20090424 Gear Review: Gregory Drift

Late last fall I started trading emails with some design friends over at Gregory packs about my ideal "sidecountry" pack.  I was looking for a pack that:
  • was slim enough to manage on a chair lift;
  • had two compartments - one for the shovel/probe/skins/avie science gear, another compartment for personal gear;
  • a small pocket on the hip for glide wax, skin wax, scraper and diamond file;
  • cross-draw straps for skis - faster than an a-frame system, and it leaves the compartments accessible.
Near Thanksgiving a package arrived on my doorstep - a brand-spanking new Gregory Drift.  This pack had everything I had asked for, so I've spent the winter taking it through its paces.  Here's what I found.

Advertised to be 1300 cubic inches / 20 Liters, this pack is the ideal day tour size.  Providing you don't need technical gear or a lot of extra layers.  Typically mine held 1L of water or thermos, lunch, a down jacket, and a notebook in addition to my avie rescue and science gear.  It handled that much fine.

The Drift has two compartments - a main and a sleightly smaller "shovel".  The main compartment had a "camelback" and two "pole" sleeves.  The shovel compartment had drain grommets, a small "wallet & keys" zippered pocket, and again two long pole sleeves.
Ideally, I was hoping that my shovel, probe, shovel handle, saw, beacon, and avie science stuff could live in the shovel compartment.  That way when I'm getting ready for a day out all I needed to do was open the main compartment to pack a layer, lunch, and liquids.  It would also mean that everything that can get snowy/wet would stay away from everything I want to stay dry - wet skins would fit in the shovel compartment too.
The shovel compartment on the Drift wasn't tall enough to fit my shovel handle, probe, or saw - the saw barely fit in the main compartment.  So my ideas about packing tended to be a bit haphazard.

shovel compartment / the pole sleeves and zippered pocket are 
visible / i tried several different packing systems / ended up 
keeping the shovel handle in the main compartment with the probe

The Drift had three zippered pockets:  on the left hip, the left outside, and inside the shovel compartment.  These were great - I was able to keep a bit of skin wax, glide wax, a scraper and a diamond file in the hip pocket; sunscreen and headlamp in the side pocket; and keys and wallet in the shovel compartment pocket.  I only wished that the shovel compartment pocket was big enough for an 5.5"x8.5" Rite-In-The-Rain notebook, and that another zippered pocket existed in the main compartment for keys and wallet.

small pocket on left hip / gear loop on right hip

the side pocket was perfect for headlamp
and sunscreen / items you don't always need
but hate to go digging for when you do

One thing the Drift gets an 5-star review for is the number of straps:  just enough.  There are two straps for a snowboard, two straps for compression, and two straps for a cross-drawed pair of skis.  The upper snowboard strap conveniently hides in a pair of pockets - a feature I didn't discover until today!
cross-draw ski straps / my preferred system
for small packs

I've taken this pack out on 13 days this season, from mid-winter to yesterday's spring couloir tour.  Gregrory recomends this pack for loads up to 40 lbs / 18 Kg:  I'd have to recomend it for a little less than that.  Yesterday I hiked for a couple of hours with skis, poles, and boots loaded onto it in addition to the normal kit, and while I handled the load I could certainly see others who may find the hip belt too thin, and loading the shoulders over-much.  While the pack features an insulated hydration sleeve in the left shoulder strap, I never had the chance to try it out.  And yesterday we took ice axes for our tour, but I didn't have anywhere to stow mine.

I'm not complainig - this is a perfect pack for non-technical day touring.  I only wish the shovel compartment was taller and a zippered pocket existed in the main compartment.  So I give this pack 4 1/2 stars - you can find one for yourself at www.gregorypacks.com.