Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) ‘Core’ Backpack

Getting ready to unpack my MLD Core 22l backpack.

Greetings Adventurers!

Back in February of 2016 I ordered a Mountain Laurel Designs ‘Core 22L’ backpack for use as my primary summer backpack – it was my first backpack from MLD and it will not be my last – quickly fell in love with this backpack!

The MLD Core is offered in two different volumes, a 22L (1300ci) and a 28L (1700ci) volume – I went with the 22L knowing that I could get all of my gear into it and about three days worth of food. YMMV.

One really has to ask themselves what the targeted market is for a backpack as simple as the MLD Core. Let me try to share my thoughts on that.

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[Released] Zpacks ‘Nero’ Backpack


Greetings Adventurers!

Update: September 2019: Zpacks has updated the Nero with a new buckle system for the roll-top and other minor issues. See this post for further information.

The sub 2268 hiking world went a little berserk back in January (2017) when they noticed that the Zpacks Zero and XS-Zero backpacks were no longer being offered.

Today, Zpacks has unveiled the reason: the brand new Zpacks Nero backpack!

In the words of Zpacks:

If you can’t take a Zero take a Nero! The Nero is an ultralight frameless backpack stripped down to only the most popular features. This compact backpack has no frame aside from a closed cell foam sit-pad for cushioning. It is best suited for hardcore long distance hikers with base weights around 5-6 lbs (2.5 kg) and maximum loads up to 20 lbs (9 kg).

Continue reading “[Released] Zpacks ‘Nero’ Backpack”

Vargo ‘Ti-Arc’ Backpack

Vargo 'Ti-Arc' Backpack

Greetings Adventurers!

Over the last  year I have been using the Vargo ‘Ti-Arc‘ Backpack and I have to say, I have pretty much fallen in love with it.

The ‘Ti-Arc‘ is an external titanium frame backpack, so, old school style meets up with new school hardware.

Yes, you read that right, I have fallen in love with an external frame backpack!

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Six Moon Designs, Flight 30 Pack

Six Moon Designs ‘Flight 30′ in-use along the Bigfoot Trail in Northern California. Photo Credit: Brian Doyle
Six Moon Designs ‘Flight 30’ in-use along the Bigfoot Trail in Northern California.
Photo Credit: Brian Doyle


The Six Moon Designs ‘Flight 30 pack is one of the newest and most exciting backpack on the market for SUL hikers, runners, fastpackers, FKT’ers, peak baggers, and those looking for a small volume backpack that can handle 10 pounds or so of gear and have very little, if zero, bouncing while moving fast down the trail.

It is clear that the market is getting ready for an explosion of new products for those individuals that move fast, move light, and need gear that, for the most part, did not exist even a half-decade ago. As more and more hikers have moved into the world of SUL, and even XUL, a necessity for good quality backpacks, that are themselves SUL in nature, are desperately needed. At the same time, as adventure racers, ultra runners, and ultra marathoners, are discovering the joy, and sometimes pain, of pushing themselves even further, so too are they finding the need to be using backpacks rather than vests, in order to accommodate additional garments, required safety gear, and additional food for those going without resupply. For the last few years there has been a void in the market – a near lack of any products in the 15 liters up to 35 liters of volume space. A few have come along but very few, and those that did were obviously designed by folks that just did not ‘get it’ and instead where just trying to tap into a market prematurely without doing the necessary research for what was needed. Companies that have gotten it have, unfortunately, continued to produce products for either day-runners (in the form of vests from companies such as Ultimate Direction, Salomon and others) that do not offer enough volume, or are companies (Montane, ZPacks, and others) that use traditional backpack shoulder strap systems that just do not work for faster moving adventurers.

The Flight 30 was designed from the ground up to resolve these issues. The lead developer of the Flight 30 is well respected and experienced long distance hiker, Brian Frankle, who is also be an active trail runner. Ron Moak, the owner of Six Moon Designs shared this on BPL: “The Flight 30 was designed for ultra runners who need to carry enough gear to be able to spend a night out without suffering. To accomplish this, it needed to be larger than your typical running pack. However, it also couldn’t interfere with your normal running.1

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ZPacks “Arc Zip” Backpack

ZPacks "Arc Zip" Backpack
ZPacks “Arc Zip” Backpack

Greetings Hikers,

Very happy to share the news that ZPacks has released the “Arc Zip” backpack, which has been a collaborated design involving myself and Joe Valesko, the owner of ZPacks, since I initially approached him with the idea of working together to build a front panel cuben fiber backpack, back in September of 2012.

The “Arc Zip” is a fully featured backpack that utilizes an old fashion front panel loading design. Simply put, it was time to bring an old school design into the world of new school fabric and modern day lightweight backpacks!

The “Arc Zip” is being offered in three different volume sizes:

A 47L (2,850 cubic inches) weighing only 19.0 ounces (539 grams).

A 54L (3,300 cubic inches) weighing only 19.5 ounces (553 grams).

A 62L (3,800 cubic inches) weighing only 20 ounces (567 grams).

The Arc Zip features a traditional full-U shaped zipper making up the front panel loading pocket. Sitting on top of the front panel is a high volume ‘front pocket’ that is solid fabric giving it a very clean look. Designed without a roll top closure, it uses a top compression system that allows you to compress down the top of your pack as you eat through your food or if you just do not need the extra volume. It features two internal compression straps to help keep your gear in place and give the pack extra durability for those times when you have to carry a lot of gear.

The Arc Zip, like all of the Arc backpacks designed by ZPacks, includes the Patent Pending Flexed Arc carbon fiber frame, solid fabric side pockets (5 Liters / 300 cubic inches), side compression straps, top and bottom straps, hydration ports.

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ZPacks Arc Blast Backpack

Author and hiker, John Abela, wearing a ZPacks Arc Blast backpack.
Author and hiker, John Abela, wearing a ZPacks Arc Blast backpack.

Greetings Hikers, Runners, Alpinists, Adventure Racers, And Other Outdoor Fans!

Does your list-wish for a backpack include an external support frame, high volume capacities, super  tough fabric, and be sub 20 ounces (566 grams)?

If so, the ZPacks Arc Blast backpack is going to be the backpack that you will want at the top of your list.

The “Arc Blast” from ZPacks LLC, based out of Florida USA, features a flat carbon fiber support system, three different volume capacities (45 Liters up to 60 liters [2,750 – 3650 cubic inches]), is made from a cuben fiber and nylon fabric, and starts off at a meer 454 grams (16 ounces) on the scale!

Two hiking seasons have passed, since the Arc Blast was released and it has been great to start seeing some reviews show up on the internet about this backpack, including an excellent write-up by Keith “Fozzie” Foskett, and I figured it was about time for me to write up my thoughts on this backpack.

I purchased my first Arc Blast in November of 2012. I have since ordered a second one with a few extra features, and even sent my second one back for some additional modifications – one of the truly great aspects of ZPacks LLC – and the Arc Blast has, unquestionably, become my go-to backpack when I need a pack with a lot of volume. As I head into the winter hiking season the Arc Blast will be the only backpack I will be using due to the need for extra room for a winter sleeping bag and winter garments.

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Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Ultralight Backpack
Gossamer Gear Gorilla Ultralight Backpack

Greetings Hikers,

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla Ultralight Backpack 2012 edition has been on the market for a bit over a year now. I purchased one to give it a try and found I really loved a lot of the features of this backpack. Most of the below is from an article I wrote about a year ago on an old website I no longer use, and I wanted to get it moved over to HikeLighter.Com – so I have taken some of the below from my previous article and updated it with further thoughts after having used it a bit more.

The Gorilla has been a very popular backpack on long distance trails and it has a nice 3,000 cubic inches (46 liters) of total capacity with a 35 pound maximum carry capacity – pretty much perfect for a thru-hiker or weekend hiker that needs the extra volume.

The backpack averages 715 grams (25 ounces / 1.56 pounds) in weight, so as an UL/SUL long distance hiker it is something I could use, but is 10 ounces heavier than the ZPacks Arc Blast (3,200 Cubic Inches / 52 Liters – so significantly larger volume) and it is three times heavier than my primary custom made front panel loader backpack which is 2,200 cu in (36L) and 240 grams (8.47 oz). But as we all know, there are times when a heavier backpack is a very good thing. The Gorilla can take a serious load and keep you going without causing pain from having to heavy of a load in a backpack that does not have enough support. It has remained in my gear room specifically because of its ability to provide me the ability to handle a heavier load.

The backpack comes with pretty much every feature that we are use to seeing on high end full size backpacks – including a center loop which can double as an iceaxe strap, 6 exterior pockets, a crazy tough 140 denier Dyneema,  padded hipbelts, curved shoulder straps, sternum strap, so on and so forth. Everything a weekender/long distance hiker needs in a backpack of this size. Continue reading “Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack”