Gregory Wander 70
$189, 70L/4,272 c.i., 3 lbs. 10 oz.
One size, adjustable
There are a couple of groups of people who often have trouble finding a backpack that fits them and functions well: young teenagers and small adults, especially women. Gregory tackles this dilemma head on with the Wander pack series. So I had my 15-year-old son and a woman friend who’s short and slightly built test out the Wander 70 on backpacking and hut trekking trips—and both really liked it. Here’s why.
My son, who’s five feet, four inches, a skinny 110 pounds, and has a 15-inch torso, carried this pack with more than 20 pounds inside at times (which represents an appropriate 20 percent of his body weight) on a three-day, August backpacking trip in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains; he found it comfortable for several hours a day on the trail. My neighbor Lauren, a five-foot, one-inch, 107-pound woman with a 14.5-inch torso, used this pack trekking hut-to-hut on the (absolutely stunning) Alta Via 2 in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. She carried a max weight of 25 pounds—without completely filling the pack—and her biggest day involved nine hours on the trail with 3,000 vertical feet of uphill and 5,300 feet of descending. She told me, “It was more comfortable than other small packs I have.”
The Wander’s fit and comfort start with Gregory’s Versafit suspension, adjustable for torso lengths from 13 to 18 inches (33 to 46cm). Good for at least a few years of use for most kids, it will also fit many small to average-height adults with small waistlines. An internal Wire Wishbone frame flexes slightly to move with a wearer’s torso, but retains enough rigidity for carrying loads up to about 30 pounds comfortably—as much as a kid or small adult using this pack should carry. I adjusted the suspension within seconds to fit my son perfectly. (See my “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack” for instructions on measuring torso size.)
For many young teens and small women, the hipbelts of adult packs, even in small sizes, are too big for their narrow hips and waists. But the Wander’s Quick-Adjust hipbelt addresses that challenge with movable Aeromesh hip pads that can be positioned to rest on the hipbones of a wide range of smaller waists. As with the hipbelt, the thick, breathable, Aeromesh shoulder straps and back pad help make a moderate load almost unnoticeable.
The top-loading Wander 70 has all the organizational features I like in a pack designed for backpacking, without anything superfluous, and plenty of capacity for weeklong trips; and yet, at barely north of 3.5 pounds, it’s light enough for weekend outings. The wide mouth makes packing and retrieving stuff a breeze, and a U-shaped front panel zipper provides instant access to virtually everything inside. The zippered front pocket fits a jacket with space to spare. The mesh side pockets will hold a liter bottle or various small items like gloves and a map. The lid pocket’s U-shaped zipper peels back to reveal everything inside—making contents more visible than you’ll find on most backpacks—and that pocket’s walls keep contents from spilling out. One complaint: The lid is not adjustable and removable.
As in some of Gregory’s high-end adult backpacks, the Wander 70 and 50 come with the Sidekick, a removable, ultralight daypack or summit pack with unpadded, webbing shoulder straps and belt and enough capacity for several pounds of clothing, water, and food. It clips inside the backpack, where it doubles as a bladder sleeve (although there is a sleeve inside, too).
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Dual side compression straps help stabilize an under-loaded pack, as do the bottom compression straps, which will also secure a sleeping pad, and the top compression strap, where you can also attach a climbing rope or other gear. The pack’s body fabric combines 300-denier polyester and 400-denier HD polyester, while the bottom is made with tougher, 630-denier polyester ballistic fabric. There are ice-axe attachments and daisy chain loops on the front. The pack comes with a rain cover, stored in a zippered mesh pocket inside the front pocket, and even a set of tips on loading a backpack printed on the lid pocket’s underside.
Designed for youths and small adults, the Wander 70 is built with the same quality and durability found in Gregory’s adult packs, and will last for years, getting handed down to multiple kids. There’s also the Gregory Wander 38 ($139) for smaller kids, and the Wander 50 ($169) for kids and small adults carrying lighter loads.
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See also all of my reviews of kids backpacks—including another excellent option, the Osprey Ace kids packs—and my reviews of kids outdoor gear that I like, and all of my reviews of backpacking gear, plus my “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack.”
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.