ZPacks Zero Backpack in Black Cuben/Nylon Hybrid Material

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A few days ago my new ZPacks Zero backpack showed up in my mailbox! (You read it right, inside my mailbox…) Since getting my first small size Zero backpack about a year and a half ago, it has become my go-to pack. Being that most of my trips are less than 4 days (with 3 being the norm), I don’t generally need to carry a large amount of food. And due to my location, I can get away with carrying basically no insulation during the summer, and only a little in the spring & fall. Considering these things, along with the fact that my gear that I do carry is both small & light, the small size Zero backpack just works for me.

So, a while back I had some extra money and decided to order another small size Zero backpack, but this time with a few different features. Don’t get me wrong, the Zero I have works great for me (as I explained above) with the features it has, but, for no other reason than I just wanted to try out something new, I ordered this one just a little different.

The first, and likely most obvious difference, is that I opted to go with the 2.92 oz/sqyd cuben fiber/nylon hybrid material. This material is the same 1.43 oz/sqyd cuben fiber that my other cuben fiber packs are made from, however, this “hybrid” material has a 50D polyester face on the outside. As awesome as cuben fiber is, its one weakness is abrasion resistance, so the polyester outer shields the cuben fiber from things that can rub against it, and break down the cuben fiber. Obviously, this doubles the weight of the material, but in turn, it also makes for a super-tough, waterproof material.

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The next big change in the new pack vs the old pack is the top closure method. I opted for the simple cinch cord closure on my first pack, and I have got to admit, I am very happy with it. It’s easy to use and effective, not to mention lightweight. But, I decided to give the roll top closure a try on the new pack. It is the same roll top closure as on the ZPacks drybags, which I happen to like better than the other roll top closures that I have used. What I like about the ZPacks method is that the top 2 edges of the pack actually seal closed with a velcro strip first, and then roll down. I admit, the velcro strips do add a little extra weight, but to me it makes rolling the top down a bit easier.

I also opted to add the detachable 0.75 x 50 inch nylon hip belt. When I ordered my first Zero backpack, I opted to leave off the hip belt entirely, however, once I got the pack I started questioning that decision. So, I picked up some half-inch grossgrain and some half-inch buckles, then added my own detachable hip belt (using the detachable nylon hip belt from my MultiPack). However, I found that with the loads that I typically carried in the pack I was just fine without the hip belt, although I usually had it clipped loosely around my hips anyway. Since using the pack, there has only been about 2 times that I actually cinched the belt a little tight to help take some pressure off of my shoulders, and both of these times has been with a full pack, and when I carried a little extra water due to sketchy water sources, or long stretches without it. Due to this, I decided to add the detachable hip belt to the new backpack so that I could attach it if the trip may call for it, or leave it behind and save a little weight if there is no chance I would use it.

Some other features that I added to the new pack include:

  • The front/center mesh pocket. For me this is a must on a backpack, of course though this is a personal preference and don’t expect everyone to agree with me…
  • A haul loop, since I would prefer to lift the pack by this loop rather than the shoulder straps.
  • A top strap. This was added simply to help keep the loop formed from the roll top held down so it doesn’t get caught in tree limbs while hiking. But, this may end up coming off once I use the pack for a while and can decide if I feel like it is necessary or not.
  • The attachment points to add shock cord for a sleeping pad on the back of the pack. This was also on my first Zero, and while I didn’t use it often, I like having the option.
  • I also taped the inside seams on the pack (except the seam at the very bottom). This is something that I did on my own. I simply ordered the tape and then applied it myself, which I actually enjoy doing myself. Anyway, even with the taped seams I don’t expect this pack to be “waterproof,” but I feel confident in that it is very “water-resistant.”

So, why did I get this backpack? And especially if I like my other Zero backpack so much? Well, to be completely honest, I did it because, as I mentioned, this pack has become my go-to pack, and while my first Zero pack has not shown the first sign of weakness, I decided that I wanted to get the same pack, but a bit more durable overall. Fact is, I love this pack, and I want to continue using it for a long time, and as confident as I am in my 1.43 oz/sqyd cuben fiber pack, there is no doubt that the one made from the cuben fiber/nylon hybrid material is more durable, and is more likely to last a bit longer. And lets not forget, this material comes in the super-cool-awesome black as seen above!

I will also admit, I was a bit curious, and wanted to try out the roll top closure instead of the cinch top closure. My ULA Circuit has a roll top closure, which I like for the simple fact that it does tend to be a bit more water-resistant than the cinch top closure method. I don’t always carry my backpack cover, so for the times that I don’t, having that little bit of extra water-resistance is nice.

One other thing that helped persuade me to get another pack is the fact that Joe now uses a wider nylon strap to attach the shoulder straps to the backpack. The nylon strap on my first Zero backpack is a 1 inch nylon strap, but the backpacks that Joe is now building uses a larger, 1 & 5/8 inch nylon strap (seen in photo below). Again, this has never proven to be an issue with my first Zero backpack, but to be honest, this has always worried me as it just looked like such a small attachment point. Then again, these packs are not meant to carry super-heavy loads, so it’s very likely that the smaller attachment would be ok, but as I said, my reason for getting this backpack was for an overall, more durable backpack. In my opinion, the larger strap will offer that…

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And last, but not least… weight. Come on now… you knew I couldn’t talk about a pack like this and not mention it…

Without a doubt, my new Zero backpack outweighs my old Zero backpack. As opposed to my first Zero backpack, I have opted for a heavier weight material, added a roll top closure, a top strap and a haul loop, in addition to the front/center mesh pocket, the detachable hip belt and the attachment points for the shock cord which holds a sit pad in place on the back panel of the backpack. Then of course I added the loops so that I can carry my water bottles on my shoulder straps. Despite that many of these items are each less than an oz in weight… the fact is, they still add up… So, what are the weights?

  • First Zero Pack with all options: 6.2 oz
  • New Zero pack with all options: 9.2 oz

So, there is a 3 oz weight difference in this pack, and I’ve gotta say… I am struggling with this. Sure it is only 3 oz, but that is also half of what my first backpack weighs, which is considerable, at least in my opinion. So now I just need to figure out if the added durability, and features, will be worth the weight increase to me…

As well, I would like to add that the volumes on the small Zero backpacks have changed since I ordered my first one. My first Zero backpack in a size small has an estimated internal volume of about 1,500 cu in, or 25L. (This does not include the front/center mesh pocket.) However, the size small Zero backpacks are now listed at 1,700 cu in, or 27.5L, again, only counting the internal volume, not any extra pockets. I asked Joe about this and he said that he increased the height of the packs by 4 inches in order to better accommodate some options like stays and the taller torso heights.

Despite this, I have got to say that I am really impressed with the pack. As usual, it is another high-quality item, created by the fine folks at ZPacks. I experienced excellent customer service when ordering, and while the wait was 5 weeks and 5 days, it was still delivered 2 days early! (The anticipated delivery time when I ordered the backpack was 6 weeks.) All-in-all, ZPacks has yet again impressed me…

I would also like to add that I have no intentions of getting rid of my first Zero backpack, although, at least for a while, I will let my son or wife use it when they go with me. I plan to use my new Zero backpack and see what I think about it. I wish that I could use it on my upcoming Olympics hike, however, it just doesn’t have the capacity I need for 6+ days worth of food, and all of my gear… at least the gear that I am taking on this hike… However, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, most of my trips are not this long, but I am going to tinker around with it and see what I can do with it… (Either way though, 23 pounds may be pushing it with this backpack considering the minimal hip belt.)

Thanks for reading!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: I paid for both of the ZPacks Zero backpacks, and the tape, mentioned in this post with my own, hard-earned money. I am not affiliated with ZPacks, and have no obligations to write about these items, nor am I being paid to write this. The statements within this write-up, and the video are of my own opinion, which I formed after using my first Zero backpack, and of course simply unboxing my newest Zero backpack.

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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20 Responses to ZPacks Zero Backpack in Black Cuben/Nylon Hybrid Material

  1. Pingback: September 2016 AT Section Hike: Sam’s Gap to Hot Spring’s… & Other Things In-Between!!! | Stick's Blog

  2. Luke says:

    Hey Chad. Love your blog. I’ve been thinking of picking up a zero in black cuben. How is it on a sunny day though? Does it heat up a lot?

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Luke,

      That’s hard to say… Keeping in mind, here in the southeast it can be very hot during the day so it’s hard to say if one particular item is hotter than it should be… Saying that, I will also say, I have found cuben, no matter the color, to be warm. That was a big reason I went with an Arc Blast. The mesh panel on it both pushes the pack away from my back, and allows some air to circulate near my back. It is awesome. However, it is less used in warm weather because it is a larger pack. I would like to have a slim (or whatever is their smaller size now) in the Arc configuration. But, in the heat, my packs are much smaller, so there is also a smaller footprint against my back, so due to this, it isn’t so bad…

      I figure this didn’t really help much… but hopefully it provided you with something else to think about!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  3. Pingback: First Look @ the MLD Duomid & Solo Inner Net Tent | Stick's Blog

  4. Jared Spencer says:

    Thanks for the review! I’m considering ordering a similar Zero soon, and I had a question for you. I plan on rolling a 36″ long 20″ wide ccf pad up as the frame of the pack, and was unsure if it was tall enough with the roll top to comfortably close the bag. What do you think? Thanks in advance!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Jared,

      I would say you will be fine… however, this also kind of depends on which size pack you are getting. The small has a listed 28″ height, and while I have not really measured that, I have packed my large size XLite in it (25″ width), and it was fine. If you need to roll the lid down a lot though (if the pack is pretty under-filled) then it would obviously be in the way. It also depends on what thickness ccf pad you are using. My 1/8″ pads would be no issue… but something like a Ridgerest or a ZLite would pose another problem. Also, take note that the XS Zero is only 19″ tall… I can also put my 20″ ccf pads (1/8″) in it, but it is very close… I wouldn’t suggest a thick 20″ wide ccf pad inside the Zero… if this is the case, maybe go for the top strap, or the shock cord on the front and lash it to the outside…

      Hope this helps some!

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Jared Spencer says:

      Thanks! I am planning on a size medium (listed 29″ height) so I think I will be good with a 36″ cutdown ridge rest. The blasts are all listed as having 30″ height in all sizes, and they are supposed to be the same as the zero plus the roll top, so I wonder if Matt adds a bit of extra fabric for the roll top option on the zero.

      Thanks again!

      Like

  5. Great review Stick. I would definitely agree that the 3oz penalty was worth it for the additional features.

    I have had nothing but good luck from ZPacks.

    Like

  6. Brad K says:

    Hi Stick,

    When you use one of these frameless packs, what do you end up using as a proxy for the frame?

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Brad,

      My “frame” is created from careful, and thoughtful, packing. I also use my air pads folded up and laid against the back of the pack. I have a few videos in which I pack my pack. Check one of them out for more info.

      Hope this helps.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  7. John D says:

    What pack are you using on the Olympic hike. I just got back from Rainer where we stayed in backcountry camps. It was awesome! The moon was bright and two owls were flying over us. I was in my bivy but my buddy never saw them in his tent.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      John,

      I will be using my ZPacks Blast 30 pack for the Olympic hike. I would love to use this new pack, however, it is a bit too small for all my insulation and 6+ days worth of food… I think my maiden voyage with this pack won’t be until Thanksgiving weekend.

      Also, I am hoping that I get to do a little day hike, or better yet, an overnight near Rainer when I am there… will just depend on time frames…

      Also, it looks like the weather will be nice while we will be there, so I am hoping that I can just use my Hexanet a few nights!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  8. Flapjack says:

    Cool new pack. I am also outfitted with ZPacks. Pack, tarp, and sleeping bag. The gear is worth the cost. I just got the Arc Blast with all options plus the multipack. The Arc Blast is sweet. Maiden voyage in a couple of weeks, 90 miles. Happy hiking!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Flapjack,

      Great to hear that you also find ZPacks to be super awesome! I have yet to get a quilt, and to be honest, am pretty happy with my current quilts… however, I would love to check one out in person some time.

      And yeah, my next pack order will be the Arc Blast, not sure if I will go with all the options though…

      Also, I did just order a new XS Zero pack too… 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

  9. Loneoak says:

    Thanks for the review Chad, pack looks great. I really like the Black, now when you getting a camo model 🙂 My next pack will most likely be a Z pack. I really like the Hybrid stuff. With all that being said, I notice when you rolled down the top and cliped it together (my Elemental ) pack does that the same. I have found after rolling it down, to bend it the opposite way to clip it (forward) if that makes since, helps in stream lining the fold down and IMO lessen’s the chance for water to enter. Congrats on your new pack, can’t wait to see it loaded up and on your back. Would like to see how stream lined it is, when full.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Loneoak,

      Glad you liked the review, and good choice going with a ZPacks pack. This is now my third pack from them, and they have all been great. I am also planning to get an XS Zero with only the front/center mesh pocket to use on my mid summer hikes. For those, I find that even the small size Zero is still too dang big…

      And yes, I know what you are saying about the way to clip it… I am looking forward to getting it out to use it, and I will be sure to try it both ways… unfortunately though, that looks like it may have to wait until Thanksgiving weekend being that my Olympics hike is so close, and I am using up all of my off days at work on it…

      Well see though…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  10. Hey Chad, wooot!!!

    I have really been loving this hybrid fabric – have used it on four packs now. Crazy tough material.

    What is the cordage in the loop just below the haul loop being used for? Guessing you added that in.

    Regarding it being slightly larger… yeah, my new XSmall Zero seems larger than my original XSmall zero… probably be a couple inches in width.

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    • Stick says:

      John,

      Thanks for stopping by. As always, I appreciate your input on cuben fiber as I know that you have some extensive use with lots of different weights and types. As for the hybrid material, there is no doubt in my mind that it will be a tough material, and this pack should be around for a long while…

      As for the cordage, that is 1/16″ shock cord. Surprisingly, they attached it before shipping it… I guess it comes with the shock cord attachment points for the pad. It didn’t come with any on my first Zero that I ordered with this option, which is fine by me… I have some of the same shock cord already.

      As for the size, I expected it to be taller, but not wider. I wonder if that has something to do with the fact that it has the roll top closure instead of the cinch top… OH well, I will be ordering the XS with the cinch top on it sometime soon so I will see…

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Hey Chad, with summer coming to an end here soon, my XSmall is going to be, well, too small, and I will have to go up a couple hundred cubic inches to store my down gear. So, if you would like I can throw my pumpkin pack into the mail and you can give it a size-comparison to what you have. Let me know.

      Like

    • Stick says:

      John,

      Hey man, I appreciate the offer… but I actually just hit submit on an order for an XS in the 1.43 cuben! So, I should have my own in about 3-4 weeks! WooHoo… 🙂

      However, it will be next year before I can use the pack… At the moment, I plan for this pack to be for my mid summer hikes in which I don’t have to pack any real insulation… and can likely even get away with using a silk liner as my sleeping gear!

      Thanks for the offer though, I appreciate it.

      ~Stick~

      Like

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