ZPacks Blast 30 Backpack…is it for me?…

The time has come…yet again…to try and find another pack that will work for my smaller collection of gear. Over the past few months I have been eyeballing the ZPack’s Blasts packs, but have been waiting on the $$$ to get one. Then, just as the time is drawing near, John Abela from Redwood Outdoors sent me his to check out! And boy am I glad he did! Now I can actually put my hands on a Blast pack and get a feel for what it is all about (as well as what I want in it) before I decide to drop my hard-earned $$$ on this sweet little pack.

Rewind just a bit…

Quite a few months ago I had decided that my gear was not filling the void of my ULA Circuit, so I purchased another pack that would be more appropriately sized. The pack I picked up was the Six Moon Design Swift. However, with this pack I was a bit disappointed…at a stripped down weight of 15 oz I managed to save almost a pound and a half off of the weight of my ULA Circuit, but the kicker is that the Swift is almost the same size as my Circuit! Now don’t get me wrong, the SMD Swift is a great pack, but considering the size, it intruded upon my (already loved) Circuit’s turf.

So, since then I have been putting more thought into the next pack that I get so that I don’t make the same mistake again. I knew that I was going to order one of the ZPacks Blast packs sometime after the new year, but (happily) my wife is letting me get it just a little sooner. So, this was perfect timing on John’s part when he sent his Blast pack. Since I received this pack I have loaded it down multiple times. I have tried different packing strategies and I finally feel like I have one down that works for me with this pack. Also, I have been able to check out the sizing of the shoulder straps and hip belts and can make a more educated guess on what I will need in the pack I order, rather than ordering blindly!

Probably the best outcome from John sending me this pack is that I realized what size pack I needed to go with. I think that when I bought the Swift, I got scared that most “UL” (or frame-less  packs are going to be rather huge, or quite tiny. Before John sent this pack, I was sold on the ZPacks Blast 22 because I wanted the smallest size Blast pack. After loading up his 30 (previously the 26) I realized that the 30 may be what I need rather than the 22…

I can get all of my “winter” gear in the Blast 30 and still have room for plenty of food. Loading it up last night with items that I would take on a solo hike I came to 14.5 pounds with everything except food so I feel like I am in the acceptable weight range for this pack as well. All else that would be added would be extra (alcohol) fuel, and whatever food I carried. (For a detailed list of what I consider “winter” gear in my neck of the woods, complete with weights, click here:  Gear List)

I made 2 videos last night in which I talk/question a lot about the features of this pack and how they will/may work with my particular body as well as gear choices. So, check them out and let me know what you think…

As can be seen in these videos, there are quite a few things that I am questioning, especially concerning fit. So, if you have any comments or concerns about the way this particular pack fits me, please comment. I am using this pack to determine if I need to change anything about the pack I will be getting. Namely the torso height and the hip belt measurement.

But of course, there are a few other things that I am delving into, such as not going with hip belt pockets, and the extra top side pockets (which has been a feature I always knew I would get once I got one of these packs) in favor of the multipack, which I would use on my front side, like in my videos. This pouch would hold pretty much all of my gear that I would normally keep in the side/outer pockets on the pack. And why do you ask? It is all about balance. (Thanks John, and I am working on it…  🙂 )

So, at this very moment, here is what I am going with:

  • ZPacks Blast 30 Cuben Fiber Backpack ~ White
  • 50″ Hip Belt
  • Middle Side Straps (Just in case)
  • Roll top closure
  • Multipack (Black ~ 1.24 cuben fiber ~ only 2 attachment points on top)

And that is it. I would like this pack to be as water tight as possible, so no hydration ports (thanks again John) and as few outside additions as necessary. I am debating seam sealing the pack, or just using dry sacks for my clothing items. I will have to mull that over throughout this week…

So, thanks for watching. And like I said, if you have any comments, concerns, or questions please post them.



About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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9 Responses to ZPacks Blast 30 Backpack…is it for me?…

  1. Awesome survey! I have backpedaled and forward on pack measure since like you said it can be extremely disappointing that you can’t take the majority of the UL packs home to attempt.


  2. Pingback: ZPacks Blast 30 Backpack & Multipack | Stick's Blog

  3. Michael says:

    Hey, Stick. That’s a cool pack. And very nice of John to throw you a loaner like that. I’m not ready for that kind of pack yet. But I was wondering if you could provide some more information on your experience with the ULA Circuit. I watched your videos on that pack but I didn’t see any information on how it worked for you in the field. (Did I miss something? Please let me know if you did any other write-ups or videos and I’ll check them out.) I’ve been using a GG Alpine Trail (slightly heavier version of the Vapor Trail) and the GG Virga as I’m experimenting with frameless packs. But I’m looking at the Circuit, Gossamer Mariposa and SMD Starlite for larger volume packs with frames. The Circuit is just a little lighter than my Alpine Trail pack, but the Circuit has more space and a frame and is good for a bear canister (I’m planning a thru hike in bear country in CA, which requires a canister). So, basically, I’m wondering, how did the Circuit do in the field?

    SoCal Mike


    • Stick says:


      Concerning the ULA Circuit, I still don’t have a ton of experience with it. I have used it for about 8 trips, mostly overnighters. So far though I have been very pleased with it, and too be honest, the only thing that I can nitpick about it is that the bottom of the pack is sloped rather than boxed so it cannot be stood up on end like most other packs. So, I have to be careful with where I go to stand it up at, don’t want it falling off the side of a cliff!

      I am hopefully heading out next month to do Springer to Neels Gap along the AT and if I cannot get the Blast pack in time I will use the Circuit. To be honest, I should probably carry the Circuit anyway, but you know it would be hard to head out the door and leave my brand new pack behind… I dunno, I will see.

      Sorry I cannot give you much info. If you have specific questions, shoot them my way and I will do my best to answer them. Otherwise, all I can say about it is that I love it. Sure it is much heavier than the pack I am looking at getting, but even at it’s weight, for what it is, it is a great deal in my opinion.

      Hope this helps.



  4. Joslyn says:

    Great review! I have gone back and forth on pack size because like you said it can be really frustrating that you can’t take most of the UL packs home to try, but it’s really easy to see that once I’ve got all the UL gear I’m planning that a 30L no longer is as small as it seems.


    • Stick says:


      I agree with you on that! If I could have gotten my hands on the Swift before purchasing it, I would have never purchased it. But don’t take that the wrong way. I think that the Swift is a nice pack, but considering I already had my love affair with my Circuit, the Swift kind of intruded… 🙂

      Also, the Blast 30 is 50L (3,000 cu in), not 30L. Funny thing is, the Swift is listed at 56L, only 6L more than the Blast 30. But I am here to tell you that there is more of a difference than 6L!

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting.



    • Joslyn says:

      Wow I read that size wrong! I’m still feeling pretty confident in getting a Swift for my Long Distance/ Winter pack since the ULA packs come with so much stuff I’ll never use. Especially after getting out to Mountain Crossings and seeing the Circuit in person although I like the bottle bungees though and I’m planning on adding those to every pack I get. But I’m really looking at picking up a Zpacks pack for shorter trips.


  5. John Abela says:

    Hey Stick,

    Glad you are getting some use and experience testing out the backpack.

    Just a FYI on the hipbelt: ZPacks recently redesigned their hipbelt and it is now larger in every way – including how tall it is, and how far around it wraps on your hips, and how thick of padding it uses.

    The multipack attaches via little black pieces of cordage with a micro cord locks attached to it. They are either stuffed inside of the multipack or attached to the ZPacks Zero or the Blast 26/30. Or, just do what you did – lol all is good.

    If you have to fill your extra water bag with water it would be a much better idea from a weight distribution perspective to put it inside of the backpack rather than in the mesh sleeve on the back of the pack.

    The method of putting your thin pad inside the pack really added some nice rigidity to it. I never put one inside of that pack and I think I am going to have to get it a try on a future hike because that really did give it a nice solid shape that held well.

    Oh yeah, nice Black Rock Gear hat!!

    From what I could see I would say that the size fit you nearly perfectly. I personally prefer to have my pack strap not go downward on my back. But this is just my preference. At your TPW I would say there would be no need to get the optional load-lifters. Only exception would be if you plan to do the CDT or PCT where you have to go a week without resupply and end up having nearly 20 additional pounds worth of food.

    To be honest the pack looked really good on you. Even with the side pouches. If you are use to using side pouches and can discipline yourself not to load them up with 5 pounds of gear in each side, it might be worth getting them – again if they are something you feel would be hard to give up. Many a hiker these days is learning the many reasons for ditching them though.

    Lastly I will just encourage you to give consideration to what kind of backpack you are after. If you are going to be thru-hiking a long distance trail than you need to approach a backpack with the knowledge that you will have a lot more ‘life stuff’ than what you do if you are just going out for the weekend.

    Something you did not talk about: One of your other packs looked like it had the S-shaped shoulder straps (aka: women’s shoulder straps). If that is something you really feel is more comfortable you should ask ZPacks if they would be willing to make them up for you! (personally I love s-shaped shoulder straps)

    Thanks for the mention in the video and again thank you big-time for letting me borrow your Six Moon Design Skyscape!! A Skyscape X is at the very top of my buy-list for 2012!!


    • Stick says:


      Thanks for the quick response!

      I thought the hip belt looked different on the web site than what is on your pack, thanks for pointing that out. When I call Joe I will talk with him about this. To be honest though, I kinda like the hip belts on the one you have…

      I also noticed in the pic on Joe’s site of his multipack it looks to be attached somewhere actually to the backpack rather than across the shoulder straps. I am going to have to check that out some more on your pack…

      I understand about putting the water inside the pack, but I am scared of it leaking actually inside my pack. With my Swift I have carried that same bladder full by simply strapping it to the top of my pack, on the outside. My only fear here was that it may slip out, but luckily my buddy was bringing up the rear so he had my back on that!

      With the pad inside, I had really planned to let the pad open up and then stuff everything down the middle. But, this pad does not work that way. A friend sent this stuff to me. It is a 1/4 XLPE pad that is very similar to the Evazote pads that GG sells. However, it is super tacky. Once I get it inside the pack it wants to stick to itself so trying to force it open is useless. So, I decided to fold it in quarters like so in the video and as you said, it does make a very nice back support. I am very happy with the shape of the pack when using the pad this way. However, once it warms up, this pad will not be coming along. This is when I would like to use the GG SitLight pad. But I will see…

      Thanks! I do love my hat. And like I said before, everyone that sees it is asking about it…

      After watching the video of the pack on me, I think I agree with you about the way the pack fits me. Also, after getting my pack packed this way, I don’t think that I need the load lifters either. I have decided to not get them. With this pack, if anything the gear will only get smaller… And as far as long hikes are concerned…the AT will be my first…unfortunately, I am not sure when though. I honestly don’t see it happening in 2013, so I will have to see. However, God willing, I would love to be able to do all 3 long trails in my time… but by that time, no telling what kind of packs will be on the market… 🙂

      I also think that I have completely ditched the thought of using the top side pouches. The more I have messed with the Multipack the more I have decided that that is the option I want to go with. Even over the hip belts… Strangely enough, you have really sold me on that option and I am very excited about getting my own!

      As far as the straps on the packs go, the ULA has the “J” straps and the SMD has a curved strap, but I don’t think that there is much mention about it on the SMD site. Regardless, I can’t say for sure yet that I like one more than the other. They both have been great as far as I am concerned. I did notice that Joe is now using a more curved shoulder strap as well. So, I will see…

      And last but not least, I will be looking for a review of that Skyscape X in the future!

      Thanks again John,



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