Gregory Salvo/Sula 28
$130, 28L/1,708 c.i., 2 lbs. 7 oz.
The trend toward ever-lighter gear has resulted in a spate of minimalist, ultralight daypacks—many of which I have reviewed and liked. But if you prioritize comfort and features in a daypack, Gregory hasn’t forgotten you. On dayhikes ranging from seven to 12 miles, from Yellowstone’s Mount Washburn and Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River to Utah’s San Rafael Swell, Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, and Kane Gulch, and Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly, and even some cross-country skiing, I found the Salvo 28 rocks for comfort and ventilation.
The Freespan suspension in the men’s Salvo and women’s Sula delivers more support and comfort than you’ll find in many daypacks. Employing a steel perimeter frame with an aluminum leaf spring for lumbar support, it flexes slightly to move with your torso as you hike, while positioning most of the pack’s weight on your hips (where it should be). But unlike many daypacks with a trampoline back panel for ventilation, the Freespan suspension uniquely ventilates well without its concave shape effectively consuming part of the pack’s interior space; and it doesn’t position the pack bag far from your spine, which can make a loaded pack feel like it’s tugging you backward. A wide hipbelt and shoulder straps padded with mesh EVA foam provides ample cushion (and they’re perforated for excellent ventilation): I carried 20 pounds without it feeling overloaded—more than many daypacks are designed to handle.
The Salvo seems even roomier than its 28 liters, because the internal suspension doesn’t crowd into the pack bag space. Two deep compartments, conveniently accessed by clamshell zippers that open to halfway down the pack bag, have bountiful capacity for all the clothing, water, and food you could possibly need for an all-day hike in any terrain or weather; I rarely filled it, even when bringing along a DSLR and two lenses. In fact, I used the Salvo 28 as carry-on for a couple of cross-country flights, and I traveled light so it held everything I needed for a week away, negating the need to check a bag. With side and bottom compression straps—the latter unusual in a daypack—you can shrink it down significantly with a partial load. Plus, all four compression straps have quick-release buckles for easily lashing items to the exterior.
There’s also a zippered, front sunglasses/goggles pocket; two zippered hipbelt pockets big enough for two or three bars or a large phone; stretch-mesh side pockets that swallow an entire liter bottle each; and a zippered mesh interior pocket for small items and keys. Adjustable front straps hold trekking poles. And kind of cool: The left shoulder strap has a tiny, tunnel sleeve for slotting one arm of a pair of sunglasses. The 210-denier nylon pack fabric is largely impervious to abuse; only the mesh side pockets are susceptible to tearing.
Yes, the tradeoff for this degree of support and features is that the Salvo and Sula are a bit heavier than more-minimalist models—although competitive for weight with other, fully featured daypacks. These daypacks are not for ultralighting speed hikers and trail runners. But they’re a great choice for hikers who want extra comfort and may often carry a little extra weight (water, clothing, food), and who heat up on the trail. The Salvo and Sula also come in two smaller volumes: 24L ($115, 2 lbs. 4 oz.) and 18L ($99, 18L, 1 lb. 13 oz.).
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a Gregory Salvo 28, Salvo 24, or Salvo 18 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com, or a Sula 28, Sula 24, or Sula 18 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com.
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NOTE: I reviewed gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.