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Jed Augustine
(jaugusti) - F

Locale: Appalachians/Rockies
Help! Pack decision! on 01/18/2009 22:18:59 MST Print View

Hey y'all-

I am trying to decide which pack to get to match my move to ultralight, and I've pretty much come to a standstill about which pack to get. I have been oscillating between the Z-packs Blast 32, the MLD Exodus, and the ULA Conduit. They each have pros and cons and grah! I can't figure out which one is best!

Here are my guidelines/restrictions: expense is not so much an issue as durability. I am willing to invest in order to get years out of this baby. I want it to be versatile as possible, useable for overnighters, 3-4 day trips, and even the 10 day long hauls (my base weight is hovering between 6-8 pounds right now). And of course, I want it to be lightweight. Here's the pros and cons as I see it:

ZPack Blast 32: 3200 ci, 7.53 oz with the options I want, excellent compressibility options, and winged hip belt with built in pockets. No mesh outer pockets to dry stuff, but shock cord lashing makes that moot. The main concern is the relatively poor durability of the fabric when compared with the other packs. This is a pack I can use for years if I don't do a thru-hike and am very careful with it. But I'm rough with my packs.

ULA Conduit: 3200 ci, 17.4 oz with desired options. The main sell of this is the price, the good durability, and the luscious hip belt with built in pockets. I have an old version of this, and hoo boy it makes for a lovely ride.

MLD Exodus: The best durability, as well as the best compressibility, of the three at an excellent weight of 13.8 oz with a max capacity of 3,600 ci and a minimum of 1,800 ci. The only minus for me is the lack of built in hip belts. I love me some hip belt pockets, primarily for easy access to cameras, GORP/bars/snacks, gloves and the like, so after adding two large hip belt pockets, the weight creeps up to 16.2, close to the Conduit, which you can purchase with built in hip belt pockets.

As y'all can tell, I am pretty hung up on hipbelts! I think I'm leaning towards the MLD, but the lightness of the Blast 32 and the hip belt of the Conduit really have a hold on me.

I'd appreciate any thoughts and advice.

I hope all is well out there.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"Help! Pack decision!" on 01/18/2009 22:24:08 MST Print View

They are all good choices, but maybe you should tell us what 'ultralight' gear you're using so we can help you out better.

But, the Z-packs pack doesn't look like it will meet your specifications, especially if you are going to be in rugged terrain or will be carrying loads heavier than 20lbs. because it is frameless.

-Evan

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: Help! Pack decision! on 01/18/2009 22:24:32 MST Print View

Those all look like great packs but I have no experience with them so I can't really recommend one over another. What I can suggest is that if you are really, really stuck is to order them all and test them yourself. It is hard to choose a pack w/o being able to try it on and get a feel for it. Since I'm pretty sure they all have generous return policies, the only cost of going this route is the shipping and handling.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: "Help! Pack decision!" on 01/18/2009 22:27:30 MST Print View

Evan -

All of those packs are frameless. Also, everybody has different comfort levels using frameless packs. Some may feel overloaded at 20 lbs while others can easily carry over 30 lbs with comfort. It really depends on body type and personal preference. This is another reason why it is hugely beneficial to try packs on before making your final decision.

Edited by pedro87 on 01/18/2009 22:32:15 MST.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"Help! Pack decision!" on 01/18/2009 22:32:19 MST Print View

Oh, thanks for correcting me, Peter.

-Evan

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: "Help! Pack decision!" on 01/18/2009 22:38:11 MST Print View

No prob, it just shows that I waste WAY too much time perusing lightweight gear manufacturer websites. but i mean, wuts better than browsing BPL at 12:30 in the morning when I should be sleeping :D

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"Help! Pack decision!" on 01/18/2009 22:53:14 MST Print View

I totally agree with you, Peter.

I am personally addicted to Ultralight Backpacking and the manufacturer's websites that make the gear I envy!

-Evan

Craig Burton
(MissingUtah)

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: Help! Pack decision! on 01/18/2009 23:28:53 MST Print View

I can comment/compare on the MLD Exodus and the ULA Conduit since I do have both.

I must say, that in my opinion... both packs are awful as daypacks. I was hoping that I could use one or the other as a daypack with just a couple of items in them but neither get the job done... No big deal, I don't really daypack anyway, it just would be nice if that versatility were there without sacrificing comfort.

For durability, I would say it's just about a draw between the two. I do feel that the MLD is much more tear resistant; but I also think it is more susceptible to strap/buckle failures. Luckily neither failure has happened for me on either pack; but the ULA straps and buckles are much beefier than what MLD uses. The mesh and the main fabric on the MLD I feel are superior to the ULA. I'm not sure which pack would "fail" first, but I do think the ULA would rip/tear first.

At 6'1, and thin, the fit on the ULA is not fantastic, but it gets the job done when packed properly. I feel that the waistbelt on the MLD is a more functional fit for someone my size; but the ULA carries on my back much better.

I've never really filled either pack -- not even on my 6 day trips; so I'm not sure which pack would carry better when full. Something tells me that the ULA would win though.

In the end, I find myself more often pulling out my ULA simply because of those hipbelt pockets. What a luxury those things can be.

It's a tough choice between the two, and that's exactly how I ended up with both.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Help! Pack decision! on 01/19/2009 08:33:38 MST Print View

Jed,

I have the Blast 32. It is uncomfortable enough at 25 pounds that I will use another pack. I would not use it for more than 4 nights unsupported - but that is bulk of my hiking.

However, hip belt pockets with zippers are a design flaw. The draw sting closures on the zpacks are much better than zippers.

Jed Augustine
(jaugusti) - F

Locale: Appalachians/Rockies
Hip belt pockets: zipper design flaw on 01/19/2009 09:37:22 MST Print View

Dear Richard-

Could you elaborate on how zippers are a design flaw for hip belt pockets, and how the draw string closure of the Zpacks is better?

Thanks!

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Re: Help! Pack decision! on 01/19/2009 09:40:01 MST Print View

I have an MLD Super Zip which is the older version of the exodus and for some reason I still find myself jealous of my wifes Conduit. It is just a real solid pack for a great price.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Hip belt pockets: zipper design flaw on 01/19/2009 10:36:06 MST Print View

Jed,

The draw sting closure is easier to operate. Most of the time it takes two hands to operate a zipper pocket.

I have used zipper waist belt pockets on Six Moon Designs, Gossamer Gear and Mchale packs. The zpacks is be far the most convenient.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Hip belt pockets: zipper design flaw on 01/19/2009 10:45:53 MST Print View

Richard,

The MLD drawstring pouch can be opened and closed one-handed? Does the pouch come with a cordlock?

Edited by ben2world on 01/19/2009 10:49:36 MST.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Hip belt pockets: zipper design flaw on 01/19/2009 11:16:47 MST Print View

Ben,

I do not know about the MLD or ULA pockets.

The Six Moon Designs, Gossamer Gear and McHale all work pretty well when the pockets are loaded right. The two handed operation is when they are half full or loaded with odd shaped gear. Two handed operation is not so bad without trekking poles, but......

The zpack pocket can always be accessed with one hand. While it does require two hands to close you do not need to drop the straps on trekking poles to do it.

The zpack draw strings do have cordlocks.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Hip belt pockets: zipper design flaw on 01/19/2009 12:56:34 MST Print View

Thanks, Richard.

The hip belt pouches on my Zpack -- bought a few years ago -- have a flap with velcro. They allow for easy one-hand operation. I've never had anything drop out -- not a lipbalm or even a teeny tiny BPL drop-bottle. Given that, I prefer velcro over drawstring or zipper.

Linda Vassallo
(eastbayhiker) - M

Locale: Eastbay
ZPack Blast 3200, Pack and Pockets on 01/19/2009 12:59:46 MST Print View

Hi Jed,

I recently went thru the same decision making process as you. Could not decide between the Exodus or the Blast. I made my decision after assessing the total volume needed in a pack, and of course, the weight of the pack was a factor. I felt the Exodus would end up being too big for my needs (my gear list is posted to see volume carried)

I decided on the Blast 3200 in Cuben Fiber. It weights 6.11 oz with options. The fabric seems very sturdy and I expect it will last for several years. Joe Valesko has used his to thru hike the PCT and I believe the AT as well. He states the pack held up well.

I have carried it with all my gear and even loaded it with extra weight (at around 18-19 lbs)to see how it would do. It has been very comfortable, stable, and light on my back. I hardly knew I had a pack on. The shoulder straps are also very comfortable for me. I do not have the padded hip belt and don't feel that I need it with this pack at this load weight. For me the pack size is good - not too small, not too big.

I have also used it with a lighter load to test the compressibility and balance. Utilizing the shock cord lashing, it compresses fairly well. I won't hesitate to use it on shorter overnight or weekend hikes.

I really like the drawstring pockets. I use one belt pocket for my camera, and occasionally, one for snacks or other item. I use a shoulder pocket for lip balm, mosquito net or other small items or a water bottle.

The drawstrings make access to these items quick and easy. Only drawback is that the belt pocket is not padded and some care is needed to avoid banging the camera around when putting the pack on or taking it off.

Hope this is helpful.

LV

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
ULA and Z on 01/19/2009 13:47:58 MST Print View

I have a Zpacks Blast. I dont think you will get much use out of a pack that big unless you do light/bulk trips such as the hugeness of a winter bag. For 6-8lb base it is way too big, and for anything over 20lbs it just wont work well. That's ok, it is obvious to anyone looking at that pack that its for bulky light loads. The problem begins when you set it down in the snow and then cant find it..

Im not sure I get the ULA vs. MLD pack fabric durability. It was my understanding that they are both the same fabric(that is, dyneema X)
Guess you must be talking of the mesh.
Both are great Im sure, I owned a ULA pack and cannot argue any major plus from one over the other, exept to say the ULA is more affordable, if that matters. Dont forget there are other options, The Starlite and the Mariposa to name a couple.

*edit. i just placed my order for a ULA conduit. after owning the AMP, i had no second guesses about Brian's products. i opted for the embroidered "trail name" option. now, I can sport my "te-wa" logo for all to see

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 01/19/2009 15:22:51 MST.

Jed Augustine
(jaugusti) - F

Locale: Appalachians/Rockies
Pack Help Questions on 01/21/2009 21:50:46 MST Print View

@ Linda: Thanks for the info on volume and choice of pack. From your gear list, it looks like we actually have a lot of the same or similar items. Have you carried it with more than 20 lbs? I've carried other frameless packs comfortably up to 30 lbs.

@ Mike: What makes you say that the ZPack wouldn't be good beyond 20 lbs and that its only good for the light and bulky loads? Thanks for the info on the MLD and ULA packs both being made out of Dyneema X. I missed that!

Looking at the MLD Exodus and ULA Conduit, I am having difficulty seeing where the 3.2 ounce difference in weight comes from. Are the hip belt pockets on the Conduit that much weight? It seems like the other features of the Exodus would add up too. And can anyone explain the price difference?

Linda Vassallo
(eastbayhiker) - M

Locale: Eastbay
Re: Pack Help Questions on 02/07/2009 13:50:01 MST Print View

Hi Jed,

I have carried 18-20 lb loads with the Zpack. I do think it will easily handle heavier loads comfortably as well. I should throw in some heavy items to check it out officially.

I agree with Michael that it is a big pack for smaller loads. Having said that, however, I have used the pack for smaller loads-as a day pack-to see how it would balance, etc. Carried about 8 lbs. It was just as stable and comfortable-feather light. I just cinch up the shock cord lashing to compress the pack size.

I'm happy to know that as I continue to adjust my base load and reduce bulk further the pack will adjust to the load. Also good to know that the pack has the capacity for larger loads when needed and will remain balanced when the load shrinks in size. A thru-hike comes to mind here.

For me the Zpack is a very versatile. As a side note, got off-trail into some very thick shrubs with lots of sharp branches-all tugging at me as I pushed my way through. The pack suffered no ill-effects though my hands and ankles were scratched up a bit.

I had considered the MLD Exodus but decided it would be too large a capacity for my needs (larger that the Z).

Happy hunting

LV

dan mchale
(wildlife) - MLife

Locale: Cascadia
look Ma, no hands! on 02/14/2009 19:33:35 MST Print View

Richard,

What belt pockets do you have? If you have the Basics you can anchor the rear side (undo the belt attacment strap and feed it through the rear loop of the pouch)so that you can at least open them one handed when you close them to the rear. If you have a right hand Basic you can run the belt strap through the front loop of the pocket to anchor the front side and then it may help to let go of the rear top attachment. You can do the same with the left belt buckle - I'll have to try that too. You then need to adjust the rear attachment so the pocket does not get tight when the belt wraps around the hip. Houston Out.

Obviously, the Crests are meant to be 2 handed but more and more I am making them mount in optional/multiple ways when they go out.

Edited by wildlife on 02/14/2009 20:28:11 MST.