Filed under:Backpacks, Daysacks, Gear reviews, Gregory, lightweight backpack, trail running pack
New for spring 2019 from ‘the other’ US pack specialist, Gregory, the Miwok 12 is a lightweight, multi-sport all-rounder. The sort of pack that you could use for anything from lightweight hiking through to all-day trail-running with a bit of mountain biking thrown in for good measure.
What makes it different from the competition like Osprey’s updated Synchro range or Lowe Alpine’s excellent Aeon lightweight is that unusually for a small-capacity pack, it has an adjustable length back system. The rationale, says Gregory, is that when you’re bobbing across the horizon like a mad thing, fit is absolutely crucial, so they’ve built in some 9cm of simple back-length adjustment based on an easily reached hook and loop – Velcro-type – mechanism. That’s great news if you have an unusually short or long back length, though for average folk, arguably less crucial, since most fixed-length packs are aimed somewhere in that region.
There’s more to it though. The new BioSynch back system has built-in elasticated flex both in top of the shoulder strap attachment – ‘flexible tendon harness linkages it says here – and the pocketed hip-belt. That, apparently puts more of an onus on perfect fit it it’s all to work as planned.
One of the big pluses of modern, lightweight clothing and equipment is that you can often get away with a much smaller pack than you might think. I managed to fit a 3-litre hydration system, a lightweight PrimaLoft jacket, a waterproof shell plus hat, gloves, some snacks and other sundries into the Miwok without undue stuffing and faff. What’s nice about the Miwok though, is that although small in capacity and decently light, it’s still properly featured. So there are lots of pockets to choose from, two on the hip-belt, one upper external with soft lining, one internal mesh zipped one, a big front stretch pocket and two side elasticated stash ones. There’s even a neat, elasticated gubbins to hang your shades from.
There are no trekking pole carriers – compacts would maybe sit in the side or back pocket – and no compression system, which could be an issue for running with a part-loaded pack, but that besides, the Miwok’s hard to fault. There’s always somewhere to stash odds and ends and if you need something on the move, those hip-belt pockets are pretty large. I stashed three energy bars and two gels in one of them and a phone and a Buff in the other.
On the move
That’s all great, but how does it carry? At first look, the back system looks similar to lots of others. There’s a venting mesh layered over a ventilated foam back pad, but the devil’s in the BioSynch detail. The first departure from the small pack norm is that adjustable back panel. the shoulder straps are anchored to a plate that moves up and down inside a sleeve secured by Velcro-esque fastener. Super simple, fast and easy to use. The other stand-out is that those shoulder straps are slightly stretchy up top – elasticated ‘tendons’ is the official terminology – but all you really need to know is that there’s a bit of gentle give built in to both the shoulder straps and the hip-belt too. If you’ve ever been splinted by a static-strapped running vest-pack for example, you’ll appreciate that this is a good thing, but it’s crucial that there’s not too much give in the system.
So how does it work? Well, early days, but first impressions are really positive. Fully packed with a total weight of pretty much bang on 5kg, the pack felt instantly snug, comfortable and secure, with the foam back pad nestling neatly into my back. An experimental km or two of gentle running just reinforced that. It feels like Gregory has hit the Golidlocks point where there’s just enough give in the harness set-up and hip-belt that there’s no feeling of restriction or tightness, but at the same time no slack or slop in the system either. It’s just very natural feeling and non-intrusive. I’ve used several packs before which gave you the choice of either being uncomfortably splinted in place – chest-straps are a particular problem here, it can actually be difficult to breathe deeply or just introducing slop and bounce. With the Miwok, that doesn’t seem to be an issue. I used the back set on pretty much the shortest adjustment, which kept the hip-belt clear of my hips and movement from them, but I’ll see how it works on longer settings in due course.
So far, I’m very impressed. There are some neat lightweight packs out there, but the Miwock 12’s back-length adjustment should allow fine tuning of the back system to fit varying back-lengths and the built-in stretch in the harness, though moderate in extent, really does seem to work. Otherwise the pack has a super high quality feel to it and is really well specced with loads of accessible stash pockets and even an on the go stowage system for your sunnies. And while it’s relatively small in volume, lightweight modern clothing and equipment means that it’s quite capable of toting a day load if your kit is light enough. Finally, it’s neat and narrow enough to be used on the bike as well as for running and hiking. The only thing it lacks in that application, is internal dividers for pumps and tools.
Downsides? Used full the Miwock 12 feels very stable, but there’s no compression system, which could allows contents to bounce around when part packed. And there’s no stowage system for conventional trekking poles, though you could maybe stow a compact set in the side pockets – no upper compression strap to help with security though. So far though, the new Miwock looks like an impressively versatile, stable-carrying, all-round lightweight that’ll apply its no-bounce performance to anything from hiking to biking. Not only that, it’s the perfect match for my gazelle-like off-road running performance, ahem…
Biosync harness / Dual Density Foam Framesheet with Perforated EVA Top Layer / 210D Honeycomb Cryptorip HD Nylon body fabric / 420D Nylon base fabric / two hip-belt pockets / front and side stash pockets / top exterior and interior pockets / hydration system compatible / sunglasses Quick Stow system / front zipped pocket with soft lining / adjustable sternum strap / adjustable back-length using hook and loop fastening