Osprey vs Gregory Backpacking in the wilderness

Osprey Kyte 46 vs Gregory Amber 44: Battle of the Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks

by Kaisa

If you’ve narrowed down your search to these two women’s travel backpacks, congrats! You’ve clearly done your research. Osprey vs Gregory or Gregory vs Osprey, you literally can’t go wrong. The purpose of this post is simply to help you decide which direction you’ll go right in!

Let me just say: I have flirted with many, many backpacks in my life. I’ve only fallen in love with two of them.

Not shockingly, the first belongs to the wildly popular and respected backpack brand Osprey. The Osprey Kyte 46 is arguably the best Osprey backpack for international travel and backpacking trips alike. If you are looking for an Osprey carry-on size bag for an international backpacking trip, this is especially true.

The Osprey Kyte 46 (in women’s size XS/S, which technically makes it a 44L) was my first love, traveling with me for months across multiple continents and dozens of countries.

Then came the Gregory Amber 44 pack.

This Gregory backpack came into my life by fate. Through no fault of its own, my Osprey got pulled from the game in the bottom of the ninth (yeah, I’m using a lot of weird backpack metaphors, just go with it). I needed a replacement, and fast; my plane was leaving in less than 24 hours. Luckily, my brother works at Moosejaw and promptly arrived bearing several new options.

I chose the Gregory Amber 44, a snazzy top-loading pack which frankly reminded me of my Osprey Kyte 46.

I was initially heartbroken to be using another travel backpack. I even got the Gregory in the same color as my Osprey, an ode to its fallen brother. But soon my mindset shifted from Osprey vs Gregory, and I happily realized the Gregory Amber 44 pack was something special in its own right! Maybe my backpack loves could exist in harmony after all (okay, I’ll stop).

In fact, both of these packs are so special, I now (pretty unnecessarily) own one of each (in different colors now). And I love them both equally.

I realize that makes me an extremely biased source to compare and contrast the two, but doesn’t it also make me the best source to compare and contrast the two? Eh?

Anyway, let’s get started!

Getting on a Ryanair flight with my Osprey Kyte
Funny how when you need a picture of yourself wearing a backpack, you realize you never take travel pics with the pack in mind… ah, well. Here’s one of my Osprey Kyte 46 breezing through Ryanair’s security process!

What Should You Look For in a Good Carry-On Travel Backpack?

The answer to this question will be different for different backpackers! It goes far beyond the question of Osprey vs Gregory we’re tackling here.

That said, since we are only talking about carry-on backpacks here, I’ll start by saying the bag must be in the 40-50 liter range at the largest. The upper end of that range is pushing it.

A good carry-on travel backpack is ideally 46L or less.

You can agree, you can disagree, that’s just what I’ve found in my experiences with airlines around the world, budget or not. I’m sure some have had success with larger, but I’ve had enough close calls with a 44L (always turned out fine) not to push it any larger.

Just size-wise and weight-wise, I’d say the Osprey Kyte 46 is therefor the best Osprey backpack for carry-on world travel. Amber 44 is likewise the best Gregory backpack for the same.

Top loading vs front loading backpack
My Osprey Kyte is top left, packed to the gills. The two other packs belong to a friend who is also an Osprey fan, though of the front-loading persuasion.

Other features to consider when choosing a travel backpack:

  • Comfort—this is a huge deal. If your travel backpack isn’t comfortable, it’s worthless. A backpack’s ability to provide comfort has to do with everything from where the bag places weight, to adjustability, to hip belt padding.
  • Size/space—this goes back to the liters of your pack. For a carry-on backpack, you don’t want more than 46 Liters. Does the pack maximize that space well? Is the pack itself lightweight? When used strategically, a bag’s pockets can make you feel like you have twice the available space!
  • Layout—a backpack’s layout has to do with its pockets and compartments (are they easy to access and intuitive to use?), but is much more than that. Also, backpacks can be either top-loading or front-loading. Both of these backpacks are front-loading packs, which are widely considered to offer better support. You sacrifice some ease of use (front-loading backpacks open like suitcases instead of from the top, allowing you to see all your stuff at once), but frankly it’s nothing some strategically used packing cubes won’t fix.
  • Durability—depending on where and how roughly you travel, a backpack is gonna have to survive a lot. You don’t have to worry about durability with respected brands like Osprey and Gregory, though one of them has a significantly better warranty program when your bag does start to show age!
  • Customer service—think about stuff like warranties and repairs, if you ever need them. Again, with brands like Osprey and Gregory, you really don’t need to worry. They’re both lauded for their excellent customer service and commitment to an excellent customer experience.
  • Price—this is a budget travel and backpacking blog after all, so I’m not about to recommend anything unreasonably expensive. However, I’m not going to recommend super cheap packs either. I believe with backpacks, like with footwear and thermal base layers and Southeast Asian liquor, you get what you pay for!
  • Style—hey, man, it never hurts to look good backpacking the globe! If you hate how a pack looks, there’s no shame in finding another. This backpack will be your bestie through thick and thin; you should love everything about it.
  • Extras—things that aren’t essential for your average around-the-world backpacking trip, but might be nice to have. Some examples are a sleeping bag compartment, a rain cover, water bottle compartments, etc.
Gregory Amber 44 pack in Belgium
Look how happy the Gregory 44 makes this little shopaholic! So comfy, so light. When you look good, you feel good.

I’d like to add one last little disclaimer before we get into the thick of it here.

I’m gonna make some comments about how comfortable different aspects of these bags are, or how well they fit/work for me. This is super personal and individualized information; your results may vary. Dramatically.

So for some context, I’m 5’5″ and have a slightly short torso and narrow hips. I’ve adjusted and readjusted these bags every which way until I got them exactly how I wanted them, and you’ll probably have to do the same. Scratch that, you absolutely should do the same.

Osprey Kyte 46 Review Breakdown

Osprey Kyte 46 being investigated by a kitten
I’m not the only one amazed how much stuff can fit in this bad boy (note the top zipper pocket and just how much I can fit in there as well).

Osprey Kyte 46 Pros:

  • The Kyte 46 comes in two different sizes for improved fit (the XS/S ends up being a 44L, while the S/M is a true 46L). Each of these are further adjustable to your unique torso length, just fiddle around with the velcro strap in the back.
  • Breathable mesh backpanel, made of ridged foam for maximum comfort. Great for combating back sweat!
  • Tons of straps and buckles on every imaginable surface, making the bag versatile as possible.
  • The front mesh storage pockets are insanely tough. There were so many times I was worried I was stretching them out when I’d shove random things in and yank them out, but they barely showed it.
  • Osprey’s warranty program is out of this world! They’ll replace any backpack, for any reason. I utilized this perk seamlessly last year.
  • Comes in three colors, all muted, dark, earthy, and sleek-looking.
  • Extras: rain cover included, trekking pole attachments, external hydration bladder sleeve, and sleeping bag compartment with divider.

Osprey Kyte 46 Cons:

  • The mesh padding on the shoulder straps and hip belts, while exquisite, could be a bit softer.
  • The hip belt pockets have a small flap over them, making them slightly harder to access on the fly than I’d like. I like hip belt pockets for I-need-it-now convenience. On the flip side, the small flap probably provides more security.
  • Osprey’s prices tend to be on the medium-to-higher end.

Gregory Amber 44 Review Breakdown

Gregory Amber 44 pack in Chicago
I walked around Chicago for HOURS, quickly and easily, wearing my Gregory 44.

Gregory Amber 44 Pros:

  • Every body is different, but personally I find the Gregory Amber a bit more comfortable. The hip belts are wide and their padding is extremely generous. A perfect backpack will distribute weight to your hips well, and the Gregory absolutely does.
  • Comfy lower back padding.
  • Breathable mesh backpanel, made of ridged foam for maximum comfort. Pretty comparable to Osprey’s. Great for combating back sweat!
  • Gregory will fix any defect or issue you find with your backpack for free, within reason (meaning they won’t replace it for normal wear and tear or improper storage/care).
  • The Gregory Amber 44 is quite affordable compared to other bags of the same quality and size.
  • Comes in bright colors.
  • Extras: literally all the same as the Osprey Kyte! Yay, awesome backpacks!

Gregory Amber 44 Cons:

  • It only comes in one size, though I hesitate to call this a “con” as the backpack is still highly adjustable.
  • I find the top drawstring closure somewhat clumsy to use. This isn’t prohibitive by any means, and by the end of the trip you figure out how to open and close it quickly anyway.
  • The warranty program is good, but not excellent; they don’t cover anything that might fall under normal wear and tear or accidental misuse.
  • Only comes in two colors.

Gregory vs Osprey: Who Wins and Who Loses?

Also, I am loathe to declare either one of these beloved backpacks a “loser”. They’re not. They’re two stellar backpacking packs I will never part with.

That said, we can take away a few things from the above pros and cons lists:

  • Because of the design of the back panel and hip belts, I’d say the Osprey Kyte 46 would be slightly better for wider hips and the Gregory Amber 44 would be slightly better for narrower hips.
  • The Osprey Kyte 46 is slightly better for my short torso than the Gregory Amber 44.
  • The Gregory Amber 44 has softer/comfier mesh padding, particularly on the lower back.
  • At 2.71 lbs/1.23 kg, the Gregory is lighter than either size of the Osprey Kyte (XS/S=3.24 lbs and S/M=3.38 lbs).
  • The Osprey backpack has just a couple more straps and buckles for accessories. If this is a big deal for you, then every last strap counts. For me personally, both had more than enough!
  • Osprey has the best customer service and warranty, by leaps and bounds. They have one of the best guarantees of any outdoor gear company, period.
  • The Gregory Amber 44 pack is slightly more affordable than the Osprey Kyte 46 pack.
  • The Gregory comes in two bright fun colors, while the Osprey comes in three cool earth tones.
Gregory vs Osprey infographic

So which pack should you buy?

I’m going to let you decide what’s important to you, and make that decision.

If I absolutely had to choose a pack, I genuinely don’t know if I could! I suppose I would go with the Osprey Kyte 46; my excellent experiences with their All Mighty Guarantee give them a slight edge.

At the end of the day, though, these are two incredibly similar, incredibly well-made carry-on women’s backpacking packs. In fact, they’re so similar it’s almost ridiculous I wrote this review in the first place.

Even so, I hope you enjoyed it! I’ll monitor the company’s respective sites for sales and updates, and try to keep this post as updated as possible.

Where To Buy the Osprey Kyte 46 and Gregory Amber 44 Packs

You can purchase the Osprey Kyte 46 from Osprey’s website (free shipping over $49), REI’s website (free shipping over $50), and of course, Amazon.

You can purchase the Gregory Amber 44 from the Gregory website (free shipping over $99), the REI website, annnnnd Amazon!

If you buy either of these packs, let me know what you think!

I love to hear your feedback. Also, if I failed to include any information you’d like me to elaborate on, please let me know! I’ll fix it, I promise!

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