Gear Review: ZPacks Arc Blast UL Backpack
When someone says the name ZPacks people either know how awesome they are, or they have never heard of them. If you don’t know about ZPacks, I’m going to tell you about an amazing ultralight gear manufacturer based in Florida.
Circumstances of review
I carried an Arc Blast for no less than 2,000 miles of my AT thru hike in 2016. I’m rounding down, we didn’t slackpack that much in PA. I’d say that qualifies as a good base of information on the pack. My base weight fluctuated from 11-15 lbs throughout my hike. My total pack weight never exceeded 27 lbs. My gear choices seen in my pre trail gear list were extensively researched. Including my Arc Blast.
The Arc Blast is a cuben fiber ultralight backpack. It’s also super badass. That’s the reader’s digest description.
Weight: 21.0 ounces (595 grams)
Body dimensions: 7″ x 12.5″ x 30″ (18 cm x 31.8 cm x 76 cm)
Volume: 42L main body, 2.5L each side pocket, 8L center pocket, 55 Liters Total
Photos courtesy of ZPacks.com(their website has more awesome photos and descriptions)
The Arc Blast is a 55 liter pack that weighs 23 ounces. That honestly should be enough. There I said it. But wait… there’s more. This UL pack is the lightest pack I have seen that still creates air flow between the wearer and the gear. You know what swamp back is? Try hiking all summer with a backpack glued to your sweaty back. This roll top pack main compartment is 42 liters with two 2.5 liter side pockets and an 8 liter mesh pocket. The side pockets are large enough to fit a Nalgene bottle and designed so you can remove and replace it on the go. I’ll also go out on a limb and say this backpack is also waterproof, even if ZPacks won’t. I say this because I hiked in the rain many times. I didn’t have a single issue with any items inside getting wet. I sent my rain cover home by Trail Days because I didn’t need it. It’s rated up to 35 lbs which I carried comfortably, just not on my thru hike. All standard bear canisters will fit inside the pack.
I broke a carbon stay in Northern Virginia so my pack did not Arc for a few miles until they sent me a free pair ahead of me on the trail. The hip belt had less padding than I would like to see. I was also extremely thin by the time I hit New England. I started with a small hip belt and switched to an extra small at Trail Days. I used my ZSeat as additional padding eventually since I was already carrying that. The mesh pocket can be torn by sharp objects in the pocket.
Let’s talk about price because I’ve had several folks talk about going with ZPacks but they are weary because of the price. To purchase my pack set up right now it would be $370 plus shipping, and maybe tax. This pack weighs 23 ounces. Compare this weight and price alone to any other pack out there. The initial cost might seem high for the average hiker. But this pack is going to last forever for that average hiker. That’s a one time investment. For a thru hiker this pack is worth it’s weight in golden Ramen tickets. Waterproof, ultralight AND unlike other true ultralight pack manufacturers it also provides airflow. This was my highest priced item I purchased for my hike. It was well worth the price for what it truly is.
I couldn’t be happier with this pack, or the people from the company. I met the team at Trail Days where I picked up an extra small hip belt for $20. They instructed me how to safely replace it and provided me with an additional bar. I had a defect issue with my pack before I reached Tennessee. I emailed them photos and explained what was going on. They sent me a new pack to the hostel a few days north and I returned the damaged one for $7 shipping. They were simply amazing to work with. After almost 2,000 miles my pack still has plenty of life left in it. I intend to test it to it’s limits. I can’t say enough great things about the Arc Blast. It’s a fantastic pack and I highly recommend it.
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