FIELD REPORT: Gregory Keeler Backpack -- Shane
- With this, the Keeler crew are all on time and on budget. I'm so proud.
It's a little short for me, but it's complete and I'm not going to have any
time to fill it in any more. I'll save it for the LTR. I've got some extra
things to check anyway....
HTML version available here:
5300 Cubic Inch Internal Frame Backpack
Field Test Report - February 1, 2005
How ingenious an animal is a snail. When it encounters a bad neighbor
it takes up its house and moves away.
- Philemon, Fragment. (c. 300 B.C.)
Name: Shane Steinkamp
Height: 5' 10" (1.8 m)
Weight: 235 lb (106 kg)
Waist Size: 42" (107 cm)
Torso Length: 20.5" (52 cm)
Email Address: shane@...
Location: New Orleans (Harahan), Louisiana
Background: Bit by the vagabond disease at an early age, I
enjoyed a promising career as a long distance hiker for several years. Now I
don't care to count the miles, or to do so many of them, and prefer to walk
until I don't want to walk anymore and then stop. I have been hiking,
backpacking, and camping since I was little, and I have experienced all
extremes of weather and terrain. I don't fit any particular backpacking
style, although I might be primarily described as a medium-weight backpacker
leaning towards light. I will adjust my gear based on expected conditions,
and on some trips I would be considered an ultra-lighter.
My notes and measurements are denoted in red.
The Gregory Keeler is manufactured by Gregory Mountain Products.
YEAR OF MANUFACTURE: 2004 (Made in China)
The Keeler is the top end (largest) of the Escape series of Gregory
LISTED WEIGHT: Varies with size. Size tested: Large.
XS 4000 CU. IN. / 65 LITERS 4 LBS. 13 OZ. / 2.2 KG
S 4350 CU. IN. / 71 LITERS 5 LBS. 1 OZ. / 2.3 KG
M 4800 CU. IN. / 79 LITERS 5 LBS. 7 OZ. / 2.6 KG
L 5300 CU. IN. / 86 LITERS 5 LBS. 12 OZ. / 2.6 KG
LOAD CAPACITY: Up to 40 lb (18 kg)
AVAILABLE COLORS: Midnight Blue, Lichen. Tested color: Lichen
TESTED WEIGHT: 6 lb 1.3 oz (2.76 kg)
TESTED SIZE: Large
IN THE FIELD
While my sole opportunity for a multi-day hike with the Gregory Keeler
fell through like the soggy bottom of an ice-cream cone, I was able to use
the Keeler on six overnight trips, several day hikes, some night recon
training, and even a trip to the zoo. These were all in the south-eastern
Louisiana region, with variable (but usually cool) temperatures, high
humidity, frequent cold rain. Four of the overnights were night hikes,
wandering in the moonlight; two were simple hike-n-camps. Hikes ranged from
6 to 11 miles a day (or night, as the case may be). Terrain included swampy
marshland, bottomland hardwoods, and the Mississippi River batture and levee
system. I also wore the Keeler on all my daily walks, which are usually two
miles each day. My neighbors are used to this now, and don't even look at
FIELD NOTES - MATERIALS, CONSTRUCTION, AND FEATURES
Language taken from Gregory's website and product documentation is
noted in navy blue.
According to the Gregory Website, the Keeler has a "210d double box HT
nylon body". The material is a very sturdy, double box rip-stop nylon. It
does not stretch. It hasn't snagged in any bushwhacking scenario I have put
it through, and the material seems waterproof. None of the contents of my
pack have become wet even in a slow drizzling rain. The pack isn't totally
YKK Group hardware (customized with Gregory's logo) is used
exclusively as far as I can tell. I have been very happy with all the
hardware and have experienced no failures.
...Auto.CantT is based on the simple idea that shoulder straps need to
rotate to a range of angles to accommodate individual neck and shoulder
shapes, as well as the movement of the shoulders associated with physical
activity. Each Auto.CantT panel attaches to the framesheet with a single
point swivel (aircraft grade aluminum rivet), allowing them to independently
rotate and self-adjust to the slope of the shoulders. You can also fine-tune
the degree of rotation by tensioning the shoulder stabilizer strap.
The Auto.CantT shoulder harness is one of those simple but ingenious
ideas. By attaching the shoulder straps to the frame by means of a pivot,
the shoulder straps can adjust several degrees in either direction to allow
a custom fit to even my broad shoulders. I have found the harness to be
superior in comfort and fit. I go on about it later in this report.
Dual Density Wilderness Waistbelt
A fancy name that isn't entirely described. The Wilderness Waistbelt
is precurved to eliminate wrinkles, and it is cushy and comfortable. The
waistbelt is a success in my opinion. Comfortable with an excellent fit.
Again, more on this later.
StealthT Harness Padding
The StealthT harness is contoured to wrap comfortably over the
shoulders and around the chest.
Not exactly around the chest. More like down the chest. It is quite
comfortable. I like it.
Flo-Form® II Molded Backpanel
When conventional fabrics are bent or stitched, they bunch and crease.
Put these creases against your body, add fifty pounds, and you'll experience
chafing and discomfort. Flo.Form® allows our waistbelts, shoulder harnesses
and backpanels to be molded to match specific shapes of the body. Built-in
creases and channels prevent straps and harnesses from bunching against the
body, and also promote unmatched ventilation.
The backpanel is very nice, and the lumbar pad is greatly appreciated.
The backpanel fits well and is very comfortable even after extended wear. I
experienced no chafing, and breathability was good.
Single 7001-T6 Stay
Alloy #7001-T6 is a hardened aluminum alloy with a Brinell Hardness of
160, and an ultimate tensile strength of 97,900 PSI (6750 bar). This
exceeds the specs for annealed titanium. In layman's terms, this is the
good stuff. I have no complaints about the stay. It performs well in its
Hourglass FOAM-X Framesheet
The Keeler is equipped with a FOAM-X framesheet cut like an hourglass
backed up with a single 7001-T6 aluminum stay. This framesheet is rigid and
kept lumpy and bumpy objects from digging into my tender back. Is nice.
The construction of the Keeler is first rate. Exposed edges are
wrapped with piping. Stitching is well done and reinforced. I experienced
no material failures at all, and the pack even washes nicely with a nylon
brush, some ivory soap, and a garden hose. I washed it twice during the
Field Test period, and it came out like new each time.
PACKING IT UP
NOTE: There is no standard terminology for specifying the 'front' or
'back' of a pack. In this report, I use Gregory's terminology which calls
the 'back' of the pack the suspension side, and the 'front' of the pack what
you would see if you were walking behind me - even though I think that's
backwards. Left and right stays conventional; the left shoulder strap is
over my left shoulder and the right shoulder strap is over my right shoulder
when I am wearing the pack - and so the sides of the pack are determined in
the same way.
Packing a pack is a lot like assembling a puzzle. Whenever I get a
new pack - or new gear - I like to spread everything out all over the place
and figure out where it goes. This is a fun process for me, and I had a lot
of fun packing the Keeler. With the Keeler I took the 'bag-of-bags'
approach. What this means is that most loose gear went into its own stuff
sack. Cooking and eating utensils went into one stuff sack. Food into
another, etc. I chose this packing method because of the Keeler's
construction. Being able to access the pack from top, bottom, or either
side means thinking about where things go, and being able to access each bag
of gear individually without having to unpack the whole mess. I started
with my shelter and sleeping bag and put them both into the bottom
compartment. Both my Hennessy Hammock Explorer Deluxe and my Snugpak Softie
3 Merlin sleeping bag fit nicely into the provided space with some room left
With my sleeping system stowed, I stood the Keeler up and began to
toss in my various bags. First I put my Platypus water bladder into the
provided hydration pocket, then I tossed in the bags for food, cooking gear,
sundries, water treatment kit, shower, and my camera. I had a lot of room
left over. I unpacked the sundries bag and loaded some things into the side
pockets, the back pocket, and the lid pocket. Now I had even more room in
the main compartment. Hmmm... Then I remembered that maybe I should pack
some extra clothes since it was cold out. I packed my big fluffy jacket and
that took up plenty of room, so I was ready to go. Normally I stuff things
like my towel into an external pocket, but the Keeler has little in the way
of external pockets, so I stuffed those things into the back pocket. I then
attached my sleeping pad underneath and the idea occurred to me that I could
have packed the sleeping pad as a roll inside the Keeler and that would have
taken up some room. I did this on another occasion, but this destroys the
side access feature so I don't particularly care for it. I then decided to
pack my umbrella, and I inserted the top end of my Birdiepal Compact into
the ice axe loop, gave it a few twists until it was snug, and then secured
the top with the ice axe keeper. This works really well and I was quite
pleased. I am still shifting things around in the Keeler, and I will report
on my final packing configuration during the Long-Term Review. I always had
plenty of room in the Keeler, even with winter loads.
Whenever I wanted something, I had a mental map of where everything
was in the pack. It was never necessary to open the top of the pack while I
was in the field. I just opened one of the side compartment zippers and
pulled out the bag that I needed. When it came time to camp, I just undid
the bottom compartment, set up my hammock, and my entire pack was still
packed. This is a very big deal to me, and I really enjoy this feature of
the Keeler. Normally I am very sloppy in camp and I wind up with everything
spread out all over a NeetSheet under my tarp because I had to pull
everything out to get to my shelter. With the Keeler, everything stayed
together just where it belonged. In a crowded campground if I wanted to go
to the bathroom I didn't have to leave all my stuff behind to be pilfered.
I just picked up the pack and walked to the latrine. I didn't figure that
anybody would walk off with a fully pitched hammock... Of course, I don't
normally camp in crowded campgrounds, but some folks do.
Putting the Keeler on is easy enough, although I found the lift loop
somewhat wanting. When the hood is cinched down all the way it interferes
with the lift loop somewhat. In any case, I really had no trouble getting
the Keeler on and off. Once the monkey was on my back, I clipped my
hydration mouthpiece on the right side, dropped a can of insect repellent
into the right side pocket, clipped my knife on the right hipbelt stabilizer
strap and my pepper spray to the left hipbelt stabilizer strap, and I was
ready to go.
The first thing I noticed whenever I started to walk was how well the
Keeler fit me. I am very pleased in every respect with the fit of the
Keeler, and Mr. Gregory deserves some kudos for his attention in this area.
I have a bad case of Bursitis in both shoulders. Any pack weight on
my shoulders for more than a half hour or so causes agonizing pain. The
Keeler allows me to use a hip belt to support all the weight of the pack,
but some 'driving' is still necessary. Years of experience have taught me
that little adjustments here and there every so often make walking with a
pack much more comfortable, and I quickly learned the rhythms and techniques
that worked to 'drive' the Keeler in this way. I carried a true sternum
strap - a strap that can go all the way around the pack and around my chest
to stabilize the pack and allow me to loosen the shoulder straps
completely - but I never needed it. The Auto.CantT Harness is a total
success in my book. When I move, the harness moves and this is a big relief
for my shoulders. My old A.L.I.C.E. pack moved in a similar way, but the
harness on the Keeler is even better. Mr. Gregory, my shoulders thank you.
The shoulder strap adjustments snug easily, but I there are no thumb
loops at the end and I really miss that feature on the Keeler. I have
become accustomed to them, and I will put a few stitches in it at the end of
the test to make some thumb loops. The sternum strap is moveable and easy
to adjust. While it is my usual habit to drop my pack during
top-of-the-hour breaks, I found that with the Keeler, I didn't usually
bother to take it off.
I carried pack loads ranging from 25 pounds (11.34 kg) to 40 pounds
(18.14 kg), even when I didn't need that much gear in order to test the
Keeler's performance under various loads. Performance didn't vary - the
pack just got heavier. The felt weight of the Keeler - and indeed any
pack - is very subjective. Even when I was carrying 40 pounds (18.14 kg),
the Keeler did not dig in to me or bite me in any way. I was perfectly
comfortable up to the maximum load capacity, and it didn't feel like I was
carrying 46 pounds (20.87 kg). (The weight of the Keeler + 40 pounds (18.14
kg).) Of course, I also know how to pack. Care should be taken with
heavier items to make sure that they are high and as close to the back as
possible. The Keeler never became 'sloppy' even while I was running - not
that I run that much. By tweaking the adjustments of all the straps, I was
able to 'tune' the pack to a very comfortable and acceptable piece of gear
that moved with me. All of the adjustments are readily accessible and easy
to fiddle with. This is obviously more intelligent design at work.
The breathability of the backpanel was good, but not excellent. I
will see how good or bad it really is when spring and summer settles into
the Deep South.
The hipbelt stabilizer straps are 1 in (2.54 cm) wide webbing. Since
I use waist belt stabilizer straps to attach things like pepper spray and my
knife to my pack, I like my stabilizer straps to be the full width of the
waist belt - in this case 2 in (5 cm). I found that the 1 in (2.54 cm)
straps were adequate in this role, but I'm still greedy and I'd prefer the 2
in (5 cm) straps.
I will continue to wear the Gregory Keeler at every opportunity. The
Keeler will see at least three multi-day hikes during the Long-Term Review
period in addition to my usual overnight trips. Day hikes, night hikes, zoo
trips, and daily walks will insure that the Keeler gets a lot of carry time.
I will continue evaluate the Keeler for packability, durability,
comfort, water resistance, and anything else I think that a pack should be
able to do. The list is long and tedious, and will be covered in the Field
In all areas - packability, durability, and comfort, the Keeler is
making straight As so far.
THINGS I LIKE
1. Excellent Fit
2. Built with the philosophy that 'overkill' is an unattainable ideal
to be reached for. Everything is stronger than it needs to be.
4. Appeals to my manhood.
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
1. The hood is not designed to be used as an escape bag.
2. The hydration port is on the wrong side for me.
3. No thumb loops on the ends of the shoulder strap adjustment
4. Hood interferes with load lifter/shoulder strap stabilizer
Thank you for your time.
- Hi Shane,
Your report may not be as long as usual, but it's got all of the
signature detail so don't worry.
No Edits for you so please upload at will.
> GREGORY KEELER
> 5300 Cubic Inch Internal Frame Backpack
> report review
> Field Test Report - February 1, 2005