Review: Gregory Stout 45 and Amber 44 Backpacks

Gregory Stout 45
Gregory Stout 45

Gregory Stout 45 and Amber 44
$169, 3 lbs. 9 oz. (medium)

Men’s Stout 45 sizes:
M 45L/2,746 c.i., fits torsos 46-51cm/18-20 ins.
L 48L/2,929 c.i., fits torsos 51-56cm/20-22 ins.

Women’s Amber 44 sizes:
S 44L/2,685 c.i., fits torsos 41-46cm/16-18 ins.
M 46L/2,807 c.i., fits torsos 46-51cm/18-20 ins.

A weekend backpack that costs just $169—and is made by Gregory? How could I not put it to the test? Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s remote and very rugged, 34-mile Royal Arch Route—considered the hardest established, multi-day route on the canyon’s South Rim—we hiked many miles off-trail, scrambled over and around boulders and up and down sketchy, exposed ledges, made one big descent and a monster uphill slog in brutal desert heat, carried up to seven liters of water each, and even lowered our packs over a 20-foot cliff (that we had to rappel). Through all of that, I have to say, the Stout 45 carried comfortably and stably and tolerated a lot of abuse with no damage.

I packed up to 35 pounds—the amount Gregory claims the pack is designed to carry—in the Stout 45 when I started the Royal Arch Loop with seven liters of water, camping and rappelling gear, and three days’ of food. With all that stuff inside, I filled it, but the Stout 45 has the capacity for a three- to four-day trip, if you pack smartly. That load carried comfortably descending the knee-pounding upper South Bass Trail in the Grand Canyon, and descending off-trail through the gorge leading to Royal Arch, where we encountered quite a bit of strenuous scrambling as well as delicate traversing and descending of slabs and one 20-foot cliff. Through all of that, the pack never shifted on me.

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Gregory Stout 45
Gregory Stout 45

Characteristic of Gregory, the foundation of the harness support resides in an ample lumbar pad and a hipbelt with good rigidity; the TrailFit hipbelt is also adjustable, giving you six inches/15cm of play for a wide range of waist sizes. (While I applaud that, I also think Gregory generally makes its hipbelts too long: With a 30-inch waist, I have about 12 inches of slack belt dangling from each side, and I doubt there are many men purchasing the medium pack who have a 54-inch waist.) A steel alloy, perimeter frame transfers much of the pack weight to the hips. Wicking mesh in the back panel and a curved shape that allows some air flow behind my back helped keep me a bit cooler. The fixed, non-adjustable harness comes in two sizes, not the usual three sizes of other Gregory models, but I achieved a good fit for my 18-inch torso in the medium Stout. The Amber harness is designed for female torsos.

The top-loading Stout and Amber have a removable lid with two zippered pockets that provide plenty of space for smaller items. An integrated rain cover stores inside a zippered pocket within the front stuff-pocket, which is large enough for a wet rainfly. Two oversized, zippered hipbelt pockets each hold a few bars or an electronic device. While the two smaller-capacity Stout and Amber models have zippered access to the sleeping-bag compartment at the pack’s bottom, the larger versions have a bigger, U-shaped zipper accessing the main compartment. The larger versions also come with the removable Sidekick hydration bladder that doubles as a minimalist summit pack—a nice feature found in Gregory’s more-expensive backpacks. Tough pack fabric shows no signs of use after a few hard days of being tossed on coarse Grand Canyon rock.

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No, Gregory is certainly not abandoning its business of selling high-end backpacks: The men’s Stout 45, 35 ($149), 65 ($199), and 75 ($219), and women’s Amber 44, 34 ($149), 60 ($199), and 70 ($219) packs do not come in the sizing options and with the same array of backpacking-friendly features found in top-of-the-line models like the Baltoro and Deva—and they are not going to carry heavier loads with the same degree of comfort as the Baltoro and Deva.

But besides setting you back a little less, the Stout/Amber packs are also a couple pounds lighter than the Baltoro/Deva models of comparable volume. So if you’re looking for a pack for carrying moderate loads, with Gregory quality at REI prices, the men’s Stout and women’s Amber are worth a look.

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See also my stories “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack,” “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun” “Buying Gear? Read This First,” and all of my reviews of backpacks and my reviews of backpacking gear that I like.

NOTE: I tested 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.

—Michael Lanza

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3 thoughts on “Review: Gregory Stout 45 and Amber 44 Backpacks”

  1. Thank you for the great review, as always! Any thoughts on whether this pack will fit in an overhead bin? I’m looking for a good pack for some overseas hiking, and I’d prefer not to trust my pack to the airlines. Thanks! 🙂

    • Good question! I did not try to use it as a carry-on, but I just compared it to another pack I have used as a carry-on, and the Stout 45 is virtually the same dimensions (same as the Amber 44), so I think it would function well and be the right size for a carry-on. It’s also built so durably that I wouldn’t worry about it getting damaged even as checked luggage (although when I check a backpack without putting it inside a duffle, I always tighten down and knot all the loose straps and buckle the hipbelt around the front of the pack, so it’s snug against the pack bag).