This is a review of some of the accessories I used from Zpacks on my 2015 thru hike. Z Packs are a small cottage backpacking company based out of Melbourne, Florida. They make all their gear from Cuben Fibre (recently renamed Dyneema Composite Fabrics). They’re known for innovative ultralight gear aimed at the ultralight backpacking community and thru hikers.
In the Ultralight Backpacking community Cuben Fibre Is the material of choice for shelters, backpacks and accessories for several reasons. I don’t want to go into too much detail on the material itself as I don’t have a vast amount of experience with it but it’s know to be:
- Waterproof – 100% waterproof although anywhere there is a seam water can in theory get in
- Lightweight – Lighter than all other materials used in the backpacking industry
- Durable – Very good tensile strength making it suitable for shelters, backpacks and accessories.
- Not great abrasion resistance.
- Tends to be more expensive than other materials on the market.
On the trail I used several products made by Z Packs
Roll Top Blast Food Bag
The Roll Top Blast Food Bag is a dry bag with a roll top closure, used to store your food in inside your backpack and hung appropriately to stop critters getting at your food. It has a couple of features that set it apart from the average dry bag.
The reason I picked up the Roll Top Blast Food Bag is its shape, the version I ordered is the Rectangular shape and it’s designed to fit vertically inside smaller ultralight packs. When backpacking, packing your bag correctly is a skill in itself. The food bag fits snugly inside my ULA Ohm 2.0 in the middle of the pack. Lighter gear like my quilt and puffy jacket go on the bottom and medium weight stuff goes on top of the food bag.
The stuff sack has a larger opening than most stuff sacks on the market. This makes organising your food much easier and it makes it easier to find that stray snickers bar that’s lurking at the bottom.
As well as the normal clips seen on this type of stuff sack it also has velcro to help keep the bag sealed securely.
Although my food bag did last for my entire thru-hike and is still useable it has several holes and is definitely not 100% waterproof anymore. I think that Cuben Fibre’s abrasion and puncture resistance leaves something to be desired, I found the bag was easily punctured when lowering the bag down from a bear hang. To be fair, many people had the same issues with the thinner sil-nylon stuff sacks so personally I’d recommend using a thicker dry bag and just dealing with the extra weight.
I’d like to see Zpacks use a thicker cuben material on their food bags and see more mainstream gear companies make sil-nylon stuff sacks that are shaped to fit backpacks vertically and have larger openings.
Backpack Shoulder Pouches
Now these little babies rock!
When getting all my gear together before the hike I was a little worried that my Ohm 2.0 was going to be too small. Browsing the Zpacks site I saw the Backpack Shoulder Pouches and was sold immediately. They are designed to carry extra gear or small water bottles and give you easy access to items you might need whilst hiking.
They attach by feeding each shoulder strap through the loops on the back of the pouch and lock in place using a cinch cord, this is much easier to understand visually in the Video above. At first I thought this was going to be a sketchy way of attaching the pouches but it held super strong and I never had any issues with the pouches moving around.
You don’t feel the pouches on your shoulder straps even if they are quite full unless you put really heavy stuff in there which I don’t reccomened. I tried small water bottles and it was an immediate no or me, it was just too much weight and the pockets would bounce around.
I used one of the pouches for storing my iPhone six in, making it easy to pull out and snap photos, check the guidebook or change the song I was listening to. The other was for snacks on the go, rather than taking the pack off I preferred just eating on the move and keeping the momentum going. There’s enough space in the pouches for 3 or 4 candy/granola bars.
Each pouch has a small elasticated mesh pocket on the front, great for small items like chapstick etc. It’s not the most secure spot though so I wouldn’t put anything too precious in there.
Quite early on in the trail I did have the synch cord pull out from one of the pouches and after a few attempts I gave up trying to thread it back through. For my snack pouch it wasn’t a big deal although granola bars would fall out sometimes.
Aside from that issue, the pouches are still going strong and I will use them whenever I go backpacking. When they eventually give out i’ll pick some up as quickly as possible, they are that good.
Wallet Zip Pouch
Years ago I stopped carrying traditional bulky wallets in favour of thin coin purse style wallets. I found that when I had a large wallet with room for twenty cards that i’d fill it up with useless points cards and other garbage I never used. Then i’d end up with an inch thick, cumbersome wallet in my back pocket that made sitting uncomfortable.
The problem with these coin purse type of wallets is they tend to be cheaply made and fall apart after six months, meaning I constantly needed to keep an eye out for new wallets that would fit the bill.
Again I stumbled across the Wallet Zip Pouch on the Zpacks website and thought that fact thats its pretty much waterproof would make it perfect for a six month hike.
I was right. The build quality is excellent, it holds everything I need it to and nothing more and its so slim I forget it’s in my pocket. I expected it to be wrecked after my Thru-Hike but it’s still going strong and I’ll be looking to pick up one or two the next time I’m in the US.
Passport Zip Pouch
Being a Brit on the AT meant having to carry my passport with me at all times. I wanted it to be protected from the elements so I used A leather case for the passport and then put it in the Passport Zip Pouch for waterproofness. Yes I probably could have used a ziplock bag but I wanted something more durable. I did it’s job well and I’ll continue to use it on all my future travels.
Right now I think Z Packs is one of the most innovative and forward thinking gear companies in the ultralight backpacking market.
I’d like to do some further testing with Cuben Fiber backpacks and shelters as my mind isn’t completely made up on the material but I do understand why it’s so popular right now.
Head on over to the Zpacks website and give them some of your business, you won’t regret it
Thanks so much of rechecking out this review and be sure to leave me a comment below with any questions or thoughts.
Thanks for stopping by, PIE