Gregory Focal 48 Backpack | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Gregory Focal 48 Backpack | Review

A lightweight, versatile backpack that’s not short on features or handy details

A few years ago, we reviewed a pack by Gregory called the Optic 48. Light, comfortable and packed with loads of useful features and details, it was a product that left our Test Team impressed. 

This here, the Gregory Focal 48, is a kind-of evolution of that pack. It’s very, very similar but it’s also slightly lighter and the back system has been refined a touch too. All the changes are improvements in our eyes – this is a very good backpack. 

Who Is The Gregory Focal 48 For?

At just 1.22kg this sits within the lightweight category and will really suit any long-distance hikers, particularly those who like to count grams. Its floating lid, volume adjustment straps and stretch mesh pockets make it particularly suited for any thru-hiking where your pack is going to grow and shrink in size depending on the supply availability ahead of you. You can actually strip a little extra weight off this thing too, that’s by removing the top lid and using the Weather Flap to cover the top of the pack instead.

There’s a heck of a lot of ventilation across the back and shoulders, so it’s better suited to warmer climes than really cold ones and it’s also worth bearing in mind that while Gregory have labelled this as a 48-litre pack, this only takes the closed spaces into account and not the open ones. With the floating lid and the amount of space the mesh pockets provide, this is actually capable of transporting a lot more than you’d expect from a 48-litre pack.

The Back System

The whole back system is lined by a suspended mesh/net, with the ventilation spreading right throughout the harness and hipbelt too. There’s plenty of padding across the straps, around the hipbelt and at the lower back too where there’s a slight curve for lumbar support. 

You can choose between either a Medium back length or a Large one. There’s a useful sizing chart on the Gregory website which will help you decide which one is best for you. You can read about what our editor Will went for in relation to his size further down in this review.

To ensure the pack moves with your stride and gait while also managing your load, Gregory have anchored the shoulder straps to the mesh system across the back instead of anchoring them to the frame (as is normally the case with packs of this size). In testing, we found this does actually create a nice dynamic feel and it manages the load well.


Around half of the materials used for the main fabric of the pack are made from recycled nylon. Inside, the lining is a 40% recycled polyester. Overall, the fabric feels light but it’s actually surprisingly tough, with a 100D rated fabric at the top and a 250D rated fabric across the base. You can also rest assured that the water repellent treatments Gregory have used here are all completely free from those nasty, eco-hazardous PFCs that are all-too-often used on backpacks

One really nice touch is the permanent Polygiene anti-odour control that’s embedded within the mesh back panel. We’ve used a bunch of products with Polygiene here at Outdoors Magic and we can confirm that it works really well, basically by stopping any nasty odour causing bacteria from multiplying.


The mesh pocket across the front is pretty big. You could easily store a waterproof jacket and down jacket together. in here. During our Test Team weekend, we also found it was big enough to fit a climbing helmet. 

You’ve then also got the side mesh pockets as well. These are big enough to stash something like a Therm-a-rest sleeping mat and the side gaps in them make it possible to reach around and grab or stow your water bottle without having to unclip the pack. 

“For me, its weight and size make it a perfect pack for summer trail hiking.”

There are large zipped pockets on either side of the hipbelt that cater for your average size smartphone. You also have underlid and overlid pockets with a waterproof raincover stored in the former. 

Other features include a sternum strap that’s slidable so you can make quick adjustments when necessary, there’s a built-in emergency whistle, the zip pulls are all large enough to be glove friendly, there’s a bungee and webbing loop for trekking poles or an ice axe and there’s a bladder sleeve inside the main compartment.​​

Tester’s Verdict​​

Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

“This is a pack that, given its feature set and suspended back system, you’d think would be heavy. But it’s not. And that’s impressive in itself. For me, its weight and size make it a perfect pack for summer trail hiking. I’ve found it great for weekend wild camps but I could also see myself using it for, say, a week-long hike along a national trail. With the volume adjustment potential on offer, I could also see myself just using it for day hiking too – particularly those that require a few extra layers.

“I’m 5 foot 10 with a regular build and I’ve been using a version with a medium back length. And it’s been very comfortable – just the right size for me.”

Grant Hyatt, North Wales based landscape photographer.

“I’d not really heard much about this brand, until the Outdoor 100 testing event, but with the capacity having good wild camping potential, I was keen to try it out. There are some neat features on this, but the real selling point for me is it’s the first pack I’ve had where i’ve not had to take the pack off to reach a water bottle in the external pockets. When I’m out walking I’ve almost always got camera kit in the rucksack and a couple of near misses with leaky water bladders has meant this is the only way I carry water these days.

“Two other notable features on this are the chest strap and compression straps. You’re able to buckle the chest strap with one hand, owing to the buckle attaching direct to the runner on the should strap. This is really useful on cold days or if you’ve something in your other hand like a dog lead, trekking poles etc.

“The other neat feature on this, which i’ve not seen before, is the compression straps are much thinner and zig zag their way down each side of the bag. This can be really helpful if you’re not using the bag to its capacity and still want to have the weight spread evenly. With the more traditional “one up one down” type straps, you can be left with an uneven compression and the weight wouldn’t be spread as evenly, potentially leading to a more uncomfortable carry.”

Buy the Gregory Focal 48: £197 at 

Gregory Focal 48 Hiking Backpack

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2022/23
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