"Gregory Mountaineering manufactured the first internal frame pack I ever owned. I was baptized with a Snow Creek. Traded to a Rock Creek and snuggled in with a Snow Creek Super Light that I carried for fourteen years over many miles of trail. The pack proved to be highly durable even though it was made out of light weight materials and subjected to extreme abuse.
I have continued to remain in contact with Wayne Gregory calling him at least once a year. My annual call is to badger him about the weight of his backpacks and to pester him for a light weight pack for us weaker crea-tures. Finally last winter Wayne responded by inviting me down to his plant and sur-prising me with an “Ultra Light Minaret.” It weights just under three pounds with a vol-ume of approximately 3900 cubic inches. Its maiden voyage was a grueling five day hike over Shepards Pass to Mt. Whitney with trips following to the Grand Canyon, the Super-stitions and another to the Sierra. The per-formance of the pack has been superlative.
The hip belt has been the source of most of my aches and pains on any lengthy backpack trip. The most common problem is that the hip belt will slide over the hips and down on the buttocks leaving all of the weight on the shoulders. Most packs will begin to slide af-ter bouncing down the trail for several miles requiring the backpacker to begin the never ending task of lifting the pack back onto his hips. The backpacker may tighten the belt in a vain attempt to prevent a reoccurrence of the “slip and lift” cycle. For me there is a limit to how tight I can cinch a hip belt without feel-ing as if my “innards” are bursting.
Some manufacturers use various types of “Stick’em” material to cause the pack to stick rather than slide. This works briefly until the weight of the backpack starts sticking and pulling one’s clothing eventually causing the hiker to lose “trou.” The load dumps onto the backpacker’s shoulders and exposing the lower anatomy to what normally does not see the light of day. This, of course, is the op-posite of what a pack is designed to do.
The Gregory Ultra Light Minaret, remarka-bly, did not slide off the hips at any time. The Shepard’s Pass/Whitney trip was a strenuous backpack requiring us to “gitty-up and go” the whole five days. My pack started at 35 pounds without water, sufficient to cause the pack to slip. Symmes Creek was hot and sweaty providing lubrication to further de-crease the packs staying power.
The excellent slippage control was the result of the design of the hip belt and the lumbar pad. The hip belt uses what Gregory calls a “Flo-Form Contour Waist Belt” providing sturdy but relatively firm padding. The pad-ding is corrugated or sectionalized like a chocolate bar so that when it is wrapped around the waist it does not bunch up and thereby leave spaces between belt and body. The hip belt’s design incorporates a “polyethylene framesheet” to make a skeleton for the padding material and to give structure and torsional rigidity to the belt and lumbar pad. The use of this “polyethylene framesheet” skeleton wrapped with light pad-ding allows the pack to be cinched up snug and remain comfortable. The belt is also conical shaped to mold to the hip anatomy. The efficient design prevents the belt from compressing ever so slightly, with each step thus causing the pack to grow in size and start to slide. The torsional rigidity provided by the frame sheet further prevents one part of the pack taking off in one direction while the other part stays put. This, to me, is an-other indicator of the high quality of all Gregory packs.
The shoulder straps simply plug into the frame of the pack. They can be unplugged and moved to a more comfortable position to accommodate the user’s height. The shoulder straps are light but sturdy and once the pack is strapped on I did not know they were there! The load lifters attached to the shoulder strap effectively takes the weight off the shoulders. Shoulder straps can try both pa-tience and dexterity when it comes to ad-justing their height. The plug-in, modular design, now a standard feature on Gregory backpacks, is fantastic. They are effortless to adjust.
This would be one of the lightest backpacks on the market in its price range. However it is not a small pack thus making the weight per volume specification quite favorable. This pack is what I have hoped for for years'. This Minaret, at little under three pounds, would be the lightest pack on the market for its size and price. The pack would do very well as a production model. It seems just as strong and durable as the so called “bomb proof” heavy weight packs. Wayne made this Minaret out of light weight pack cloth allowing the pack to come in at 2 lb. 15 oz. versus the 4.1 lb. of the regular production model.
LASH TABS & BELLS & WHISTLES
There is nothing that I would alter about this pack. The lash tabs and compression straps are sufficient but not over done. The bottom panel might possibly be switched to Cordura if it goes into production even though the risk of it wearing out is nil.
I cannot thank Wayne Gregory enough for this finely crafted backpack and for allowing me to participate in this test and evaluation. It was well received by all of my hiking bud-dies. They were quite envious. I believe that this pack would do very well as a production model and that Gregory would find that it would be a sales success. The size and price of the present production Minaret put it into a category of medium load packs at a price equal to the competition and providing “loads” of value.
I will happily provide further reports as op-portunity allows me continued use of this fine backpack."