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Outbound Reviewed: Backpacking Mt. Whitney with the Gregory Baltoro 65

When you're trying for the highest summit in the contiguous United States, you better come prepared.

By: Will Cebron + Save to a List

Standing at 14,497 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. It’s a long arduous trip to the summit that begins with securing coveted permits and ends after six thousand feet of elevation gain from the starting point at Whitney Portal. Since you typically get one shot to summit, it’s important you have the right gear. I’ve done my fair share of backpacking, but this trip was going to be an intense up and down, so I wanted something that would be super comfortable. I’d heard great things from friends about the Gregory Baltoro 65, so I picked one up for this hike.

While I’d argue that your boots are the most important piece of gear when hiking, your pack comes in a close second. Especially when you’re hiking miles on end with little to no rest. The Gregory Baltoro is hands down the most comfortable pack I’ve ever worn. I’ve used other backpacks in the past and by the end of the day, my shoulders are aching, my back is sore, and my hips are chafing.

What makes this pack so comfortable? Let’s start with the shoulder straps. I have fairly broad shoulders and the Baltoro shoulder straps sit wider than my other backpacks, which enhanced the comfort and helped distribute the weight evenly. I never felt like there was too much pressure on one side or the other. There’s also noticeable lumbar support in the form of a sturdy pad that nestles up against your lower back. This removeable pad is a feature I haven’t noticed as prominently on my other packs. These small features in the Baltoro made all the difference in comfort when you add up the thousands of steps to the top of Whitney.

Gaining six thousand feet of elevation means you’ll encounter very different temperatures as you make your way higher. When we started our hike up Whitney, it was sunny and in the mid-80s. A few hours in, it was in the high 60s as we made our way past the tree line. By the time, we stopped at Trail Camp for the night, it was hailing and freezing. Why am I mentioning this? Well one of my favorite things about the Baltoro is the usability and design. The pack has the normal top openings but also has two zippers mid-way down the pack that allow you to easily open and access items pushed down inside. For me, that meant I could quickly add layers or a rain coat when the weather rolled in, which was game changing.

What other features did I love?  Like most packs, there are two water bottle pockets, but the twist is that one is tilted forward so it’s extremely easy to access. There are tons of smaller packing compartments with two on the top flap and two more mid-way down, which made it easy to stay organized. On the waist belt, you have two pockets large enough to fit an iPhone X for easy photo taking access. The waist belt pocket on the left side is mesh while the right side is water resistant. Last, the pack came with a detachable rain cover. All my gear stayed dry during the rain storm, unlike other people who were trying to drape rain coats over the tops of the packs while they hiked. All these features helped me stay organized and easily access my clothing and food.

Overall, I loved this pack. It’s pricey at ~$300 so you're making an investment, but this pack will probably become your go-to for anything between 1-5 nights. With all packs though, I’d highly recommend you try it on in person before you buy it. Fit is incredibly important, and the wider straps and the ergonomic design won’t work for everyone. That being said, I’m happy I tested the Baltoro 65 and plan to bring it on all my upcoming backpacking trips.

Learn more about the Gregory Baltoro 65

Follow along my adventures in real time at @wcebron.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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