Sep 26th, 2014


School mate carries a heave load.

What has to stay at home?

A whole summer and what feels like a lengthy spell of winter has passed since you were good enough to read some of my ramblings on lightweight backpacking and whether a conversion from the "old school" way of doing things was appropriate.  

In my initial blog I talked about making changes to the big pieces of my kit first as that would be where the biggest savings on weight could be made, eg - pack, boots  and sleeping bag. I quickly realised that one really does need to take a holistic approach to lightweight backpacking and readdress everything you take (or don't take) on a hike. It's no good swapping your 3.5kg, 90 litre pack for a 500 gram 52 litre one if you are still trying to put all the same stuff inside it! 

First I want to talk about the packs - I have tried two: the Macpac Tasman, a 45 litre pack weighing in at around 1.1kgs, and the Z pack's, Arc blast, 52 litres and weighing in at less than 500 grams. Both have their pros and cons (price being a big one), read on for my musings about these packs.


Macpac Tasman

No sweaty back


The good stuff...

  • Good price  - If you get one of these during the frequent sales it will cost NZ$179. 

  • No sweaty back! The mesh style harness means the load is kept off your back meaning no more sweaty back! Initially I did not think much of this design feature, but soon appreciated it. A pleasant change to drop your pack for a breather and not instantly get cold because the back of your shirt is stuck to your back with sweat!   

  • Pockets on the hip belt- they are really handy for storing things you want to access without having to take your pack off, like a camera, snacks etc. It's comfortable for carrying loads of up to 12kgs, heavier than this and I started to experience a bit of rubbing around the hips.


Too many straps and clips

The not so good..

  •  For a lightweight pack I think there is still a bit of wasted weight on extra straps, oversized clips etc. I think it could be a more minimal style without compromising comfort or water tightness. 

  • I find it a bit annoying when there are too many things I need to do just to get into the main compartment of the pack - 2 clips, then another clip, then a drawstring seems like one or two steps too many.

  • There is a pocket with a long vertical zip on the front of the pack this was not overly functional for storing the items I would usually store in this part of a pack eg map, first aid kit or torch.


Z Pack Arc Blast


The good stuff...

  • So light- at 462 grams (to be exact) it's just incredibly light. 

  • Minimal design, everything is pared back to the minimum, it's basically a dry bag fixed to a carbon fiber frame. 

  • Even though it's only 7 litres bigger in capacity than the Tasman, it felt like I could get a lot more into it. 

  • I really liked the roll top dry bag design, easy and effective, no faffing around with a whole lot of clips and drawstrings. And for a small load you just roll the top down further.

  • Mesh pocket on the front - although the mesh is not made of really robust material, I found this pocket a really handy storage area for all those things you are likely to be wanting throughout the day. It's also a real advantage being able to see exactly what you have put in there.

  • It's comfortable, like the Tasman the load sits off your back allowing airflow and less of the old sweaty back in the cold wind problem. The design of the Tasman probably achieves this the most effectively. 

  •  No unnecessary padding in straps and hip belt to soak up water in wet conditions - once again things are pared back to the minimum - without compromising comfort.

  • The pack is also an ideal daypack as you can compress it somewhat by rolling the top down

The not so good...

  • While I do find it hard to say anything bad about this pack, the price that it cost me to get out here to New Zealand was a considerable NZ$420. I'm not saying it's not worth it but it is considerably more expensive than other more mainstream lightweight backpacks.

  • The mesh pocket, whilst really useful, it is prone to getting snagged and ripped if you go off track in to the rough stuff.

  • You'll also have to stand around waiting for your mates who are lugging their heavy packs!

To summarise

Having not long got back from a hike I do annually with some old school mates I have to say just how good it is to have 'lightened the load.' Whilst my pack was not as light as it could have been on this particular hike due to the tradition of taking a few luxurious items to celebrate catching up with old friends. The shaving off of 3,4 or even 5kgs with some smart choices on the big player items of my pack, sleeping bag and layers made a huge difference to my overall experience. Put simply at the end of the day I was still feeling really fresh, when usually I'd be pretty sick of my pack - shoulders would be aching, hips would be sore. So I'm looking at my old canvas pack and thinking  - 'mmm, I wonder how much I'd get for that on TradeMe (NZ's e-bay).

Stay tuned, I'm keen to talk about clothing next and in particular this great and extremely light jacket I have practically lived in on the last few trips I have done.

Dan footer new

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