strap requires that I
      open the lid pocket, loosen the top compression strap, open the front
      pocket, get whatever it is I need, close the front pocket, retighten the
      compression strap, and reclose the lid pocket. That significantly reduces
      the utility of the front pocket while hiking.

      The two mesh lower side pockets were fine. They each hold a full 1-l Nalgene
      bottle, and there doesn't seem to be any danger of the bottle falling out. I
      was able to reach the bottle and return it without too many contortions,
      except when wearing gloves.

      I used the water bladder pocket on the day hikes, but left it at home for
      the long weekend hike. This pocket is fine, and I like being able to remove
      it when I want to use bottles instead of a bladder. I used bladder with a
      particularly large bite valve, and I could easily thread it through the
      drinking tube outlet port on the right side of the pack.

      Panel Access Doors: The large sleeping bag compartment can be reached in two
      ways, the most common being through the large panel door at the bottom front
      of the pack. The compartment and the panel door are each large enough to fit
      my winter sleeping bag, with enough room left over for my down jacket. This
      door is easily opened when the pack is full, and I found it a good place to
      stash stuff that I might want during the day, like my warm jacket. This door
      is covered by two long straps, which can hold equipment attached to the
      outside of the pack: a tent or a sleeping pad, perhaps. I used them to carry
      my Waldies camp clogs.

      The two side panel doors are the most unusual feature on the Keeler. They
      look like side pockets, but they open a large door in each side of the pack.
      In adidtion, each panel has a small, zippered mesh pocket on the inside. I
      was able to stash my toilet items in one, and a water filter in the other.
      I'm still trying to figure out the best way to use these side doors into the
      pack. I have traditionally lined my pack with a large trash bag, in order to
      keep the contents dry in the rainy Southern Appalachians. So when I open
      these doors, I am looking at the outside of the trash bag, and none of my
      gear is accessible. (And on the weekend backpacking trip, walking all day in
      the freezing rain, I was very happy to have the plastic bag inside my pack.)
      I can see the utility of these doors for hiking in drier conditions, though.

      Overall Size: The Keeler is 5300 in~3 (87 l) in size large, twenty percent
      larger than my usual pack. I have used my regular pack for winter hiking,
      and it can be a tight fit with a larger sleeping bag, more clothing, bigger
      stove and pot, and all the other additional equipment that goes on a winter
      trip. I found the Keeler to be a more usable size for my winter gear --
      everything fit, and there was enough room left over for a couple extra days
      of food if I needed it.

      Attachment Points: There's an ice axe strap, which I don't use, but it looks
      to be in the right place. The Keeler doesn't have a good way of attaching
      large items vertically to the back of the pack. I like to carry an
      extra-large Ridgerest pad, which at 25 in (64 cm) wide is too wide to carry
      horizontally on the base of the Keeler. But there's no bungee cord, and no
      good place to attach one, so I found it difficult to carry the pad. I also
      tried attaching my snowshoes vertically, and this was even more difficult.
      The snowshoes weigh a lot more than the sleeping pad, and need a solid
      support. I can cross over the lid pocket straps and the bottom pad straps,
      but this doesn't seem to be an elegant solution.

      Durability: The Keeler has held up well to use and abuse so far. No frayed
      edges, no blown stitching, everything still looks brand new.

      Overall Performance: There are, of course, two kinds of backpackers: those
      who like the One Big Sack, and those who like the Lots of Little Pockets.
      I've always been a One Big Sack guy: my packing system is designed for a
      top-loading pack with few or no pockets. I organize my equipment into
      sil-nylon stuff sacks, and I pack so that everything I need for the day is
      near the top.

      The Keeler is an excellent example of the LLP style of backpack, and I am
      still learning how to adapt to this style while on the trail. This is mostly
      a matter of trying to remember in which pocket I put a particular piece of
      gear, but I am confident that extended use will allow me to develop an
      efficient workflow with this pack.

      Conclusion:

      The Keeler is a large, well-made, durable pack with a lot of features and an
      easy, comfortable carry.

      Things I like:
      1. The suspension system is excellent, and the pack carries like a dream.
      2. There's plenty of room for all my winter gear.
      3. The top (lid) pocket is well designed and useful.

      Things I don't like:
      1. No easy way to attach snowshoes or a large pad vertically.
      2. Difficult access to the front pocket.
      3. It squeaks.
      4. All those features add weight.

      Tester Information

      Name: Ken Bennett
      Age 42
      Gender: Male
      Height: 6' 2" (190 cm)
      Weight: 210 lbs (96 kg)
      Email: bennettk at wfu dot edu
      Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.A.


      Backpacking Background:
      With twelve years of hiking and backpacking experience, and several hundred
      miles of the Appalachian Trail under my belt, my goal is to section-hike the
      whole thing before I croak. I carry lightweight gear, including a tarp and a
      homemade alcohol stove, and my base weight for warm-weather trips is about
      18 pounds (8 kg).
    • Shane Steinkamp
      ... You are definitely a better man than I... BTW, you posted your FR in the OR section instead of the TESTS section in the TEST folder. ... Yeah, a thumb loop
      Message 2 of 6 , Feb 1, 2005
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        > There was snow on the ground, and I walked
        > through an ice storm in pursuit of this test.

        You are definitely a better man than I...

        BTW, you posted your FR in the OR section instead of the TESTS section in
        the TEST folder.

        > I would occasionally put on the pack and find the shoulder
        > strap had come apart.

        Yeah, a thumb loop would fix that.

        > Also, the load lifter straps are far too long -- walking on a
        > windy ridgeline in Tennessee, one strap was constantly hitting
        > me in the face until I tucked it under the shoulder
        > harness (where I couldn't adjust it easily).

        In fairness, I think they're long so that you can cut them to suit you. ALL
        the straps on the Keeler are WAY too long for me. I'm going to cut them
        after the test, but I wonder if we shouldn't be allowed to cut them as part
        of the 'fit' process. Any mod not involved in the test want to hazard a
        ruling?

        > Finally, this pack squeaks when I walk -- a constant 'eee eee
        > eee eee' with every step.

        Hmmm... Mine doesn't squeak... Are you sure it's the pack? The only thing
        that COULD squeak IMO is the attachment points for the shoulder strap
        rivets. You might slip a drop of oil behind them and see if that solves it.

        Shane
      • ken bennett
        ... I sincerely doubt that. ... Yup, I m an idiot. At least it s the test folder, not a real folder. ... This is my fourth Gregory pack, third in the Escape
        Message 3 of 6 , Feb 1, 2005
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          On 2/1/05 7:45 PM, "Shane Steinkamp" <shane@...> wrote:

          >
          >> There was snow on the ground, and I walked
          >> through an ice storm in pursuit of this test.
          >
          > You are definitely a better man than I...


          I sincerely doubt that.


          >
          > BTW, you posted your FR in the OR section instead of the TESTS section in
          > the TEST folder.

          Yup, I'm an idiot. At least it's the test folder, not a real folder.


          > Hmmm... Mine doesn't squeak... Are you sure it's the pack? The only thing
          > that COULD squeak IMO is the attachment points for the shoulder strap
          > rivets. You might slip a drop of oil behind them and see if that solves it.

          This is my fourth Gregory pack, third in the Escape series, and all of them
          have squeaked. I think it's the aluminum stay moving every-so-slightly in
          against the framesheet. But I'm willing to be wrong.

          What, you think it might be my knees squeaking? <g> Hmm, could be.

          Nice report, BTW.

          Ken

          PS -- I *greatly* appreciated your letter in ATN this month.
        • Coy
          Just now reading the other reports. It seems our experiences over all are positive. I read Shanes comments on the squeaking. To add. mine didn t squeak
          Message 4 of 6 , Feb 2, 2005
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            Just now reading the other reports. It seems our experiences over all
            are positive. I read Shanes comments on the squeaking. To add. mine
            didn't squeak either. on accessing the front pocket, I didnt have
            that much trouble getting my tolitries out but did notice having to
            tug a little. I got stuff out without undoing or loosening anything.
            maybe I didnt tighten all the straps down as tightly but I tighented
            um down like I always do. pretty snug.

            I noticed your experiences trying to put gear on the back of the pack.
            I had the same trouble but never thought to cross the lid straps for
            smaller items. good idea for a short term fix.

            Coy Boy

            --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, ken bennett <bennettk@w...>
            wrote:
            > Greetings,
            >
            > The large front pocket gave me mixed results. On the positive side,
            it too
            > holds a lot of gear. I had my tarp, bivy sack, stakes, and guy lines
            in this
            > pocket, and still had room when I needed a place to stash my rain
            shell. On
            > the down side, it can be difficult to gain access to this pocket.
            First, the
            > top compression strap covers the outside of this pocket, and when it's
            > tightened down for hiking, it compresses the pocket enough that I
            can't get
            > anything in or out easily. Loosening this compression strap requires
            that I
            > open the lid pocket, loosen the top compression strap, open the front
            > pocket, get whatever it is I need, close the front pocket, retighten the
            > compression strap, and reclose the lid pocket. That significantly
            reduces
            > the utility of the front pocket while hiking.



            The Keeler doesn't have a good way of attaching
            > large items vertically to the back of the pack. I like to carry an
            > extra-large Ridgerest pad, which at 25 in (64 cm) wide is too wide
            to carry
            > horizontally on the base of the Keeler. But there's no bungee cord,
            and no
            > good place to attach one, so I found it difficult to carry the pad.
            I also
            > tried attaching my snowshoes vertically, and this was even more
            difficult.
            > The snowshoes weigh a lot more than the sleeping pad, and need a solid
            > support. I can cross over the lid pocket straps and the bottom pad
            straps,
            > but this doesn't seem to be an elegant solution.
          • Rami
            Hi Ken, Nice looking report. I liked your self portrait. ;-) No edits for you so upload at will! ... -- -r Pressure ... Grace
            Message 5 of 6 , Feb 3, 2005
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              Hi Ken,
              Nice looking report. I liked your self portrait. ;-)
              No edits for you so upload at will!

              > -----------------------------------------------------------------------
              >
              > Field Report: Gregory Keeler Backpack
              > 1 February 2005



              --
              -r

              Pressure
              -------
              Grace
            • ken bennett
              ... Thanks, Rami. I did find a typo that I ll fix . I ll get it up later today (Friday). Ken
              Message 6 of 6 , Feb 4, 2005
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                On 2/3/05 10:54 PM, "Rami" <noble.path@...> wrote:

                >
                > Hi Ken,
                > Nice looking report. I liked your self portrait. ;-)
                > No edits for you so upload at will!


                Thanks, Rami. I did find a typo that I'll fix <g>. I'll get it up later
                today (Friday).

                Ken
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