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Gregory Zulu 55 Review

This is a comfortable pack for mid-range trips and medium loads
gregory zulu 55 backpacks backpacking review
Credit: Gregory
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Price:  $220 List | $160.54 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Good balance between features and weight, comfortable suspension, inexpensive
Cons:  Less volume than packs of similar weight, attached lid
Manufacturer:   Gregory
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 21, 2020
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 16
  • Suspension and Comfort - 45% 7.0
  • Weight - 20% 7.0
  • Features and Ease of Use - 20% 8.0
  • Adjustability - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Gregory Zulu 55 is a little but top-ranked backpacking backpack. It has well-padded shoulder and waist belt straps and carries moderate loads up to 40 pounds well. Though it doesn't have the most breathable suspension in the line-up, it definitely 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.

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gregory zulu 55 backpacks backpacking review
This Product
Gregory Zulu 55
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $160.54 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$202.46 at Backcountry
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$240 List
Check Price at REI
$199 List
$199.00 at REI
$220 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
72
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73
Star Rating
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Pros Good balance between features and weight, comfortable suspension, inexpensiveLight-weight, comfortable with heavy loads, perfect pocket combinationVery lightweight, comfortable suspension, good value, great featuresLight-weight, comfortable, easily personalized, inexpensiveWell padded, slightly lighter than average, very durable, more torso height adjustment than most, stout suspension
Cons Less volume than packs of similar weight, attached lidTiny buckles hard to operate with glovesNot very adjustable torsolacks durabillity, not made for heavy loadsNot quite as many pockets as other models, soft padding was less comfortable with super heavy loads, warmest pack in the review
Bottom Line This is a comfortable pack for mid-range trips and medium loadsA lightweight load hauler that is both comfortable and full of featuresThis is an awesome lightweight pack that can carry a heavier load and has a very comfortable mesh-trampoline back panelIt may not be a heavy load hauler, but for moderate loads, this pack is comfortable and has an amazing set of features, all at a great priceA simple but versatile pack that offers plush padding, a stout suspension, and quality durability
Rating Categories Gregory Zulu 55 Granite Gear Blaze 60 Gregory Focal 58 REI Co-op Flash 55 Deuter Aircontact L...
Suspension and Comfort (45%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (20%)
7.0
9.0
10.0
10.0
6.0
Features and Ease of Use (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Adjustability (15%)
7.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
10.0
Specs Gregory Zulu 55 Granite Gear Blaze 60 Gregory Focal 58 REI Co-op Flash 55 Deuter Aircontact L...
Measured Weight 3.7 lbs 3.0 lbs 2.7 lbs 2.6 lbs 4.4 lbs
Volume 55 L 60 L 58 L 55 L 65 + 10 L
Access Top, front U-shape, sleeping bag compartment Top Top Top Top, sleeping bag compartment
Hydration Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Materials 210D Honeycomb Cryptorip HD Nylon / 210D High Tenacity Nylon 100D robic nylon w/ DWR coating 100% Nylon Main Body: 100D ripstop nylon
Bottom: 420D nylon
35% Polyester, 65% Nylon
Sleeping bag Compartment Yes No No No Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

This pack surprised us. It combines an 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. Overall, this pack has well-executed, usable features and good comfort, placing it solidly in the middle of the lot.

Performance Comparison


gregory zulu 55 backpacks backpacking review - the zulu 55 is a great all-around pack for almost anybody as long as...
The Zulu 55 is a great all-around pack for almost anybody as long as they don't pack too heavy.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

Suspension and Comfort


This pack has some nice features that improve the way it carries. Thick padding with ergonomically designed shoulder straps helps to keep shoulders comfortable. The well-padded waistbelt hugs your hips snugly and works nicely in concert with the waist belt webbing to offer a secure fit.

gregory zulu 55 backpacks backpacking review - we were pleased with the suspension on this pack. the suspension...
We were pleased with the suspension on this pack. The suspension wasn't the most breathable, but carried the loads we asked of it admirably.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

Though we didn't find it to have the same superior ventilation as some, it still has a relatively breathable back panel. The mesh extends around the waist belt as well, which is relatively unique to the higher end, trampoline back-paneled packs on the market.

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 top-lid opens up wide in a horseshoe shape, and depending on how full you pack it, items are more susceptible to falling out than with other back zip models with smaller openings, but we appreciate how easy it is to see all the contents. It has a few ways to access the main compartment(s): Standard top cinch access, Front u-shaped access, and sleeping bag compartment zipper.

The mesh pocket is stretchy and can easily hold an insulating layer.
The mesh pocket is stretchy and can easily hold an insulating layer.
Looking down the pack from the top. The lower sleeping bag...
Looking down the pack from the top. The lower sleeping bag compartment divider has releasable peg and loop connectors to open up the main body into a single compartment.

Wide top lid access allows you to see what you are pulling out.
Wide top lid access allows you to see what you are pulling out.
Snacks for later in one of the zippered waist belt pockets.
Snacks for later in one of the zippered waist belt pockets.

The cinch cords for trekking poles or an ice ax are helpful to be able to stash those things away, as are the bottom straps for securing a set of tent poles or a sleeping/sit-pad. The two zippered waist-belt pockets offer space for snacks or other small items, but larger phones will be tight. We did find that our arms bumped up against the water bottle with every stride when the bottles were in the side access orientation. Not an uncommon problem with this feature in most packs.

gregory zulu 55 backpacks backpacking review - though not as easy to access, we used the top entry for the water...
Though not as easy to access, we used the top entry for the water bottles because the angled entry messed with our natural elbow/arm swing, especially with tall bottles.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

Weight


Our small/medium pack weighed in at 3.7 lbs making it one of the lighter weight packs in our review but also has one of the smaller listed volumes. There are a couple of similarly weighted competitors that have more storage capacity.

gregory zulu 55 backpacks backpacking review - the zulu keeps the weight low but still can fit a decent load and...
The Zulu keeps the weight low but still can fit a decent load and comfortably carry a fair amount of weight.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

The Zulu 55 is comfortable, but the tradeoff between weight and volume could be an essential consideration for some folks. If you want a lightweight pack for smaller loads, but you still want a good suspension system to carry the load comfortably.

Adjustability


This pack comes in 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 easier to release the velcro and adjust the shoulder strap height than with many other velcro shoulder harnesses out there.

gregory zulu 55 backpacks backpacking review - the torso adjusts continuously but is marked in one inch increments.
The torso adjusts continuously but is marked in one inch increments.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

The redirected webbing on the waist belt is easy to adjust. It has a massive range for both sizes: the small/medium pack waist-belt adjusts 27 inches - 46 inches, and the medium/large 29 inches - 51 inches. The redirected waist belt webbing is easy to adjust. However, the waist belt padding is non-adjustable, so while it will fit a pretty broad range, the padding will only cover so much of the hips of larger waisted hikers.

Value


This pack is worth the money, period. 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. If anything it will teach you how to pack efficiently and keep the pack-weight down.

Conclusion


The Gregory Zulu 55 is a solid pack with a great price tag. It has all of the features most backpackers are looking for, and it carries comfortably. If you are looking for a good all-arounder, this pack will do the trick.

gregory zulu 55 backpacks backpacking review - the zulu is a great pack and has a very fair price tag to boot.
The Zulu is a great pack and has a very fair price tag to boot.
Credit: Elizabeth Paashaus

Ben Applebaum-Bauch
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