Product – Backpack

Manufacturer – Zpacks

Model – Arc Haul 62L

Included: Multiple accessories added


Introductions

Zpacks was created out of necessity by its founder Joe Valesko. Before his 2004 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, he couldn’t find any backpacks that met his needs so he made his own!

The company has grown from those humble beginnings to become a well-respected creator and seller of ultra-light camping gear.

The Arc Haul backpack could likely be described as their most “middle of the road” pack from Zpacks. Combining value, lightweight, functionality, and durability. But when you try to satisfy so many things, can you do them all well? That’s a good question… let’s search for the answer.

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Zpacks Arc Haul – A pack designed very well. They have thought of almost everything!

Impressions

Firstly, if you want anything that is Zpacks, the only place you can buy their gear is directly from the factory. Although it may seem a little awkward compared to the quality care provided by the staff at your local REI or MEC, Zpacks does a really good job with their customer care. Before my purchase, I had lots of questions (I’m a very demanding customer of camp gear).

Their online staff gave some quality advice and eventually, I made my final decision, the order was placed and my pack was shipped to Canada. Everything was fast and efficient, and as I later learned, the advice they gave was spot on!

The 2 features I particularly like about the pack’s “tuning” are the size adjustment and the patented arc suspension system.

When I first received the pack, my first impressions were very positive. The material was both tougher and lighter than expected.  The construction was top-notch. Yet the design was busy, I wasn’t used to so many adjustment points and do-dads.  I couldn’t believe a pack with so many bells and whistles could be so light.

So I originally had concerns that the Arc Haul had too much “stuff” for my backpacking needs. The only way to know for sure was to test her out. I have never had a pack quite like this, it was ultra-light yet somehow had all the options of the heavier big boy packs. I was cynical… I was super eager to take her for a test drive!

Design

Compartments

The pack is essentially one large 49L sack, with 2 side 2.5L pockets and one huge mesh 8L front pocket. Totalling a 62L capacity. This general design has become the standard configuration of many UL packs today.

The main compartment has a roll-top design with a light velcro closure at the mouth. I have to say, I was skeptical that the velcro was needed, and in fact, I originally thought it would get the way. I was so wrong… the velcro was awesome. It is a magical velcro that was light enough to open and close super easy, and the “teeth” were micro-small so it never snagged my delicates.

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The front mess panel is functional, but also very tough compared to lycra/spandex used by other pack makers

After the main compartment is velcro-ed and rolled, there is a single 1cm wide webbing strap that wraps over the top to further secure the opening. The pack also has additional strap sliders to accommodate an optional V top strap for those who want to carry more stuff on the top of the pack such as a tent, sleep pad or bear canister.

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The main compartment’s 4.85 oz/sq yd grid stop fabric is also waterproof and fully seam-sealed. Despite this waterproof claim, (I never experienced leakage) I would suggest using a pack liner or waterproof bags to protect your water-phobic gear such as down and electronics. That’s just me.

The stretchy mesh front pocket holds 8 litres. There are 2 things I particularly like about the fabric choice of the .3.5 oz/sq yd mesh. First, it has large holes and is therefore super breathable, and will better allow for drying wet gear than the trending lycra type front pocket. Second… it is much tougher than lycra. I have used packs with the lycra/spandex type fabric, they work great for securing loads. You don’t, however, want to rest your pack against a tree, or drag it on the ground … that will result in rips, tears, and holes. Not the Zpacks “stretchy mess”… it’s more breathable and much much tougher.

Sizing

2 large side pockets that can hold 2 x 1L smart water bottles each – The roll-top closure is easy and secure. Sizing is usually not an issue that is discussed during a review, however, I feel there is a need to talk about it. I’m 6’0” tall and have a 19 -19.5” torso ( yes I have long legs). Normally I use a “medium pack” by other manufacturers … note that the Zpacks Arc Haul sizing recommendation for “my torso size” is SMALL!

So please carefully check out the size recommendations on the website, and if you have any questions, I would further suggest you chat with the good folks at Zpacks before you make your order.

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Large water-resistant (20,000 mmH₂O) seam taped Dyneema gridstop fabric. Tough, light and very weather resistant.
Attachment Points

Attachment points are a huge issue for me and often neglected by others, and where the Arc Haul further excels. The side compression straps are made from non-stretchy Dyneema cord allowing for both compressing the pack and securing gear such as trekking and tent poles.  The side straps are positioned in such a way as not to interfere with the side pockets, allowing for unimpeded access to your water bottle. This is a small and brilliant design feature that is often overlooked by other pack designers – bravo Zpacks.

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2 large side pockets that can hold 2 x 1L smart water bottles each – The roll-top closure is easy and secure.

There is also a base strap at the bottom of the pack made with the same non-stretchy Dyneema cord, the same as the side compression straps. This is great for light gear such as sleep pads and so on. I’m not sure I will ever use these straps… no sweat… they are designed to be easing removed. Again a feature much appreciated and not considered by most pack designers – bravo again Zpacks!

The shoulder straps also have lash point webbing their full length, allowing you to attach all sorts of accessories to the shoulder straps.  Again, a feature often overlooked by other manufacturers. For example, I purchased and attached 2 accessory shoulder pouches. These pouches are made from quality DCF fabric and weigh in at a minuscule 14g each. In the pouches, I carry my phone, headphones, Garmin Inreach Mini, lip balm, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

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The Arc Flex design gives comfort, and weight transfer to the hips and improves ventilation

Comfort

Wow… they nailed comfort.  A framed pack this light, this volume and still comfortable… brilliant.

I have to admit the adjustment points to tune your pack are a little unique and somewhat difficult to sort out at the beginning, however, after checking out their online videos and playing with her a bit, the pack is now tuned into my back size and packing styling.

The 2 features I particularly like about the pack’s “tuning” are the size adjustment and the patented arc suspension system.

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The mouth of the main compartment is very large and secured with “magic” velcro. This makes it easy to load and unload your gear

Firstly, an ultralight pack that you can easily adjust the torso fitting on the fly is unheard of. I know most folks won’t be fine-tuning their pack size on the trail, however, I like this feature. It allows me to shift the way my pack sits on my shoulders and back. This can give relief to unwanted pressure points during a long day on the trail.

The second feature I’m gaga about is the Flex Arc suspension system. It consists of 3 aluminum horizontal bars (top, middle and bottom of the pack) and 2 vertical carbon fibre rods. The bars are fixed and the rods adjust and flex to create the arc. It not only assists in carrying heavier loads, but it also provides much-wanted airflow and ventilation between my back and pack.  Three big advantages; your packs don’t get wet and stinky from your back sweat… you also get less back sweat… and finally, it makes for a comfortable carry!

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The hip belt and shoulder strap design is just right… not too much padding, yet just enough.

The shoulder straps are positioned the perfect width at my neck, and the padding of the straps is an ideal thickness. I have to point out that I believe strap padding when too thick, can cause chaffing, and when too thin, can be uncomfortable. The Arc Haul shoulder strap design and thickness worked perfectly for me.

Performance

This pack can carry heavy and light loads, small and big volumes. Thru-hikes and weekend warriors.  The volume seemed too large for my needs. However, after abusing her, I started to like the extra room and largemouth of the main compartment. Packing and unpacking were super easy.

Although my base weight is generally under 4500 grams (10 lbs), I was able to pack the bag to accommodate my small volume needs and it still carried perfectly. Bonus… I still have lots of spare volumes when I need them for some larger food carries, bear canisters or extra gear requirements when camping with kids.

Conclusion

I love this pack. It carries great, is uber comfortable, well designed, super flexible, adjustable and tough as nails. It will be on my shortlist for my 2020 Appalachian trail thru-hike. Bravo Zpacks!

Tech Specs

  • Body dimensions: 20 cm x 31.8 cm x 76 cm (8” x 12.5″ x 30”)
  • Volume: 62L (49L main body, 2.5L each side pocket, 8L centre pocket)
  • Frame Height: Short 48.3 cm (19″), Medium 54.6 cm (21.5″), Tall 61 cm (24″)
  • Weight: 638 g / 22.5 oz
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The Zpacks Arc Haul is popular on the Appalachian Trail for good reason.

What Zpacks Says…

If you want to go the distance with ample space in your gear and confidence in durability, the Arc Haul is the ultralight backpack for you. This pack has our signature feature – the patented ‘Flexed Arc’ adjustable frame. This frame creates an air gap between your back and the pack, keeping you cool and providing a super comfortable fit. This fine-tuned innovative design makes the pack a true workhorse of the Zpacks pack line. Designed to accommodate a wide variety of modular add-ons, the Arc Haul allows you to dial in your perfect setup and put you well on your way to that elusive sub-10 lb base weight.

VIDEO – ZPACKS YOUTUBE – The Arc Series of Backpacks

VIDEO – ZPACKS YOUTUBE – How to Adjust Arc Backpack

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