Nearly every strap and accessory on this top-loading pack is removable or tucks neatly away when not in use, preventing snags on rocks and tree branches. The thin but wide hipbelt provides support for approaches, and then disappears into a slot when you’re ready to climb. “I love the narrow packbag with its flexible backpanel that hugs my torso during awkward climbing moves,” said one tester after 14 days in the Swiss Alps.
The single 20-inch center stay does a good job of transferring weight to the hips with loads up to 30 pounds (good for a pack this size). Despite the pack’s close fit, a central air channel with three diagonal channels on each side kept our tester’s back from getting too sweaty, even on a 14-hour slog on the Mt. Blanc massif.
The Zen uses a lightweight nylon that’s reinforced with carbon fibers for added strength (it’s expensive, but the strength-to-weight ratio is off the charts). “I accidently stepped on my pack with crampons while belaying,” one tester admits. “I stood on it for a good 10 minutes before I noticed. Incredibly, there were no punctures.”
A simple, metal hook secures the toplid over the packbag: “It’s super durable, secure, and really quick to operate one-handed.”