Though I love my Osprey Aether 70L pack for its toughness and comfort, in preparing for a hike like the Appalachian Trail, weight was my number one consideration. This inevitably led me to ZPacks, a brand created by a former thru-hiker, Joe Valesko, who was known on the trail for his ultralight homemade gear. He also thru-hiked the PCT and the AT.
I picked my ArcBlast up from Joe’s bargain bin for the ultra reasonable price of $250. The pack was a return, and had been customized for someone else, but fit my needs perfectly. The pack is constructed with a small aluminum supports, cuben fiber material, and some exceptional stitch work. The pack weighed in at just 18 ounces, and that was before I removed the aluminum or the hip supports.
With a bit of creativity, the pack can be very comfortable (one thru hiker suggested that I use my sleeping pad as a back pad, which worked very well). It bears weight surprisingly well for its design and I felt the pack was acceptably comfortable even when I was pushing the advertised weight limit of 30 pounds.
The stitching that holds on the shoulder straps eventually began to wear, but not until the end of my thru-hike. This is fairly remarkable considering how little material is actually there and how rough I was on my pack. After running out of food a few times, I developed the habit of carrying far more food than I needed, so sometimes I was pushing the weight limit, and I spent a lot of days putting in miles at a jog, sometimes even a brisk running pace it handled the abuse well.
The mesh on the back of the pack is also made to be ultralight and can be ripped if snagged or worn by a sharpish edge, but by no means rips easily. The pockets on either side of the pack are perfectly played, and the cube fiber, in addition to being ridiculously light, also happenns to be both tough and waterproof. I could hike in pouring rain, even go through chest deep water, without getting anything in my pack wet. Most hikers struggled with pack covers – no need with the Arc Blast.
Given the unheard of weight, the relative durability and the remarkable cuben fiber material, I highly recommend you consider a ZPacks backpack for your long distance hiking arsenal.