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Gear Review: ZPacks Exo

The lightest ultralight pack we tested.
may2012 exos zpack 445x260ZPacks Exo (Ben Fullerton)

[lightest]
You: an ultralight veteran who thinks nothing of going overnight with a 15-pound load. Your pack: the lift-it-to-believe-it Exo. “My grocery tote bag weighs more than this,” marveled one ranger when he first picked it up. But the Exo is not just a sack with shoulder straps. The packbag attaches to an external frame made of two thin carbon-fiber shafts that are connected at the top with a crossbar. That gives the Exo structure, keeping the packbag from flopping around and enhancing comfort with light loads (up to 20 pounds).

Above that, testers wanted load lifter straps ($6, .2 oz.) and more cushion—the optional pad sleeve ($15, .55 oz.) accommodates most folded pads. The stripped-down packbag is just one large compartment with a Velcro-and-buckle roll-top closure that testers loaded and compressed “like a giant dry bag.”

Bummer: The shoulder straps had an annoying habit of twisting when testers hoisted the pack on their backs. The feather-light fabric (Cuben fiber laminated with a 50-denier polyester) requires some TLC: The exterior layer of polyester on one side pocket sprung two pin-size holes from normal rock abrasion after 10 days of use. Several add-on pockets are also available for more storage.

> Weight 12.6 oz.
> Capacity 50 liters
> Price $259
> Sizes Each pack frame and hipbelt is custom fit to order
> Info zpacks.com

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