Gregory Packs has introduced a new and innovative feature into its 2010 line-up of packs: size-adjustable waistbelts. In the past, many companies offered you the ability to switch out waistbelts for a different size (notably Gregory, Arc'teryx, and Osprey), but this meant that you had to track down the size you needed (not always an easy task) and then swap out the entire hip belt.
To address this challenge, Gregory is the first company to offer a single waist belt system that can be adjusted between small, medium, and large—on the same waist belt! Currently available in Gregory's lightweight, fastpacking series of Z packs, these hipbelts consist of two separate pieces—one for each hip. To adjust the pads, you simply remove one side at a time by pulling apart the Velcro connection underneath the lumbar pad (made easier with an easy-to-grab pull loop). You then slot it on the pack's plastic frame in the clearly marked small, medium, or large sleeve. Re-Velcro it and voila! you're done.
Considering that this is a significant improvement in fit technology, Gregory is not touting it much on their web site—or even indicating exactly which 2010 packs will eventually sport such helpful technology. (The new year's models are just starting to appear.) For the moment, the only packs I've seen that definitely have it are the Z55 and Z65 (pictured).
On that note, both the Z55 ($199) and Z65 ($229) are outstanding packs that weigh in around four pounds and offer ample room for a weekend backpacking trip or longer fast-packing adventure where total pack weight is kept around 30-35 pounds. The Z55 in particular has been around for roughly 5 years at this point; its basic design has been copied by many other manufacturers since.
One last note: In the past, the lumbar pad of the Z55 was strikingly pronounced, uncomfortably so for those with little curvature in their lumbar region. The lumbar pad in the 2010 models is more nicely contoured and seems likely to fit a wider range of body types.
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.