A feature-heavy yet lightweight and supremely comfortable backpack for multi-day hiking
Boasting a ton of storage features and easy-access entry options, the Gregory Amber 55 Backpack is a must for those who like to stay organised on the trail. However, what really stands out about this super robust and well-designed backpack is how comfortable it is. Plush padding through the shoulders and hips account for much of the comfort. But the customisable and female specific fit also make it a joy to carry, even when fully loaded!
Gregory Amber 55 Backpack: The stats
|Weight:||1.54kg / 3.4 lbs|
|Material:||210D and 420D nylon|
|Fit:||Customisable female cut|
|Eco-conscious:||50% recycled 135D polyester lining|
Features of the Gregory Amber 55 Backpack
Adjustable hip belt and pocketsTwo zippered hip belts – I use these for quick-access items like my mobile phone, tissues, sun cream and snacks. They are a very good size as I like to have several items to hand at one time, to save having to take the pack off too regularly.
Fittune adjustable panels– If you prefer to have less strap across your front, you can extend the padded panels from behind the zip pockets to shorten the strap length and give more padding beneath the straps against your body. They are velcro-attached and very easy to extend or reduce. I didn’t feel the need to use this feature as I found the strapping very comfortable as it was.
Front buckle – This is straightforward to adjust and the release is quick and easy. Tightening the straps once the bag is on is very easy but I would like the ability to quickly and easily loosen the straps before unbuckling, as I’ve had on my previous pack. You have to give it a bit of a nudge to loosen, but otherwise it works well. For a ladies pack, I would suggest that the straps are slightly too long and hang down when done up – perhaps a band along the belt to stow away the extra length would be a nice addition.
Padded wrap around belt – Ah, so incredibly comfortable! There is a very generous amount of slim-line padding around the front and hips, and an extra layer on the lower back. My hips felt great at the end of each hike, unlike previous packs where I’ve had pressure spots on my hips for most of the time. You can tighten the belt for an incredibly snug fit without the need to put up with pain or tightness during the day.
Adjustable back panel
Unlike other packs I’ve used before, this adjustable back panel works really well and is quick and easy to use. You really can fine-tune the fit of the pack to perfectly suit your torso length. There’s a very good range of size options too, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve a very short torso (like me, using the XS setting) or a much longer upper-body – the length can increase 16cm longer than the smallest XS setting. The suspension is very breathable and comfy with a good layer of breathable foam between the mesh and the pack to keep you cool when working up a sweat. Thanks to the wishbone alloy frame the pack load is transferred to your hips where you can support more weight. The pack is super comfortable against my back, with no rubbing or sweat patches at all.
Padded shoulder straps
Again, as with all the padded features on this pack, the perforated and breathable padded shoulder straps are incredibly comfortable. This is surprising as they are not as wide as previous packs, and they are very easy to tighten and release once on. The adjustable sternum strap with integrated whistle has 18cm’s of up-down adjustment to find your perfect fit around your bust, regardless of your size and torso length.
I love the large quick-pull drawstring opening to the main compartment of the pack. It really is quick-pull and opens instantly when tugged on – no more faffing around trying to get into your pack when it’s chucking it down and you need to get your waterproof on quick smart. The top compression strap allows for extra room at the top of the pack if needed, but also enables the pack to close tightly and snuggly when not packed to full capacity.
This has two zippered pockets: one on the top with the zip at the back, and one internally where the rain cover is stored. This internal pocket also has a key clip and can store much more than just the rain cover. The top pocket is a really good size and grows in height when full, for maximum storage capability. I use this for my lightweight wind-proof, some sun cream and a map, but you can fill it to the brim with much more if needed.
The U-zip opening for easy access to the main compartment was one of the selling points of this pack for me. I love being able to access the lower section of my pack easily without having to blindly rummage through the whole contents of my pack from the top opening or pulling out half the contents to find the one glove that got separated from the other. When fully open, the opening spans about ¾ of the front of the pack. This sizeable opening makes it so easy and convenient to access all the contents of your pack, and to more sensibly and logically unpack and repack and organise your kit.
Sleeping bag compartment
The zippered section at the bottom of the pack has a removable internal divider which was also a big selling point for me. However, I quickly realised that I didn’t want the internal divider attached, as it actually limited the storage room in the upper section of the pack. This is mainly due to my new sleeping bag being small and slim and not filling the designated sleeping bag compartment. Removing the internal divider allowed for more storage space of longer items that fit nicely down the side of the pack, filling out the bottom section of the pack more efficiently. The reinforced double-layered panel covering the base of the pack is great for added durability, especially when dumping the bag on rocky and damp ground.
The stretchy mesh pocket at the front of the pack was also a must-have for me. It has an extendable top buckle so you can really stuff the pocket out if you want to. On unsettled rainy days I use this for storing my waterproofs, and on cooler days for quick access to a warm layer and gloves. In the summer I stuff my travel towel and bikini in here for quick and easy dips in the sea en route.
The pack comes with very large internal hydration reservoir pocket inside the main compartment, with a clip at the top that successfully keeps the reservoir in place whilst walking. The centrally exiting hose can be used on either side, as there are loops on both shoulder straps. The sternum strap has a port on one side to attach the hose to for minimal hose swinging, and with a bit of effort, you can switch the strap around to the other shoulder if needed.
The stretchy mesh side pockets with elasticated tops are really useful for storing all sorts of items, but I use them primarily for my 1.5 litre water bottle. There is side access to the pockets for accessing your bottle more easily whilst hiking, but this doesn’t prove all that easy with my larger bottle. Pulling the bottle out is simple, but putting it back in without needing to take my pack off is much less straightforward and often requires the use of a second person! There is a small hole in the pocket to allow the side compression straps to go under or over a bottle or other pocket contents for more secure stowage.
Stored in the top lid pocket with elasticated edges, the rain cover is very easy to get on and off. It fits really well and is quickly and easily secured in the wind by a strap on the left hand side that clips onto any part of the pack that you choose.
Compression straps and gear loops
I’ve not put this pack through its max-capacity paces and haven’t used it for climbing. However, there is ample storage for extra equipment, including gear loops below the walking pole attachments that would be good for clipping on equipment such as carabiners or a helmet. There are plenty of very useful and much needed compression straps on the pack. Two under and around the sleeping bag compartment allow you to cinch in the lower end of a less full pack or to attach a larger roll mat underneath the pack externally. Two compression straps around the side pockets allow for lateral compression across the midsection of the pack, and the two compression straps around the top sides are great for when the upper part of the pack isn’t as full as the lower. There are two bungee closure pole attachments with lower loops on either side of the pack, as well as several other loops located around the pack, allowing for external carriage of clipped-on items if extra space is needed internally.
Gregory Amber 55 Backpack review
Having used my old (and much loved) backpack since it was purchased in the US back in 2003, I had plenty of wants and needs from a new backpack. First and foremost, I wanted something a little more lightweight and compact. An all-bases-covered multi-purpose pack for both lightweight overnighters as well as multi day heavier-weight trips. I also needed a few much-loved tried and tested features that my old pack was so adored for. These included a front opening pocket as well as the standard top opening, comfortable padded hip straps with pockets, and a separate sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the bag.
After a significant amount of research and online hunting around, I really loved the on-paper specs of the Gregory Amber 55 Backpack. It instantly ticked all my must-have boxes but also offered some new features that I liked the sound of. Plus, the stylish and compact design of the bag really appealed to me, as did the choice of colours.
Despite my long list of expectations and needs, I’ve not been at all disappointed with this pack. In fact, it has been a definite upgrade from my last pack, which was always going to be a tall order. Overall, the whole pack feels robust and durable in spite of its lightweight nature, and is reinforced in all the high-wear areas. It immediately felt comfortable, even without any fine tuning size readjustments, which I was so pleased about. I have had a lot of trouble finding packs that are as comfortable and well-fitting as my old faithful and this pack was even more so, which was a very pleasant surprise.
I have to admit that making my way around the pack for the first time was initially a little confusing. There are a lot of straps and buckles around the upper part of the bag and it wasn’t instantly obvious what clipped into where. However, once inside the pack, I was delighted with the amount of space and the ease of accessibility, both from the top and front openings. Now to pack my bag for the first time – always so exciting!
This year I also upgraded some of the bulkier items of my hiking kit: sleeping bag and airbed along with the purchase of a vacuum packed dry bag for clothes storage. So immediately I found that there was a lot of extra room available once my two nights worth of summer kit was stowed away. I realised that I didn’t want or need the separate sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the bag as my sleeping items didn’t come close to filling the space down there. I detached the divider and this made for much easier packing and accessibility, utilising all the space available. I’ve not used the divider since, but I do still feel this will be a useful feature for winter camping with a much thicker down sleeping bag and mat.
For two-night summer hikes, the pack feels like the perfect size. It doesn’t bulge at the seams, but also doesn’t feel slack or floppy or half empty when on my back. The compression straps help a lot to tighten things up in all the right places and I’m even able to pack in a few extras that a smaller bag wouldn’t allow for. A hip flask of rum and a bottle of ginger ale for starters! Plus a couple of extra layers to cope with the classic British summer if necessary, and a couple of ‘luxury’ food items (crisps and chocolate!) for summer sunset snacks.
Before its first use I needed to adjust the pack’s torso height as I have an annoyingly short upper body. But I was delighted to find that the XS setting works perfectly on me and feels snug and comfortable in all the right places without feeling squeezed in or rucked up anywhere.
Its first outing was on the Cornish coast path for 3 days and two nights of glorious trails. We had mixed weather, so my layers all came in handy and I got to use the rain cover in anger too – a total success, as the pack stayed completely dry the whole time. I felt like I’d been using the pack for years. Everything was very intuitive and logical and unpacking and repacking it each day was a joy rather than a mind-bending puzzle. The zips are very robust and all function smoothly and easily and the straps tighten and loosen quickly with minimal effort and no snagging at all, even though it does sometimes feel like there are a lot of them! The pockets are all well-placed and the right size, and I was left wanting for nothing more from a functional point of view, from this well planned, thoughtfully designed and well made bag.
Comfort and stability
One small issue I’ve had whilst walking up and down the steep coast path steps is a little external side to side movement from the pack across my back. This isn’t a deal breaker but something that I haven’t yet been able to remedy. I perhaps need to play around with what I pack where inside the bag, and also adjust the heck out of all those compression straps.
Aside from that, the bag is incredibly comfortable to walk with due to its superior padding, and does a great job of wicking sweat away from my back and shoulders thanks to the breathable mesh fabric and foam. Even after its first use I had no rubbing anywhere, and no pressure spots either, even on the morning of the third day. A successful first outing!
On one-nighter trips, the bag is slightly on the large side with a little too much extra space in the bag. Great for taking luxury extras, but not so great in terms of stability. It doesn’t feel as tight and compact and I find there’s a lot of slack in the fabric when compressing the upper section on the bag. This has led me to question whether I needed to go for a slightly smaller capacity bag (maybe 45-50 litres?) in order for it to be as multi-purpose as I had hoped. For longer multi-night trips the pack is a no-brainer both functionally and comfort-wise, as long as you have lightweight gear. It’s also perfect for gear-heavy day trips, ust not ideal for quick lightweight overnight blasts. Perhaps I need to dig out my ancient and bulky sleeping bag and roll mat for these trips, to pad out the pack a little?!
What I love the most about the Gregory Amber 55 Backpack
There is very little not to love about this robust and aesthically pleasing backpack. The numerous storage options and main compartment access options are big hits with me as I do like to stay organised on the trail! But what I’m most delighted with is how comfortable the bag is, thanks to the plush and breathable padding as well as the adjustability of the torso length.
What I don’t love so much about the Gregory Amber 55 Backpack
No pack is perfect, and although my overall thoughts and feelings are very positive, there are a couple of downsides:
Firstly, though the floating lid is really excellent when filling the pack to capacity and beyond, when the pack isn’t filled right to the brim it’s tricky to cinch it down tightly enough. The buckles need to be placed lower at the front to allow for a greater range of tightening. Additionally, when I open the lid up it falls onto the back panel, as is expected, but then gets a little caught up with the shoulder straps. The lid lacks a small buckle to keep it close to the pack when open.
Another very small gripe is with the slight instability of the sideways movement when going up steep steps, but I am determined to find a solution to this.
And finally, the number and length of all the straps! The more I use the bag the more used to this I am becoming, but I do feel that this could be an area for improvement in future models. It’s by no means a deal breaker, but you need to stay focused when clipping in your straps to make sure you are connecting the correct pair together!
The Gregory Amber 55 is a really great backpack. I can highly recommend this for anyone looking for a lightweight multi-day pack that is roomy and well thought out, or for gear-heavy adventurers who need lots of versatile space on day trips. Even though it does feel a little bit big for single nights away, it does allow space for those additional extras and luxury items that might not otherwise make the packing list. Above all, the comfort of the pack is the winner for me, on top of the pleasing functionality and user-friendly qualities that this bag oozes. It’s on the pricey side, but well worth the money. I’ve struggled for a long time to find a comfortable bag that is also functional and lightweight, and this is it. My search is over!
Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received this product free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear that we love from companies we trust and we are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.