A few months ago, I picked up a cuben fiber ZPacks Zero backpack. The reasoning behind getting this pack was that my “summer” gear had dwindled down so far, the rest of my packs simply swallowed it whole. As well, the weight of my “summer” gear had also lessened quite a bit, so here again, my other packs were actually overkill. So, I decided to update my pack situation and to go with a smaller, and even more minimalist’s type backpack.
(Check out a recent gear list for size/weight reference here.)
As seen in my unboxing video of the ZPacks Zero backpack, I went with the size small (1,500 cu in) and the only additions were the front mesh pocket (+ 500 cu in) and a few loops so that I could attach a sleeping pad to the outside of the pack with cord. The pack weighed exactly 4 oz out-of-the-box.
When ordering this pack, there were a few things which I considered, but then intentionally left off. One being a sternum strap and the other being a hip belt. With the sternum strap, I figured that I could simply “borrow” the one off of my Blast 30 backpack if I wanted it. Ans far as the hip belt is concerned, I just figured that I planned on carrying so little in this pack that I could simply get away without actually using one.
As well, there were some other things that I had intentions of actually adding onto the pack when I ordered it. Obviously, I planned on adding 2 pieces of shock cord (with mitten hooks) to the loops which hold a sleeping pad in place. I attached them to one side by simply looping them through one set of the loops. Then, after placing the sleeping pad on the back of the pack, I can simply stretch the shock cord to the other side and use the mitten hooks to attach them to the opposite set of loops.
The 2 pieces of shock cord and the mitten hooks added an additional 0.1 oz to the total pack weight. So, this brought the total weight of the pack to 4.1 oz.
Another thing that I planned to add to the pack was my water bottle holders. These are simple pieces of cord that hold my water bottles (typically either a 32 oz or a 20 oz Gatorade bottle) on my shoulder straps. I am not a huge fan of carrying either a water bladder (too heavy) or my water bottles in the side pockets on my pack (too hard to get too). And ever since I got my ULA Circuit I have been fascinated with the water bottle holders on the straps. Since getting my Circuit, I have made lighter weight versions of the water bottle holders and have added them to my other packs too…
The top portions of the water bottle holders are made from various pieces of small diameter left over cord I happen to have lying around and mitten hooks. The bottom pieces are simply pieces of shock cord, fed through the daisy chain on the shoulder strap and then the ends are tied together. The pair of water bottle holders add an additional 0.1 oz to the total weight. This now puts my total pack weight up to 4.2 oz.
So, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, 2 items that I heavily considered but decided to leave off was the sternum strap and the hip belt.
Once I got the pack, I loaded it up and wore it around the house for a while. What I found immediately was that it felt like the shoulder straps were actually sliding off my shoulders just a little. After realizing this, I made a make-shift sternum strap and noticed a huge difference. At this point, I decided that I would order some 1/2″ nylon webbing and some clasps to make my own sternum strap for this pack.
The total weight of my DIY sternum strap is 0.2 oz, which now brings the total weight of my pack to 4.4 oz.
As well, I began getting a little bit nervous about using a pack without a hip belt. However, adding on a hip belt was not quite as easy as adding on a sternum strap. So, I began doing a bit of brainstorming… I must admit, I hated the fact of adding back that much weight to my pack, but I felt I would rather be safe (read: more comfortable) than sorry if it came down to it. So, I started trying to figure out some sort of multi-use hip belt… The best that I could come up with was with using the hip belt that came on my Multipack (also from ZPacks). However, this would take a bit of a more permanent modification…
Long story short, what I ended up doing was attaching a loop of 1/2″ nylon webbing with the receiving end of a 1/2″ buckle to my pack where a hip belt would normally connect. With this in place, I am able to easily attach the hip belt that came with my multipack now to both the multipack or to these newly installed buckles and use as a hip belt on my pack!
These 2 buckles are now a permanent part of my pack (unless they break) and add an extra 0.1 oz to the weight of my pack. This now brings the total weight of my pack to 4.5 oz. The actual hip belt weighs an additional 0.9 oz, which will then bring the total weight of the pack up to 5.4 oz.
Looking back at the additions I have installed on the pack, only one of them is something that I now cannot choose to leave off, which is the hip belt buckle that I sewed in place. I can, however, still choose to leave behind the shock cords which hold the pad in place, the water bottle holders, the sternum strap or the actual hip belt. This means that now my base weight on this pack is 4.1 oz, and I have the option of adding on whichever extra options I choose. And of course, the pack will max out at 5.4 oz.
I have used this pack on the last few backpacking trips that I have been on this summer. The weight has ranged from just under 15 lbs to around 8 lbs. I did use the hip belt on each of the trips, however, I only found that I needed to cinch it down about 30 minutes on one trip. This was just after I had refilled all my water and was at the end of a 20+ mile day. Considering this, I will probably opt to leave the belt behind on some trips from here on out, but I love that I simply have the option to choose.
To this point, I see now wear on the pack. There is no stitching coming loose, including those that I threw in the pack.
All I can say is that I have been really happy with this pack. The only real bad thing that I can say about this pack is that the cuben fiber really makes my back sweat. Although, to be fair, in temps near 100 F, I don’t believe that there is a pack that will keep my back dry… (On the other hand, in the winter time, I find that the cuben seems to help keep my torso area warmer than I have with other packs.)
I look forward to using this pack for many, many more trips. This will definitely be my go-to pack for solo use during the summer months.
Thanks for reading!