ZPacks Arc Haul Zip

ZPacks Arc Haul Zip + ZPacks Duplex

The ZPacks Arc Haul Zip, the latest backpack to be released by ZPacks, is a full featured backpack for those looking for the ability to carry a heavier load than the ZPacks Arc Zip.

If you are not familiar with the “Zip” backpack from ZPacks, I recommend reading my ZPacks Arc Zip review of this great front panel loader, it will go into detail of all of the features of the Zip, along with some of the history of the three years I spent developing the Zip, now being manufactured by ZPacks.

The “Haul” came about, as I understand it, as a result of ZPacks getting a lot of feedback from long distance hikers about the desire to carry heavier loads (thus the name “Haul”) for those longer stretches between resupply towns. The Haul increased the load capability of the standard Arc Zip from 30 lbs (14 kg) up to 40 lbs (18 kg).

It accomplished this through a number of ways:

  1. A redesigned hip belt attachment.
  2. A redesigned shoulder strap attachment.
  3. A full wrap hip belt.
  4. Increased padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt.
  5. V-style hip belt clips.
  6. The use of Dyneema X fabric which results in less fabric deformation under heavy loads.

The first two changes resulted in the Arc Frame no longer being a ‘floating frame’, a rather important key to handle weight distributions from the shoulders down to the hips.

I do want to note that ZPacks has informed me, “we are starting to put the Arc Haul belt / straps / etc on the Cuben packs too“, so basically, as I understand it, the only difference between the “Arc Zip” and the “Arc Haul Zip” is going to be the type of fabric (cuben fiber vs dyneema x). So that could change a lot of what I have share below. We will just have to wait and see how the numbers work out once they make these changes and what the final changes actually are. I suppose in many ways I should hold off publishing this until those changes have been made, but I am on a tight hiking schedule and time at home is limited.

At this point in time I do not have a lot of miles on the trail with this backpack, perhaps around 200 miles, on four or five different short hikes. I do have enough though to write an honest review of it, because in the end the above listed changes are the type of changes that can easily be noticed just how much they improve the carry comfort over the standard Arc Zip, without having to put a lot of miles onto the pack, and I do have a lot of miles with the standard Arc Zip.

ZPacks Arc Haul Zip - Recent Trip
The pack all loaded up and ready for another hike. I had just over 14 pounds, including food, but not water. The key to loading a front panel loader is that the lightest items should always be at the top, next row should be the second lightest, and so on down to the bottom of the pack having your heaviest items. Packing a front panel loader in this way results in the least amount of stress on the internal compression strips – a vital part of the long term durability/survivability of a FPL.
ZPacks Arc Haul Zip - First Trip
This load is from my first hike using the Arc Haul Zip. I had six days of food (8.4 pounds – 1.4 PPPPD) on the bottom. The next row is a MLD Spirit 28 in the dry bag, and the rest of my gear (cloths,stove,etc) are in the blue bag, with the ZPacks Duplex at the very top. Two Evernew water bags full of water and a Chromedome. Ditty bag, rain jacket, and wind jacket in the front pocket.


Comparatively Speaking:

So my long time readers know I am not a fan of comparing products, but so many of the questions I have gotten about the Arc Haul Zip is how it compares to other backpacks, so, this is for all of you out there wanting to know.

This is just my opinion, obviously, and based on packs I have used — and I would use this comparison rather loosely, but perhaps it will help some folks:

Load over 30 pounds: The Six Moon Designs Fusion 65

Loads between 12 and 20 pounds: ZPacks Arc Haul Zip

Loads between 8 and 12 pounds: ZPacks Arc Haul Zip

Loads between 5 and 8 pounds: Six Moon Designs Flight 30

Loads under 5 pounds: Ultimate Direction PB Vest (if you make your gear fit into it) or the SMD Flight 30 or the ZPacks Zero.


So why would I choose the ZPacks Arc Haul Zip over the ZPacks Arc Zip for loads between 8 – 12 pounds AND loads between 12 and 20 pounds?

This is a question I asked myself a while back, and the answer was rather simple: the difference in weight between the two packs is 207 grams (7.3 ounces), and the extra comfort of the Haul is worth 7’ish ounces, even at the lower load weights. I just feel it falls into the “sometimes a few extra ounces makes it worth it” approach. The shoulder-to-hip weight distribution due to not having a free floating frame, and the extra padding/comfort of the full wrap hip belt/shoulder straps, yeah, they are worth 7 ounces, too me. (again, pending any changes mentioned above that zpacks might be changing to having the same belt/shoulder straps for both the arc zip and arc haul zip)

So why would I choose the SMD Fusion 65 for loads over 30 pounds, when the Arc Haul is rated at 40 pounds?

Because, I feel, at this point in time, the suspension system that SMD has engineered is perhaps the best engineered suspension system on any backpack that you can buy for loads in the 30+ pounds range –  the KUIU Icon Pro 7200 with its molded full back carbon fiber frame I think sets the standards for truly massive loads, but safe to say that it is outside the scope of (hopefully) all long distance thru hikers. Yes, the Arc Haul can handle loads a bit heavier than the current Arc Blast/Zip, it just does not have the ability to go beyond it in as much comfort and load weight distribution as the SMD harness suspension system can. This is not being critical of the Arc Haul by any means. Each of the packs I have listed above fall into their own category. For the vast majority of UL hikers, for the vast majority of long distance hikers, the ZPacks Arc Haul Zip is going to be a great backpack. I have said it before and will continue to say it… the market majority that ULA has had for many years is going to continue to decline because of packs like the ZPacks Arc Haul Zip.


In Closing:

The ZPacks Arc Haul Zip is the most comfortable backpack that I have used that ZPacks makes. The change away from a free floating frame, the full wrap hip belt, the extra padding, the v-strap hip belt closure, all of these make the ZPacks Arc a significantly more comfortable backpack.

If the changes ZPacks has said they are going to make end up making the Arc Zip and Arc Haul Zip identical in every way except fabric, the choice between which of the two backpacks becomes significantly easier. As to which of the two fabrics you should buy, well, I will leave that for another day and another article. (ok, probably not going to touch that topic/issue, giggle)
Thank you,
+John Abela

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that at the time this article is published that I am a sponsored hiker of Black Rock Gear, Montbell US, Suluk46, Sun Precautions. I received the Arc Haul Zip from ZPacks as a T&E in order to compare it to the Arc Zip I have previously bought.

ZPacks Arc Haul Zip - On The Trail
ZPacks Arc Haul Zip – On The Trail

23 thoughts on “ZPacks Arc Haul Zip

  1. In April I had major surgery and if I can get back to hiking I’ll be taking Ultra Light seriously. So I’ve been studying light packs and Zpacks in particular. The Arc Zip caught my eye but I don’t know what to think about cuben fiber.
    Your text is a bit hard to follow but I will study it more too get the maximum from it.
    Wish Zpacks would update their website pictures it’s hard to pick out details with that dark fabric they use.

    1. Hello Chuck, thanks for the comment.

      Understand about the injury and wanting to go lighter. Faced the same thing myself once.

      As for cuben fiber… I think by now, there is zero reason to question cuben fiber as a viable backpack fabric – especially the hybrid cuben fiber used by zpacks, hmg, and others. But, as stated in this article, zpacks has indicating they are changing their main arc pack, making the only real difference between the “haul” and the standard is going to be cf vs dyneema x, so, you should have the same pack in fabric choices… making that whole issue of yours go away.

      Sorry my text is a bit hard to read. not really sure what that means, but hopefully you can figure out the main points of what my review was getting at.

      1. It is easy to read. Thank you for the article. I am considering the ZPacks Arc Haul for a through hike of the PCT. I’ll be taking some camera equipment but most of that will be in a side bag, and I should be able to transfer all that weight into the belt.

  2. This is great info, thanks John. I don’t know if I helped, but I was one of the folks who emailed Joe about the hip belt and load lifters, so I’m excited to see these changes. Also it’s great to hear that they will be applied to the blast as well, as I’m 5’2″ and I just don’t need the capacity of the larger sized Haul. Hopefully Joe will bring a few of these to PCT Days in Cascade Locks later this month. I’m going to ask him about making a cuben version with a dyneema bottom. :)

  3. Great article John. Seems ZPacks has been making a number of changes lately on their packs. I just received and used a 60L Arc Blast late in July. I ordered the key pocket and asked that it be moved down the extension collar. As you probably know, they’ve changed the design (during or around my order six weeks before) and I like that change much better. ZPacks seem to be quite responsive to customer input and I’m happy they are. My new pack worked great with a total weight around 23-25 lbs. including a bear can(didn’t weigh the pack on a scale but know what my spreadsheet indicated). It carried as well as my GoLite Quest, which has the same size pack body dimensions but a more robust suspension. They both felt very similar and I dropped almost two pounds moving to the Blast, so I’m a pretty happy camper as the say. -I do like the Arc Haul and Zip models but really needed to have the most motivation to spend the $$ and of course dropping all those OZs helped allot. I’ll probably never be over 25 lbs all out going forward (current 3 lbs. solo shelter included) so that made my choice easy. I am glad you are working with ZPacks to keep their packs fresh. I also gotta say that the new load lifter option works very well and is most appreciated. The pack carried all the weight on my hips and all the shoulder straps/sternum strap did was keep the pack from falling backwards. Just the way I like it.

  4. Hey John, sent Joe my Arc Blast 52L pack for some mods this last early spring. I had the center mesh pocket enlarged to carry my new Triplex tent along with my rain gear (I tandem hike to share weight also I’m very tall.) While he was working on it, I saw the Arc Haul prototype. I was very impressed. I asked if he could change out the belt & shoulder straps for the Arc Haul belt & straps. He did for a modest fee. Went out for a 56 mile hike that I tested the “Hybrid Arc Blast/Haul in 4 days. Total weight with food & water 16lbs. New pack was awesome. 2 weeks later went out for 62 mile hike that I planned to do in less than 3 days/2 nights. Total weight was 14.5 lbs. Pack carried great, the mesh webbing that covers the shoulder straps & hip belt is what sold me. Before the modification, the cuben fiber straps & belt caused me to sweat badly, with new belt and straps, it allows perspiration to evaporate easier. The weight changed from 18 oz to 22.6oz. He also added another horizontal bar at the bottom like the haul, he said it was necessary for the new belt. I will attest that I’m sold on my “Hybrid Blast/Haul pack.” Thanks for all the research you do. Can answer any questions you have….

    1. Yo Rebeldawg, Awesome feedback!!! Yeah, like you have experienced, I am convinced that the sweet-spot for these zpacks arc packs (any of them) are in that 12-20 pound range. The new extra padding on the shoulder straps, and the full wrap hip belt are soooo worth the extra 4 ounces it added to your pack, eh!!

      1. With the wider and fuller belt, the pack rests on my hips perfectly. It seems lighter than before with the extra padding absorbing most of the “friction weight.” The belt straps are twice as big, (probably could get by with smaller ones) but this was designed to withstand the rigors of a through-hike, so really no complaints. Also the belt straps are easier to dial in the perfect fit than before which is way cool. Later…

  5. Hello John,
    At its’ weight the Fusion 65 is roughly comparable to a ULA Circuit. Is the Fusion 65 a better carry in your experience (knowing you were a fan of the Circuit) I’d be interested to hear your view on that.

    1. Hey Jim,

      It has been many years since I had a ULA pack on my back, so I have no idea how the current versions ride, and not even sure if I could remember enough how my old Circuit rode, in an attempt to compare it.

      From an engineering perspective, I would put the SMD Fusion above the GG-ULA-MLD-HMG-ZPacks packs, when it comes to being able to handle a heavier load.

  6. Great overview, I am looking to lighten up from my ULA pack and this might fit the bill. My question is, will this pack take a BV500 canister? The website says it will, but it looks like they are showing a roll top. Can a canister fit over the frame without a roll top?
    Again, great overview.

      1. Understood, thanks. It looks like a very nice pack with a good volume. Does the bow in the frame narrow the middle of the pack? In other words, are the top and bottom of the pack deeper (from the external pocket to the back pad) than the middle of the pack?
        Thanks again

        1. yeah a bit mostly depends on how much you bend it – if any at all, it is far from a requirement, it just helps with airflow, oftentimes I don’t have to do it at all

          1. Interesting, I did not know the frame was adjustable. I guess I need to do a little more research on this frame.
            Thanks again

  7. I just got my ArcBlast in July and there’s already new improvements (frame uprights and belt). I’ve only completed one trip with it but it was great with an approx. 23-25 lb load. I was never uncomfortable.

  8. “Loads between 5 and 8 pounds: Six Moon Designs Flight 30”. Why do you recommend a 28oz pack (34oz if you want a hip belt) for such light loads? Aren’t packs such as MLD Burn at 12oz more appropriate at this stage?

    1. Ah, excellent point that deserved some clarification on my part within the article itself.

      I suppose the reason for that statement is because most of what I do these days is not so much “backpacking” as it is moving faster and further (whether you want to use the term ‘fastpacking’ or ‘ultra trail running’ or “fkt’ing” or whatever of those terms that intermingle with themselves one chooses to use) … so when I am out on the trail with 5-8 pound loads, it is usually in the scope of me pushing big miles and moving faster.

      So with that explained, the reason that I recommend the SMD Flight 30 (or something like the UD PB Vest – which I did a sub 4 pounds, 380 mile, 12 day FKT, earlier this year with) is that the Flight 30 hugs the body and does not bounce while running — something the MLD Burn cannot do.

      MLD has announced they are working on some FKT gear that might be viable for this type of adventuring, but we have no idea what it will be nor when it will be released.

      I hope that explains well enough why I recommend the SMD Flight 30 over other backpacks out there. It has to do with the style of adventuring. Often times, as in this cause you presented, additional weight in order to keep a load from bouncing (in the case I have presented) is an acceptable trade-off.

  9. I am planning to get the normal Arc Haul without the zipper. Hope it will hold up the load for a PCT thru-hike. Heard that most of the Arc Blasts were quit broken afterwards. But I am not sure yet if I should get the extra belt strapes.

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