Perhaps the hardest part about backpacking and traveling is finding the proper pack. Am I here to guide you throughout the entire pack purchasing process? Nope. You’re mostly on your own, pal.
But I can speak from experience.
Up until my last backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, I’ve gone with the 2009 model of the Gregory Z65, a lightweight, well-built pack. It’s fairly easy to load and unload, and it’s just the right size for multi-day treks .
The main compartment is roomy enough. And like most modern packs, the Z65 is hydration compatible with a built-in reservoir pouch.
The Z65 also features the Jet Stream LTS suspension system, with an Aero-tech mesh on the pack panel. The Aero-tech is meant to wick moisture away from your back, but I’m still not entirely sold on the concept. Maybe I sweat too much. Gross, right?
One feature I surprisingly enjoyed was the dual mesh hipbelt pockets. This is an ideal place to store random, readily accessible items like a compass, chap stick, field mice, blow darts—your call.
Being a top loading pack, the Z65 makes accessing gear towards the bottom of the bag a tad difficult. It does have a horseshoe shaped zipper in the front that allows access to the contents of your bag, but I found I was digging around too much, longing for an accessible bottom compartment.
With the Z65, you sacrifice just a little comfort in the straps and the hip belt. Gregory cut down on weight by reducing the padding in these areas. I really bought into the minimalist concept of choosing a pack, foregoing padded comfort to shed precious ounces. Over time, it just got annoying.
I never actually used the exterior side pockets for anything, though I can see them being useful. The floating top lid was pretty rad, as I was able to stash all sorts of goodies in there.
Let’s face it, though. Sometimes you just have a bad trip with your gear, and this happened to be the case with my Z65 at RMNP.
I was considering looking into other pack options at the time, and the Z65’s performance on this trip sealed the deal for me.
For starters, the sternum strap snapped off halfway in. Normally that is not a big deal if you can snap the thing back on, but this is impossible on the trail with the Z65. I tried just about everything. The spirit of MacGyver was not with me that day.
They say there are a million uses for bandannas. Add this to the list: bandanna sternum strap. Note: it doesn’t work with the Z65.
Proudly showing off my top of the line bandana sternum strap, available at your local outdoor store and truck stops.
Later on, I found a rip in the nylon of the zippered stash pocket. How it developed, I haven’t a clue, as there wasn’t anything sharp in there, nor was it packed too full.
To top it off, I was experiencing hot spots on my shoulders, hips, and tailbone for the first time ever with this pack, even after constant adjustments. And this was before my sternum strap took a crap.
So what the hell. Time for an upgrade. Next time I’ll tell you all about my new Osprey Aether 60.