This post may contain affiliate links.

Zpacks Bagger Ultra 40L Backpack Review

Zpacks Bagger Ultra 40L Backpack Review

The Zpacks Bagger Ultra 40L Backpack is a versatile frameless backpack suitable for day hikes, peakbagging, travel, commuting, and even ultralight backpacking. Weighing 12.1 ounces (342g) it’s made with a waterproof and highly abrasion-resistant fabric called Ultra which has been almost universally adopted by all ultralight backpack gear manufacturers instead of Dyneema DCF. When ordering the Bagger Ultra 40L (which is also available in a 25L size), you can choose between ordering no belt, a simple webbing belt, or a padded belt. Just be aware that none of the hip belt options are load-bearing, because the Badger Ultra 40L is frameless and all of the pack weight will be carried on your shoulders.

Zpacks has discontinued this product. We recommend the Zpacks Nero Ultra 38 instead.

Specs at a glance

  • Weight: 12.1 oz / 342g (with webbing belt)
  • Added sit pad weight: 1 oz
  • Volume: 29L main body, 2.5L each side pocket, 6L zippered pocket
  • Body dimensions: 7″ x 12″ x 21″ (18 cm x 30.5 cm x 53 cm)
  • Gender: Unisex (with female-friendly S-shaped shoulder straps)
  • Waterproof: Yes (waterproof fabric, taped seams, water-resistant zippers)
  • Pockets: 6 (three closed and three open)
  • Hydration Ready: No
  • Max Recommended load: 20 lbs

The Bagger 40L is a very stylish-looking backpack that is great for urban use but is also optimized for day hikes or peakbagging with a sit pad pocket, side water bottle pockets, an optional hipbelt, and three closed compartments that make it easy to organize and access the gear you need. If you really wanted to, you could even use it for ultralight backpacking or thru-hiking, although it’s missing some useful capabilities like a top Y-strap, side compression straps, or a front mesh pocket that are very useful for that application.

All three of the closed pockets have water resistant zippers.
All three of the closed pockets have water-resistant zippers.

My preferred usage for the Badger 40L is for urban and travel use since the pack has several closed pockets that provide good organization and security, and for day hikes and peakbagging because its open pockets and shoulder strap attachment points are designed to carry water bottles, a sit pad, and it’s easy to attach accessory pockets within easy reach.

The clamshell opening makes it much easier to access gear than if it were a rolltop.
The clamshell opening makes it much easier to access gear than if it were a rolltop.

Backpack Storage and Access

The Bagger Ultra 40L is very different from Zpack’s other backpacks in that it’s not a roll top but has the more conventional clamshell opening found on many day packs. That’s a good difference because it makes it much simpler to get stuff out of the pack or put it in without all the unrolling and searching and rerolling that it takes to find gear inside or pack it with a rolltop backpack. Do that 10 million times, like me, and it gets kind of old. If you anticipate more frequent access, especially for urban and travel use, the clamshell opening and other zippered pockets are much easier to use.

There are six pockets on the Bagger 40: three are closed pockets with water-resistant zippers and the other three pockets are open and uncovered.

The small top pocket is great for holding your Smartphone and other personal items.
The small top pocket is great for holding your Smartphone and other personal items.

Closed pockets

There’s a small zippered pocket on top, a large main compartment that opens with the 180-degree clamshell zipper, and another front zippered pocket that runs the length of the pack. I like to pack my smartphone, a notepad, and writing tools in the top pocket (no keyfob though), extra clothing and gear essentials in the main compartment, and hats, gloves, and snacks in the front one. The highly water-resistant zippers and waterproof ultra fabric, which is seam-taped, virtually guarantee that the contents of these pockets remain dry, even if you are caught out in the rain.

The side bottle pockets can hold up to two skinny bottles
The side bottle pockets can hold up to two skinny bottles

Open pockets

There are two open side bottle pockets that are large enough to carry two skinny “SmartWater” style bottles or one 32 oz Nalgene. The tops of both pockets are cut on a diagonal making it easy to extract and replace a bottle while wearing the pack. They also both have drainage holes on the bottom and are made with durable ultra fabric.

The third open pocket is designed to hold a small sit pad (included) and the top opening is so much easier to than backpacks that have sit pad sleeves where you need to insert the pad in the middle of the pocket, like the Gossamer Gear Kumo, or where the sit pad is held in place by external elastic cords, like the Zpacks Nero 38L. The sit pad pocket has spacer mesh running down the middle of it, but don’t get your hopes up because it doesn’t provide significant ventilation.

The sit pad pocket can also hold a laptop like this MacBook.
The sit pad pocket can also hold a laptop like this MacBook.

That sit pad pocket could be used to hold an external hydration bladder, which makes it much more convenient to refill than one inside the backpack, or even as a laptop sleeve in conjunction with the sit pad foam for protection. For example, my MacBook fits into that sleeve with room to spare which is perfect for carrying it down to the corner cafe or for airplane use, because it’s so easy to pull it out or stow away,

The sitpad pocket has a top opening making it very easy to use.
The sit pad pocket has a top opening making it very easy to use.

Suspension

Since the Bagger Ultra 40L is frameless, the entire weight of the pack and its contents are going to rest on your shoulders. That’s just the nature of the beast, but it provides some motivation to keep your load as lightweight as possible, although most people can carry up to 20 lbs like this without too much trouble.

The shoulder straps are S-shaped and have daisy chains sewn on the front.
The shoulder straps are S-shaped and have daisy chains sewn on the front.

One nice thing about the Bagger 40L is that the shoulder straps are fairly wide to distribute the load and they’re not sewn directly to the back of the pack but to a strip of webbing which is then attached to the back. This lets the shoulder straps rotate to accommodate the shape of your chest which is more comfortable than a pack that just mashes the front of your chest flat. You know what I’m talking about. The shoulder straps are also S-shaped which makes them more comfortable for people with breasts and are still perfectly suitable for men, as well.

There are daisy chains running down the front of the shoulder straps which is a feature near and dear to my heart because it means you can attach best-of-breed accessory pockets to them, like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Shoulder Strap Pocket, which I like to carry because its waterproof. I can also clip my inReach mini-2 to the other, which I prefer to carry within close reach in case I fall and need to summon help.

The hipbelt can be moved up or down by threading it through one of these webbing loops.
The hipbelt can be moved up or down by threading it through one of these webbing loops.

The Bagger 40L is available without a hip belt, with an optionally removable webbing, or a padded hip belt. If you get one of the hip belts, you have the ability to move its anchor point higher or lower by 3.5 inches by threading it through webbing loops sewn to the back of the pack. Since the bagger is frameless, the hipbelt’s only real function is to hold it close to your torso so it doesn’t bounce around annoyingly.

The end of the webbing strap is unfinished so it’s very easy to lose a buckle.
The end of the webbing strap is unfinished so it’s very easy to lose a buckle.

I ordered the webbing strap hip belt with this pack, but one thing you need to be aware us is that the buckle parts (male and female) that Zpacks provides can easily slide off the webbing straps and get lost. Zpacks doesn’t fold over one of the ends so you can remove the webbing strap when it’s not needed. (But, I don’t think they really thought that one through.) You can avoid buckle loss by simply tying a knot in the webbing so the buckle can’t slide off the strap or by threading the webbing through a 1″ plastic tri-glide or some other plastic hardware that Zpacks could have supplied with the pack for a few cents.

Recommendation

The Zpacks Bagger Ultra 40L is a great-looking frameless backpack that’s good for day hiking, peakbagging, urban use, and travel. Made with waterproof fabric and seam-taped, it’s definitely ready for adventure in all kinds of conditions. It’s not a rolltop, but it has a clamshell main opening and closed pockets that make it much more convenient to extract and pack frequently accessed gear. Overall, the Bagger Ultra 40L is a fun pack to use and one that you’ll want to carry with you everywhere. The only gotcha is the price! Ranging from $275-$335, depending on the configuration, it’s a very expensive backpack that may give you pause and is sure to limit its success compared to other alternatives.

Disclosure: Zpacks donated a pack for review.

SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

6 comments

  1. I curious as to how this bag compares to the ULC dragonfly which is very popular with some lightweight travellers.

  2. Thanks for the review! There’s not a lot of info on this pack yet and I’ve had my eye on it. What model/size MacBook did you try and how securely does it fit in the sit pad pocket? Does the sit pad or MacBook slip around much with or without the MacBook in there?

  3. Just found a good deal on one of these in the basement at IME!!!
    :)
    So far so good!
    I have been using a Nero for a while and it’s nice to have something the same size but with completely different features.
    Thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *