GREGORY Z55 PACK
TEST SERIES BY EDWIN MORSE
October 12, 2007
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ed dot morse at charter dot net
Grawn, MI USA
5' 8" (1.73 m)
143 lb (64.90 kg)
I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. Starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. I am slowly reducing my pack weight. Starting the last one week trip in New Hampshire I carried 35 lbs (16 kg). I am slowly obtaining lighter gear. I am also occasionally switching to a hammock in warmer weather.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Initial Report: May, 30 2007
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.gregorypacks.com
Listed Weight: 3 lb 5 oz (1.50 kg)
Measured Weight postal scales: 3 lb 4.9 oz (1.50 kg)
Measured Weight fish scales: 3 lb 4 oz (1.47 kg)
Getting the weight of a pack was a challenge for me. I weighed it first by balancing it on the digital postal scales. This weight was constantly changing but the most frequent is the one I listed above.
I then got out my digital fish scales with the hook to hang the pack on. This gave a weight of 3 lb 4 oz or 1.47 kg.
I don't know which weight is more accurate, I assume the postal scales which gives weights to tenths of ounces is more accurate. But this was a "little confidence" weight because I was trying to balance it on the small scales and the numbers kept changing. Either way, the pack does NOT weigh more than the manufacturer states as often happens.
The Gregory Z 55 pack (hereafter referred to as pack or Z 55) came in a clear plastic sack, with both the hang tags that were on the one I looked at in the store.
I thought I had looked at the pack very carefully in the store but I am still finding details that I did not expect. Two of the features listed on the website were "Top and side access" and "Water resistant side access zipper". When I looked at the pack in the store I did not find the side access to the main compartment. It is there, I just didn't see it the first time.
Here is a picture with the side access zipper open. I put a red shirt inside so it would show up better.
There are 4 separate compartments: The large main compartment, which seems huge for a weekend pack.
Here is a picture showing the top opening of the main compartment. It also shows the front pocket open.
The top pocket looks like a good place for my rain suit and first aid kit.
Here I show the top pocket zipped open with that same red shirt inside. When I took the red shirt out I found a snap hook inside the top pocket. This will be the place for my truck keys when I go hiking, very nice detail I thought was missing!
The "front" Bucket pocket which is open at the top and held closed with one buckle at the top and two compression straps on each side, with mesh areas at the bottom on each side. There is also a very large hydration pocket inside the pack with outlets for the hose on both sides at the top of the pack.
Here is a view of the pack from my right side. There is a lot of detail shown here.
The hydration hose is hanging over my right shoulder. I have the waist belt pocket unzipped with a snack sticking out. Behind my elbow is the mesh bottom of the large front bucket pocket.
The following picture is from my back (front of the pack?)
Here I have my old Therm-a-Rest strapped to the bottom of the pack. The front pocket zipper is closed in this view.
The detailing is impressive, with most seam stitches too small and hidden for me to see. I've only owned 4 packs, over a span of about 30 years, before getting the Z 55. None of them, including the two I still own, came close in engineering or craftsmanship.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Washing instructions are given at the top of the fourth page of the four page hang tag in a paragraph titled CARING FOR YOUR PACK.
Essentially I am told to hand wash with a mild detergent or soap solution and stubborn stains may require use of a soft bristle nylon brush.
In addition I am cautioned not to put the pack in a dryer or to use solvents of any kind.
Maybe I've been away from new packs for too long; I almost feel I want instructions about some of the straps and buckles - just kidding. I would not want anyone to tell me how to use the features of a pack. I will develop my own way to use every feature.
TRYING OUT THE Z 55
My first, and only use so far, has been a day hike out to a trail work location and back. I loaded all the "junk" I carry in the day pack, including rain gear, first aid kit, knives, food and water. Then I put in the tools I needed for the bridge building project and added the required hard hat and leather gloves. Total pack weighed 13 lb (5.9 kg). The pack was still, of course, not loaded to capacity. I fastened and pulled both compression straps tight. The pack rode very well all day while I was running the trail mower.
I will use the Z 55 for all day hikes as well as backpacking this summer. It is much more comfortable than my day pack. The ventilated back is a great feature on a hot day.
The Z 55 is, in my opinion, a well designed and very well made pack. I would not have believed that a pack designed for weekend and longer trips could function well as a day pack, until I used it for a long hard day. I am looking forward to packing my gear in the pack for several nights on the trail.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
August 8, 2007
I used the Z 55 on 4 over night hikes, 3 in the Manistee National Forest (MNF) and one in the Pere Marquette State Forest (PMSF) at the Sand Lakes Quiet Area. The Manistee National Forest, Pere Marquette State Forest and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are all in northwest Lower Michigan and within 50 miles (81 km) of Traverse City. The first two were solo hikes in the MNF, combining the Manistee River Trail (MRT) and the North Country Trail (NCT) for a 22 mile (35 km) loop walk. The third was with a friend trying to get back into backpacking. The fourth overnight, in the PMSF was another solo hike. The weather varied from cloudy and warm to clear and sunny or cloudy and wet with a low temperature one night of 35 F (2 C) to a high of 85 F (29 C) and sunny on the second overnight hike.
I also carried the Z 55 as my pack for both trail work hikes and just plain day hikes. The first "work day" was exploration and GPS mapping. This is my favorite kind of "work" and hiking, nearly all bushwhacking. The first day was cool, with a high of 60 F (16 C) and sunny. The terrain varied from swampy and wet brush to dry sandy pine forest areas. The second and third days were warm, humid and wet. Temperatures topped out at 82 F (28 C) both days. Terrain was similar generally going from dry sand forest to wet swamp and small creeks.
I also went on about 16 day hikes in the last 2 months, both before and between the overnight hikes. These were mostly in the MNF and at least half on the NCT. Several of the hikes in the MNF were mostly bushwhacking. I also took 2 hikes in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The weather varied from cool 60 F (16 C) and cloudy to a hot, for this area, 85 F (29 C) and sunny. All my solo day hikes were from about 8 mi (13 km) when bushwhacking to around 15 mi (24 km) for days totally on trail.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Before this spring I had not been backpacking for about 7 years. When I quit I had just started to try ways to go lighter. The Z 55 is about half the size of the big heavy pack I used 7 years ago. I have bought lighter gear but I still had some problems learning how to get things into the Z 55 for even an overnight trip. I'm still moving a few things around but mostly I've learned where to put gear to be handy when I need it.
I carried food and gear for 4 nights out on each of the overnight hikes. Each time out I changed a few items I packed and rearranged where things went a little. The total weight carried (including 5 days food and 2 liters (about 2 quarts) of water) varied from a high of 32 lb (14.5 kg) to a low of 28 lb (12.7 kg). The Z 55 carried very well. After the first hour it didn't feel much heavier than the day pack I've carried for several years. I noticed that I still have the old habit constantly adjusting the suspension while hiking. All the adjustments I want are available and easy to reach. I am satisfied that the Z 55 can meet my backpacking needs.
I've also used the Z 55 on nearly every day hike and trail work hike (about 16) in the last 2 months. I was surprised that a backpacking pack can work very well as a day pack. The compression straps allow me to tighten down the pack so nothing shifts around with just the stuff I carry for day hikes. I can just as easily load up the pack for serious trail work. In addition to lunch, water and the usual day hiking gear I put all the small hand tools and chain saw safety gear in the pack. With the chain saw over my shoulder the Z 55 carries easily and more comfortable than the day pack.
The Z 55 has done everything I've asked of it and done very well. Any problems I've had are part of my own learning curve to go lighter. The first few times out I missed the big side pockets I had on the old pack but soon learned that the side access zipper is just as handy.
Things I especially like at this time:
The side zipper access is very nice.
The hydration bladder pocket is big. I could carry two full 2 liter (2.1 qt) bladders but I don't see the need anyplace in the northeast.
The adjustments are great. I can put all the weight on my shoulders or all on my hips. I can equalize the weight and then pull the top of the pack in close to my shoulders for climbing hills.
The ventilated back is a nice feature. Sweat still happens but it is not nearly as uncomfortable.
Things I don't like:
There is still nothing I don't like about the pack.
A nice feature would be the ability to take off the top pocket for use as a day pack. I think it is something I can easily do with a little time to try a few things.
In late August and early September I will be going for a 15 day walk around Isle Royale in Lake Superior. I will be carrying 9 days of food before resupply. This should be a real test for the Z 55 and for my body.
After that will be several more one and two night hikes. One of these is planned and the others will be planned the night before I go.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
October 12, 2007
In late July I did one short overnight hike with a friend in the Manistee National Forest in northern lower Michigan.
Early August was mostly travel and day hikes in Michigan, Minnesota and Maine. The weather was much the same in each state; warm and low 80's F (27 C). Terrain in Maine and Minnesota was similar with hilly and rocky trails. In Michigan the trails were hilly and sandy.
The real testing for this period was on Isle Royale National Park in western Lake Superior. I was hiking on the island for 15 days, about 125 miles (200 Km) in late August and early September. I went with a slightly older (age 74) friend and his younger (age 70) brother. We separated 3 times for them to do shorter days and easier trails.
The weather varied from bright and sunny 80 F (27 C) on 2 days down to a few damp and chilly mornings of 40 F (4 C). We had 4 days and 2 nights of rain which varied from a light drizzle to a good steady soaking rain.
The terrain varied from a smooth "tunnel through the trees" to up and down over rocky ridges.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I started from Rock Harbor on Isle Royale with 37 lb in the Gregory Z 55 pack, including 10 days of food and 3 liters (3 quarts) of water. This was the most weight I carried on the whole trip since I ate an average of 14 oz (400 g) of food daily and started with only 2 qt (1.9 l) of water after the first day. This is a little over the stated weight limits of the pack but I thought it handled the weight very well.
In the top pocket of the pack I carried a small First Aid kit, a silnylon rainsuit, a windshirt and the cover for the Z 55. Inside the hydration pocket were my 3 water containers, 2 were full to start.
In the zipped back pocket I carried the small camera tripod, spare batteries for GPS, camera and headlamp. I had 4 sections of Z-Rest and the tent poles and stakes in the open back pocket.
On the right shoulder strap I had the camera in a hard case. On the left shoulder strap I had the GPS in a silnylon bag with a notebook and pen in an outside net pocket. I also had a compass with digital thermometer clipped on the shoulder strap with a small carabiner.
In the main part of the Z 55, starting at the bottom, I had a Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag in a silnylon stuffsack in a trash bag. Also in the trash bag was the Big Agnes Insulated Aircore mattress. Above this was my silnylon sack of clothes. Stuffed around in the little spaces were food packages, hearing aid box, pill box, headlamp, stove and fuel canister. On top of all was my tent.
Clipped on the back was a hard case for my glasses.
It took a few hours to get the pack straps adjusted to more weight than I had carried in it before. Once I got it all adjusted it rode well and I didn't notice the weight.
The following picture was taken shortly after we started our hike.
I know the pack looks very awkward but it does not feel that way. I think it looks awkward because of the ventilated suspension system. Actually, climbing over the rocks on Isle Royale, the thought I had at the time was it felt like a leech on my back. It didn't bounce or move around, it was just there all the time. I never felt off balance and the pack did not shift when I climbed up and down over rocky ridges.
According to the provided information the zippers are water resistant. I didn't take chances, instead I put the rain cover on when there was any chance of getting wet and it stayed on until I knew it would not get wet.
With the rain cover on the pack and everything inside stayed dry. We had 4 days of mostly rain. Only my feet got wet.
We did a day hike on the next to the last day on the island. I found I could use the top packet of the Z 55 as a fanny pack. I carried rain gear, camera, lunch and a water bottle. My rain parka kept it mostly covered.
I now think the Z 55 can be easily handle any kind of hiking I am likely to do. It has done well for me day hiking, hiking out to do trail work while carrying safety gear and backpacking with a full load. When I go with a small load for a day of hiking or trail work the compression straps tighten down to hold everything in place.
When I load the pack for several days on the trail it easily handles as much weight as I want to carry.
I fully expect to continue using the Gregory Z 55 for all my backpacking until I can get my pack weight and volume down enough to use a much lighter pack.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
I will also continue to use it for some day hiking and most trail work hikes. The Z 55 carries required safety equipment and daily needs much better than my day pack.
I would like to thank both Gregory and BackpackGearTesters for the opportunity to test the Z 55.
Read more reviews of Gregory gear
Read more gear reviews by Edwin L. Morse