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Custom Zpacks Zero - Finally Got the Perfect SUL Pack
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Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Custom Zpacks Zero - Finally Got the Perfect SUL Pack on 10/25/2011 21:40:48 MDT Print View

A couple weeks ago I took delivery of my second Zpacks Zero (I sold the first one to get this one) and I think this one is perfect so I wanted to share.

This Zero has the same slim shape as the 'small' size (10" x 6") but it's as tall as the medium size (29"), so it holds a lot of stuff if I need it to, but if not I just erase that space because it has the roll top. Looking at it in real life, it looks very well proportioned. I previously had the size small without the roll top or taller height, and it was a real stretch to fit more than 1 days worth of food in there with my 6.5 lbs baseweight. With this new pack I can easily fit my stuff and 4-5 days of food if need be, yet it rolls down super small if desired. Sorry for the terrible photos....just using the camera in my laptop.

Zero v2

Joe @ Zpacks is constantly tweaking his pack designs, which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I got my first Zero a year ago and noticed that a bunch of the details were more refined that older Zero's I had seen pictures of online. Now with my new Zero, Joe has taken things to another level. I'm not sure when Joe has implemented the new changes, but I imagine his packs are just constantly evolving. Joe is now using that cuben/nylon hybrid fabric a little bit inside the pack to reinforce where the shoulder straps attach (see pic which shows this area flipped inside out to reveal this). This design change looks awesome to me, as the shoulder strap attachment points are often one of the weakest areas of any pack. Also, Joe has changed how the actual straps attach, so there is now a short section of grosgrain between the padded shoulder straps and the packbag, which you can sorta see in the first photo. This works well to let the straps angle to match your shoulders.

Zero v2 Fabric

My Zero has the following options:
- mesh rear pocket
- dual side pockets
- sternum strap
- roll top
- side strap (only on one's to hold my fishing rod)
- +1" torso (not that it really matters without a hipbelt, but I figure it would be a good idea since I've asked for 29" tall).

IMO, a sternum strap is necessary on a cuben pack like this. Even with great shoulder straps, cuben is slippery stuff and I found my first Zero had a real tendancy to gradually slip off of shoulders. For 0.3oz, you can totally solve this problem, plus add more pack stability. If you don't like it you can easily remove it, so do yourself a favor and order the sternum strap. I think you'll keep it on there. On my first Zero I had a webbing hipbelt (for stability) and no sternum strap, but I much prefer this setup of no hipbelt but with a sternum strap. I didn't order daisy chains on my pack but it sorta came with them. I'm not sure if these are considered part of the sternum strap option, or if Joe just put them on by mistake. In any case, the grosgrain used is very light stuff and the daisy chains are probably 0.1oz and they look spiffy so I'm happy with them.

I don't have my scale, but this pack should weigh in around 5oz (EDIT: It's 5.17oz)

I'm also really pleased with the color. My first Zero was 'olive drab' as well, but this batch of olive drab is an even nicer color. It's almost grey with an olive tint, where as the first olive drab had a lot more green in it (ie. brighter). The terrible photo's probably don't do it justice.

One last nice touch that really impressed me is the tabs to open the velcro roll top. I always found the velcro roll top of my wife's HMG Windrider to be a little bit of a pain to open. Joe's idea to add little tabs makes opening a pack of this design a breeze. HMG should copy this idea.

Zero v2 Tabs

In closing, here's a few 'ordering tips' that I feel pretty strongly about:

1) Get the sternum strap. You can always take it off if you feel it's not needed
2) Don't get a hipbelt, the sternum strap takes care of stability and at SUL (or 6-7 lbs) you shouldn't need one.
3) The olive drab looks awesome in real life. Much classier than the leaf green or bright blue.
4) The 10" x 6" x 29" shape is awesome for almost anyone. A few XUL'ers might find it too big.
5) Get the roll top. Joe's regular enclosure is a little awkward IMO and the roll top is a beauty.

Edited by dandydan on 11/24/2011 13:09:05 MST.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Been looking for awhile on 10/25/2011 22:20:47 MDT Print View

I've looked at the Z Packs a few years ago, but felt I have too much gear. Sure would be nice to have a pack this light. I have to get a much lighter shelter (floorless original TarpTent Squall) and another item or two to get down there. Thanks for the info though.

Keith F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Nice! on 10/26/2011 07:23:07 MDT Print View

Nice pack Dan... Want to trade back for the old one I got from you? ;)

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Sure on 10/26/2011 20:57:50 MDT Print View

I'll have to mull that swap over :)

If you want a sternum strap, send it in to Joe and I'm sure he could easily add one for a few bucks. He could probably make other changes too discreetly like snipping the hipbelt if you wanted....heck he might even be able to convert it to a roll top.

Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
Custom Zero on 10/27/2011 09:03:55 MDT Print View

Thanx for posting the pxts of your new Zero. Very nice! I like the new shoulder strap attachment he is doing, and the roll top seems like a much better way to go.

tyler marlow

Locale: UTAH
how could you! on 10/27/2011 19:17:59 MDT Print View

Now why would you go and post such a sweet pack. Now i want one.

Ive just started going on sul-ish trips and use a 20 liter daypack thats as heavy as my Jam and a little too small for anything over an overnight.

Would you be able to post some pics of you wearing the pack for reference?

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Neato! on 10/27/2011 21:08:18 MDT Print View

Glad I finally stumbled across this thread. I've thought about this pack of some variation of Joe's for a while. But as a day pack, not as an over nighter pack. Anyway, I'd also be interested in more picks showing how it fits and of course your trail comments on how it works in use. As I mentioned before, I think this would be a great place for me to get my feet wet in the Cuben lake. Thanks for sharing.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

More Zero Pics on 10/27/2011 23:10:58 MDT Print View

Here's a few more grainy computer camera pics to show the rough size of this pack.

1) If the pack didn't have the rear pocket you could roll it down quite a bit more still
2) The roll top does have a tendency to stick up when the pack is rolled down to about shoulder level. If you just roll it a few times the roll top lays down (see pic #3), but if you roll it down to about where the shoulder straps attach then it likes to pop up. I think what I'm going to do is steal the idea MLD had for their 3.7 pack. MLD basically uses a clip and a short bit of shockcord tied to the top of the rear pocket, so you can clip this to the roll top and hold the loop down. As a bonus, it also secures your stuff in the rear pocket, so stuff like a shovel blade can't fall out.

Side view of the pack with the roll top rolled most of the way down to an average volume:
Zero Sideview

Back view of the pack @ average volume:
Zero back view

Side view of the pack at max volume (roll top with just 2 rolls to secure it):Zero side view max volume

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Size on 10/28/2011 08:03:28 MDT Print View

Looks very nice. And my Blast is now a little big for most of my trips. Can you tell me which size Zero you are showing there? It looks like the size I need.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Size on 10/28/2011 12:43:25 MDT Print View

I ordered the 'small' size (10" x 6" x 24") but asked Joe to make it as tall as the medium size (12" x 6" x 29"), so this pack is actually 10" x 6" x 29".

My first Zero was a small and with my 6-7 lbs baseweight, I could really only fit 1 day of food in there. With this one I can definately fit 3-4 days of food....maybe more, and then I can roll it down smaller as I go. I really like these dimensions because it perserves the slim shape (which works well for packing a lot of SUL stuff like down quilts) with the roll top I can roll it down to whatever volume is needed. Stuff like my sleeping quilt, Echo I shelter and food sack all fit very nicely into a 10" x 6" packbody, so a wider medium size (12" x 6") would be a bit tougher for me to utilize well.

Another option would be to order the extra-small pack (9" x 6" x 19") but ask for it much taller than the normal 19"...maybe 9" x 6" x 25" would be a nice size for the true SUL folk.

IMO, the only people who would want a smaller pack than my 10" x 6" x 29" are:
1) Use a tarp (as opposed to a tent) and have a <6.5 lbs base
2) Use a tent, but legitamately hike at 4-5 lbs base often and don't exceed 3 days.
3) Have a 6-7 lbs base like me, but only do one-nighters.

Edited by dandydan on 10/28/2011 21:55:02 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: custom zpacks zero on 10/28/2011 18:02:43 MDT Print View

Nice pics and excellent info. Thanks!

Good idea to go with 29" so it will do more days.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
nice on 10/29/2011 10:23:33 MDT Print View

i have a small zero with the back pocket and side pockets. i used it during a 5 day/4 night trip this summer. 5 days of food was really pressing the limits of the pack. i don't have the sternum option or hip belt and don't really miss either. in fact, i find myself unbuckling my hipbelt on my bigger pack from time-to-time now. i use the zero every chance i get now b/c it is exactly what i want. light and simple...

joe's stuff is really great. he's quite the innovative guy...

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Thanks on 10/29/2011 18:09:11 MDT Print View

For posting up some more photos. They did and do help. I'm thinking about one of these in a pretty small size for use as a day pack. It looks like it'd work great for me. And that green colors pretty cool too. Looks like you are in a bunk room up north where you are working?

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Bunks on 10/29/2011 19:33:36 MDT Print View

Yeah I share a cabin with one other guy, but he's night shift and I'm day shift so always have the cabin to myself when I'm off work (12 hour shifts).

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Custom Zpacks Zero - Finally Got the Perfect SUL Pack on 10/30/2011 17:21:50 MDT Print View

My experience wit the zero:

I am going to have Dan McHale build me a very small pack because my gear has gotten so small my LPB 36 is too big for weekend trips. Because of the amount of water I normally need to carry in the desert, I want one of his packs with the superior hip belt and aluminum stays. Dan suggested I consider cuben. I have several pieces of equipment made out of cuben, but just don't feel comfortable with it as a pack material.

So I purchased a ZPack Zero small to experiment with. I had Joe include two water bottle pockets and an exterior pad holder. Total weight is 113 grams (3.99 oz). No belt, and it has a roll top. Sternum strap is only needed when wearing a slippery top such as a Houdini wind shirt. For this I use very light guyline and a mini-biner. I can easily fit 5 days of food and 2 liters of water in the pack and not have to use the extension for added volume. The gear I carried for the first try at the bottom of the post. Down items were stuffed into a itty bitty cuben sack. I took my iPhone as a watch, GPS, camera and map as an experiment.

Total base weight is 3 lbs 7 oz. The gear is good for most of my 3 season trips. The pack is agony with a gallon of water, but wonderful when water gets down to a single liter. So far the pack is holding up well, but I worry if I slip on a cross country hike it might tear the material.

zero gear list

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Re: Custom Zpacks Zero - Finally Got the Perfect SUL Pack on 10/30/2011 18:04:02 MDT Print View

Impressive gear list've got a few of my dream items on there! I've got a few questions...

How do you go with condensation under the cuben quilt? Does it affect your down vest or wet it? Do you often use the venting options in the epiphany foot box (i.e. open the drawcord and/or zipper)? I was wondering if I'd get Tim to just sew it right up or not.

How do you get your Leukotape down to 4 you cut off a strip and wrap it on a pole or something? I've found it doesn't hold its stickiness all that well after its been removed so I'm hesitant to do that, and always end up carrying most of a roll (can't get myself to remove most of it from a new roll).

What cuben fibre does Dan McHale use? Does he have some of the nylon faced stuff like zpacks?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Custom Zpacks Zero - Finally Got the Perfect SUL Pack on 10/30/2011 18:16:44 MDT Print View


Quilt - I just open the vent at the bottom and vent it at the top. The cuben acts like a vapor barrier, so when you would normally need a vest, you can do without... or take it off after you warm up.

Leukotape - I just cut off a section and rolled it up. I have had it for a couple years, but have never needed it. I rarely get blister. Mike Clelland cuts pieces off and sticks them to a sheet of that non-sticky stuff that are used on mailing envelopes. That is my next task, when I get to it.

McHale packs - Dan has been playing around with cuben for years but has not brought anything to market except for a pack he made last year for someone who planned a Himalayan trek. He told me he is now ready to start offering them, but it will be a hybrid... pack bottoms and other key wear points will use another type of material.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Nice thread drift on 10/30/2011 19:24:15 MDT Print View

So, I'll ask my own question. Nick, you say its murder with a gallon of water but fine with a liter. I'm thinking about one of these packs as a day pack. I carry anywhere between a liter and three liters depending on the conditions. Do you think with a bladder sleeve that it'd work good with three liters of water in it? If I get one of these, I'll get a hip belt too. I'm not thinking of this for overnighters, just for day trips. So the pack would have to support around three pounds of gear plus water and snacks and hopefully the water and snacks are gone when I get back to the car.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Cuben/Nylon on 10/30/2011 21:55:08 MDT Print View

FWIW, Joe is now making the Zero's in both 1.5oz cuben and the 2.92oz Cuben/Nylon hybrid fabric that is also used my HMG in their packs and on the new Zpacks Exos pack. For anyone who's not comfortable with 1.5oz this would be great. I personally think I'm going to get years out of my 1.5oz cuben Zero though. The cuben/nylon stuff is sexier though.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Cuben/Nylon on 10/30/2011 22:04:13 MDT Print View


I have the 1.5 oz cuben. Looks and feels pretty bomber.