For 2+ years and over 500 miles, I've hammered this top-loading 65-liter pack, in various seasons, weather conditions, and terrain. It's built like an army tank and can be comfortably loaded with a week's worth of gear or shrunk down for a dayhike.
When it comes to packs the first thing I care about is suspension. The framesheet and two aluminum stays do a superb job of transferring most of the weight to your hips, and even when I push the recommended 55-pound limit only my quads feel uncomfortable.
Much of the comfort can be credited to this oversized lumbar pad and large hipbelt pads, which take the brunt of the weight. Even after hundreds of miles of use, the firm but resilient padding cushions just as well as the day I bought the pack.
This pack is big on ventilation. I can't remember what it feels like to have an overheated back. You can literally stick your arm through the space that's created by this trampoline-style back, with mesh strung between the lumbar & shoulders.
All of this comfort means I spend less time trying to adjust an awkward rig and more time on the trail. Plenty of compression straps make for a stable load, and I feel well balanced when scrambling across ridgelines like in the Sierra's Ritter Range.
Expandable spindrift collars are great for winter trips where my pack is stuffed to the brim. I've loaded a week's worth of gear in here, and although a few items had to be strapped to the outside at first, the Z65 handled it all with aplomb.
Multiple attachments for gear like ice axes and crampons make this pack versatile enough to handle most mountaineering duties too.
Although minute, it's difficult for me to imagine hiking without the convenience of hipbelt pockets. These are spacious enough for most point and shoots, and they can easily hold a half a day's worth of gorp.
If you like to hike with water bottles, the side pockets aren't easily accessible without dislocating your shoulder. However, the pack is hydration compatible, complete with an internal sleeve and tube ports on either side of the lid.
The large horseshoe zipper on the front of the pack provides easy internal access, and it's much more convenient than digging through from the top every time you want to pull out an extra layer.
I've worn this pack all over the globe through sleet, hail, rain, sun, and sand, and it still functions just as well as the first day I put it on. Plus, it's survived baggage claim at LAX many, many times, so I figure it can handle anything.
Weight: 4 lbs. 6 oz. (L)