Zpacks Arc Haul 62L Backpack Review

Photo pf the Zpacks Arc Haul 62 L Backpack in use

The Zpacks Arc Haul 62L Backpack is an ultralight, ventilated, and adjustable-length backpack made with conventional HDPE gridstop fabric instead of the Dyneema DCF used in the company’s other products. Weighing 22.5 oz, it’s set up like most ultralight-style backpacks with a roll-top closure, front mesh pocket, and side water bottle pockets. But what sets this pack apart from other ultralight backpacks, besides its incredible light weight, is a user-adjustable frame that lets you set the depth of the ventilation curvature and torso length based on your preferences and load characteristics. Zpack’s lower capacity Arc Blast 55L Backpack shares the same frame which has been refined and perfected over the course of many years.

Zpacks Arc Haul 62L Ultralight Backpack


Adjustable-Length and Ventilated

The Zpacks Arc Haul 62L is an ultralight backpack with a ventilated and adjustable-length frame, which makes it pretty unique among ultralight backpacks. Weighing 22.5 oz, its a popular choice with thru-hikers who value its capacity and comfort in hot weather.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 22.5 oz
  • Gender: Unisex, but very female friendly (see below)
  • Pockets: 3 (hip belt pockets are available as an add-on purchase @ $50/pair)
  • Hydration compatible: Yes
  • Ventilated: Yes
  • Volume: 62L (49L main body, 2.5L each side pocket, 8L center pocket)
  • Fabric: HDPE Gridstop (body), lightweight mesh (front pocket), spacer mesh (shoulder strap/hip belt padding)
  • Max Recommended Load:  40 lbs (we rate it closer to 25-30 lbs)

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Zpacks Arc Haul 62L is shaped like most ultralight-style backpacks with a large main compartment, front mesh pocket, and side water bottle pockets. The main compartment closes with roll-top and has a narrow velcro-stiffener on top. A single strap loops over the roll-top to secure it. There is a central hydration port inside the pack if you want to use a reservoir and hose, and a small webbing loop to hang it from, but no separate hydration pocket. The interior is heavily seam-taped for waterproofness and complements the interior PU coating applied to the pack’s HDPE gridstop fabric, making the backpack highly water-resistant, although we’d still recommend lining it with a plastic bag or pack liner.

The Arc Haul 62 is an ultralight roll-top backpack

The size and shape of the main compartment is significantly altered when the pack’s frame is arched to create a ventilation cavity. This is true of most ventilated backpacks. When the back of the pack behind your torso curves inward, it loses width and items can be harder to pack or unpack, since you have to reach around the resulting bulge. Packing your gear around a full-sized bear canister can also be challenging in these circumstances. This is a common characteristic typical of backpacks with ventilated frames.

The front mesh pocket is made with a lightweight mesh fabric and has an elastic top, but can’t be tensioned closed on top. Its effective capacity is also limited by the amount of gear packed into the main compartment and the degree of curvature imposed on the frame which can reduce the pockets effective capacity. The mesh fabric is also comparatively lightweight and less robust than the mesh that other ultralight and mainstream pack manufacturers are currently using to improve durability.

The side water bottle pockets are made with the same HDPE gridstop material

The side water bottle pockets are made with the same HDPE gridstop as the body, so they’re much tougher than the mesh on the front stretch pocket. They’re large enough to hold two SmartWater bottles, but you can only get one 1L Nalgene into them. They also have non-adjustable elastic running through the top to keep bottles from falling out. While they’re reachable when the pack is worn, the elastic can makes it a little challenging to get a bottle back in, if you’re carrying anything else in the pockets. That’s not a showstopper, just an observation about the structure and capacity limitations of the side pockets.

The Arc Haul 62L does not come with hip belt pockets and they’re an add-on purchase at $50/pair. They are attached with an elastic band and cord locks to the hip belt, which has daisy chains sewn on its exterior. The pockets are available in HDPE gridstop or Dyneema DCF for the same cost.

The Zpacks Arc Haul 62L has a ventilated trampoline style frame.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Zpacks Arc Haul 62L has a ventilated, trampoline style frame that lets air flow behind your back so you stay cooler and perspiration dries faster. This can make backpacking much more pleasant in hot and humid conditions. Zpacks is unique amongst UL pack manufacturers in offering this type of frame. While other manufacturers, like Osprey, Gregory, and Deuter offer a similar capability, theirs is much more tightly integrated and encapsulated than the Arc Haul frame which is completely visible, externalized, and adjustable by the end-user. While this gives the Arc Haul a somewhat Frankenstein-like appearance with all kinds of straps and rods, it’s designed this way on purpose to keep the pack weight as low as possible. The closest comparable ventilated backpacks made by Osprey or Gregory, weigh 50-100% as much as the Arc Haul but do not have adjustable torso lengths.

The Arc Haul frame is quite simple. There are three horizontal crossbars, positioned along the top, middle, and base of the packbag. Two flexible carbon fiber rods are attached to the corners of the top and bottom bars and a mesh back panel is connected to them with webbing straps. When tensioned, the webbing straps cause the carbon fiber rods to bend and form an arc, with the mesh suspended over it. The middle crossbar keeps the pack bag from collapsing backward and filling the cavity created by the arc. The Arc Haul’s shoulder straps and load lifters are connected to the top crossbar, while the hip belt is attached to the bottom crossbar. It’s as simple as that.

The mesh back panel is connected to the corners with webbing straps. When you pull on them the top bar is brought closer to the bottom bar and a ventilation arc is formed.

When tensioning the arc, Zpacks recommends making it 2.5 inches deep. You can make it deeper or shallower based on your personal preferences. For example, you could eliminate the arc completely if you just wanted a very lightweight backpack without any ventilation or you need to scramble up a cliff face and want the pack’s center of gravity as close to your back as possible.

Despite the simplicity of the frame, dialing in a really good fit can require a fair amount of experimentation with different loads and arc depths. For example, whenever you create an arc, the distance between the shoulder straps and the hip belt (torso length) changes as well. Zpacks has a good pack fitting video that explains the basics (see Adjustment and Fit tab), but it can be a little time consuming to get a balanced and accurate fit that you can reproduce in the field if warranted.

Adjustable Torso-length

The Arc Haul frame was an adjustable length torso capability, which lets you raise or lower the height of the shoulder straps up to 4″. This can make a huge difference in the fit of the Arc Haul 62L and its load-to-hip transfer but is best done as a refinement after you’ve adjusted the arc to its desired depth.

Push down on the shoulder straps to shorten the torso length

The torso adjustment mechanism is also quite simple. The shoulder straps are connected to two vertical interior webbing straps that are connected to the top crossbar and at points just above the middle crossbar. If you push the top of the shoulder strap down to lower it, you shorten the distance between the hip belt and the top of the strap, thereby shortening the pack’s torso length. If you raise the strap, you lengthen the torso length. It’s important that you keep two shoulder strap heights the same, so one shoulder doesn’t do more work than the other. The actual amount of torso length adjustment used is best done by feel while wearing a loaded backpack and after the arc depth has been set. See the Zpack’s pack fitting video on the Adjustment and Fit tab for more details.

The Shoulder Pads are S-shaped which makes them comfortable for men and women

Shoulder straps

The Zpacks uses S-shaped shoulder straps on their packs, which are better for men and women because they wrap around the pecs rather than smash them flat, like the J-shaped straps found on other unisex backpacks. The straps are not sewn directly to the crossbars or pack bag but attached by a webbing strap that permits the top of the pad to conform to the shape of your shoulders for a more personalized fit. The shoulder straps are lightly padded and covered with wicking spacer mesh. The exteriors have daisy chains sewn to them that makes it possible to attach accessory pockets or reposition the sternum strap.


The Arc Haul hipbelt is available in a variety of lengths so you can get a good fit. It’s also replaceable, which is nice if you gain or lose weight and want to change size. The hipbelt also has exterior daisy chains suitable for attaching accessory pockets although none are included with the base backpack.

The top and the bottom of the hip belt can be tensioned separately providing a better fit for curvier female hips

The hipbelt is female-friendly because it has upper and lower webbing straps that can be used to create a differential fit and accommodate curvy female hips or flattish male ones. The hipbelt is lightly padded, which you’d expect on an ultralight backpack used to carry lighter loads. It does not have a lumbar pad, although one is available as an accessory add-on.

Load rating

While the Arc Haul 62L has a frame, its primary function is ventilation and doesn’t substantially increase the load-carrying capacity of the pack. I’ve carried multi-day loads with the Arc Haul 62 and find that the maximum comfortable load including gear, food, and water is about 25-30 pounds. Zpacks rates it much higher at 40 lbs, but that hasn’t been my experience using it.

Backpack Compression and External Attachment System

The Arc Haul 62L is fairly light on compression capabilities and attachment capabilities but provides room for you to expand on them if you wish to customize them.

Sleeping pad straps can be used to carry a foam pad, trekking poles, or an ice ax

In addition to roll-top, which provides top-down compression, the Arc Haul has a static cord-based side compression system that’s tensioned with a cord lock and sleeping pad attachment cords, which are a nice feature, not found on most UL backpacks. The same cord system can also be used or modified to carry an ice ax or even trekking poles, using the side compression cords to secure the shafts.

Comparable Backpacks

Make / ModelWeightVentilatedAdjustable LengthPrice
HMG 3400 Junction (55L)32 ozNoNo$345
Granite Gear Crown2 60L36.7ozNoNo$200
Gregory Optic 58L45.3 ozYesNo$210
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L32.7 ozNoNo$225
MLD Exodus 58L18 ozNoNo$235
Osprey Exos 58L43 ozYesNo$220
Osprey Levity 60L31.2 ozYesNo$270
SWD Long Haul 50L26.5 ozNoNo$265
ULA CDT (54L)24 ozNoNo$145
ULA Ohm 2.0 (63L)34.5 ozNoNo$225
Zpacks Arc Blast 55L20.1 ozYesYes$325
Zpacks Arc Haul 62L22.5 ozYesYes$299


The Zpacks Arc Haul 62L is an ultralight ventilated and adjustable-length backpack designed for multi-day backpacking trips and thru-hiking.  Weighing just 22.5 oz it’s significantly lighter weight than comparable backpacks even though it has a much more sophisticated and adjustable length frame system. While there is a higher initial learning curve to adjusting and fitting the Arc Haul than more conventional ventilated backpacks, once you’ve dialed in the fit, the backpack carries like a dream, comfortably transferring loads to the hipbelt while keeping your back cool and dry.

If you’re trying to significantly reduce the weight of your backpacking gear and want a ventilated backpack, I’d recommend getting the Zpacks Arc Haul 62L or the  Zpacks Arc Blast 55L, which is lower volume but quite similar in design and made with Dyneema DCF.

Disclosure: Zpacks provided the author with a backpack for this review.

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

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  1. I have just “graduated” from a Zpacks Arc Haul, so to speak, after about 1800 miles with it through some admittedly brutal terrain (Utah, Pyrenees). In my experience, it does best for on trail usage rather than off because of the large net pocket, which is quite delicate. On two trips I managed to break a vertical stay during falls. After the first I carried as part of my repair kit a sleeve that I could reconnect the broken ends with. Carrying the pack with a broken stay is not much fun with a through hike type load. Zpacks was excellent with mailing me a replacement but you first need to get to a place with internet to order one and then you have to hike another couple of days until you reach a post office to receive the replacement, so a bit of a drag.

    I had problems consistently with the top horizontal stay popping out of its sleeve when under heavy load and it’s a bit of a
    struggle to reinsert it.

    At this point the pack shows its age with the hipbelt rubbed through in places down to the mesh, the webbing attaching the shoulder strap to the bottom is shredded on one side, the pocket that the stays rest in is torn etc.. I think this to be expected when everything is built with shaving ounces in mind. I may have mine fixed for hikes with lighter loads, but for my next long hikes I have opted for a slightly heavier, less delicate pack that also allows me to go to > 30 lb loads for longer water carries. I agree with your assessment concerning the weight range that is comfortable with the Arc Haul.

    The Arc Haul was a good pack for me to learn how to hike with an almost but not quite ultralight setup. But I don’t feel a great urge to just acquire copy 2 of this pack for my next adventures.

    • That’s the thing. It’s an ultralight pack for ultralight thru hiker loads with frequent resupplies. If you can keep the load closer to 20 lbs it will last for trail hiking, but if you push hard on it’s limits for an extended time it will break down. That’s the trade off.

    • I should add to the above that I sent my pack in to Zpacks and they did a fantastic job of fixing the pack up. Not only did they fix the frayed shoulder strap attachment, but they replaced the 2015/6 frame with the current version and also fixed the torn trampoline and front pocket. They knocked some 1500 miles worth of damage off that thing. All this for not much money.

      That’s truly outstanding customer service, I am impressed!

  2. I received an Arc Haul in June 2015, just after they were released. I am not a thru-hiker, focusing mostly on 3-5 day outings, but at 62 yo must be diligent about keeping pack weight low if I intend to keep backpacking. My base pack weight is 10-11 lbs with total weight normally 18-23 lbs. Like Philip, I find the Arc Haul to carry “like a dream”…easily the most comfortable pack I have ever owned. Further, after 4 years of regular use, it still looks almost new. I do not bushwhack, nor do I scramble up mountainsides, but sticking to trails of all types and elevations I remain enamored with this backpack. I would immediately replace it with another. All that said, and like Philip, I would have been surprised if Thomas’ experience were anything different. The pack is UL and while not fragile, it is definitely not bombproof. It is a perfect UL pack to add to your quiver, but it makes sense to have a burlier option for those trips that require it.

  3. It seems like a lot of bother when you could buy an osprey levity which requires no adjustment or “experimentation” and won’t fall apart if you sneeze wrong.

    • That’s why I listed the Levity as an alternative. The difference between the Arc Haul and the Levity is like the difference between a manual transmission and an automatic. They both go pretty fast, but you need to learn how to drive a stick shift, while anyone can drive an automatic with little orientation. Of course, a manual is MUCH more fun to drive and does a few things that an automatic struggles with.

  4. “Packing your gear around a full-sized beard canister can also be challenging in these circumstances.”

    I went to Amazon and bought a full size beard canister before my last section hike. If you’ll put in an affiliate link to one, SectionHiker will get a portion of the proceeds when I replace this beard canister. Of course, I could just bring a half ounce razor and eliminate the need for the beard canister, which certainly was a big packing challenge.

    • haha. fixed.

    • Bear can: I have a big one so it goes horizontal on top. I lengthened the existing top strap, added buckles and two 1/2 inch left and right straps. If you want it more solid, add some Velcro on the two outer straps. I have been using this on an arc blast for a few years Only downside: the rolltop seam is now in a low spot and water can work it’s way in so you have to protect your gear

  5. I’m curious, I use an HMG 3400. My base is around 13 pounds. I usually hike along the AT. Are the above packs what you recommend for that use? I would like to look for a lighter pack and one that has better hip belt pockets as I have the older HMG and the hip belt pockets are useless. I don’t care if the pack is ventilated, in fact, due to an old back injury, its best if I carry the load close to my back. The HMG carries great for me. Is there anything that carries like the HMG but is significantly lighter that you would recommend? Maybe I’m using the best pack for my situation and will just upgrade with them when needed. Most times, I forget I’m even wearing a pack. The problem is I don’t see the HMG wearing out any time soon.

    • I’ve listed these packs because they have the same volume as the Arc Haul 62. And yes, they’re all appropriate for the AT. You can drop more weight by carrying a smaller volume pack. But honestly, if you want a frame or frame stays and a hip belt, and your base weight is 13 pounds, the packs that will work are going to weigh pretty close to 32 oz, which is what your 3400 weighs now. If you just want better hip belt pockets, cut the ones you have off and buy some add on packets to replace them. The current 3400 (not sure about earlier gen) has daisy chains sewn on the hip belt, so it should be easy to clip new ones on without any sewing.

  6. Yes, I’ve thought about that, but hate to cannibalize the pack. I will lok to see if there is a daisy chain.


  7. Wish Zpacks would add women specific belts & shoulder straps to their line up.

    • I thought I covered that. These shoulder pads are S-shaped and the hip belt should work. I’m happy to loan you my pack if you want to give it a try.

      • They must have made some changes then. I tried my son’s pack (several years old) and the shoulder straps were way too wide.

  8. I’m going to give my Massdrop GG Crown 2 another go on next month’s AT section hike but I’m really intrigued by this product from Zpacks. It’s about half the weight of my GG pack and should be less sweaty. Cuben is out of my budget but this one weighs close to the same and is much closer to what I can afford.

    My hiking buddy’s cuben pack is from Zpacks and it really interested me last year. Although he’s taller than me, I might talk him into trading packs for a half day to get a feel for the carry and weight transfer to my hips. With all the back problems I have, I want to see how the Zpack handles for me before I spend any more money.

    • I just got to perusing Zpacks’ website and realized there is only about a 10% price difference between this and a cuben fiber… ummm… Dyneema… (old vocabulary dies hard!) pack. More to think about.

  9. I see a lot of PCT thru hikers in the PNW with this pack. Some packs (and hikers) are totally trashed and others look ok. I guess it depends on weight and how you treat your equipment in general. I also notice that most people don’t use the back ventilation mode, and a lot complained about the vertical stay breaking, but most say they would buy the pack again. If Zpacks made this pack with a fixed ventilated frame instead of a flimsy adjustable one, I would buy it.

    • They like to build everything themselves and while that is a reasonable request, I doubt they’ll ever do it because it would exceed their core competency and require outsourcing a major component. It’ll also probably make the packs heavier too.

  10. Grandpa–I appreciated your comments on the “beard canister,” even though as a female I’m not in the market for one. There’s nothing like a few good laughs to lighten the load!!!

  11. I’ve been using an arc haul for a couple years now, and I’d say the article is spot-on. Definitely want to keep it under 30 lbs for comfort – this pack is not what you want to carry more than 30 lbs on a regular basis. I carried 33 lbs at the max (after resupply) on the JMT this year, and the suck was way more than just a few extra pounds. The hip belt is the biggest improvement over the previous generation arc (blast); and I think the switch away from cuben/dyneema was a good one. My old cuben arc blast did not wear well; so far, the haul is doing better. The fabric is definitely more abrasion resistant, if a bit heavier. Note for those who don’t use a hydration tube/port; just cover that opening with some cuben tape or tenacious tape – voila, no more port. All in all, I think the tradeoffs in durability and hip belt comfort vs a few extra ounces make sense for most. No pack is perfect.


    I purchased the 62L Z Packs 2 yrs ago . Mainly for section hikes on the A.T. (300- 400 mile hikes) . The set up took a while to dial it in ( carrying about 25-30 lbs ) 25 lbs is heavenly . I had a 4 foot fall this last Apr . landing on my back . Landed like a turtle . My pack load saved me , there was no damage done to the pack at all , just a dent in my cook pot . I would buy the 62L again . Each pack is custom made as each is made so there are slight differences in the stays , as each is made by hand . Give it a try . If displeased they will take care of it . I had to tweak the side pocket drains , as all the rain into the pack proper ( I use a trash compactor liner always so gear stays dry .) Thank you for the good review of this pack .


  13. I’ll add a comment from a female perspective on the shoulder straps, since it was mentioned above. While the shoulder straps are S-shaped, they are not as “S-shaped” as my ULA Ohm. My shoulders are fairly narrow, and I find the Ohm shoulder straps much more comfortable. I messed around a lot with the Arc shoulder straps and had a hard time getting a comfortable fit. My weight was about 23 pounds with. I would probably not find the pack overly comfortable on an extended hike over about 25 pounds.

  14. How is the durability between this and the levity?

  15. Lawrence H Constantino

    I’ve talked about my ‘arc haul’ before, and couldn’t imagine section hiking without it. That being said the gridstop is not water proof you’ll need a liner for sure (if all the tape used inside was left out it might be lighter than the arc blast?). I have the belt pockets on mine and they’re amazing with the amount they hold, can’t imagine not having them. I did get the V strap added, even though it came with a single strap, as I didn’t realize it was designed for bear canisters, but is useful nevertheless. The two cinch loops at the bottom are quite useful, I put my tent there. There are side cords that switchback up each side with a cord lock at top which stabilizes your load, and is handi for stuffing your sitpad and other thin items. The side pockets can hold two smart water bottles each, or one water bottle and my helinox zero camp chair. Hanging in a Shelter (which I try and avoid) next to the Ospreys and other packs with there multitudes of buckles, straps, and fortified attachments, the arc haul may look a bit homely, but I couldn’t imagine trading it for any of them. I know it will do 40lbs if I ask it, but I don’t want to do 40 lbs, if I did I wouldn’t have an ‘arc haul’.

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