ZPacks Zero Backpack

I received a sweet surprise in the mailbox today in the form of my ZPacks Zero backpack! (And yes, it was inside the mailbox). I had ordered this pack a little over 4 weeks ago along with some other smaller items and have waited patiently for it… And now that I actually have it in my hands, well, I have got to say that it was worth the wait!

The use of cuben fiber for applications such as a backpack can be a hairy subject, but I have read enough good reviews and even have experience with cuben fiber first hand, so this is not such a big deal for me. 

I currently have 3 main backpacks. Each one fits a different need, and in my opinion, this is more ideal than trying to make a single pack work for all occasions. I have my ULA Circuit which I use for cold weather trips in which my son (or wife) go along with me. The Circuit allows me to carry more gear comfortably. I use my ZPacks (cuben fiber) Blast 30 backpack for cold weather “solo” trips (such as when I go with friends and am not sharing any weight). And now, I have my ZPacks Zero pack to use for my warm weather solo trips!

I feel like Joe at ZPack’s offers more “customization” to gear than even the other (cottage) gear shops out there. Just take a look at his backpack page and you will see what I mean. There are a multitude of options that you can choose from on the packs, and on top of that, if there is something that you would like and is not on the “list”, then just ask him and chances are he may very well accommodate that need. And this is not just on backpacks, but everything on his site. Just ask him…

As well, Joe has top-notch customer service. There has never been a single email that he has not responded back to me on, and it never takes more than a day or so. Usually he gets back in a couple of hours, or less. Heck, he even contacted me during Christmas break when his shop was closed down for the holidays! And let’s not forget the gear itself. I have been more than pleased with all of the gear that I have received from him. I have had a single dry sack to explode at the side seam, but he took care of that lightening fast and I still have no worries! Other than this one time, all of the gear has worked to the “T.”

So, when I was looking for a new lower volume pack to carry my smaller volume/lighter weight summer gear in, of course ZPacks was the main contender! I emailed Joe and asked him lots of questions and once I settled on what I wanted, I just needed to save a little money to place the order.

Also, I need to give thanks to John Abela here. Thanks to him, I was able to actually try out the Zero pack in a size XSmall, which allowed me to realize that I would probably be happier with a size Small rather than the XSmall.

So, when I ordered the pack I decided to stay with the 1.43 oz/sqyd cuben fiber since the next step down was to go with the 1 oz/sqyd. I had debated going with the 1.26 oz/sqyd but it was not available anymore. When I had last talked to Joe he told me that at that time he might have had enough 1.26 oz/sqyd left to do 1 more pack, but by the time I ordered, I just decided to stick with the 1.43 oz/sqyd for the simple fact that the 1.43 oz/sqyd was more durable.

Also, I only wanted the center pocket on the pack so that I could still keep some smaller items outside the pack for fast & easy access, but I did not want any other pockets outside the pack. Also, I really wanted to go with the cuben pocket simply due to less weight, but also because it was less likely to get snagged on a passing branch, but, I wanted to allow as much air flow through the pocket in order to let things dry out that may be stuffed in the pocket (such as a wet tent/rain gear). So, in the end I decided to go with the (heavier) mesh. (Although, I asked Joe about doing a half mesh/half cuben pocket and he told me that he could do that too. I just decided not to though in the end.)

The only other thing that I wanted on this pack was some loops on the back of the pack to allow me to stretch a piece of shock cord between them and use them as an outer pad holder. Joe offers some triangular-shaped pad holders as an option, but they are heavier. With the loops, I can use them when I want or remove them if I want (although the triangular pad holders are also removable), not to mention the straps are “much” lighter!

As I said in the beginning of this post, the pack arrived today in a mailing envelope that easily fit inside my mailbox. (No mail-lady knocking on my door with package in hand this time!) Then, to make things even cooler, when I opened the envelope, my pack was then inside a 1-gallon Ziploc bag, and there was even room left over inside the Ziploc with the pack.

So, when I ordered the pack, I expected the pack (3.1 oz), the center pocket (0.7 oz) and the pad holder loops (estimated 0.2 oz) to weigh a total of 4 oz. And low-and-behold, once I set the pack on my scales earlier today (before even unfolding the pack) the total weight came to exactly 4 oz (114 gm)! So, that was a good guess on my part, but an even better workmanship on Joe’s part! This just shows how well Joe manages his business and pays attention to the gear that he creates. Thanks Joe!

So, in this video I used about 99% of the gear that I am putting together to create my near “SUL” (Super-UltraLight) gear list. Although, there were a few things that I did not include in the pack such as the actual Esbit tablets, my phone and my water. Other than this though, everything in the video is pretty much everything that will go in the pack. However, I do plan to use the Multipack in conjunction with the Zero pack. In the Multipack will be my Ditty Bag (the contents of the Ditty bag can be seen by clicking on the link directly above, along with everything else on the gear list), my Cloudkilt, camera, map and notebook.

This pack does not include neither a hip belt nor a sternum strap. If I feel like I need either of those I can steal the sternum strap from my Blast 30 pack and I feel like I can fashion some sort of hip belt quite easily enough. I do not feel like I will need a hip belt as far as weight transfer is concerned with this pack, but I may possibly need it to help stabilize the pack while hiking. I will have to take it out for a few hikes to be able to truly determine this though.

As well, I will include the same water bottle holders on the shoulder straps of my Zero that I have been using on my Blast 30. This will add an additional 0.1 oz to the total pack weight. The 2 shock cords with mitten hooks that I will use as my pad holders will also add an additional 0.1 oz to the total pack weight. So, this will up the total pack weight to 4.2 oz. Still not bad by any means. Heck, just 2 years ago I was carrying my 5 lb 10 oz Kelty Red Cloud 5600 backpack! (That pack by itself is heavier than my entire kit that I am now using with this pack…)

As I mentioned already, the Zero is my summer solo pack. I am trying to create a “SUL” set-up (BPW = < 5 lbs) that I am comfortable with enough to carry, but even with my comfortable “luxury” set-up, I am not planning to be carrying more than a 6.5 lb base weight with this pack (and truth-be-told, it probably won’t be more than 6 lb). However, 12 lbs is the max that I will want to carry with this pack. The only time that I will consider carrying it with more is if the 12 lb limit is exceeded only on my first day. Otherwise I will go back to my sweet, sweet Blast 30! (It’s a win-win situation…  🙂 )

So, anyway, I just wanted to share a little bit about my new Zero backpack. Obviously I do not have any on trail experience with it (I just opened it on camera a few hours ago) but I will get some in soon enough. So, you can be sure that you will be seeing more of this pack throughout more of my post’s for a while!

Until then, thanks Joe for the awesome gear, and thank YOU for taking the time out to read/view this post! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to post them below.

~Stick~

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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22 Responses to ZPacks Zero Backpack

  1. Pale Spruce says:

    Nice video and nice to see how you fit everything in. Joe at ZPacks is great to work with. I have a tarp and rain pants from him but no pack…yet.

    Like

  2. jessesleeper says:

    One thing I was confused about. You said you got a small yet the medium is the 22ci 36L. Did youvget a modified small?

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Jesse,

      Wow! Great catch! I accidentally listed the specs off of the small BLAST pack…Doh…Now I gotta go and fix all of that…

      I did get the small Zero, which is 1,500 cu in or 24.5 L.

      Thanks for catching that…I blame it on the fact that I was so excited with the pack at the time of my writings… 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • jessesleeper says:

      I was looking at getting a medium because I felt I would need the 2200 but looking at your packing of the small, I’m rethinking the size factor. I just may opt for the small so thanks again for a great informative video. Always appreciate your willingness to be thorough in your reviews.

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Jesse,

      No problem. Glad I could be of some help. I will say though after you pointed out my mistake last night I did go and measure mine, as well as put it against my Blast 30 pack and it is the small.

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  3. jessesleeper says:

    Great vid. I’m also looking into picking up a zero for a SUL setup this summer. Ofcourse my summers are a little cooler than yours in NH 🙂

    Like

  4. trailgroove says:

    Stick,

    Nice pack! In the video it appears as though it’s part of your body. Very cool, love the external stash pocket. Nice looking gear list as well – The best part is you’ve managed to get the weight that low but keep a nice full length inflatable mattress.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Aaron. I have a feeling that I will enjoy using this pack this summer… 🙂 And yeah, I love my air pad. I am planning to try some ccf trips this summer but I am not sure that I will stick with them. I dunno. The air pad is almost a necessity… And I think that I am at a good weight to carry a luxury…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  5. Gizmo Joe says:

    Nice video, glad to see you got your new pack…..look awesome to me!!! Man I am ready for a S.U.L. hike this summer we need to make some plans haha.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Joe,

      It was a pleasant surprise, I must say! And I agree…we must…although you will still be lighter than me… 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

  6. Slimms says:

    Great Video! For now I am in the heavy category and packing a 65liter Gregory, but I have plans in the future to do some solo ultralight trips so when the time comes I think I will be looking into the zpack!

    ~Slimms
    http://thebackpackingjournal.wordpress.com

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Slimms,

      I know the heavy feeling. A little more than 2 years ago I was lugging around a pack that weighs as much as everything that I loaded up in this video! It was crazy. So I am super happy to be where I am now! And I definitely recommend trying it out sometime…but I must warn you, it is addictive…

      Good luck!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  7. Joslyn says:

    Sweet pack!! Can’t wait for the day when my gear kit will fit in something like that and still carry comfortably. Certainly is something to look forward to!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Joslyn,

      I can’t tell you how big my smile was yesterday when I loaded this stuff up and felt how light it was, as well as how small it was. It is very impressive…and so worth getting to! I know that you are well on your way though…except you will probably just make all of your own! I wish I cold make my own cuben backpack. I can’t tell you how many people have stopped me and asked me if I made my pack and even my tent…of course I tell them “No, I wish, it came from ZPacks.” 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Joslyn says:

      Haha, yeah I get the same look when I finish a new spreadsheet and it hits lower than the weight I had guessed. I only hope that my MYOG gear is half the quality of Joe’s stuff!

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Joslyn,

      I hear ya on that. I have yet to make anything really huge, such as a backpack or anything, but I have plans… I am planning on making a DIY top quilt using 2.5 oz Climashield Apex and M90 for the top and some 8D for the inner. I am also debating a DIY cuben tarp sometime. Just a simple rectangular tarp. Nothing fancy cause I don’t want to waste a bunch of cuben fiber if I get it wrong…However, there is something very liberating once you finish that DIY piece and it works out for you…it is awesome!

      Good luck!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  8. Nice to see you went with this after all that we talked about over the last few months. Pretty much exactly what we figured would be perfect for both of us. Very much liking the straps over the triangles. Seeing how we have nearly identical gear, you should be able to answer this one question… with your/our gear in there, how many days worth of food do you think you could stuff into the pack? I can only get three days worth of food in my Zero X-Small and while my Blast 26 can hold a lot, as we have previously discussed, I have been wanting to get something that would work for a thru-hiker backpack, where I could maybe get 5-7 days worth of food. Do you think that is going to be possible??

    Like

    • Stick says:

      John,

      In the video, I have at least 2.5 days worth of food for me, although I may eat a little less than you on the trail. However, there is plenty of room left over in the pack after loading up all of this gear. Everything I have in there now fills the pack right up to the point at which the shoulder straps are sewn on. So, I think that I would be able to get at least 5 days worth of food for me, and a good chance as much as 7 days.

      My concern though with this much food would be weight. In my write up I came up with the number 12 for max lbs in this pack. Although this is a guesstimate and not necessarily based on actual use & experience. Maybe with some sort of hip belt it would be fine with a lb or 2 more? What kind of weight limit would you put on a pack like this?

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Always good to hear from ya!

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • I have done 18 pounds with my ZPacks Zero X-Small, but the first two days were painful. The pack was more than able to handle it, but the body may not be.

      I would suspect with the new design (better shoulder straps, better padding) the Zero Small could be pushed into the 20 range, if it really needed to be.

      Ideally though, I figured the 12 – 14 range would be the sweet spot for the Small, so our numbers are about the same in regards to total weights.

      I do eat a bit more than you do while on long distance hikes (~1.7 PPD) so I suspect that if you could get 5-7 days, I should be able to get to the 5 or 6 day mark. I might have to load up the multi-pack with some food.

      I suppose I could always have ZPacks add an extra two inches of material on the top, that could give me the extra room needed. Weight Distribution and CoG would be much the same as putting a bear canister on the top of the pack.

      Thanks!

      Like

    • Stick says:

      John,

      Thanks, that is good to know that it can be a little more than 12 lbs. That is good as it gives me a hair more leeway. So, I guess I will cut this pack of at about 14 lbs if it will be more than a day. Then again, I can just load up the total weight in either pack now that I have them both and see what I think… Sweet, thanks for the info!

      And yeah, I was recently on someones blog and noticed that they had the Blast/Zero pack but it was a between size. He had gotten Joe to add a couple more inches to the collar. Isn’t it cool though that Joe will do all of this! It is things like this that make me want to continue ordering my gear from Joe, as well as recommending ZPacks… My only problem now though is that I am so happy with what I have, I am really about to the point to which I don’t need anymore… (Shouldn’t this be a good thing though…)

      (And did I REALLY say that?! 🙂 )

      ~Stick~

      Like

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