The Gregory Salvo 28 backpack introduces Gregory’s innovative new Freespan Suspension technology. This new system improves airflow, enhances lumbar support, and provides ample structure for heavier loads. I’ve drug this pack through the mountains, the cities, and even through black diamond bike courses just to see what it was made of. This is my review.
The Salvo 28 is built around a lightweight aluminum frame that follows the perimeter of the pack. It’s essentially a thin bar that ever so slightly curves away from the spine, and extends into the hip belt of the pack to drop the weight of the gear being carried onto the hips. The curve of this bar is spanned with a tightly stretched weave that creates the back panel of the pack, which allows air to flow through freely to reduce heat build up and sweating. A “spring leaf” lumbar system creates a rolling pad that slides into the curve of the spine of the user to provide support for those long hikes. There are two extra wide padded hip belts with large easy to access pockets sewn onto them. These are large enough for modern phones and even larger point and shoot cameras. There is a large main compartment accessed via the top of the pack that will carry the bulk of the weight with a built in hydration pouch and hanger to keep the bladder from slipping. This is paired with the appropriately placed hydration hose routing on the top which allows the tube to be directed to the shoulders and chest of the pack. A smaller secondary pocket houses a mesh pocket inside for organization, and an attachment clip for keys and yet a final smaller soft pocket to provide some protection for phones and such. There are two stretchy water bottle pockets, an adjustable trekking pole lash, and accessory straps located on the bottom of the pack that’s large enough for a small sleeping pad or a tarp. On my scale, the pack barely tipped 2lbs 8 oz. The pack should be available soon at around $99 or $129 depending on the model.
What I liked
The Salvo 28 is supremely comfortable. The pack relies on generously wide pads instead of shear thickness to provide excellent weight distribution along the hips and shoulders. At this weight and size class, this works out extremely well as the thinner pads help alleviate heat build up and bulk while providing a more friction and pressure free hiking experience as pressure is more evenly distributed. The Freespan back panel sits gently against the spine and allows an excellent amount of air to flow through. This has some flex to it and acts like a cushion and buffer to separate the spine from gear packed inside. The fact that it curves from the body is what lets the air flow through, but it’s not such an extreme curve that it pushes the pack (and thus the weight) away from the hiker. This results in a much more stable hiking experience than similar offerings have provided in the past, which often result in a top heavy experience. Instead, it cinches down thanks to 4 compresses straps and hugs close to the body, minimizing sway and energy loss through diminishing momentum.The additional stability was always appreciated when rock hopping or climbing and made for a much more enjoyable long term hiking and biking experience. All in all, this makes for a pack that stays put, stays close, and refuses to be intrusive. The generous lumbar support, firm yet gentle, is only icing on the cake.
Organization is also great, with a variety of pockets and external attachments that allows for a wide range of use. Packing in hefty winter layers and snacks for a long day hike, or even tools, extra bike parts and pumps for hitting the biking trails was never an issue. I always found myself with ample room and even with additional storage space if needed. Thankfully, the pack can be cinched down easily when the extra space isn’t needed to avoid a flappy pack, which is absolutely vital when mountain biking. A helmet mount is even included near the bottom of the pack for the cycling commuters out there. Stashing snacks and cameras in the hip pockets provided quick access to my on the fly essentials, and the external gear straps along the bottom was a perfect spot for my Thermarest Z Seat.
Build quality, per typical Gregory standards, is excellent. The stitching is clean and consistent throughout, and the fabrics used have proved themselves repeatedly, taking repeated abuse from rocks, trees, limbs, and being drug around town. At one point, the trekking poles strapped to my back caught a low hanging tree as I dropped from a rock, taking nearly my entire body weight on the lashings. I dangled momentarily before being placed back on the rock that I came from as the tree recalled, absorbing my entire store of forward momentum without tearing or stretching the pack. Miles of rhododendron tunnels tunnels and the scrape of bike tools has shown little effect on the materials used. I’ve been pleasantly impressed and expect this pack to last a very long time
The pack looks great, blending in easily when needed. Upon closer inspection, the materials reveal a nice pattern embedded into the fabrics and high end plastics and metals speckled throughout. This creates an aesthetic that prounces quality quietly, without boasting it boldly about the wilderness.
The pack is impressively light for the amount of weight it can hold. 20 lbs of winter hiking gear (crampons, jackets, emergency shelters and more) sank into the pack and were supported admirably without the frame buckling one bit. Nor did the padding on the hips or shoulder fail to provide cushion. Often times, I found myself unaware that I was carrying a load of gear at all, all at just 2 lbs 8 oz.
Pricing is solid and a great value at less than $130 bucks for the largest model.
What I didn’t like
When biking, the generous lumbar support tends to feel like a lump sitting on the spine instead of a contouring curve fading into it. This is probably due to the angle that the pack sits as it’s at an angle instead of dropping the weight horizontally. After a bit of time I did manage to get used to it, but I never managed to completely forget that it was there. It’s not uncomfortable, per say, but it’s something that’s noticeable. It wasn’t enough of an issue to keep me from bringing it along on my rides however.
The water bottle pockets are difficult, if not practically impossible, to retrieve a water bottle from when on the move. This is especially tricky when using a flat flexible type of water bottle. I did manage to store bear spray inside one pocket and retrieve it quickly as a rapidly approaching beast (a deer actually) ascended onto my position though. I didn’t mind taking off the pack to pull my bottles from my pockets, and using a hydration bladder would eliminate the issue.
The Salvo 28 proved to be a true do everything backpack. From biking, to hiking, to jutsing around town, I found the pack to be not only usable but often exceptional. The new Freespan suspension corrects all of the issues that I typically have with these types of suspensions (instability and loss of energy on climbs) and does an excellent job of keeping the body cool on long grueling climbs thank to it’s superb ventilation. Generous padding and an enormous amount of internal storage proved sufficient for even the bulkiest winter hiking kits, without creating sore hips or shoulders. Aside from a couple of petty complaints, the Salvo 28 proved to be an excellent pack for practically any situation and I never found myself wishing for anything more. From tearing through intense mountain biking trails or summiting the local peaks, the Salvo 28 is a keeper.
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For more information on Gregory and their excellent line of gear, check out http://gregorypacks.com/
I wanted to send a special thanks out to Gregory and Corey at Backbone media for their support and for providing this excellent piece of equipment to review. We couldn’t do this without their help. Thank you so much! Our full disclosure can be found on the about me/contact page.