I use the Z55 as my primary pack. I purchased it one year ago after it was picked by National Geographic for the gear of the Year 2008. I have taken this pack on week long adventures and it distributes the weight like a dream. Honestly like a dream! Over the last year I have been switching out much of my light gear to accommodate even lighter gear.For example My new tent weighs 13oz plus stakes and using trekking poles (tyvek floor)(old tent was 39oz), My pad is the small aircore (16oz) (and yes I am aware of the neoair - I'm just not very fond of it), my pot is a titan kettle (used to be GSI soloist). I use the MSR miniworks filter (I know heavy at 15oz - I'll explain later), my sleeping bag is a Montbell UL down hugger #2 (for me the perfect all around 3 season compromise) My base weight three season is now a respectable 6-7lbs(not including my pack which I will get to). The real weight comes in when I need to carry food for a week w/out resupply (plus 1 - 3 liters of water). figure depending on the cuisine about 1.5 - 2lbs a day if I am treating myself really well - and why not I deserve it. Bare with me there is a point to all this - Im going get to the point of this review shortly. People have different reasons for hiking and many chose to hike light and honestly I began my hiking foray within the last two years looking to hike light from the onset. Some people have weak knees, others are survivalists, others race trails and each oz costs them time, while some just enjoy seeing to what extreme they can push themselves (regarding clothing, shelter and food). My reason is pure and simple I am lazy, I have no desire to spend a week in Yellowstone, the Appalachian trail, Rocky Mountain National Park or wherever hauling 40 - 60lbs like some sort of human donkey. frankly if that was the only way to hike Id rather stay in bed, watch TV and eat bonbons. Plus being a former NYC urban rollerblader traveling for me means being swift, and nimble - jumping curbs, and weaving through midtown traffic, and grabbing NYC transit bus rear wheel wells so I dont have to blade uphill to get to the MOMA or class. My approach to hiking is the same I want to be able jump a stream, stomp through shrubs, slide down a steep hill rather than take the long way or even bend down and smell a flower with my pack on. I dont want to be separated from nature because I am carrying crap I dont need like three pairs of pants, two fleece and a frying pan. I WILL BE WEARING THE SAME SMELLY CRAP I STARTED MY HIKE IN TWO WEEKS AGO - AND ILL LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT - if i need to I will find a stream and break out the bronners and scrub my one pair of pants in my boxers (two pair if you must know) like they did in the old west. Don't get me wrong I enjoy comfort as well which is why I carry the air core since it allows this side sleeper to sleep like a baby, and the filter because I want my water to BE CLEAN, taste clean, and smell clean. Chemicals, and 3oz UV pens may kill god knows what creatures eggs are in the water but the dead eggs are still in the water - plus what sane person chooses to drink water with bleach in it - not I.
Now to the Z55 after reducing my weight this winter I figured perhaps it's time for a new pack. So I ordered the touted Osprey EXOS 46. It came in the mail I loaded it up 25lbs and the straps cut into my shoulders (and trust I adjusted the straps every which way for 45 min. I wanted the pack to work)I even ordered the larger size to see if it was a fit issue (it wasn't). much of the weight was not placed on my hips with the exos - it was on my shoulders further the pack wobbled and bobbled on my back when I tested it on steep stairs (then again packs are like shoes and the Exos was not the pair for me). No way am I reducing weight just to suffer that completely defeats the purpose - hiking is not about pain for me it's about pleasure. So instead I removed the lid on my Z55, and cut the remaining excess straps (and there are a lot). This pack hugs my body, my back breaths, and the waist straps are a dream. It carries everything flawlessly, I am now considering the Z35 for a pack with less volume (and yes pack suggestions are welcome if you understand my hiking philosophy) only those that own this pack will truly understand how sweet it is and where I came coming from, and until the day comes that a lighter pack provides me the same comfort while strapped to my back for 10 - 12 hours while I hike for multiple days - I will stay devoted to the Z55. - so if you are considering it go for it. There is one annoying issue I have with it - theres no bottle mesh, they expect that everyone wishes to soley rely on a platy. I would like a water bottle mesh pocket. This pack is great overall and you can take that to the bank. Shoot I got a math test in 5 hours!