This was the backpack I took. In full disclosure, I’m quite partial to Gregory Packs. I’d go so far as to call myself a Gregory Fangirl, so it’s safe to say that my bias made other backpacks not really stand a chance in this review process. I pretty much knew I was going to take the Gregory even before trying it out because my brand loyalty runs deep. I also own more Gregory backpacks than I care to admit: a side effect of working in outdoor retail for several years. But, even with all that said, I’ll keep it real with you: The Gregory Praxus 45 is a great travel backpack, but it’s not perfect, and I will tell you why.
My favorite feature of any Gregory backpack, including the Gregory Praxus 45, is that the hip belt is so solid, padded, and heavy-duty. I have chronic lower-back issues, so this extra support really is necessary for me when I’m carrying a load. And that’s where I load the weight – at my hips. But, I know not everyone likes that kind of hip-belt. For those who find the Gregory hip-belts to be a little “extra”, the Osprey hip-belt is softer and more flexible. While that beast of a padded hip-belt is awesome when wearing the pack, I found that it also makes that hip-belt much more cumbersome and sloppy to stow for checking the backpack as luggage or stowing in an overhead bin. Viewing me across the airport frantically trying to stow that hip-belt before the flight attendants took notice and made me wing-check the backpack for being a little on the large side, I’m sure I looked like a rookie alligator wrestler in the rain. It’s slippery. It’s not pretty. There’s a lot of arms flailing and anxiety. And I need a stiff drink once it’s properly stowed. And that is my biggest complaint about the pack. My favorite feature ended up being my least favorite feature when it wasn’t needed.
The laptop compartment was solid, and my laptop traveled quite well. And, unlike the Osprey Porter 46, this pack did have water bottle pockets on the outside. But, the Gregory Praxus 45 had no way to attach a removable daypack. This surprised me because many of Gregory’s camping backpacks do have a removable daypack feature. Maybe Gregory took notice of how ridiculous the Osprey Porter looked with a daypack attached, and thought they wouldn’t put their customers through that. However, I looked even sillier than Jason did in his huge Osprey Porter plus Daylite, by wearing my Osprey Daylite on my front as though it were a baby kangaroo in a BABYBJÖRN. Of course, for someone who travels lighter, the daypack could have easily gone inside the big backpack. But, I was using my small Osprey Daylite as my purse this entire trip, and needed for it to be accessible.
From a quality standpoint, the Gregory Praxus 45 was just as durable and rugged as the Osprey Porter 46, and was padded enough to confidently check, although the large hip-belt stowed away doesn’t give it as smooth of a profile. Even being equally as padded and durable as the Osprey Porter, the Gregory Praxus‘s clamshell compression stayed open all the way, making it much easier to access the main compartment than with the Osprey Porter. My husband would brag that his Osprey Porter was one whole liter larger than my Gregory Praxus, but the fact that mine could stay open all the way meant I could better utilize every nook and cranny.
Overall, I was very happy with the Gregory Praxus 45 and continue to use it. On this first trip out, though, the compartment where the hip-belt is stowed ripped slightly, which was not surprising given the drama of packing it. It does not impact the functionality of the pack at all, it mostly just hurt my feelings. I’m certain Gregory customer service would take care of it, but asking for that just seems petty. So, as long as you are more careful and patient than I was when you wrestle that substantial hip-belt into its little stow pocket, you will be fine!