Review: Gregory Zulu 65

You never forget your first, and I’d been using my old backpacking pack since I was 16. We made lots of great memories together (her name was Griselda), so when I first tried out the Gregory Zulu 65, I was suspicious. Sleek, streamlined design? I thought Griselda’s awkward bulkiness was kind of cute. A thickly padded hipbelt that rests lightly on my waist? Backpacking’s supposed to involve suffering, which I experienced plenty of with Grizzy’s flimsy cushion. My relationship with my old pack had turned toxic, blinding me to the Zulu’s obvious advantages. But its smart design and undeniable comfort eventually opened my eyes.

The Zulu sports a mesh screen between my back and the pack to cool me down and wick away sweat on hot summer days (I used to open my old pack after a 14-mile trek to find my last clean t-shirt completely soaked through). Gregory also added extra-large pockets on the hip straps, so I no longer have to take my pack off and rummage through a side pocket to reapply bug spray. And while old-school packs have a confounding combination of drawstrings and ovular zippers, the Zulu’s Main U-Zip opening provides easy and immediate access to a cavernous main compartment, so I can whip out my raincoat in a flash if there’s a sudden deluge.

But where the Zulu really excels is in motion—Gregory’s FreeFloat suspension conforms to my lower back and hips, allowing me to move freely whether I’m descending a steep trail or navigating a field of scree. Throw in eco-friendly materials, 3.5 inches of torso adjustment, and long-lasting Lifespan foam construction, and my only regret is that I didn’t ditch Griselda sooner.

Breaking up with my old pack was hard, but now I’m going steady with the Zulu 65. This might be happily ever after…