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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > ZPacks Zero backpack > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

ZPacks Zero Backpack
by Raymond Estrella

March 30, 2012


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 51
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 215 lb (97.50 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: ZPacks
Web site:
Product: Zero
Size: XS
Year manufactured: 2010
MSRP: US $70.00
Weight listed: 2.8 oz (79 g)
Actual weight 2.4 oz (68 g)
Dimensions listed: 9" wide x 6" deep x 19" tall (23 x 15 x 48 cm)
Dimensions verified accurate
Volume listed: about 1,000 cu in (16.4 L)
Color reviewed: Green (my shade not available at the time of writing)

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The Zpacks Zero backpack is an extremely light weight stripped-down daypack made of high-tech waterproof Cuban Fiber. I purchased it for its ability to act as a dual-use product (daypack and waterproof protection for my down sleeping gear), something that it does quite well. I have found nothing wrong with this sweet little pack, but lots to be positive about. Please read on for the details.

Product Description

The Zpacks Zero backpack (hereafter referred to as the Zero or pack) is an extremely minimalist pack. A stripped-down version of the company's very popular Blast Pack, it gets its name because it is a Blast with zero extras. No pockets, lids, or other options standard, just a sack.

But true to ZPacks custom-shop beginnings the Zero can be ordered with extras for a price, and a time penalty to wait for the work to get through the custom-work queue.

The Zero is offered with a choice of two weights of Cuben Fiber. Mine is the lighter weight offering. (Cuben Fiber is a synthetic laminated fabric constructed from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) fiber monofilaments and polyester film.)

The Zero is just a basic pack sack. It has a drawstring running around the top which is gathered and held closed by a small nylon cord-lock. If the pack is not full to the top the excess may be pulled over (sealing the opening) and the cord-lock placed through a small loop at the bottom-face of the pack. By sliding the drawstring through the cord-lock while in this position it will compress the Zero. If the pack is full I just leave the cord-lock at the top and tie the string itself to the lower loop.

Front & back Zpack Zero

On the other side the Zero has sewn-on shoulder straps with 3/8 in (1 cm) foam padding. It should be noted that this year they have added a nylon strap/daisy chain to the shoulder straps which increases the weight from my version, when this used to be an option.With hydration

I only had one option added to my pack, the Hydration pocket and port. This consists of a 15 in (38 cm) deep, 7 in (18 cm) wide pocket with an elastic-gathered top that sits against my back, starting just below the point that the shoulder straps are attached. (This is an optimal position in my opinion.) A hooded hydration tube port was placed above my right shoulder (my choice). Rather than add a loop on the shoulder strap for the tube to run through (which is standard now) I just use a sliding tube-clip, as seen above. To the right is a shot of the hydration pocket with a 2 L Platypus Hoser loaded and ready to go.

While my pack uses a tensioner to adjust the narrow nylon straps, the newest ones have a sliding buckle with the wider flat nylon used now.

The Zero packs down to the size of a grapefruit, although I never do so because of the way I use it. More on this later.

All points of contact and the corners have been reinforced with additional layers of Cuben Fiber. The stitching is all dead-straight and I could find no defects of any kind when I received the pack.


Field Data

I don't really know how many days I have carried the Zero but it has to be at least a couple dozen. It has been as far south as the Mexican border with California and as far north as the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. It has seen lots of rainy days and a few nice sunny days too, and temps ranging from near freezing to over 100 F (38 C).


As a backpacker who has embraced the idea of cutting weight (but not to the point of qualifying to be called UltraLight, or UL) I have watched with interest the first packs that were being made by Joe Valesko, (owner of Zpacks) called the Blast. The Cuben Fiber material was of extreme interest to me but I never pursued a pack as I don't care for frameless packs for actual backpacking loads and the Blast backpacks were bigger than I needed for a daypack. Then Joe came out with the Zero in a size that was perfect for what I had envisioned Cuben Fiber being used for.

I have often carried a separate summit pack for times when I did not want to carry my big pack for summit day on peak-bagging trips. Other times I carried a daypack along with my big pack to use when doing a trip that sees me set up in a base camp with side trips from the base.

I use down quilts for sleeping and have to put them in a waterproof stuff sack if I think rain is possible. When I saw the Zero for the first time I knew that I found a great multi-use product, a fact that was borne out as soon as I bought it.

The Zero makes a great stuff sack for my quilts. Well maybe I should leave the "stuff" part out as I don't actually compress the quilts with the Zero when using it. I just put my quilt in the Zero and close the drawstring leaving a small opening. I place it at the bottom of my pack and then load all my other gear on top of it, letting the weight of my gear compress the quilt-laden Zero, the air escaping through the small opening I left. It works great! In the picture below the Zero still has my quilt in it which has puffed back up inside it while I was setting up my tent at Lake Morena County Park in southern California. After putting the quilt in the tent I used the Zero as a daypack for a run up the Pacific Crest Trail at the Mexican border. After setting up our camp it rained for two straight days. And no, I did not pick the Zero to accessorize with my green NEMO tent.


I have used the Zero to protect and carry three different quilts. Based on my sleeping bags and quilts (all 800-fill down or better) I would say that this size of the Zero works for anything up to a 0 F (-18 C) rated bag.

Once in camp the Zero makes a great daypack for side trips. To me it is a great size as I don't carry that much for 3-season side excursions. (I do not use it for winter trips in snow.) There is plenty of room to carry 2 L of water, rain gear, lunch and the rest of the 10 essentials. Or a bathing suit, towel, cup, bottle of frozen water, and Platy Bottle of Scotch like I have in this picture on the way to Willet Hot Springs, 0.6 mi (1 km) from our camp on Sespe Creek in the Sespe Wilderness. Nothing like roughing it… ;-)

Hot springs time

While this has nothing to do with backpacking, the Zero has turned out to be the absolute perfect size for grocery shopping. Say whaaa…?
Does household chores too
As I write this I am recovering from a very badly fractured ankle. As I live alone (my kids are with me one week a month) I need to be self-reliant and there is no way I can carry shopping bags and use crutches at the same time. I tried a couple different packs and found the Zero to be the best fit. It carries what would be the equivalent of a couple shopping bags' worth of groceries. But groceries are a lot heavier than hiking gear and I only talk about this use to say how well it is handling it. I have probably had as much as 15 lb (6.8 kg) in it as I bounce across the parking lots on my crutches. Even with the slamming motion the Zero is taking the weight just great. Each trip I look at the bottom of the pack and the junction of the shoulder straps looking for wear and have nothing to report. Here is a shot of the Zero doing its domestic chores.

One thing I have noticed about the Cuben Fiber (and read about previous to purchasing the Zero) is that with use it is getting softer. When I first bought it the Zero felt a bit stiff and plastic-y. Now it feels much softer which I am sure is a result of all the stuffing in my packs. Zpacks warns that, "the material eventually begins to fray and separate from excessive sun exposure and general use. This is what limits the lifespan to 2500 miles (4025 km) or so." While mine is still in great shape even if it does wear out I will order another one as fast as I can as I love this handy little pack.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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