Review: Hitting the trail with the Gregory Deva 70 Women’s Backpack
Comfort and design for the long days when you want to get closer to nature and further from idiots.
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As a Marine Corps boot camp training battalion commander, I pretty much saw it all when it came to hikes, from recruits who quit after a half-mile to those who battled through illness and injury to reach the finish line of the Crucible hike to earn the title of Marine. But what blew me away shortly after taking command was finding out that most drill instructors (male and female alike) stuffed their ILBE (Improved Load Bearing Equipment) rucksacks with foam stuffing and pillows to create the magical illusion of full packs and effortless hiking to their recruits. Part of me understood. After all, the ILBE rucksack really seemed to be more about “I’ll be cumbersome as shit” than designed for speed and comfort on hikes.
Simply put, the government-issued backpack, overbuilt by the cheapest bidder out of low-cost and heavy materials, was a total drag to lug around, no matter how short the hike. And since the ILBE rucksack was engineered to be carried by average-sized military men loaded up with up to 120 pounds, let’s just say its oversized frame and obscenely large storage compartment is not suited for smaller-framed people, including most women.
So when my life partner in crime and I retired from the Marines and decided to start section-hiking the Appalachian Trail to celebrate our release from military captivity, I was grateful to discover several reputable outdoor gear companies offering a full range of backpacks specifically designed for women. Enter the magical Gregory Deva 70 backpack, a 4.62-pound (empty), high-capacity (70 liters, hence the name), aluminum frame backpack specifically designed for women, with a list price of $329 —and get this — marked down to $237 via the REI Co-op website.
Despite my rigorous standards and klutzy hiking style, this pack exceeds all of my expectations for comfort, size, and fit. At the lower end of the 70-liter women’s backpack price range when purchased through the REI Co-op website, the Deva 70’s thoughtful, female-focused design, light weight, and unique Response Auto Angle Adjust (A3) hip belts and shoulder harnesses make it a sure winner for women who want to stay comfortable and injury-free carrying heavy loads on extended trips in the wilderness.
I purchased my Deva 70 backpack in person from my local REI co-op, which meant that there was nothing for me to unbox or unpackage before loading it into my car. The beauty of shopping for a 70-liter women’s backpack in-person is being able to tap the expertise of the salespeople about proper fit and design. The REI salesperson asked targeted questions about the types of activities I planned to do while wearing a pack, and then measured my height, waist, and length of my back to find the perfect fit. She also asked about the average length of time I planned to spend in the wilderness since the Deva comes in 60-, 70-, and 80-liter pack capacities. Based on my description, she recommended a 70-liter pack, which is made for up to five-day excursions.
Once I slipped on the Deva 70 with an extra small frame (it comes in extra small, small, and medium frame sizes), there was no going back. After the salesperson made slight adjustments to the harness length based on my back measurement, I was traipsed out the door with my Egyptian Blue Deva 70 snuggly fitted to my body and visions of animal sightings, roasted marshmallows, and tall trees swirling through my head. No more screaming drill instructors on my hikes!
On a more serious note, as part of their commitment to sustainability, Gregory has pledged to reduce their shipping and packing footprints on the environment, so even if you purchase the Diva 70 online, it will arrive with minimal packing. According to the company’s website, “A recent example [of their sustainability plan], again from our Baltoro & Deva packs, was an initiative to eliminate a corrugated cardboard tube we were using to protect the 3D shoulder harness shape during shipment. To replace it, we custom designed an inflatable, biodegradable polyethylene bag to use in its place. This change saves approximately 7,850 pounds of virgin cardboard from entering a landfill every year.” It’s just one of many reasons to feel good about purchasing a Deva 70.
How we tested the Gregory Deva 70 Women’s Backpack
My partner in crime and I decided to test out my Deva 70 and whether we had what it took to backpack long sections of the Appalachian Trail (AT) by knocking out the 42-mile-long Maryland section of the trail over New Year’s Eve weekend. After celebrating the advent of 2017 with family and friends and drinking copious amounts of prosecco and scotch while playing Pictionary at our house, the next day before dawn we lumbered into the car with my dad and his amazing wife, Kathy, to drive the two hours to the AT trailhead in Western Maryland. Feeling a distinct chill in the air as we exited the car at the sign marking the start of the trail, I distinctly recall Kathy saying, “I don’t know about this. Something just doesn’t feel right about dropping you off in the middle of nowhere.”
I immediately thought of all of the Park Predators true-crime podcast episodes I had eagerly consumed about murder and mayhem in (surprisingly a lot of) our National Parks and wondered if we would make it alive to our rendezvous point for pick-up by my dad and Kathy. Not exactly a happy way to start our first AT adventure, but we blithely bounded out of the car and hit the trail nonetheless.
During that first test of my Deva 70 backpack, although we didn’t run into any serial killers (that we know of), we did get our first taste of how challenging the AT can be from a mental and physical perspective. While the Maryland section is generally considered an easy to moderate section of the hike that dumps out into Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, parts of it are very rocky and there is a 1,650-foot elevation gain involved. Compounding the geography, below-average cold temperatures, ice, and high winds added a special degree of friction to test us and our gear for the weekend.
But bitter cold, wind, and ice be damned, my Deva 70 backpack did not disappoint on its inaugural trip and has never disappointed me since. For that first 42-mile, three-day journey, it easily held a clean set of winter clothing, inflatable air mattress, sleeping bag, extra fleece top and gloves, ample food and water, tent and fly, rain gear, and Dopp kit. In fact, with its 55-pound max carry weight, my initial load of 20 pounds was just a fraction of what the Deva 70 is truly designed to haul.
Since that baptism by cold wind and subfreezing temperatures, I’ve used my Diva 70 backpack for 15 AT section hikes and to climb two 13,000-plus-foot mountains, often loaded up at max capacity, but never feeling loaded down or uncomfortable. But more on that later.
What we like about the Gregory Deva 70 Women’s Backpack
On that first trip, I quickly discovered that the nine high-density nylon external zip pockets gave me plenty of easily accessible places to stash my snivel gear, headlamp, and snacks. Ample loops on the shoulder harness and pack exterior gave me plenty of places to use small carabiners to clip my Crocs, multiple one-liter Platypus water bottles, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer to my Deva 70. Girth straps on the sides of the pack made it a cinch (literally) to strap down the water bottles and tighten up the pack. Plus, the WeatherShield PU-coated hip belt zippered accessory pocket gave me a quick draw, waterproof place to stash my phone and Dermatone skin protector, which ended up being a lifesaver considering the high winds and freezing temperatures. The Deva 70’s waterproof pack cover also came in handy when we experienced snowfall on the trail.
When we arrived at our first camp for the evening, the zipper compartment on the lower portion of my Deva allowed me to access my sleeping bag in its stuff sack without me having to unload all of the gear at the top of my pack. Since it was quite frigid, windy, and rapidly getting dark, this added convenience felt a bit like a luxury since it allowed me super fast access to my most critical warming layer. Additionally, the top-loading design of the Deva 70, with its front U-zip panel access meant I could leave the compression straps cinched but still easily access the rest of the gear in my pack. As the dark settled in and the temperature plummeted below freezing, I was grateful for this aspect of the Deva’s design as it saved unpacking time and allowed us to quickly set up the tent and get some hot drinks brewing. And for the next two days when the sun rose, the Deva 70’s two long side-mounted exterior zip pockets allowed me easy access to the two diet Cokes I had lugged along for much-needed hits of caffeine. Yes, I am that person.
Since that first trip, with more than 630 miles of the AT, two big mountain expeditions (the Grand Teton and Mt. Rainier), and several epic falls under my belt, I still never fail to marvel at the durability, comfort, and convenience of my Deva 70. As the Salt Lake City-based company states on their website, they “Focus on unique fit geometry and customized chassis technologies which, combined, make Gregory packs extensions of your body not unlike your favorite T-shirt or hat.”
This is especially true when it comes to the fit and finish of the women’s Deva 70. Despite its 55-pound/70-liter capacity, it truly is designed for comfort all the way. The A3W suspension system and pre-curved Lifespan EVA harness and hip belt are adjustable to fit different female body types and dimensions, and the vented silicone lumbar grip keeps the pack comfortably snug on the small of your back. The free motion hip belt and harness swivel with your body to adjust to your movement and the lightweight frame make it easier to bear heavy loads over long stretches of rocky and steep trails. The pack frame also comes in three different sizes based on body measurements.
Most recently, I got to test out the dual ice ax loops and upper shock locks for my ice tool and hiking poles when we climbed the 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier with RMI Expeditions. Because of the glacier and snow travel required to summit the mountain, had my Deva 70 not had ice ax loops, I would have had to rent a pack from Whitaker Mountaineering’s rental shop for $49.00. So, because the Deva 70 literally has everything one needs to hike and climb in comfort, I not only got to look like a real mountaineer with my ice ax, but I saved money, too. How cool is that?
What we don’t like about the Gregory Deva 70 Women’s Backpack
Honestly, there are only two things I don’t really like about my Deva 70 backpack.
I’m not a fan of the purply-blue color. Because I purchased mine in person at my local REI co-op, I was limited to what they had in stock at the time, which meant I got stuck with Egyptian Blue. I would have preferred the Antigua Green shade (which still isn’t a favorite), but honestly, if I were to make the purchase again today, I would go the same route since the Egyptian Blue model has been marked down so substantially on REI’s website. You just can’t beat the price!
But the biggest sticker in my craw about the Deva 70 is the name. I mean, come on Gregory, for the love of God. You should KNOW that if you name a women’s pack anything that remotely sounds or looks like DIVA, that isn’t a good thing, since as the Oxford English Dictionary notes, the word diva connotes “a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please (typically used of a woman).” Sheesh.
The Deva 70 is the super platinum standard for long-range, high-intensity hiking and mountaineering. The best part? It has all of the bells and whistles required for comfort and going the distance under a heavy load, but costs way less than similar backpacks from most of its competitors, like Osprey. Plus, Gregory’s customer service, inclusive design, and lifetime warranty program are exceptional, making the Deva 70 well worth the investment. And when you order the Deva 70 in Egyptian Blue on REI’s website, you will save $82 dollars off of the list price. Amazing!
Economical, built to last, designed for comfort, and a pleasure to carry — that’s the Deva 70.
FAQs about the Gregory Deva 70 Women’s Backpack
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Gregory Deva 70 Liter Women’s Backpack cost?
Q. What makes the Gregory Deva 70 such a great backpack for women
A. Backpack fit is everything when it comes to preventing lower extremity injuries in women, particularly when it comes to our hips. Gregory has designed the Deva 70 specifically for women’s physiology. The Deva 70’s A3W suspension system and pre-curved Lifespan EVA harness and hip belt are adjustable to fit different female body types and dimensions, while the vented silicone lumbar grip keeps the pack comfortably snug on the small of your back. The free motion hip belt and harness are designed to swivel with your body to adjust to your movement, and the lightweight frame makes it easier to bear heavy loads over long stretches of rocky and steep trail. Finally, the Deva 70 comes in three different frame sizes based on women’s torso, hip, and waist measurements.
Q. What is the difference between the Deva 60, 70, and 80 women’s backpacks
A. The Deva 60 women’s backpack has the smallest load capacity of all Deva backpacks, with a max carry weight of 50 pounds. The Deva 70 has an intermediate load capacity and can accommodate 55 pounds of gear for up to five days in the woods. Finally, Gregory’s mother of all women’s packs is the Deva 80, made for extended backpacking trips and with a weight capacity of 60 pounds.
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Kate Germano served in the Marine Corps from 1996 to 2016. She’s a closet gear freak who enjoys schlepping packs with her better half on long Appalachian Trail section hikes. She’s also into true crime, Qwirkle tournaments, and animals, but definitely not Dungeons and Dragons.