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ZPacks Arc Blast Backpack Review

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The ZPacks Arc Blast is one of the lightest and most comfortable backpacks I’ve ever taken on the trail. At a mere 16.4 ounces, the ZPacks Arc Blast is an ultralight backpackers dream come true.Its minimal, carbon fiber frame provides airflow to your back, which is an uncommon benefit for ultralight packs. The design of the pack is simple, making it convenient and easy to use. Large hip-belt pockets and shoulder strap pouches are an additional benefit that should not be passed up. The Arc Blast is an exceptional blend of toughness and simplicity that will greatly reduce your pack weight.

ZPacks owner, Joe Valesko, is a seasoned thru-hiker and triple crown backpacker. He knows his stuff and his company has an excellent reputation for customer service. If you’re an ultralight backpacker in need of a pack upgrade, I highly recommend the ZPacks Arc Blast. For more information on critical considerations for backpacks and our recommendations, check out our Best Lightweight Backpacks page.

Quick Specs

Zpacks Arc Blast

Price: $375

Weight: 1 lb. 3.9 oz.

Capacity: 55L


  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Minimal frame
  • Hip pockets
  • Durable
  • Capacity
  • Shoulder strap pouch
  • Custom made
  • Warranty


  • Cost
  • Not great at carrying heavy loads
  • Sometimes equipment pokes back
  • Water bottle holder material
  • Not the most stylish
  • Shoulder strap twists
  • Not the best in the rain
  • Wait time to purchase



This pack is light. And I mean light. 16.4 ounces is featherweight. And it really feels that way on your back. At 16.4oz, this bag is about as light as they get.

Comfortable & breathable

The shoulder straps and hip belt have excellent padding. They are very comfortable and have added stitching to increase durability. The hip belt on this pack isn’t as rigid as many pack belts tend to be. The advantage of this is increased comfort around your waist, but this style won’t be ideal for heavy loads and rigid hip support. The Arc Blast frame design really is quite smart. It allows for airflow to your back, which will help control your body temperature and reduce back sweat while you hike. You also won’t need to rely on a foam pad for back support, like many other UL packs. If you prefer to sleep on air pads, this frame design will help reduce unnecessary back padding weight.

Minimal Design

The clips and straps on this bag are small and light. They seem a lot more minimal than other packs I’ve used and they are probably not as tough. That being said, I think a good balance was struck in this area. If your gear is light, you won’t need heavy straps on your pack. I was worried at first that the straps and clips were too small, but I quickly changed my mind once I got this pack on the trail.


Durability is another area where I think this pack is deceptive. At 16.4oz with a minimal frame and strap design, I was worried that this pack wouldn’t be able to handle the toughness of the trail. So far it has crushed my expectations. I’ve logged about 250 trail miles with this pack and it looks like it has a ton of life left in it. I don’t think it will be as durable as some other UL packs and it definitely won’t be as durable as a traditional backpack, but I would absolutely feel comfortable taking this pack on a thru-hike without hesitation. Treat it with care and it’ll last a long time.

Hip belt pockets and shoulder strap pouch

The optional hip belt pockets (extra cost) on this pack are roomy. ZPacks updated their hip pockets in April, so I haven’t had a chance to use the new pocket design, but it looks very similar to the old design with a few improvements. The hip belt pockets are now waterproof, which is a great touch. They are also latched with a simple clip now, which is another improvement.They are still quite large, which is great for carrying easily accessible gear, but they can get in the way of swinging arms while you hike. I ultimately didn’t find this to be an issue, but it was annoying at first and it took a little while to get used to. I wouldn’t ever backpack with a pack that didn’t have hip belt pockets, so I’d definitely recommend adding a pair to your order.

I would also highly recommend adding one shoulder strap pouch (extra cost) to your order. I found wearing one shoulder strap pouch to be incredibly useful. I’ve been looking for a better spot on my pack to store my camera and sunglasses for a long time. I want them to be easily accessible and always in a safe place, especially when my pack is resting on the ground. I found that adding a shoulder strap pouch was the perfect solution to my problem. My camera and glasses are always safely suspended in an easy to reach position.

Size & capacity

The size of this pack is also quite appropriate for ultralight pack users. It’s a slim pack, so it won’t hold as much gear as other pack designs. I found the 52L model to be an appropriate size for all of my UL gear with five days of supplies and plenty of room to spare. ZPacks also offers a 60L model, which is a bit bigger for users who are concerned with space. If you’re an ultralight backpacker that knows how to pack light, I’d recommend the 52L size. If you’re transitioning to UL backpacking and are nervous about needing more space, get the 60L pack.



The main downside to this bag is probably the price. Cuben fiber is an excellent material to use for UL backpacking gear, but it is very expensive. One of the main reasons that this bag is so light is because it’s constructed with cuben fiber. So, there’s really nothing that ZPacks can do about the price, it’s just the tradeoff for working with UL materials. Though it will surely be too expensive for some, I still think it’s well worth the investment.

Not great for carrying heavy loads

Another downside to the Arc Blast is its size and load carrying ability. This is not a downside for most ultralight backpackers; in fact, it’s exactly what we’re looking for. But for traditional backpackers, an ultralight bag can sometimes be a tough transition. The Acr Blast will carry a light load exceptionally well, but if you’re planning on carrying a lot of weight, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Sometimes Your Equipment can poke your back

The design of the Arc Blast is great for increasing airflow to your back while you hike. This is an important feature, especially if you sweat a lot on the trail. You will still have to pack your bag carefully because poorly packed equipment can poke you in the back while you hike. The Arc Blast now has two horizontal bars on the frame, which will help provide more space than the model I am using.

Not the best in the rain

The Arc Blast pack I tested was not seam-taped for water protection, but cuben fiber is a waterproof material. When it rained, water would run through the seams (especially through the bottle holders) and get into the bag. It’s uncommon to find waterproof backpacks, so this wasn’t the biggest deal to me. I almost always line the inside of my pack with a trash bag when it’s raining, even if my backpack claims to be waterproof. It’s just not worth the risk of getting your gear wet. Now ZPacks tapes the seams of the Arc Blast for added water protection. My guess is that this makes a big improvement, but I would probably still line the inside of my bag in a rainstorm.

Wait time to purchase gear

ZPacks is a small company, which comes with certain advantages and disadvantages. They build their products on demand, constantly innovate, and do excellent custom work. The downside is that they often have long wait times for their products. The current wait time for this pack is 4-5 weeks. It’s not always that long and they will do their best to get you your gear ASAP. Joe is very good at responding to personal requests, so don’t hesitate to send them an email if you have questions. I think their products are well worth the wait and I enjoy supporting small businesses that are doing good work.

Bottom Line

I don’t often find backpacks that are extremely light, comfortable, and tough and that’s why the Arc Blast makes our list of Best Lightweight Backpacks.