Gregory Zulu 40
A great daypack or ultralight weekend pack.
- Water bottle access
I use this as a day pack to haul around camera gear in addition to all the usual hiking gear. I'm typically carrying 30 to 35 pounds in this pack and it handles the load very well.
The pack straps and waist belt are really comfortable and easily adjusted. The padding is firm, but not as firm as in the Gregory expedition packs—appropriate for the loads this is designed to carry.
The top knot pocket is fairly large and easily holds snacks, gps, headlamp, first aid kit and a map. The stash pocket on the back can hold rain gear or it can be stowed in the generous zip pocket. It comes with a rain cover and I've used it a few times in heavy downpours without a hitch—it works great.
This is a great high capacity daypack and I can, and do, use it year round, including for backcountry skiing. It's comfortable and stable enough to use alpine touring. It's just a great all-rounder.
My one gripe: It's hard for me to reach my water bottle, and I can't replace it with the pack on.
Other than this, this is the best daypack I've ever owned (and I've owned at least a dozen).
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $139
This nicely-made pack can handle overnight to perhaps 3-night ultralight trips, or hostel tripping, and the Small size ~may~ fit as an airline carry-on if not fully loaded and the compression straps are tightened. The suspended mesh back panel and X-frame, combined with medium-duty padded shoulder straps and hip belt make 15-20 lbs a stable and reasonably comfortable load. Access to the single main compartment is from the drawstring top and the convenient inverted-U zippered front opening.
- Both top drawstring and front zippered inverted-U access to single main compartment
- Flat pocket in main compartment holds 2L water pouch (hose exits to shoulder strap clip) OR tablet (not both, please!).
- Suspended mesh back panel, medium-padded lower back, and padded hip and shoulder belts make 15-20 lbs a reasonable load.
- Capacious top brain pocket is versatile, and the underside has a flat zippered pocket for keys, wallet, passport.
- Outside stretch pocket is nice, but being attached to front zippered access panel, it can dump pocket contents when zippered panel is opened.
- Stretch side pockets not usable for water bottle(s) or other items you wish to use and return without taking off pack because compression straps cross them, but would work for carrying a small stove, for example.
- No bottom straps for carrying pad or sleeping bag there.
- Top/brain pocket is where most little stuff has to go—the raincover pocket plus two tiny pockets on waist belt are the only other zippered storage pockets.
I'm 6 feet tall, male, 165 lbs, with a torso length of just under 20 inches, and the Medium (40L) Zulu fits me nicely, and I can carry 15 lbs in it stably and comfortably. The X-frame design and suspended mesh panel, combined with medium thickness padding on the lower back, hip belt, and shoulder straps, work with the load-lifter straps and sternum strap to make this possible.
I liked the Zulu the best after trying several different brands of ca. 40L packs, but that was only after I realized that my 60L Osprey Aether pack was overkill for overnight trips or hostel tripping, and after trying to make a day pack work for those purposes.
I figured if I could get both top and good front access to the main compartment of the pack, I wouldn't need a divided compartment—for a small sleeping bag, for example. The Zulu delivers that dual access quite well, though the stretch pocket sewn to the front opening flap is best for a jacket or vest and hat—lightweight and expansive things that won't fall out of the stretch pocket when that inverted-U flap is opened. Small objects and heavier items should not be put there because they will fall out of the open-top pocket when the flap is opened enough to bend down. Better to distribute those small and heavier items among the zippered pockets: the raincover pocket, the top "brain" pocket, and the two small hip-belt pockets.
The Zulu has straps to secure the top "brain" pocket down over the top opening and somewhat compress the pack vertically. Also, there are two good compression straps on each side, though the lower compression strap has not been routed underneath the side stretch pocket, so that anything stuck down in those side stretch pockets (like a water bottle) will be cinched tight and not removable without taking the pack off and releasing the strap. That cinched security would be fine for a stove, however.
For water, there's a pocket inside on the back of the main compartment which will hold a 2L water bladder with a small access hole in the upper back of the pack (for the hose to be routed out to the shoulder strap). That said, I don't like putting water in the same compartment with my clothes and sleeping bag, so I've tried a smaller water bladder and hose system in one of the stretch side pockets, compressing that side strap to be just snug, and that works.
Finally, there are lower loops and upper elastic cords with cord-locks to secure poles or ice axe to the front of the pack.
Even though there are some design issues with the Zulu, it has been comfortable to use, and has proven itself in overnights and hostel tripping. So I've given it 3.5 stars.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $143 USD (on 20%-off sale)