ZPacks Arc Haul + Accessories Review

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Base stats:
– 60L, 24oz (without accessories)
– Dimensions: 7.5″ x 12.5″ x 30″ (19 cm x 31.8 cm x 76 cm)

I’ve never considered myself to be an ultralight backpacker.  With lighter and lighter gear on the market, I still turn to heavier gear and luxury items often, and my pack for most trips is between 25-45lbs, depending on planned activities.

I finally got a chance to see what a 20lbs pack would be on a hike.  Could have gone even lighter, but 20lbs is already the lightest pack I’ve ever used by a wide margin, and it’s true that it makes a noticeable difference on a hike.

What made the pack so light was in large part due to the contents, of course, as I’ve picked up some ultralight gear hear and there.

But a big chunk of the drop in weight is really due to my new pack itself:  The Zpacks Arc Haul (top loader) is under 31.5 oz with all the extras (just under 2 lbs).

To give you a sense of just how big a drop in weight that is for me, here is is compared to my other packs

– Berghaus Centurio 45 + MMPS + 5.1:  4lbs 2oz (66 oz)
– High Peak Pocatello:  5lbs 7oz (87 oz)
– Gregory Pack Baltoro 75 (2014):  5lbs 14oz  (94 oz)
– Tatonka Lastenkraxe:  8 lbs (128 oz)

In other words, the Zpacks Arc Haul is a full 2.15 lbs lighter than my next lightest pack.  And almost 4 lbs lighter than my most often used pack, the Baltoro.

Is it as rugged as the other packs I own?  No.  But it’s still plenty durable with reasonably careful use.  When my gear is light, this is definitely my new goto pack.  I’ll still use my Baltoro when packing a raft, and the Lastenkraxe is still very useful on group trips where there is water gathering or firewood gathering duty some distance form the campsite, but for most other trips, the Zpacks Arc Haul’s light weight really shines.

Let’s go through some of the interesting tidbits.

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First and foremost, what I like about this pack is that my Ridgerest Z-Lite Sol fits inside the pack, with room for the rest of my gear.  Most people keep the pad outside the pack, but keeping the pad inside serves two purposes.  First, it keep the pad relatively clean and dry, protecting it from rainy hikes, but also dusty hikes.  Secondly, it allows me to attach items to the outside of the pack that are more likely needed during a hike, or might need to stay out of the pack because it’s wet.  It’s hard to believe that a pack this light is large enough to keep the foam pad inside the pack.  Magic.

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Next, let’s talk a little about the suspension frame.  From all the forums, the frame is considered a great advantage for when the pack is fully loaded, giving the pack a high usability rating at 30-35 lbs, and making it usable even at 40 lbs.  Since I don’t use a frameless pack, or a floating frame pack, I can’t really compare to those, but from the perspective of a Baltoro and Lastenkraxe user, to me, the frame is the bare minimum frame you’d want.

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Essentially, the frame consists of two flat’ish horizontal bars, and two vertical rods.  these 4 pieces are not welded together.  Rather, they gain their structure through nylon fabric and tunnel’ed corners with plastic lash binders.  the two vertical rods have enough give that you can curve them slightly and lash-lock it with a plastic cord binding bit, which in turn adds additional tension to the mesh backing, and also pushes the back of the main pack away, creating airflow.  Great for warm weather hikes.  Overall though, I haven’t found this really necessary, and a straight vertical, without a curve has worked well.  I’ve heard of adjustable shoulder straps before, but an adjustable frame is new, and really is a well thought out bit of fabric and frame engineering.  Bear in mind though, that the rods are held in place by a nylon foldover mechanism with that plastic cord binder, so make sure to check it once in a while, just in case.

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The waist belt is actually pretty comfortable.  At first glance it looked rather flimsy, but I also use a Berghaus Centurio 45, which is just an ultra-wide nylon belt, no padding.  So the padding on the Arc Haul is more than adequate.  It fits very snug, and has enough give that even when taking big steps up (e.g. climbing on some rocks), the belt doesn’t really get in the way.  It doesn’t articulate as much as the Baltoro, but the thinner padding on the Arc Haul actually helps here.

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The shoulder straps are also a nice surprise.  The tensioners work very well and keep the pack pulled firmly against my upper body with pressure against my chest, while the waist belt keeps the weight off my collar bone or shoulders.  Surprisingly comfortable.

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One interesting innovation on this pack is compression.  I’m so used to nylon and buckle based compression straps that the idea of using a cord laced through the sides in a zigzag pattern is something that just never would have occurred to me as a viable option.  When I first stuffed the pack and started pulling on the side compression cord, I was sure it was too flimsy.  Nope, wrong.  This compression system works very well.  Pretty brilliant in actual use.

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The front mesh pocket, on the other hand, really does seem fragile.  As long as I’m careful to avoid putting anything too large and certainly nothing heavy, it should last a long time, but care must be given to avoid that, constantly.  I’m pretty careless and abusive with my gear when hiking, and when rushed, can imagine stuffing heavier or large items into the mesh pocket, so the need to be more careful is a little worrisome.  Still, there’s nothing to do but cross that bridge when a seam tear happens.

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The two side pockets at the bottom are perfect for heavy’ish items.  I keep a hydroflask in one, and the venture 30 battery in the other.  If I were to carry a liquid fuel stove, it’d probably go in the venture 30 pocket, and I’d move the venture 30 to one of the separately sold accessory pockets.  For dry backpacking trips, I’d probably put two large water bottles in these pockets instead.

The main pack is a top loader.  There is a Zip version of the Arc Haul which allows almost a full body front load, but again, since I always keep the foam pad at the front of the pack, it’s a wholly unnecessary feature for me.  The Baltoro also has a front loader zip, which I never use, so if you’re like me, and are happy with a top loader, shave weight by getting this version of the Arc Haul.

The main pocket is rather large, and will fit everything you need on a weekend backpacking trip if you’re not an ultralight camper.  If you are an ultralight camper, it should fit everything you need for weeks or even months on the trail.  I’ve heard of ultralight backpackers taking packs like this on the AT and PCT, so it certainly can be done.

Since I’m not an ultralight backpacker, here’s what I took on the last trip, and everything fit just fine:

– 12 oz mylar blanket
– Duomid and solo innernet
– carbon fiber pole
– Enlightened equipment quilt
– Ridgerest Z-Lite Sol
– Jetboil Sol & 1 gas can
– plastic thermal mug
– 18 oz hydroflask
– Energizer headlamp
– Leatherman Wave
– basic fire kit (two lighters, vaseline)
– basic first aid (bandaids, disinfectant, emt gel)
– basic hygiene (oral care, deoderant, two ultralight towels)
– basic kitchen (long spoon, some foil, scrubber, chopsticks, rag)
– minimal food (oatmeal packet, protein infused grains, tea/coffee/sugar, salt/pepper)
– bucket (seatosummit)
– trowel (plastic little guy)
– bear hang kit (bag, carabiner, 35’ paracord)
– spare 35’ paracord
– Sawyer micro water filter
– bug spray bottle
– bio-degradable (compostable) wet wipes
– 9 oz stool
– Delorme Enreach SE
– Venture 30 (battery only, no solar panel)
– iPhone
– clothing:
– hat
– hoodie,
– down sweater,
– work gloves
– warm liner gloves
– thermal runners cap
– spare base layers/underclothes

I also have a spare set of shoes you can see in the mesh pocket in some of the photos, but at the last minute, decided to wear those and leave the hiking boots behind.  On the actual trip, the mesh pocket held the work gloves and the hoodie.

On future trips, I might add the solar panel.  And maybe I would change the Jetboil Sol out with either a wood stove (e.g. emberlit titanium) or maybe a liquid fuel stove like the Primus Omnilite.  Not really sure.

——

On to the accessories

As a fan of pockets, I pretty much got every single accessory you can get with this pack.

First let’s break out everything (and the corresponding weights)

Main Arc Haul:  24 oz.
– 1 oz.  shoulder pouches
– 1.5 oz belt pouches
– 2.9 oz  multi-pack
– 1 oz top side pockets
– 0.3 oz, key pouch
– 0.2 oz trekking pole holders
– 0.5 oz shock cord lashing.

At a very high level, I’d say that most of the accessories are designed to be easily removable, but the attachment points aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  So, things come loose once in a while.  That’s okay though, because most of the attached pockets have multiple attachment points, so it’s unlikely that the pockets will fall off.  Just check them once in a while.

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The shoulder pouches are pretty stable, and held nice and firm.  I like how there is a main pocket and a mini mesh pocket as well.

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The belt pouches are probably among the most stable.  They have an elastic band that goes around the belt and attachment points on either end to prevent sliding on the belt.  I haven’t had a single issue with these.  These are the largest belt pouches I’ve seen on any waist belt and they’re much appreciated.  I wish all belt pouches were this size.

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The multi-pack has 4 attachment points, but they use buckles, so the attachments are pretty solid.  It’s designed to be attached in front or on top, depending on how you tighten the thin nylon straps.  I wouldn’t put anything heavy in this rather large pocket, but it fits bulky items well.

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The side pockets actually go near the top of pack on either side.  They are mesh pockets and again, not really designed to hold a lot of weight, but are perfect for little extras you want quick access to.  a few first aid items, bug repellant, maybe a GPS, and water filtration kit, or paracord, all fits nicely in these pockets.  These are the pockets that are most likely to come loose, so give these pockets a quick once over whenever you’re about to head out.

The key pouch fits inside the main pocket and though it’s suipposedly for a set of keys, it fits my wallet just fine.  Good to know exactly where my car keys and wallet are at the end of a hike.

I haven’t used the trekking pole loops yet, so can’t comment.

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The shock cord lashing on the front is awesome.  You can attach a hoodie or down sweater or wet towel to dry

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There is a lower section of cord lashing that can be used to attach either a sleeping pad, or in my case, a 9 oz foldable stool.

All in all, this is one amazing pack for its weight, and I’m looking forward to getting many camping trips in with a lot less strain on my back.

ZPacks Arc Haul product page:
http://www.zpacks.com/backpacks/arc_haul.shtml

The original review that made me buy one:  http://hikelighter.com/2015/08/04/zpacks-arc-haul-zip/

Other reviews from around the web:

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10 thoughts on “ZPacks Arc Haul + Accessories Review

  1. I have this pack in the black Arc Haul Zip version. I love it. By far the most comfortable pack I have owned. I like the look of the green. ZPacks is great to work with on custom stuff for it and they do that far cheaper them I would have imagined.

    Great review of a great pack.

    Liked by 1 person

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