The Gregory Zulu 55 is a mighty little pack. It has well-padded shoulder and waist belt straps and carries moderate loads up to 40 pounds well. Though it doesn't quite have the same ventilation as the Osprey Atmos 65 AG, it holds its own. It includes a variety of useful features without going overboard and is capable of carrying a little more than we expected. All in all, we are pleasantly surprised by this pack and think it is worth a close look for both first-time backpackers or an outdoor enthusiast looking for a new pack at a reasonable price.
Gregory Zulu 55 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Good balance between features and weight, comfortable suspension, inexpensive
Cons: Less volume than packs of similar weight, attached lid
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Testing surprised us. This pack combines excellent suspension with features that make life on the trail easier. This model handles small loads nicely and can tote up to 40 pounds with the suspension to back it up. We feel like we got more than its price point would suggest. It's a comfortable pack for
Compared to the rest, this pack has quality features and good comfort, placing it solidly in the middle of the bunch.
Suspension and Comfort
This pack has some nice comfort features that improve the way it carries. It has nice thick padding with ergonomically designed shoulder straps. The padding at the waist also hugs your hips snugly and works nicely in concert with the waist belt webbing to offer a secure fit. Also, the pack is shaped to offer good lumbar support.
Though we didn't find it to have the same superior ventilation that comes with the Osprey Atmos 65 or the Osprey Aether AG 60, it still has a relatively breathable back panel.
The Zulu 55 has the suspension to match its comfort. It has a mesh back panel that conforms to your body. The mesh extends around the waist belt as well unlike the Osprey Rook 65 which only covers your back. Though not nearly as free-moving as the Arc'Teryx Bora 63, the waist does transfer loads efficiently while walking. In our testing, it was easy to stay balanced, even with heavier loads.
Features and Ease of Use
This pack comes with some excellent features that provide packing flexibility. The mesh beavertail pocket on the front is fantastic for drying out damp items on the go or stowing a rain jacket for easy access in case of a storm. The lid opens up nice and wide from the top in a horseshoe shape. Depending on how much you put in there, items are more liable to fall out than other side zip models with a smaller opening, but it is straightforward to see what you have in there. In terms of access, there are both the bottom and front zippers into the main compartment that make it easy to grab gear.
The cinch cords for trekking poles or an ice ax are helpful, as are the bottom straps for securing a set of tent poles or a sleeping pad that doesn't fit in the main compartment. The two waist belt pockets offer generous space for snacks or a smartphone. One of our issues was with the side access of the water bottle pockets. With a standard aluminum 1 liter bottle, our arm bumped up against it with every stride.
Our small/medium pack weighed in at 3.55 lbs. It's the third lightest pack in our review but also has the smallest listed volume. There are also a couple of competitors in the Osprey Rook 65 and The North Face Banchee 65 which have ten additional liters of capacity and less than one-tenth of a pound of additional weight.
The Zulu 55 is comfortable enough, but the tradeoff between weight and volume could be an essential consideration for some folks.
Adjustability and Fit
This pack comes in a small/medium and medium/large. Both have four inches of torso adjustment. It is a classic velcro connection that keeps the shoulder straps locked in place. It is fairly easy to release the velcro and adjust the shoulder strap height.
The waist belt has a massive range for both sizes: 19" for the small/medium (27"-46") and 22" for the medium/large (29"-51"). The redirected waist belt webbing is easy to adjust.
This pack is best for mid-range, moderate load adventures. Its suspension handles up to about 40 pounds. Its volume is on the smaller side, and because of its weight, we wouldn't take it on a thru-hike, but for 3-7 days this pack is a star.
At $200, this pack is worth the money. It is one of the less expensive packs in this review but offers the same experience as some packs costing $50-$100 more. Though it has less volume than the 60-65 liter contenders, we don't think this detracts from its value.
The Gregory Zulu 55 is a solid pack at a solid price. It has the features that most backpackers look for and carries comfortably. We wouldn't pack it ultralight or take it on long haul treks, but for the 5-day adventure with a buddy, this is a nice option.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch