A Blast of a Pack:

I borrowed my son-in-law Matts’s Zpacks Arc Zip just so I could try it out. I loaded it up with about 10kg of stuff I would usually carry for a trip of about a week I guess and went for a five mile (8 km) walk in a local pine forest. Just the other day on our walk there was a beautiful sambar deer and her youngster just standing at the other end of the dam behind me – and do you think I had a camera? Sure. They really are water deer. They love water plants, cumbungi and such. On this occasion I did have my camera.

I guess this is about the lightest frame pack you can get. 595 grams (and 55 litres) in this hybrid cuben fabric which seems plenty tough enough to me, and is a good colour for deer hunting as that orange really stands out to other hunters, but you might chose their larger (62 litre) model one in Dyneems which would weigh 680 grams if you were going on a very long trip or had a lot of meat to carry out for instance.

The 50 litre (539 gram) Arc Scout model would suit Della as it is especially designed for smaller folk. She is just on 5 foot, but their Nero pack at 38 litres and 309 grams might actually suit her better for most trips where she does not need to carry much gear. It would also suit me as an overnight or a day pack.

Have a look here: http://www.zpacks.com/backpacks.shtml

I’m not sure you can see how the mesh panel holds the pack away from your back, so there is some ventilation and you don’t get that dreadful wet hiker’s back. This suspension system also makes the pack very comfortable too. I found the pack tucked right into the small of my back perfectly. I really didn’t need to cinch the waist belt up at all (or the chest strap) to get that weight transfer downwards, which is a truly remarkable piece of design. Congratulations Joe!

I guess you have figured that this is the ‘Zip’ model. I’m sure Joe has chosen nothing but the very best zips, but I am terribly hard on equipment, and chary of zips. I have managed to destroy a number of packs over the years, so I don’t think I would go for a Zip model myself even though no doubt it would be more convenient to load/unload perhaps, especially if you were using it mostly for travel. I am pretty organized with where everything goes in my pack, so that I never need something from the bottom anytime during the day.

This particular version would be extremely waterproof (from rain) though, so that you might not need a pack liner bag – though I always use one anyway against those occasions when you have to swim. Such things happen to me anyway. There is a point of ingress for water where the hydration tube is meant to exit the body of the pack. I never use one, so I might order mine to not have this feature, if possible – or I would tape it over.

You can certainly see the mesh panel here. The panel can be tensioned more or less giving you just the ‘Arc’ your back needs (probably more than I have here). The length can also be adjusted up or down somewhat. Still, your lower back is pressing up against the waterproof back of the pack so that you are going to get damp just there. To prevent this if I was making the pack I would have included a pad pocket such as Gossamer Gear packs have so that I could use their new airflow sit pad to help with the dry back problem.

I think this Zpacks Arc Blast pack design would be just excellent for a deer hunting pack particularly the Dyneema model if you plan to carry a lot of gear – or deer! You can order the ‘Haul’ in orange or green for example – either one would be suitable.

I am personally sorry he has stopped making the original ‘Blast’ pack (which I still have in grey dyneema. With all the ‘bells and whistles’ on it weighs just under 400 grams and totes 54 litres. I have used it on 10 day+ trips where I carried all my own food and gear, finding it more than ample.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Zpacks could have done something like what you see on the pack below (which is a Montane UltraTour 55) – just to ‘dehydrate’ the bits which touch your back.

Here it is a little closer up.

As you can see the triangle of mesh is enclosed by some kind of super-wicking mesh and is both ridged and impregnated with holes so that the sweat has somewhere else to go. I don’t actually know how well it works. Della has ordered a Montane pack in her size from Backpacking Light which is taking a long time to come from England, so when it does, we shall see.

Nonetheless, I think my son-in-law Matt’s Arc Zip will give him many years of faithful service in the sambar deer forests of Gippsland – and elsewhere. It is certainly very difficult, if not impossible, to find such a well-designed and solidly made pack which weighs in at under 600 grams, will last for years putting up with substantial abuse, is comfortable to carry and capacious. Highly recommended. For myself, well, I don’t need a new pack. Joe’s old ‘Blast’ pack is still going strong after tens of thousands of trail miles. I do, however ‘need’ a new hunting day pack. My old one is  looking pretty trashed. This Della, is a hint!

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