Gregory updated the Paragon (and Maven for women) lineup in February. The original 2017 Paragon bridged the gap between their minimalist, ultralight models and their more featured lines. The new Paragon 48 (MSRP $200) is still light, with a verified weight of 3 pounds, 13 ounces for a size M/L, and Gregory graced it with a new suspension system called FreeFloat. We’ve been testing a sample for two months, using it for multiple training hikes per week in the Central Texas Hill Country.
The Gregory Paragon 48 is a fully-featured pack with an active suspension system and a respectable weight. The FreeFloat suspension system was comfortable and allowed independent movement of the hips, but still harnessed moderate loads. This combination made it well suited for more active journeys that may wander off-trail.
Generous Features For The Weight
The Paragon 48 boasts a long feature list for a sub-four-pound pack:
- FreeFloat breathable suspension
- 3D Comfort Cradle hip belt and perforated dual-density shoulder harness
- 3D perforated foam back panel with adjustable torso length
- Wishbone alloy frame with fiberglass anti-barreling stay
- Included rain cover
- Top-loading design with full-length side access zipper
- Floating top pocket with two zippered compartments, reflective accents, and key clip
- Internal hydration sleeve with hanger
- Dual side and one front stretch mesh pocket with buckled closures
- Drawcord top with top webbing compression strap
- Zippered bottom sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider
- Ice axe/trekking pole attachments
- Sunglass stow on shoulder harness and zipped hip belt pockets
Gregory constructs the pack body from 100d and 210d nylon and uses 420d nylon for the bottom panel. The inner lining is 40 post-consumer recycled 135d polyester, and all foam is EVA.
Free Float Suspension
The Paragon 48’s Free Float Suspension uses elastic paneling between the suspension components for the hips and the rest of the pack in concert with a forgiving alloy perimeter frame. This combination allowed the hip belt to twist and pivot independently from the rest of the backpack while vertically transferring the load.
The sensation was especially palpable when scrambling or traversing more rugged terrain. High stepping with one leg while reaching high with the opposite arm demonstrated the Free Float’s ability to comply with the demands of aggressive movements.
But this ability didn’t come without compromise; Gregory rates the Paragon 48 to 40 pounds, but I found the sweet spot of the pack to be between 20 and 30 pounds. Anything more and the pack’s load transferring ability became compromised because of the flexibility of the frame and dynamic coupling between the hip belt and the rest of the backpack.
The hip belt and back panel are both generously padded and proved very comfortable. The contact area in the lumbar region is significant, aiding in load transfer, but it also felt warm in humid conditions despite the mesh covering and perforated foam.
The torso length adjustability and the well-padded and contoured shoulder straps made the Paragon 48 very comfortable for the upper body.
The Gregory Paragon 48 was one of the more organized packs in this volume and weight range. The top-loading design made it easy to pack and compress, while the side and sleeping bag compartment zippers made quick access possible.
All the exterior pockets and features kept even the most obsessive outdoor organizer happy. Elastic pockets cover almost the entirety of the outer surfaces. The side pockets easily held a 1-liter bottle each, and the right-hand pocket has an opening in the front for grabbing a drink on the go. The large front stretch pocket easily swallowed bulky layers.
And there are straps galore to lash anything else, including a top compression strap that can hold a rope or helmet, a pair of bottom straps ideal for a sleeping pad, and two pairs of side compression straps. Even the floating lid has clipping points.
The extendable top has a standard two-pocket design, and the lower pocket houses a key clip.
Small items had their designated places too, as each side of the hip belt has a generously deep zipped pocket, and the shoulder straps have hydration hose loops and a sunglass stowing system.
The Gregory Paragon 48, like its predecessor, straddles a gap. It’s a tad heavier and more supportive than ultralight packs, but not as efficient at transferring larger loads as more rigid and heavier models. It’s not as free moving as minimalist designs, but much more compliant than others. I felt the Paragon 48 was ideal for weekend backpacking when the ultralight treatment isn’t necessary, and the hiking is more demanding than a groomed trail.