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.
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…
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!
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.