Kim Jacobs and her husband own an international adventure travel company called Mountain Spirits that takes people trekking, skiing and climbing all over the world including Asia, Europe and South America. When Kim is not working, she is climbing rocks somewhere on this planet, normally close to where she just finished guiding be it Utah, Idaho, Thailand, Spain, Italy, or Argentina.
This spring I spent a somewhat miserable week lugging some heavy backpacking gear through a desert canyon in the pouring rain. Every time I lifted up my pack, I dreamt about all the ways I could lighten my load. Upon return to civilization, Lady Luck smiled…I had a chance to use the Gregory Jade 63. Heck yeah!
I immediately loved my new (Mountain Purple) Jade 63 backpack and here are the many reasons why:
This baby is lightweight! Mine is a Small and it weighs in at 3 lb. 10 oz. What’s not to like about that? My old pack was in the 7 lb. range. This isn’t the absolute lightest pack out there, but many of those do not have all the features I want. I am thrilled with the weight.
63 liters rules! I won’t even consider a backpack less than 60 liters. I need a lot of room and this pack has it. It actually looks small, but it does not pack small. I was able to pack a week’s worth of food, cooking gear, canyoneering equipment and all my personal items without overloading this pack. Furthermore, the pack is wide enough so that when you load it up, it does not become tall and skinny. I like the weight to ride low on my back and this pack expands to allow you to pack this way.
The Jade comes with sleeping bag access zipper and internal divider panel. I am not a fan of these panels in general and guess what? This panel is removable…sweet! The Jade has a stretchy front pocket that is great for odd-shaped things and items you want easily accessible. The external stretch pockets have room enough for water bottles, flip-flops, water filters, etc.. I use a Camelback and there is a convenient outlet for this.
My only beef with these pockets is that canyons are hard on this stretch material and therefore the mesh needs to be easily replaceable (without sending your pack into Gregory). I have found this to be a universal pack problem and will be thrilled when you can walk into a store and buy replaceable side pockets. The brain on this pack is huge (yay) and the hip belt pockets are big enough to put your phone (quick access for photos!) along with small sun and lip screen bottles. Whhhaattt? You can fit the phone AND sunscreen? Bonus!
Fit & Comfort
I ordered a Small because that’s my normal size and the Jade fit great. I didn’t have a chance to test drive this pack before my week-long trip, so I had faith and headed out for a week with it fully loaded. This is risky business but it paid off and I had zero comfort complaints. The waist belt is comfy and the lumbar foam landed right in the small of my back where I need it to. I was easily able to adjust the arm straps and the upper load strap when needed. The breathable mesh in the back panel works great. My trip was in the desert in high 80’s low 90’s never once was my back dripping like it did with my old school set up.
The Jade comes with a rain cover that lives in its own little pocket…how cool is that? How often do you have your rain cover when you need it? If you are me… never! It also has an internal storage pocket that turns into a daypack that weighs nothing – nice! It’s so nice to have this for easy day hikes or even just transporting things like water bottles when you have to fill up away from camp. In the removable top pocket is a zippered security pocket and key ring. Even though I don’t bring my keys with me, I always seem to have something important to stick there. Pack companies that add this are showing us they care. One last COOL feature is the front U Zipper. This front compartment zipper allows you access to the stuff you have stored in the middle of the pack (instead of desperately digging down from the top). This feature is awesome – thanks Gregory!
The Jade has two bottom straps for carrying tents, etc. This is a feature I use a lot and here comes my one nitpicky thing: on this pack these are not interchangeable (as in you cannot make an X with them). I like to have the option to cross over these straps if I want. The straps also come from the bottom of the pack so things you strap here can wind up under the pack instead of on the front where you want them to stay (which for me, helps my pack stand on its own). This is easy to fix with a bit of cord. The Jade also has trekking pole/ice ax/tool straps which are definitely handy.
The Jade 63 passed my tests with flying colors and has qualified to travel on over to Italy with me for a couple of weeks in the Dolomites. I think that sums it up!