ZPacks Arc Haul Ultra 60 Review

I‘m not an ultralight hiker, but even I couldn’t resist a chance to test out the all-new Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra. Zpacks just revamped the Arc Haul with cutting-edge Ultra 200 fabric, making it stronger and lighter than ever without sacrificing its comfort, load-bearing capacity, or characteristic curved frame.

So what’s changed about the new Haul and what’s stayed the same? Can this newfangled pack live up to the ultralight legacy of its forebears? I’ve been testing this pack for the past month to find out if it lives up to the hype. Let’s dive right in.

ZPacks Arc Haul Ultra 60 Pack At a Glance

arc haul ultra

The Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra. (Plz ignore kitchen chaos.)

  • MSRP: $399
  • Weight: 19.5 oz
  • Materials: Ultra 200 (main body), Lycra mesh (rear pocket), carbon fiber (frame)
  • Frame sizes: 17″ (short), 20″ (medium), 23″ (tall)
  • Volume: 60L

Circumstances of Review

I tested the Arc Haul in Pennsylvania and Vermont this January. My base weight during testing hovered around 17 pounds, owing to the extra clothing, fuel, double sleeping pads, etc. that are par for the course for winter hiking. Fully loaded with food and water, my pack weight was roughly 23-26 pounds.

Intended Use

This pack is ideal for thru-hikers, minimalists, ultralight enthusiasts, and confident beginners. Using this backpack isn’t rocket science. The design is simple and intuitive, and its generous 40-pound weight capacity makes it a realistic choice for the majority of backpackers, not just cut-up-toothbrush-wielding gram counters.

You do need to be sufficiently passionate about mountains to justify the steep $400 investment in this pack. Also, understand that the Arc Haul is truly minimalist in design. You must be willing to forgo the luxurious padding and convenient organizational features of a heavier, built-out pack.

What the Heck Is Ultra 200?

arc haul ultra

Ultra 200 is UHMWPE face fabric (black, matte material in bottom half of picture) laminated to a waterproof backing (shiny grey, top half).

The latest Arc Haul is made of Ultra 200 fabric? That’s SO COOL! … Actually wait what does that mean?

In the world of cutting-edge ultralight fabrics, Ecopak EPL Ultra 200 is the new kid on the block. It’s 200-denier ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) with a recycled polyester backing. UHMWPE is essentially unbranded Dyneema, but the particular configuration of face fabrics in Ultra 200 set it apart from the Dyneema that’s traditionally used in packs.

READ NEXT – EcoPak: Revolutionizing Thru-Hiking Packs for a Better Planet

Ultra 200 weighs about the same as backpack-strength Dyneema, and like Dyneema, it’s inherently waterproof. But despite those similarities, Ultra has far more tear strength and abrasion resistance than Dyneema—the heretofore champion of high-strength low-weight fabrics—which hopefully will translate into greater longevity. Per their website, Ultra 200 is now the strongest material Zpacks offers.

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra vs. Arc Haul vs. Arc Blast

Previous versions of the Arc Haul featured ultralight Gridstop fabric with a waterproof urethane coating on the inside. The Gridstop Arc Haul was the somewhat more durable counterpart to Zpacks’ popular, Dyneema-based Arc Blast—it was a few ounces heavier than the blast but could carry a heavier load.

The Arc Haul Ultra combines the best features of the traditional Haul and the Arc Blast: it’s even more durable than Gridstop but is far lighter, bringing the pack’s total weight more in line with that of the Blast without sacrificing volume or carrying capacity.

Unlike the original Haul,  the Ultra doesn’t have a hydration port. Also, the back pocket is now made with stretchy Lycra mesh. While the OG Haul used Zpacks’ Flexed Arc frame, the Arc Haul Ultra uses the company’s Curved Carbon Air Stays. According to Zpacks, the stays are easier to use, more durable, and hold the shape of the pack better than the original frame.

The company plans to continue to sell Gridstop Arc Hauls until their inventory runs out and then shift to exclusively selling the new Ultra 200 version.


The Arc Haul Ultra in Storm Grey weighs 0.5 ounces less than the black version thanks to weight-saving Ultra 100 accents.

Ultra 200 fabric: This 200d fabric is the Arc Haul Ultra’s claim to fame. The updated Haul is now three ounces lighter thanks to this cutting-edge material, which is stronger than Dyneema and just as light. Note: I tested the standard black backpack, which is 100% 200d Ultra. The grey option weighs 0.5 ounces less because the grey accents are weight-saving Ultra 100 fabric.

EPL Ultra is also inherently waterproof, and Zpacks taped all the seams. Coupled with the pack’s Velcro-reinforced roll-top closure, that means the pack is water-resistant enough to ditch the heavy pack cover. (I will probably still use a garbage bag liner in wet conditions as a backup).

40-pound load-carrying capacity: The fact that the Arc Haul is one of the lightest packs on the market, yet has best-in-class load-bearing capacity, has always been a huge selling point. The newest Haul continues to live up to that legacy, with most of the same load-carrying features as the previous version (and some improvements, notably the switch to Curved Carbon Fiber Air Stays for the frame).

arc haul ultra

Compression straps on either side of the pack keep the contents under control and provide extra storage.

Side compression straps: Simple shock cord straps on either side of the pack allow you to cinch down the material for carrying smaller loads. They’re also useful for securing tall items like trekking poles in the water bottle pockets.

Large water bottle pockets: The side pockets are big enough to carry two 1L Smartwater bottles or a Smartwater plus an umbrella. They’re made of Ultra 200 and have elastic along the top to secure contents. The pockets feature an angled cut that’s lower toward the back, making it easier to grab your bottle. Each pocket has a tiny drain hole in the bottom to prevent them from flooding during rainstorms.

You can access the water bottle pockets with the pack on, but it’s a little awkward.

Worth noting: I still found the pockets fairly awkward compared to other backpacks I’ve used, though it got somewhat easier once I adjusted the torso length.

Lycra mesh center pocket: The Arc Haul Ultra now uses Lycra mesh for the back pockets, rather than the more porous mesh used in the traditional Haul and the Arc Blast. The pocket is low-profile but stretchy enough to provide ample room for stuffing snacks and spare clothing. It’s a much tighter mesh than the previous version, but still porous enough to dry wet gear.

Two adjustable shock cord loops are ideal for storing bulky items like foam pads and freestanding tents.

Top and bottom straps: Two shock cord straps at the bottom of the pack are perfect for securing a foam sleeping pad. On my pack, the tensioners are fairly stiff, but I’m hoping they’ll ease up with continued use. Meanwhile, a single webbing strap buckles from front to back across the top of the pack, providing additional structure and a place to stuff a jacket or a bag of chips.

Adjustable torso: The pack is available in three size ranges: 16-19, 19-23, and 23-26 inches. You can manually adjust the torso even further to get the perfect fit for your body. It’s easy to adjust, so you can mess around with it until you dial in the fit.

Individual tensioners on top and bottom make it easy to adjust the belt to the curvature of your hips.

Dual-adjustable / removable hip belt: You can get a perfect fit by individually tensioning the top and bottom of the hip belt. You can also remove the hip belt altogether if that’s your jam.

Arc Haul Ultra Pros

Ultralight: This 60L pack weighs just 19.5 ounces, making it one of the lightest packs on the market. These incredible weight savings will likely be the biggest selling point for most thru-hikers. But it’s more than just that. With 40 pounds of carrying capacity, it’s an ultralight pack that’s capable of hauling decidedly non-ultralight loads. You don’t have to be an ounce counter to avail yourself of this comfy, lightweight pack.

zpacks arc haul ultra

Adjust the height of the sternum strap via these daisy chains on the shoulders (and/or clip stuff to them for extra storage).

Modular and highly adjustable: Just about every feature (other than the sewn-on rear and side pockets) can be adjusted or removed altogether, allowing you to fine-tune the fit and weight of your pack.

The ability to replace components will be especially important now that the Haul is being made with durable Ultra 200. I could see the main body of the pack far outlasting the shoulder straps, hip belt, and suspension system. But if I snap a stay, tear a back panel, or wear out the padding, I should be able to easily replace those parts, hopefully extending the pack’s lifespan by many years.

Comfy: I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable this pack is—not just lightweight, but truly ergonomic, and supportive. The curved stays keep the pack off my back and do a great job of transferring the load to my hips. Meanwhile, the hip belt wraps around snugly for a secure fit. The 3D mesh cushioning in the hips and shoulders is very firm but quite comfortable. I’ve never struggled with sore hips or shoulders or felt the straps were digging in at all.

This is the first pack I’ve encountered with a trampoline-style suspension system that I didn’t hate. The Lycra back panel is lightweight and breathable. The stays curve the pack away from your back to create generous airspace. I have yet to test this pack above freezing, but I’m sure that when summer rolls around I’ll appreciate the cross-breeze against my back.

arc haul ultra

The Haul’s curved frame keeps the load away from your back and provides lots of air circulation, which I assume will be awesome when it’s not five degrees outside.

Arc Haul Ultra Cons

No hip belt pocket: More and more packs are going pocketless these days, but I just can’t get on board with the trend. Where am I supposed to put my snacks?!

You can order shoulder and belt pouches separately from Zpacks or go with a fanny pack. But paying extra for an accessory that used to come standard on most packs is a bitter pill for a stick in the mud like me.

No internal pockets/brain: This won’t be a big deal to anyone who’s already bought into the ultralight backpack craze. However, if you’re upgrading from a fully-featured pack, you’re going to miss all those handy compartments.

Price: At nearly $400 MSRP, this is one of the most expensive thru-hiking packs on the market. I can’t think of many packs with a base price as high as this one. It’s $50 more than the original, Gridstop Arc Haul as well. Hopefully, Ultra 200’s superior durability will mean this pack lasts for years. Still, it’s a pretty hefty up-front investment.

Overall Impressions

I really like this pack and can’t wait to hit the trails with it in milder weather for a change. The cost will be an issue for many people, but if you can swing the price tag, the comfort and functionality are absolutely worth it. With any luck, the pack’s superior durability will make it a cost-effective option in the long run.

If you’re already a Zpacks devotee, the Arc Haul Ultra is much like the original Haul but better. It’s more durable and slightly (but significantly) lighter without sacrificing any of the original’s beloved features. For relative newcomers, it’s just an all-around great pack. It’s reasonably sized, lighter and tougher than most, and versatile enough to appeal to just about every type of backpacker, from weekend warriors to hardcore thru-hikers.

Shop the Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60

Comparable Packs

Zpacks Arc Haul

  • MSRP: $349
  • Weight: 22 oz

Zpacks Arc Blast

  • MSRP: $375
  • Weight: 20 oz

Pa’lante V2

  • MSRP: $240
  • Weight: 17 oz

The Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra was donated for purpose of review.

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Comments 9

  • Marcio : Jan 27th

    Zpacks Corporation offers one of the lightest backpacks in its size range. It’s also tough as nails made with Dyneema®
    The Arc Blast weighs just 21 ounces but is built to carry up to 35 pounds, with super-durable Dyneema® fabric.
    Dyneema® Fiber & Composite Fabrics that Zpacks Corporation utilized on this bag among several other of its bags and tents, is fully produced in the USA, under strict #environmentallyfriendly conditions, with #biobased fiber, zero #emissions and #renewableenergy. Dyneema cares about the #environment and #people…

  • Jasper : Jan 27th

    Thanks for the fun, down-to-earth review, Kelly!

    I was suuuuper tempted by the Arc-series options when I was (endlessly…) looking at and comparing them online while sorting out which would best suit me for my upcoming thru. I ended up going in a different direction for a few reasons, but as a fairly sweaty person, that air flow is *soooo* appealing.

    Given how frequently people with previous Arc models have had issues with the curved stays popping out of the stitching and poking through fabric, I’m curious to see what the long-term durability of this new version will be. At such a high price-point, I really hope Zpacks has sorted that whole situation out beyond increasing the durability of the stays themselves.

  • GPS : Jan 28th

    Not sure I would call the Pa’Lante a comparable bag, given their vastly different volumes (31L internal vs 47L). I recently searched through a lot of the ultra 20 bags0 out there. MLD, SWD, and LiteAF have bags of comparable volume. Plenty of lower volume options such as Pa’Lante, Nashville, redpaw, etc

  • Butch Taylor : Jan 28th

    The perspective on one of those pictures accompanying the discussion is ridiculous. Did anyone look at this before it was published?

    • Doug Naylor : Jan 28th

      The purple one? I’m definitely not complaining. 😉

    • KS : Mar 2nd

      As a curvy lady the close up picture was extremely helpful. Can’t tell if you’re offended by the female shape or judging gender as a con. Would the same pic of a guy with large pecs or a belly have struck the same cord? ?

      Very helpful article, thanks Kelly

  • jhony : Feb 25th

    Good luck.

  • awtwp : Apr 17th

    Their multipack can be used as a brain, chest, shoulder, or fanny pack, and they have stick-on zip pockets and side pockets you can add as well.
    When I first got one of their packs (bad knees, so low weight seemed worth the cost), I hated the lack of many pockets for organizing compared to my old Kelty, but the modular approach has grown on me. It gives you the option of lightest weight or custom organization via accessories, though the latter adds weight and cost.

    • awtwp : Apr 17th

      P.S. Also, the pocketless approach is very practical in terms of securing the contents and not snagging on brush (or airline conveyer equipment!)
      Also, their various pouches are roomy and almost waterproof, and I now prefer them to my old gear. I use the belt pouches. The weight savings is insane, and this new Ultra fabric reduces durability issues.


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