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March 2015 - Welcome to ZPacks!

Most accessory items are in stock and are shipping in a day or two. Larger items like Backpacks, Shelters and Sleeping bags, and Rain Gear are made to order and are shipping in about 4-5 weeks.

If you need your order to be delivered sooner or by a certain date please email us after you order and we will schedule accordingly if possible. All ZPacks gear is made for you right here in our US workshop.
Frequently Asked Questions

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Misc - Tents - Backpacks - Sleeping Bags

Miscellaneous

Where are you located?

We are currently located in Palm Bay FL, 32909. Joe and Sheryl are originally from near Rochester NY.

Can I call you to ask questions or place an order? I don't see your number listed.
If you can ask your question via email please do so as that is more efficient for us. Our email address is listed at the bottom of the page and we are normally very responsive. If you need to call you can email and ask for our number.

We can't take credit cards over the phone, only through the website. Checks or Money orders are also fine.

How long does it take to ship my order?

Accessory items are usually in stock and ship within a week. Backpacks, sleeping bags, and tents are built when you order them, lately there has been a waiting list. See the notice at the top of the page for the wait time. Feel free to ask before you order if you need something quickly and we will get it out sooner if possible.

How much is shipping? Can you ship to my country?
Shipping is free on U.S. orders over $100. Otherwise shipping is just $3.95 in the U.S. All orders are sent USPS. We can ship to anywhere that www.usps.com will send packages, which is pretty much everywhere in the world.

International Shipping - Orders under $100 get sent first class mail for $15.95. First class mail does not have any tracking once it leaves the US and occasionally packages get lost. Orders over $100 are sent via Priority mail for $45. Priority Mail is faster, has tracking and rarely gets lost. $55 for Express mail is the fastest option and also includes $100 of insurance. All orders are sent USPS.

Do you accept returns or exchanges?
Yes. You can return any item in new or lightly used condition for up to 30 days after you receive the item for a full refund, minus the shipping fee. We will also do free repairs, or replace any defective product for up to a year. If it has been more than a year, we can probably still do repairs for free depending on the situation. Just ask!

If you have any feedback or an idea on how to improve an item, please let us know!

How long have you been doing this?
Joe has been building his own gear since the late 90's, and opened ZPacks.com in 2005. We now have a staff of seamsters and seamstresses to help build your gear, and Matt Favero is acting manager whenever owners Joe and Sheryl Valesko are out hiking.

Joe thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007, and the Continental Divide Trail in 2009. Joe and his wife Sheryl thru-hiked the Te Araroa in 2012-2013.

I want to make my own gear. What size thread, needle, etc should I use?
Most of the materials you might need are available on our materials page. We use size 40 Tex bonded Polyester thread and a size 14 or 16 needle. Most home sewing machines are fine for do-it-yourself projects.

Backpacks

How do I adjust the tension on my Arc Blast frame?
The Arc frame should be bowed about 2.5 inches (6 cm) at the center for air flow and cushion. Stand the empty backpack upright on the floor, or on your hip and push down on the top of the frame to flex it. Pull the cords at the top and bottom of the mesh back panel through the Lineloc 3 buckles to cinch it tight. If you notice any slipping you might need to tie off the cord around the LineLoc 3 buckles to lock it in place.

Try to make sure the left and right sides are adjusted evenly. We usually adjust the tension so that the stays are flexed about 2.5" at the middle. When traveling (on a plane etc), let out the tension so the stays are straight and the backpack packs smaller. You can also take the tension off the frame when the pack is stored long-term. The frame comes out if you need to remove it for travelling.

How do I measure for Torso Height on your packs?
The torso height on our packs is the Actual Distance measured from the bottom of the belt to the top of where the straps are sewn to the pack. I like the straps to come roughly horizontal over the tops of my shoulders. If you already have a backpack that you like the fit of, measure it directly from the bottom of the belt to the highest point the straps are sewn. Otherwise you can use this graphic to ballpark a measurement. here.

Are ZPacks backpacks waterproof?
Our backpack materials are waterproof, and the Arc packs all have taped seams. They are very water resistant, but it does not hurt to have a second line of defense such as a Pack Cover, a Pack Liner or individual Dry Bags, or a poncho.

How much weight can I carry in your backpacks?
Our Arc Blast backpack has a frame and can handle heavier loads. It feels great around 20-25lbs. At 30 lbs it feels reasonable but can start to get a bit heavy on the shoulders. I have pushed my own pack up to 35 lbs (16 kg) once in a while at the start of a long carry and it isn't bad, just a little heavy on the shoulders. If you are regularly carrying heavier loads it might not be the right pack.

Frameless packs like the Zero are comfortable with weights under 20 lbs (9 kg). Heavier weights will start to get uncomfortable on your shoulders. You can get away with heavier loads on occasion, but if you plan to carry over 20 lbs on a regular basis you will be better off with a pack with a frame. A base weight (all gear without food or water) of 8 lbs (3.8 kg) or less is a good target for a frameless pack.

What backpack do you recommend?
The Arc Blast is our most popular pack. It is comfortable and reasonably durable. It can handle the weight (up to 30lbs) that most ultralight hikers carry.

We have found the frame, and tougher material to be a big improvement over the frameless packs we used in the past.

If you want to go as light as possible and don't need a frame, consider the Zero.

Tents

What is the difference between the Hexamid tents and the 'Plex' style tents? Which one should I get?
Our original Hexamid tents are alot like a tarp with fully enclosed screen. They have a separate bathtub groundsheet which is removable. That is useful because you can take the groundsheet out to sleep under the stars or to dry everything out faster. If rain spray is blowing hard at one side of your tent you can shift your groundsheet and gear away from it. They are just like tarp camping except with fully enclosed screen. They are more minimalist shelters and the price is lower.

The Plex tents have a tall sewn in bathtub floor and they perform more like a normal tent that you might be used to. The have a taller entryway for easier access, and the storm doors close off more fully and create more vestibule space. I think they are more comfortable for the average person, however both types of tents have their advantages.

How transparent is Cuben Fiber? Can you see through the material?
All of the Cuben Fiber colors are somewhat transparent. If the sun is shining you can see a fuzzy silhouette of a person inside a tent. You can not see any details, and generally speaking you can change your clothes inside without worrying too much. The Blue and Olive Drab colors are slightly less see-through than White but the difference is not that significant. In dim light such as in the evening you can't see through at all.

What about shade?
Some light shines through Cuben Fiber and you can see the outline of trees and your surroundings when looking out. That is kind of nice, it helps connect you with your surroundings. If you need shade during the daytime you could drape your sleeping bag over the tent, or drape a space blanket over it to block the light.

What color tent should I get?
If you like to blend in with your surroundings choose Olive Drab. Olive drab is the most popular choice.
If you like to stand out choose Blue.
If you like the classic Cuben Fiber look, choose White.
None of the colors offer any advantage other than aesthetics.

Does Cuben Fiber degrade in Sunshine?
Most plastics break down under excessive sun exposure, and Cuben Fiber is no different. A day or two in the sun here or there will not hurt it, but it is probably not a good idea to leave a tent set up in the yard all summer.

How do your tents do in the Wind?
The tents do pretty well in the wind, about the same as a typical tarp. The material was originally designed as sail cloth, and it can handle high wind loads without tearing. The tie outs are reinforced very well and can handle being buffeted in the wind. Try to find a sheltered spot when possible, and aim the back or side into the wind if you are exposed.

The main thing is to make sure the stakes are securely in the ground, especially the front center stake. If you are camped above tree line, or in a windy area pile rocks on the stakes if rocks are available.

Will I get cold if it is windy?
The tents are intentionally made to have alot of airflow to reduce condensation, they have 6" of screen around the perimeter.

In the original Hexamid tents you can un-clip your groundsheet and slide it up against the wall to block wind from coming in the screen. Either that or use your backpack and spare gear against the screen as a wind break. The Plex tents are a bit more closed off and do a better job of blocking wind.

How much warmth do your tents trap?
On a relatively calm night our tents will trap about 6-7 degrees Fahrenheit. One night I measured 23F outside and 30F inside my Altaplex tent. On another night it was 42F outside and 48F inside. That can be a significant difference in cold weather. Having a screened in tent is useful even when the bugs are gone!

Do the tents get Condensation?
All single wall shelters will get some condensation in cold humid conditions. Even a flat tarp with no one under it will collect some moisture in the right conditions. Our tents are open and airy to help avoid condensation from your breath. The tents are large enough to keep your gear away from the potentially wet walls, and any condensation will run down the walls and out harmlessly through the screen at the perimeter.

Camp up higher, away from lakes and streams, and under tree cover to help minimize water vapor in the air. Open grassy areas are prone to collecting dew and condensation. Look for a dry area under trees.

Can you add a peak vent?
The tents already have a ton of airflow. Leave the beak or doors open for air unless you are getting wet from rain spray. A small peak vent would not make much difference in air flow.

Can you sew a Cuben Fiber floor into a Hexamid instead of using a separate bathtub groundsheet?
Nope. That is why we designed the Plex tents. If you want a solid sewn in floor try the Plex tents.

Can I camp on the sand, on tent platforms, rocky areas, or other places where stakes won't work?
Yes, it just takes more work. On firm ground wedge the tip of your stakes in, and then anchor them with rocks. If you are camped above tree line on stone, wrap the guy lines around rocks to anchor them. On beach sand use rocks, driftwood, etc as anchors for the tent guy lines. On tent platforms you can wedge the stakes between the boards, or use extra line to tie off to the ends of the platform. There is always a way to make it work if you use some imagination.

Can you make a separate bug shelter for the Hexamid tarps?
Check out the Hexanet, or a Bivy.

How strong is the Cuben Fiber tent material? How about the groundsheets?
The tent material is thin, but has high tensile strength and it does not tear easily. The abrasion and puncture resistance are only moderate, but tents normally don't get any abrasion. Our Cuben Fiber groundsheet material is twice as thick and resists punctures better. The tents and groundsheets are extremely easy to repair with Cuben Tape.

At least one person (Dave "Freebird" Osborn) has done THREE full thru-hikes with the same Cuben Fiber Hexamid Solo without a problem.

Can you make my tent using stronger material?
We haven't had any problems with the normal .51 oz/sqyd tent material, but sure we can do any tent in Green .74 oz/sqyd material. It adds a couple ounces to the weight. This is an option on each of the tent pages.

What is the packed size of the tents?
It is listed on each tent page. Most of our tents ship in either a Medium 6" x 12" or a Medium-Plus 7" x 13" stuff sack. The stuff sacks are a loose fit so that you don't have to fight to get the tent in.

When I set up my tent the screen door is stretched too tight and the zipper has a hard time zipping. What am I doing wrong?
You have the tent tilted backwards too far, which is bringing the front up too high. Think of the peak of the tent as the fulcrum. You need to bring the front of the tent forward and down so the screen door is looser. Try playing with the distance apart of the two front corner stakes to give yourself more or less slack and more or less peak height. You could also drop the height of your trekking pole a bit.

There is a loop of elastic with a mitten hook at the peak of my tent. What is that for?
The Hexamid tents include 5 elastic loops with mitten hooks at the corners for clipping a groundsheet in place. A 6th loop is temporarily clipped to the peak of the tent. Move it down to the front center of your groundsheet and clip it around your trekking pole to keep the front of your groundsheet elevated. Or leave the elastic and hook at the peak of the tent to hang your flashlight, watch, etc.

How sturdy are the optional tent poles?
We've done several upgrades to our tent poles to help them withstand higher winds. The current poles are thicker than they used to be, and also have double layered internal ferrules, and wrapped joints to prevent them from splitting under stress. Even with all that they can still snap in crazy wind, but normally they hold. Trekking poles are a sturdier alternative to tent poles!

Can I wash my tent and other Cuben Fiber gear?
Hand wash any Cuben gear in a bucket or bathtub with laundry detergent and warm water. Line dry. Do not put any Cuben gear in a dryer on high heat or it may shrink!

Should I Fold and Roll the tent or just cram it into the stuff sack?
I normally fold and roll. It seems to trap less air and compress smaller compared to crumpling it up. It also keeps the tent from getting all wrinkly. Other than that, cramming should be fine too.

Help! My zipper stopped working!
We use standard #3 YKK zippers, the same kind as in most other ultralight gear. Metal zipper sliders can wear down over time, especially in dusty, gritty conditions. If that happens the zipper won't seal properly. Luckily zipper sliders are cheap and easy to replace, even on the trail. If you are doing a thru-hike on a dusty trail (like through the desert on the PCT for example) you may want to carry a couple extra sliders, available on the materials page.

  1. Cut both ends of the zipper tape so the sliders can pop off.
  2. Push on the new sliders with your fingertip. The sliders have grooves in the sides which must match the orientation of the zipper tape. (In other words the zipper tape needs to fit in the grooves). Make sure the two sliders come together evenly at the center.
  3. Tape the ends of the repaired zipper so the sliders can't slide off.

Sleeping Bags

Is your Goose Down ethically and environmentally sourced?
Yes. Our down supplier works hard to conform to environment and animal welfare regulations and standards. They buy no product from suppliers that live-pluck birds. They are Bluesign certified for environmental performance.

What size sleeping bag should I choose?
Our regular width bags run slim. If you are a bigger person or want wiggle room choose the wide or x-wide width. As a rule of thumb, measure your girth around your chest and arms at the thickest spot. Add 8 inches or more of wiggle room.

The length is meant to be able to cinch around the neck of a person up to the specified height. For example a medium length 5' 9" bag should cinch around the neck of a person who is 5' 9" tall. It is nice however if you can pull the bag up around your ears, and it is a good idea to size up on length. Each length adds about 5 inches.

Other sleeping bags I have compared have more down than your bags, how come?
The important metric to compare when looking at sleeping bags is the amount of loft, not necessarily the amount of down used.

Our bags have a slim efficient design, and they don't have hoods so there is less volume to fill. We also use the highest quality 900 fill power down. Lower quality down requires more down to fill the same volume.

The amount of down we use in our sleeping bags is explained Here

What temperature rating should I choose?
Alot of factors can affect how warm a person is at night. For example body fat, clothing worn, your tent, your sleeping pad, metabolism, humidity, how windy it is, how acclimated you are to cold weather, etc. External factors can make a big difference.

I personally am chilly but ok at the bag's temperature rating, in my tent, on a pad, wearing most if not all of my clothes. I would personally consider 20F to be the reasonable lower limit of our 20F sleeping bag. If you sleep cold consider sizing down a rating.

The temperature ratings on our bags are meant to be comparable with other mainstream bags with the same temperature rating. If you know you typically get cold at night in another company's 20F, consider going down to a 10F. Our bags are lighter but don't necessarily expect them to be warmer given the same rating.

Make sure to fluff up your bag at the beginning of the night, and shake more down to the top if it is cold out. Sleep in a warm jacket and whatever clothes you have, and sleep in your tent to stay warmer.

EN Ratings?
We have not had our sleeping bags tested for European EN ratings. EN ratings are a standard that measures a bag's Comfort Rating / Lower Limit / and Extreme rating. Based on feedback and use I would estimate that our sleeping bags ratings are closest to the middle "Lower Limit" rating.  As an average man, for me that means that a 20F sleeping is a little chilly, but OK at 20F, wearing appropriate clothes in a tent.

Is the zipper uncomfortable to lay on?
The zipper is thin and is not very noticeable. The only "bump" is the metal slider. When the zipper is zipped up the slider will be in the small of your neck and there will not be any pressure on it. When the zipper is unzipped it will be between your calves. We have not had any reports of discomfort from the zipper.

Will laying on the zipper damage my inflatable sleeping pad?
No. The zipper slider is rounded and there are no sharp edges. I use a NeoAir myself and have never had any issues.

What is the difference between Baffle Height and Loft Height?
Sleeping bags are divided into compartments. Separating each compartment is a vertical wall called a baffle. Our sleeping bags are stuffed with 30% more down than it should theoretically take to fill each compartment. That means that under ideal conditions if the down is fully lofted the compartments will bow out and you will get more loft between baffles.

The short answer is the loft height should be at least equal to the baffle height, but may be higher between the baffles if the bag is fluffed up well.
 
Other questions can be sent to the email address below-
 

 
Free Shipping on U.S. orders over $100!
Otherwise shipping is just $3.95 in the U.S., $15.95 Internationally and up.

Please send us an email with any questions!


Who we are:
Joe Valesko founded ZPacks in 2005. He designed and tested all the gear, and has thru-hiked over 9,600 long distance miles including the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Te Araroa Trail, and TGOC Scotland. Joe is available to answer any questions about gear recommendations, sizing, trail info, or anything requiring an experienced opinion.

Matt Favero receives your orders, oversees production at our shop, and ships out your orders. He has hiked much of the Florida Trail, parts of the AT, and TGOC Scotland. Matt handles most routine emails about your order. We love feedback and suggestions about our gear!

Please email us for our Address if you need to send any packages. We like to know what's coming! Our Phone Number is not listed. We are able to give a more informed answer via email, and we are normally very responsive. Please email us your questions and we will reply ASAP.