As far as outdoor equipment and backpacks go the Gregory Jade 50 seemed like a dream. Cute in style and functional in design, the Gregory Z55 and the women’s version, the Jade 50, won the 2007 “Best All Around Weekend Pack” from Backpacker magazine. Unfortunately the design features that put it to the top for a weekend pack don’t score any points for best travel pack.
High quality construction and designed for a woman’s body, the Jade 50 is great for walking, trekking and hiking around in urban and back country settings. Unfortunately it is difficult to pack correctly. The curve in the back, which keeps your back cool when wearing it, makes the interior pouch shaped like an hour glass. It is almost impossible to fill the bottom of the pack completely, I find the bottom of my pack always has awkward negative space that I have trouble filling. The curve also makes it more difficult to get things in and out of the pack, even with the side zipper, since your larger items will be at the bottom of the back anyway. We use compression sacks for our clothing- again the curve of the back makes it difficult to use the space and I find that I’m constantly unpacking the entire pack to get to the stuff at the bottom despite the side access zipper. I also find that because of the curve the middle of the pack is extended making it more difficult to shove the pack into overhead bins or under seats even if the front pocket is not full. This does not seem to be a problem with the Z55 which is more slim in appearance.
As a bag designed for women, I find that the back fits very well. The proportions are great- I’m 5’7″ and I’m overall happy with the aesthetics of the color and design.
If you can’t tell, my biggest complaint is the curved back – although I am NOT using this for hiking- so that influences my review significantly. Besides the back, the backpack is high quality construction and I love the idea of a side access zipper. I use the front pouch regularly and find that it is easily to secure. The straps on the bottom function well for attaching shoes, but overall the pack is sleek in appearance with out a lot of dangling straps and gadgets. The top pocket can be difficult to get things out of as unlike the Z55, the zipper does not go all the way around the pocket. When its full you have to take almost everything out of the top to get to stuff on the side of the top pocket. I never put anything in there that I might need quickly.
Overall this is a good pack, but if I had the option I would trade it in for something more travel friendly. In my opinion the short comings of this bag would also negatively effect a back country traveler who wants to access things quickly on the go.
Packing your bag makes a huge difference in comfort. Check out this video we put together with tips for distributing weight in your pack, keeping objects secure and packing for comfort:
Gregory Women’s Jade 50 Backpack