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Gregory Zulu 30

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Gregory Zulu 30 daypack (under 35l)

A high-quality, supportive, and organized daypack. It is loaded with extremely well designed features, such as an adjustable backpanel, secure and easy to reach bottle pockets, and a rain cover pocket. It is best for day hikers that pack a lot of gear and prioritize comfort and features.

Pros

  • comfortable
  • adjustable backpanel
  • amazing feature set
  • breathable

Cons

  • rigid
  • fixed-length hipbelt
  • somewhat heavy
  • no pad attachment points

 Fit: Fits slender males well.

The pack fit my 30-inch waist well. The back would fit most people well, with several inches of adjustability.

Comfort: This pack is breathable and supportive,  contributing to great comfort.

This pack is incredibly comfortable. The foam is soft but supportive, while the mesh is breathable. The one minor flaw is that the mesh can be scratchy on bare skin. However, as long as you wear a shirt, it doesn't matter. The hipbelt is rigid enough to provide good support, and the foam hipbelt transitions to the mesh backpanel very smoothly. This is an area where Gregory's engineering skill is obvious.

The trampoline mesh back prevents the contents from poking you and offers excellent breathability. The hipbelt, shoulder, sternum, and load lifter straps are all standard, with no issues. The padded parts are all covered with 3-D mesh for ventilation. I am not sure whether this accomplished anything, but it likely helps with ventilation.

Capacity: The pack has more than enough space for a day hike.

This pack is cavernous for day hiking. I do full-day hikes in moderate (above freezing) weather. I pack a lot of emergency gear and layers, but I don't carry many luxuries (like a hammock). I have never used all 30 liters of capacity, even when carrying a puffy, extra clothes, lunch (in glass containers), 3L of water, and emergency gear.

Organization: Incredible organization.

This pack has the standard features: 2 hipbelt pockets, hydration pocket, 2 bottle pockets, and the main compartment. In addition, it has a front stretch pocket, a raincover pocket inside the stretch pocket, a front zipper pocket, and an internal valuables pocket. I feel that this is the perfect number and types of pockets to have great organization while not feeling cluttered.

This pack is very zipper-filled, which makes the pockets easy to access. The main compartment is panel loading and easy to access. The hipbelt pockets can fit almost any phone, or very many snacks. The water bottle pockets are secure and easy to grab bottles from, and they fit a variety of shapes well. The hiking pole attachment system is secure. Because of how many pockets there are, it took me a while to learn the purpose of everything. This wasn't an issue because the pack still works well if you don't use all the features.

20221113_153728.jpg
Main pocket, showing valuables pocket and hydration pocket/hook.  

Ride: Secure and adjustable with excellent compression straps.

The pack does a good job keeping the load balanced, secured, and close to the body. The trampoline back does move the load a little bit farther away from the body, but I never noticed this; I don't think it's an issue with a 30L pack. The pack won't shift even if you have to navigate downed trees or other obstacles.

Compression: Excellent compression straps allow it to compress down dramatically without hindering other features.

The compression straps are effective and never cross a zipper or otherwise cause problems. They can even be routed over or under the water bottle pockets, depending on preference. When fully compressed, the pack appears almost flat. The compression straps are mostly on the bottom, meaning the top can't really compress. This isn't an issue because the top is already shallow enough. The straps have never jammed and the buckles have never broken. The straps do seem like they could be thinner to me, but that is only really an issue to ultralighters, who would not buy this pack anyway.

Ease of Use: All features are easy to use, but the sheer amount of features can increase the learning curve.

This pack is easy to use. The important zippers have very nice zipper pulls. The zippers are all high quality YKK. The buckles and straps are all functional, and the sternum strap slides up and down well. One nitpick I have is that the u-shaped zipper needs two hands because of the curves. I didn't learn all the features immediately, and I only found out about the sunglasses system while writing this review. Of course, all the features are listed on Gregory's website. 

Features: This pack is loaded with functional features. 

This pack has a well rounded feature set. The hydration pocket and routing system is useful. I am not a hydration bladder user, but I know Gregory has a reputation for solid hydration features. I use the pocket for my Platypus softbottle. I appreciate that they included a pocket instead of just a clip, since a pocket can also be used for other purposes.

The backpanel adjustment uses velcro that is sticky and easy to use. The hiking pole attachment is secure and simple to use. I tend to use my poles during hikes, but I keep them attached to the pack while I drive to the trailhead. The raincover fits the pack perfectly and functions well. The fabric is not ripstop, but is has never ripped, so this is not a big deal. The valuables pocket is zippered and includes a key attachment system. It has a sunglasses attachment system on one shoulder strap which I have never used, but other reviewers like. 

20221113_153616-1-.jpg
the raincover pocket, which is under the mesh front pocket that I am pulling back.
20221113_183508.jpg
Yes, the Nalgene really is upside down! Amazingly secure bottle pockets.
20221113_154314.jpg
Zulu with raincover on.

 

Durability and Quality: A reasonably durable pack, with some caveats.

This pack is adequately durable for typical users. All of the zippers are YKK and appropriately sized. All of the high-use zippers have bound seams where they meet the fabric. However, the rain cover pocket and valuables pocket both have unbound zipper seams. The front pocket also has an unbound seam. This hasn't caused any issues yet, but it is not great. Most other packs on the market also have a few unbound seams, so I don't blame Gregory too much. Overall, I would rate the zipper quality as about 4 stars. 

20221113_153745.jpg
Note the unbound zipper seam. Also shows key holder.

 The fabric is durable enough, and has never gotten a hole. The steel wire frame and fiberglass stay are durable and more rigid than an average pack. They would be hard to field repair, but that is a necessary tradeoff for a trampoline back. All straps and buckles are quality and haven't broken. The mesh backpanel has not torn, but I can see the potential for tears. This is not an issue if you always wear this pack, but if you toss it in a truck bed or check it on a flight, it could get torn. This is also not Gregory's fault, just a design tradeoff.

One thing that is Gregory's fault is the shoulder strap mesh. The sternum strap can catch on the mesh and tear it. I have a very small tear because  of this. If anyone from Gregory is reading this, this issue would be fixed if the shoulder strap was covered with solid fabric. Alternately, the sternum strap could be made less pointy. (Only the right shoulder strap has this issue. The left sternum strap is less pointy.) The stretch mesh pockets are reasonably durable.

20221113_153417-1-.jpg

My finger is pointing out the small tear. The white buckle can catch on the mesh, ripping it.
20221113_153939.jpg
The poorly constructed seam on the front pocket. In use this seam would be covered by a flap of fabric, so not a huge deal.

Experience

I have experience with backpacks from Osprey, REI, LL Bean, Lowe Alpine, Eagle Creek, and a few other brands. This is my first purpose- designed hiking daypack (I used the women's version before I got this, but they are essentially identical). I have used this pack for about three years in the Appalachian region. I have mostly used this as a hiking daypack, as its design precludes it from doing anything else well. 

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: bought at REI

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The Zulu 30 replaced the Gregory Z 30.

Specs

small/medium medium/large
Price MSRP: $159.95
Current Retail: $119.93-$159.95
Historic Range: $55.93-$159.95
Fits Torso 15-19 in / 38.1-48.3 cm 18-22 in / 45.7-55.9 cm
Fits Hips/Waist 27-46 in / 68.5-116.8 cm 29-51 in / 73.7-129.5 cm
Weight 2.62 lbs / 1.19 kg 2.67 lbs / 1.21 kg
Volume 28L / 1709 cu in 30L / 1831 cu in
Rain Cover Weight 0.14 lbs / 64 g 0.15 lbs / 68 g
Packed Dimensions 21 x 12.25 x 10 in / 53.3 x 31.1 x 25.4 cm 23.5 x 12.25 x 10 in / 59.7 x 31.1 x 25.4 cm
Max Carry Weight 35 lbs / 16 kg
Product Details from Gregory »

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