After hiking over 2000 miles with my Osprey Kestrel 68 on the Appalachian Trail it was time for an upgrade. This isn’t to say that this pack hadn’t served me well, because it had. You could say it had become a part of me as I had spent so much time with it during my journey and it spent most of its time strapped to my back. But after all those miles and the battering that I had given it, lets just say its seen better days, with a strap starting to peel off and a few holes here and there.
This pack also weighs almost 4lbs which now just sounds crazy to me. With my Pacific Crest Trail thruhike fast approaching and the thought of lightening my load to carry the extra water needed on some stretches, I needed to find a strong but light backpack.
While hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2013 I got to hear of a few cottage companies which produce gear specifically tailored towards long distance hiking. The two main contenders for me were Zpacks and Mountain Laurel Designs.
I actually got to meet one of the guys who builds packs for MLD when we took a Zero day (no miles day) to get a hiking buddies pack mended and saw first hand the great work that these guys do. But when it came to choosing a new pack for me and my PCT thruhike, I decided on going with Zpacks and their Arc Blast 60ltr at just 17 ounces.
The deciding factor for me was the packs frame and mesh backing…
where as MLD’s equivalent pack comes frameless which on a personal comfort level, I wasn’t happy with.
So the Arc Blast comes with a very comfortable frame which consists of two vertical and two horizontal bars, and stretched over that is the mesh which coupled with the frame lifts the pack away from your back leaving a great air gap to keep you cool and stop chaffing.
At Zpacks they also offer a few extras which they can add for a small fee. As you can see from the picture above, I opted for the lumbar pad for extra comfort around my back and waist.
I also added on two extra side pocket to carry water bottles or snacks for easy access throughout the day.
Overall I am very happy so far with my choice of pack, its incredibly spacious for a slim backpack and importantly its built to fit a bear canister once you hit that section of the PCT.
Made from Cuban Fiber with a protective layer of polyester its pretty tough and so far from what I gather pretty waterproof and I’m sure time will tell. I have also purchased a Cuban fiber pack liner with a role top…
…and all my cloths and important belongings will go in waterproof stuff sacks, so I am quite confident that my gear will stay as dry as can be.
That’s my pack sorted, now to fill it of course. I will be adding the rest of my gear on to the blog bit by bit and will follow up once I have actually hiked with them too.