Reviews You Can Rely On

Gregory Zulu 30 Review

A full function pack for dedicated day hikers
Gregory Zulu 30
Photo: Gregory
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Price:  $150 List | Check Price at REI
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Pros:  Comprehensive suite of day hiking features. Incredible back panel breathability
Cons:  Complicated construction and usage
Manufacturer:   Gregory
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 1, 2018
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  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Weight - 25% 1
  • Versatility - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

Overall, the Zulu is solid but not flashy. It scores well in most categories. For a dedicated day hiker, the features are carefully tailored and the very well ventilated back panel will be very much appreciated. This is a heavy pack though, and the construction style isn't going to be the most durable. Also, if you are looking for something to double as travel luggage or a commuting bag, the Gregory is more complicated and bulky than desirable. The Zulu is similar to some award-winning packs, but just doesn't match them in terms of function and comfort.

Product Updated

Gregory updated the Zulu 30 since our testing period. We link to the updated version above.

April 2019

Our Analysis and Test Results

Updated Zulu

Compare the updated Zulu 30, left, to the version we tested, right.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Though we link to the updated Zulu, the review to follow pertains to the pack we previously tested.

Hands-On Review of the Zulu 30

With the Zulu 30, Gregory enters a product into a specialized and competitive field. As a dedicated hikers' daypack, the Zulu does well but is up against stiff competition.

On our weighted matrix the Zulu scores in the upper half, but barely.

Our lead test editor and IFMGA mountain guide Jed Porter with the...
Our lead test editor and IFMGA mountain guide Jed Porter with the Zulu 30 on an early spring hike in Eastern Idaho.
Photo: Jediah Porter


Daypack users prioritize their comfort attributes differently than other users. Most will carry less than 20 pounds in their daypack. At these loads, sophisticated carry systems do not make a huge difference in weight bearing. The major difference in comfort between packs is in ventilation. A pack that places foam and nylon against your back blocks sweat evaporation. A pack that uses mesh and suspension to create air space against your back facilitates greater breathability. All full-service models in our review feature some sort of consideration for breathability.

Note the dark colored mesh back panel of the Zulu 30. Between this...
Note the dark colored mesh back panel of the Zulu 30. Between this very open mesh and the red panel is an air space through which a hiker's perspiration can evaporate. You'll still sweat, but it shouldn't stick around long.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The Gregory Zulu has a very sophisticated suspension system that facilitates breathability. This is its most salient comfort characteristic. The weight bearing comfort is nothing notable. The breathability, though, is similar to other suspended-mesh back panels.


The flip side of the Gregory Zulu's sophisticated suspension and breathability is its weight. All that material and engineering is heavy. This is a heavy pack. For most day hikers, the weight of the Zulu will be a big percentage of their overall load. At 44 oz (which is almost three pounds), there are expedition sized backpacks that are lighter. You choose the Zulu for its features and suspension, not for its lightweight nature.

As compared to other day packs, the Zulu is larger. The verified...
As compared to other day packs, the Zulu is larger. The verified, measured 25 liters of capacity is more than most should ever need for three season day hiking.
Photo: Jediah Porter


A versatile model is one that can be used for different sports and in everyday use. With its rigid structure and hiker-centric feature set, the Zulu is more of a targeted hiking daypack than it is a multi-use tool. Softer back panels tend to be more versatile than the Gregory. One Zulu attribute that enhances its versatility is Gregory's inclusion of a rain cover. If this is an important feature for you, you need not purchase this accessory separately.

Behind the Zulu's stretchy "shove-it" pocket is a zippered...
Behind the Zulu's stretchy "shove-it" pocket is a zippered compartment for the included raincover. This pocket could be used for other things too.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Ease of Use

Ease of use is a function of pockets, placement of pockets, and the tailoring of the straps on a backpack. The Gregory Zulu, with seven accessory pockets and full function compression straps, is not a simple product. There is a learning curve. Once you are familiar with all the features, they are largely intuitive and are all useful. We like that the side compression straps do not cross any major zippers. We wish that the lower side compression strap did not cover the very middle of the stretchy mesh water bottle pocket. Placed just three inches higher, this strap could be more useful.

The side pockets of the Zulu, like nearly everything about this...
The side pockets of the Zulu, like nearly everything about this pack, are large. We only wish that the compression strap there were located a little higher so as to better secure the contents.
Photo: Jediah Porter

If you have a good memory, plenty of pockets enhance your experience, allowing you to organize your smaller bits. However, if you can't remember which zipper holds your headlamp or snacks, you'll spend more time searching pockets of the Zulu than you would just dumping out the one large compartment of most top-loaders.


With relatively lightweight fabrics, thin straps, and many seams, the Gregory Zulu 30 will not be the longest lasting pack in our test. Our test period is demanding, but not exhaustive. We can't test every pack to failure. We had no issues with the Zulu, but our experience with similarly constructed packs suggests that seams will fray and straps will abrade.

The mouth of the Zulu pack opens wide for access to the main pouch.
The mouth of the Zulu pack opens wide for access to the main pouch.
Photo: Jediah Porter

At this weight, we would like to see the Zulu inspiring more confidence. We are prepared to be surprised by the longevity of the Zulu, and welcome your testimonials on this. We will keep hammering away on it ourselves.


Given the engineering and features, the price of the Zulu is competitive. You can certainly find a less expensive pack to carry your stuff. However, for these features and ventilation, your options are all in the same price range as the Zulu. If this is the style of pack you dig, the price is worth it.

The included raincover of the Gregory Zulu, deployed here. It won't...
The included raincover of the Gregory Zulu, deployed here. It won't protect against submersion, but it will block spray and enhance visibility.
Photo: Jediah Porter


The Zulu is a no-holds-barred daypack. It doesn't try to be a laptop bag or a cycling pack or a climbing pack. It is for dedicated day hikers.

Jediah Porter