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 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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
Our small/medium pack weighed in at 3.69 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.
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 and Fit
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.
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"-46", and the medium/large 29"-51". 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.
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.
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.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch