Pick Your Pack: Gregory Zulu 35
I've been searching for "my bag" for the last two years. I know a "perfect" pack has to exist, but I just can't seem to find one. I think I got pretty close with this very good looking pack. The Zulu's were new on the bag market this year (2016), and I loved the look of the backpacks before they ever hit store shelves. I ordered the Gregory Zulu 35 - thinking the panel loading 30 would be too small, and perhaps the 40 just a tad too big. The goal for "my bag" is to have a go-to for day trips, weekend adventures, short to medium length hikes, and maybe even some airplane rides.
The Zulu 35 fit the bill. The pack is smaller in size, so it doesn't look or feel huge while walking through crowds. It fits in the under seat storage even on regional planes, so I can keep the bag near me on longer flights. It works well for shorter hikes and smaller adventures.
My ongoing trouble with bags is that I always have a camera with me - almost always a fairly large DSLR and another film camera. The bag is very narrow, so the cameras (in individual padded case) take up most of the space and, due to their weight, fall to the bottom. The bag has a curved back, which is amazing for ventilation in hot weather, but difficult for packing the bag with something larger - like a camera. The U-zip front access is excellent for accessing items without having to open everything on the top, but just a tad too small for my camera.
I realize this bag is not a camera bag, so I can't fairly judge it on that criteria alone. As a day pack, this bag has some amazing features. When it comes to carrying the basics - water, snacks, layers, first aid, various hiking gadgets, and a small camera - this bag is perfect. Easy front access, a stretchy front mesh pocket, two side mesh pockets, and two large hip pockets. The suspension rides very comfortably and allows excellent airflow on the back. The large lid pocket on top is seriously huge. I have carried a long-sleeve shirt, small camera, first aid kit, and snacks - with space - in that top compartment alone. It's great for quick access items.
The bag has several plastic clips and straps that lock things into place and a main drawstring opening on the top, under the "brain" pocket. With standard hiking gear, this bag holds quite a lot and compresses down nicely. The shoulder straps have a cute sunglasses loop, which works really well at keeping glasses handy, but far enough away from arms and face, that they don't get smudged when you have to get more creative in maneuvering. For me, they got the perfect angle on that little loop. I think the straps are my favorite part of the entire bag - they are so comfortable. They adjust easily, allow airflow, and are very soft and comfortable.
The color is my second favorite aspect. I love grey... so this grey, with red accents, totally caught my eye. Finally, a bag that is super nice looking, but not some super bright color! Kudos on color picking, Gregory - the blue and green versions of this bag are just as fantastic!
- The back has a firm suspension system. This bag features Gregory's new "CrossFlo" suspension. It's awesome. The bag stands tall and strong and gives your back lots of breathing room!
- It's a drawstring top loader with a large storage "brain" on top. The brain has pockets on both sides, one for securing small items underneath, and one for quick access on the top.
- This pack is hydration compatible with a small sleeve inside for a reservoir and a hose exit port.
- While being a top-loader, the bag also has a big U-shaped zipper for front access. Handy for digging in the bottom without completely unpacking!
- It has a sternum strap and a basic hip belt (with pretty big pockets).
- A big stretchy front stuff pocket - a quick place to stuff a layer or a snack and map. The side mesh pockets will take a 32 ounce water bottle - they are a great size.
- A raincover is included! To be honest, I haven't had to use this. It doesn't rain much in Southern California!
- There are two attachment points for trekking poles.
- A cool little loop for sunglasses!
What I Love:
- Excellent straps and suspension - very comfortable pack. It has excellent lumbar support, and is one of the more comfortable bags I've ever owned.
- Very cool color options!
- This bag just feels very well made - I don't doubt that it will last a long time.
What I Don't Love:
- The super curved back, which makes the suspension amazing, is also a bit restrictive with packing. A pro and a con, at the same time.
- The stretchy mesh side pockets, where I usually stash water bottles, seem to be stretching out and not returning to their original shape/size.
- Lack of smaller organizational pockets, but Gregory provided a good deal of storage areas, just not many small areas.
This bag is absolutely wonderful for the intended use - a day or two on a trail, with the necessary gear. It carries a lightweight load very comfortably and looks good while doing in.
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