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ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review on 05/19/2009 16:49:15 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
I love my Blast 18 on 05/19/2009 17:39:52 MDT Print View

it's been my primary go-to pack for weekend trips the last couple of years (I've done 5 one-night and one 2-night trips with it).

I agree with Ryan about the top closure string diameter being too small & plan to replace mine with a thicker line - the thin line also slips easily in the cordlock & I expect the thicker line will hold better; not a major issue though.

i also got the stripped-down, basic model & wouldn't change much else - i'd upgrade the padding in the straps (the super thin that i have is thinner than those pictured in ryan's review, which is why i think my pack is also a little lighter); the shoulder straps tend to crumple up into very thin, rope-like constrictors.

i'd also get a sternum strap, though the little one i improvised with some cord and a mini beaner works fine.

i don't use a foam pad in mine - i just stuff it full, putting my deflated BA insulated airecore against my back. seems to ride well enough and be comfortable.

it is super cool to be walking around with a pack that weighs less than a tshirt - if empty, can probably tie some string to it & fly it like a kite.

Edited by cbert on 05/19/2009 17:40:43 MDT.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: I love my Blast 18 on 05/19/2009 18:52:32 MDT Print View

Hi Ryan,

Just wanted to say well done on the photos for this review. Not sure who did the photography but kudos for a great effort. Top notch!

Obviously not a point and shoot camera though, and the d.o.f. and field of view would suggest it's not the Sigma DP1. So was someone lugging a dSLR on this trip? If so, I have to chuckle at the thought of one guy hauling around 1.5pound+ dSLR while the other one has his gear in a SUL pack weighing a few ounces.

Anyway, please share on the camera details. Especially if it wasn't a load-monster.

Cheers, Ashley

James Gealy
(surnailz) - F

Locale: White Mountains
Blast Packs (26) on 05/19/2009 19:22:06 MDT Print View

First off, well done review, Ryan! I'm a big fan of my Blast 26 and I'm glad that there is some press on Z-Packs on BPL, finally. My method of padding the load is to use a GG Nightlight with its middle section on my back and its wings to the sides of the pack. Perfect width and section size. After a number of day hikes last year and a couple overnights, the durability has not been an issue at all. Also, I went with the thickest strap padding and have not had any rolling issues. In fact, the straps were a bit stiff at first and dug into my shoulders somewhat, but this has since resolved itself as they see more use. Overall, a great pack that I highly recommend.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
ZPacks Blast 18 on 05/19/2009 19:48:25 MDT Print View

Thanks for the clear and thorough review. FWIW, My 2009 MLD Cuben Revelation does NOT feel like hauling a log, and does not roll and bobble, because the sectional shape is rectangular, not tubular. The padded shoulder straps arc inward, minimizing any tendency to slip off the shoulders, and the winged hip belt stabilizes everything. Also, it has outside shock cord loops, and the back pocket is mesh, not solid like the ZPack's, allowing wet items to drain. The top snaps shut, then allows it to be rolled down for water protection.

Joseph Valesko
( - F
ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review on 05/20/2009 08:49:42 MDT Print View

Nice Review!

One correction though, the base price of the Blast 18 pack with no options has always been $105, not $130 as given. (I believe Ryan is going to update the article shortly...)

Thanks for the comments, it is great to get feedback! I'll address a couple issues that have been brought up-

Originally the shoulder padding on the Blast 18 was 1/8" thick, but it was increased due to the rolling issue Cary mentioned. If anyone has one of the originals with 1/8" padding I would be happy to add new straps for free, just shoot me an email.

A few of you mentioned the thin draw cord. I know for sure that the thin cord won't cut through the material, but I plan to start using thicker cord from now on for everyone's peace of mind :). The weight is negligable and it will look nicer too.

In response to Robert Tangen-
There is no such thing as a "rectangular" or "tubular" frameless pack. The shape of the pack is entirely determined by what you put in it. FWIW The base of the pack is sewn rectangular.

A webbing belt is a cheap add on ($6) and would solve any wobbling issues. Probably 95% of people add a belt. Mesh pockets are also a free option.

One last thing- the top of the pack does compress down preventing any water from entering. Of course it doesn't work if the pack is loaded all the way to the brim as in Ryan's case. The 2600 ci pack at 3.9 oz would have been a better size for that load!

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review on 05/20/2009 09:40:09 MDT Print View

Ryan, nice to see this review. I have a Blast 26 and love it. I want to add the Blast 18 to my pack arsenal but can't justify it right now...I just cinch down my 26 for smaller loads.

I do have to question why you have Joe's pack options listed under the "what's not so good" section? In my mind, this is a huge bonus...customizing a pack to fit your needs is great, they are options can always "opt" out :)

And just to clarify, all of the pockets in the Blast have drain grommets in the bottom so you can put wet stuff in the no problems. Also, I have no problems reaching my water bottles in the side pockets while wearing my pack, but I have 2 elbows on each arm. ;)

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
ZPacks Blast 18 on 05/20/2009 10:38:43 MDT Print View

Re: "In response to Robert Tangen-
There is no such thing as a "rectangular" or "tubular" frameless pack. The shape of the pack is entirely determined by what you put in it. FWIW The base of the pack is sewn rectangular." I BEG TO DIFFER, although I am no expert. I have the old MLD Revelation, which you seem to have copied exactly, except in Cuben fiber. Did you not read Ryan's comment that the pack fills out into the shape of a "log?" That's exactly what happens with the old Revelation, and what does NOT happen with the new one. The new pack has a wide, flat sheet of fabric in front and in back, and a narrow sheet of fabric on each side, with four seams providing a noticeable and effective structure, which the old pack does not have. (I can't speak to the ZPack, just the old Revelation.) Imagine a stuff sack for a shovel, shaped like the big pocket on most packs, but free floating: let's say the front panel is 18" square, as is the back panel, and the 2 side panels and the bottom panel are 2" by 18" are you saying the shape of that bag is totally determined by what's in it? I BEG TO DIFFER.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
blast off! on 05/20/2009 10:44:44 MDT Print View

Joe V., i still have that prototype Blast 16 that you sent me a couple years back... can you believe, after about 100 miles of Superstition shrub live oak, pointleaf manzanita, chainfruit cholla and catsclaw mimosa that little pack is still holding up? i have placed a 2" square of duct tape over one of the pockets and there is some fraying going on with the other pocket, but over all it has been a fun, light pack for summer outings. I took it through the West Fork of Oak Creek with a sub 3lb base last year.
Im using a sitlight pad for a frame. I do find the shoulder straps will fold up but so far it has not been disturbing. I did opt for a waist belt, a little overkill for this pack at 1" wide, but it comes in handy.
would i send it back for new shoulder padding? pro'lly not, if i could get you to make another blast 16 and i could add mesh on the sides and front. viva Zpacks!

Joseph Valesko
( - F
Circle or Rectangle?? on 05/20/2009 13:46:02 MDT Print View

Try this for example:

Sew 4 pieces of fabric into a rectangle.

Now sew the same 4 pieces into a circle.

It's exactly the same and can be shaped either way depending what you put in it.
(of course the base is sewn as a rectangle but that only affects the bottom.)

Edited by on 05/20/2009 14:28:29 MDT.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review on 05/20/2009 14:20:49 MDT Print View

Very nice and informative review, Ryan. I really enjoyed reading it. Joe, I don't own one of your packs, but I plan to in the near future. It looks like a great product at a great value. It seems that for the price, durability and longevity your SUL packs can't be beat. These are three characteristics that I look for in anything that I buy, gear or otherwise. I'm sold.

Oh, and Ryan, I just wanted to second Ashley with regards to the photography in this article. It is really top- notch. He/she caught some really nice moments. Kudos to your photographer.

Edited by socalpacker on 05/20/2009 14:30:47 MDT.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
ZPacks Blast 18 on 05/20/2009 15:06:30 MDT Print View

Mr. Valesko, Re: circles and rectangles: I'm sorry, I'm not getting a clear visual image of what you described. (PS, I have nothing against you or your packs, and I have no bias in favor of MLD. I'm just trying to be objective.) Are you maintaining that the snow shovel sack I describe has no structure indedpent of what's in it? If structure couldn't be built into pure fabric, then Armani suits wouldn't be more highly valued than cheap Walmart suits.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
maybe "structure" can be fuzzy on 05/20/2009 15:25:08 MDT Print View

armani and walmart have the same value to me: zero.

Joseph Valesko
( - F
? on 05/20/2009 15:29:06 MDT Print View

If you cram a sleeping bag into your shovel sack, does it hold its 2 x 18 x 18 rectangle shape or does it become more like a ball?

If it stays rectangular it must be incorporating the same expensive magic they use to make Armani suits.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
ZPacks Blast 18 on 05/20/2009 15:49:37 MDT Print View

Re: stuffing a sleeping bag: I agree it will become more like a ball than when it has plywood in it. But, it won't entirely lose it's 18 X 18 X 2 shape. Right this second I am looking at the old Revelation and the new Revelation, each containing similar stuff, and I swear to God that the new Revelation has a flat back and a flat front, and the old Revelation looks like a sausage. Try it, and report back.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: ZPacks Blast 18 on 05/20/2009 16:59:21 MDT Print View

increasingly value that elusive and ill-defined metric we call the "performance-to-weight ratio"

Me too

Good review. Performance-to-weight ratio is often missed in our exuberance to lighten up. I'm working on a gear list that I'm calling LUL (luxury ultralight). P-to-W justified!

I don't have the Blast 18, but have enjoyed the Zpacks Z1. Great product from a great company, IMO.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review on 05/20/2009 20:03:33 MDT Print View

I recently purchased a Zpacks "Zero" Pack from Joe in a (volume) size Medium, which is essentially a Blast 18, minus the outer pockets. I ordered bungee lashing for wet items and/or shovel, etc. and often use a hydration system instead of water bottles. Removable waist belt and sternum straps, plus a unique (demo) adjustable torso system mean that I can customize this pack to fit all of my kids ages 2-7; or myself or my wife. (see pic below --> ok, maybe not the 2 year old, although don't tell her that!)

zpacks girls

The craftsmanship & value are superb and I rather appreciate the fine 'styling' on this pack over many others. It's simplicty resonates with an authenticity, that I liken to a well-built piece of heirloom furniture, with choice materials rather than something made out of particle board in an overseas sweat shop. The pack comes in at 2.8 oz. minimum, to 4.8 oz. w/ all straps + accoutrements and fits superbly well. The other packs in the picture for reference are a REI Flash UL 18 and an Oware Day Pack Stuff Sack.

I highly recommend both the pack and Joe's amazing creative service!

Edited by biointegra on 05/20/2009 20:33:24 MDT.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review on 05/21/2009 12:43:51 MDT Print View

Aaron - the Zero is a brilliant idea and just what I need to take my grandson on his first backpack trip this July.

Your girls are adorable and good sports for being models!

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: ZPacks Blast 18 Backpack Review on 05/21/2009 13:07:20 MDT Print View

I'm glad to see a review of the Blast line. I've pretty much narrowed it down to a Blast or an MLD Revelation for my graduation to a frameless pack(non-bear cannister trips). One of the most appealing parts of Zpacks is starting with a basic pack and being able to add only the options you want.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Joe's Gone Hiking on 05/21/2009 13:25:35 MDT Print View

I just checked Joe is hiking for the summer, so the store is closed until he gets back.