Everybody likes a field trip. Today we visited the folks at Zpacks. Think of it as a Christmas trip to a hiker toy store. I love this kind of field trip!
Founded by long distance hiker Joe Valesko in 2005, Zpacks is run by and for long distance hikers. As a Triple Crowner with plenty of outdoor experience, Joe designs and field tests the gear. We didn’t meet Joe on this visit, but we’ve seen him in many of the demonstration videos. Zpacks hit our radar a couple of years ago when a couple of Florida Trail thru-hikers, Tom Kennedy and Glen Stanford, raved about their gear. We got to meet Matt Favero and Will Wood when Zpacks supported the last Florida Trail Kickoff. And we were surprised to find out that this lightweight gear company was in our own backyard! So we promised to pay a visit.
As we entered the building, dozens of seamstresses and seamsters were stitching away on sewing machines under the warehouse roof. Tents, sleeping bags, clothing, and backpacks were all taking shape right before our eyes. Santa’s elves have nothing on these folks as the create some of the lightest backpacking gear on the market.
It was gearhead nirvana as Matt Favero gave us the grand tour. We walked by boxes after boxes after stacks of racks of hand-stitched lightweight backpacks. Sandy tried on a couple a backpacks, finding the 21 oz Arc Blast surprisingly comfy compared to her hefty Osprey Aether in the closet at home, even when loaded with 20 lbs.
Colorful sleeping bags hung from the racks. Oh, how I wanted to say from the chimney with care. And why not, I’d rather have a 16.7 oz Zpacks sleeping bag than an old stocking any old day.
The only thing cooler than getting to see how easy their 15.4 oz Hexamid Cuben Fiber tent sets up (using only one hiking pole) was seeing boxes and boxes full of stuff sacks, each with a lightweight tent inside.
I hope you’ve all been good hiker trash this year, so that Santa might leave you some cool lightweight gear from the folks at Zpacks. In fact, I peeked at Sandy’s letter to Santa. She’s hoping to find a tent and backpack under the tree. “Please Santa, I’d like them to stay under three pounds to keep my base weight low.”
If Santa doesn’t come through, check out their website!