Tuesday, 19 May 2009

New gear Reviewed, Gregory Z55

When I came home after my April trip I decided to upgrade some of my gear before the next trip, the 3 main items were rucksack, sleeping bag and sleeping mat but I’d also changed boots, trousers, waterproof jacket and base layer.

Rucksack - Gregory Z55

Initial Impressions

I choose a Gregory Z55 based on the back system but when I got it I wasn’t too impressed with some of the features. It’s a fairly fussy design in a few areas and I didn’t particularily like the hip belt pockets as they prevented me from adding belt pouches of my own for cameras and so on. As they were mesh that ruled out their use for anything that might need to stay dry. I wasn’t keen on the large front pocket/pouch or the lack of a separate snow lock extension and the lid flap seemed to offer little protection as it didn’t extend far down at the sides. The hip belt design seemed pretty strange as there was a square pad right in the middle which felt as if it kept the hip belt from fitting snugly in the kidney area. The Vango Air Canyon packs from a few years back had a similar style back system but without the pad, the hip belt being a floating type held away from the frame, a better method IMO. One other thing that I hadn’t taken into account was that the curve of the frame made it tricky to pack the tent poles vertically, that isn’t so much due to the pack in my case as it’s more to do with the end struts on the Terra Nova Laser. The bottle/side pockets are a bad design IMO, on the Gregory website it looks like the bottle pockets are short and made from mesh which would make it easy to grab a bottle when wearing the pack, in fact they’re not pockets as such as the mesh part is attached to the grey stretchy material which is in turn part of the front pouch/pocket. The height of the opening makes it impossible to either remove or replace a bottle on the move. In addition the side compression straps cross over the pocket at an angle both trapping anything in the pocket and failing to compress the pack properly if there’s a bottle in the pocket.

Lid really cutaway at the sides (Plastic strap Keepers Added to Keep the straps under Control)

Hipbelt Pad

Pockets and Compression Straps


The only modifications/additions I made to the pack were to unthread the top tension straps and slip a plastic dog clip on each side to enable me to attach a chest pouch/camera pouch and to add some plastic webbing clips to stop the various straps flailing around. I also added a loop of shock cord to the dog clip on the right side to hold the feed tube of my hydration system.

Dog Clip Added to Shoulder Straps

In the Field

I have to say I was surprised by the Z55, it held everything I intended to take with room to spare. It’s always tempting to use the smallest pack possible but while it’s easy to pack gear efficiently at home it’s more difficult when you’re trying to strike camp in the rain so a little extra space is worthwhile IMO. I found it very comfortable with around 15kg, the shoulder straps are thin enough to actually form to your shape (in my case anyway) and while it’s never going to be as stable as a climbing sack with a alloy spar reinforced foam pad it wasn’t a problem for me as I wasn’t scrambling/climbing. I don’t use a rain cover but my Duvet jacket was stored in a basic nylon stuff sack at the front of the pack and stayed dry. I found the hip belt pockets useful for sweets/snacks (right side) and other odds and ends (Left Side) I used a small CCS 2 pocket pouch to carry my CardCam and Compact camera, it sat horizontally on the left shoulder strap with the strap D ring clipped to the dog clip I’d fitted to the top tension strap.

CCS Pouch attached to Shoulder strap and secured by Attaching to Dog Clip


I’ll probably keep using the Z55, the design isn’t perfect but it’s comfortable and that’s probably more important. It’s not unreasonably heavy at 1575g but it still feels tough enough to take a bit of abuse. Considering I only paid £70 in the Cotswold sale so I’m happy enough.

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