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:
- A redesigned hip belt attachment.
- A redesigned shoulder strap attachment.
- A full wrap hip belt.
- Increased padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt.
- V-style hip belt clips.
- 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.
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.
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.
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)
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.