Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Relatively light, nice pockets and access points, killer lumbar suppport.
Cons: Frame runs short, maxes out carrying greater than 40 lbs.
Best Uses: Backpacking, mountaineering, trekking, some Alpine climbing.
We gave the Gregory Z65 a Top Pick award because it is our favorite pack for moving fast and light. It has the best comfort-to-weight ratio – it's not the lightest or the most comfortable but strikes a great balance between the two. It is ideal for climbers and backpackers who want to pack lighter but aren't ready for, or don't want, a truly ultra-light frame-less or minimalist frame pack. Its main competition is the Osprey Aether 60 that won our Best Buy award. The Aether is better for backpacking and traveling with heavier loads and the Z65 is better for climbing and ski mountaineering. Both are among the least expensive packs we tested and the best values. If you want the ultimate backpacking pack, especially if you carry bigger loads, get the Arcteryx Altra 65, which won our Editors' Choice award.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Weighing just 4 lbs, 3 oz, this is one of the lighter packs in our review. The only pack we tested that was lighter was the REI Flash 65 which was a full pound lighter but wasn't nearly as comfortable. We loved how supportive the frame of the Z65 is. It is nearly as comfortable as many other packs in our review that are $25 to $175 more expensive and one to two pounds heavier.
Despite being on the lighter side of packs in our review it was one of the best feeling up against our backs and featured awesome lumbar padding.
We like how easy the Z65 is to pack and appreciated its huge U-shaped access zipper. Grabbing items even in the bottom of the pack is easy. The Z65 sports only a few (but very usable) pockets and killer access points that we thought were some of the best designed in our review. With one on the lid, one on the two non-zippered water bottle pockets and some small zippered pockets on the waist belt, it caused most of our testers to believe they could keep pretty well organized. It had a few smaller pockets to keep easy-to-lose items from disappearing into the bowels of your pack and one large compartment.
This the favorite setup of most of our testers.
This is not a pack to carry heavy loads. We felt its suspension was lacking a little compared with most packs in our review once the loads got heavier than 35 pounds. The waist belt was less comfortable than most other packs in the review (only the REI Flash 65 scored lower). But if you keep the weight below 35 pounds the pack carries well and is plenty comfortable.
The Z65 runs a little short; is is great for folks under 5'10", works for some under 6' and doesn't work for most people taller than 6'2". On the flip side, this pack fits shorter men and women better than most packs. In fact, many women testers 5'to 5'3" who have a hard time finding women's specific packs were happy with the Z65.
The straps on the bottom of the Z65 are too short. We struggled to get a 3/4 length Therm-a-rest Z-rest strapped on, and is not an excessively large pad.
Like the REI Flash, this pack started to straddle the line between a more traditional pack and a "ultra-light" pack. The Gregory Z65 is most at home with backpacking, trekking and mountaineering. However, it can handle some more technical routes, being relatively lightweight and sporting a streamlined suspension that help it from being cumbersome. The average backpacker or climber will use this pack for trips of two to four days. It can be pushed to longer adventures if you slim down your kit. We even thought it could be an okay multi-ski touring pack.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 27, 2012
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