My new Zpacks Blast 32 backpack arrived last week. It’s made out of ultralight cuben fiber, the stuff they make racing sailboat sails out of. I remember seeing one up close for the first time last year at the Carter Notch Hut during my Northern Presidential Traverse in June. It was an iridescent blue color – really space age looking.
The Blast (3,200 ci) is going to replace the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus (3,600 ci) which has been my regular 3 season pack for the past two years. I love the Mariposa Plus, but my current one is in pretty bad shape and it has a too much capacity for me when I’m out on a 2-3 day, three season trip. While the weight of my gear list has stayed pretty consistent over the past 2 years (10-15 lbs), the volume of my gear has shrunk as I’ve moved away from single walled tents to tarp based shelters. That means that I can get away with a smaller volume, lighter weight backpack.
The customized version of the Blast 32 I purchased (10.7 oz) is about half the weight of my Mariposa Plus (22.3 oz.) The weight saving is the result of less fabric and the use of cuben fiber which is incredibly light, but strong. On top of that, there is less padding in the hip belt and shoulder straps. Not that the Mariposa Plus has a lot of either, but the Blast has even less.
Here’s the build list for my Blast 32. Everything except the backpack is an optional add-on.
|Feature||Weight (oz)||Cost (USD)|
|3,200 ci, Color: Sky Blue||4.3||125|
|Shoulder Padding: 3/8 inch||0.1||0|
|Shock Cord Lashing||0.5||8|
|Pair Ice Axe Loops||0.1||4|
|Sleeping Pad Sleeves||0.5||20|
|Carbon Fiber Stays||1.5||15|
|Tall Side Pockets||0.2||4|
|Cuben Padded Belt w/ Pouches||2.3||39|
|Mesh Pockets, Side Only||0.3||0|
|Torso Height, -1 inch||0||0|
Since the Blast 32 arrived, I’ve been loading it up with 20 lb of gear, water and food and day hiking with it . The pack carries really well. The torso length is spot on for me and the body of the pack is narrow, resulting in excellent load transfer to my hips. The padded shoulder straps are a little narrower than those on my Mariposa, but still comfortable after a few hours of hiking with a comparable load.
When I defined the options I wanted on my Blast, tall mesh pockets were at the top of my list. I really learned to love them on my Mariposa and don’t think I can really ever be happy with a 3 season pack that doesn’t have them. I use them to keep stuff I need during the day easily at hand like food, my water bladder, toiletries, and a water filter if I’m carrying one.
Another nice feature on the Blast is the rear pocket which is large enough to store a rain jacket, rain pants, a hat and gaiters. The top of the pocket doesn’t close but it is connected to the compression lashing and you can tighten the top of the pocket to keep gear from spilling out.
I also opted for the sewn-in pockets on the Blast’s hip belt. These are larger than the external pockets from MLD that I had previously attached to my Mariposa hip belt. Each provides about 1 liter of additional space and closes with a drawstring and a cordlock. They’re perfect for holding my Gecko GPS, a digital camera, snacks, map, compass, bug dope, gloves, sunglasses, etc.
In addition, my pack has a sleeping pad sleeve in addition to carbon fiber stays to add stiffness to the pack and enable it to carry heavier loads. Unlike, the Mariposa Plus, I had the sleeping pad sleeves on the Blast positioned inside the pack to keep the pack’s center of gravity as close to my back as possible. Zpacks will sew them inside or outside as you specify. The sleeves are large enough to fit a Therma-a-rest Z-Lite sleeping pad or a full Gossamer Gear Nightlight pad (22″ x 10.5″.)
The carbon fiber stays can be used in addition to a sleeping pad for very heavy loads. Each stay is extremely lightweight and only weighs 0.6 oz.
The list of features on this pack goes on and on and I have to say that I am delighted with it’s performance so far. It’s got lots of capacity for a 2-4 day hike with food and water. While the Blast is not rugged enough for winter hiking, I do plan to use it for overnight trips beginning in the spring and for the TGO Challenge next May.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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