When Should Your Retire (backpacking gear)?

A lot of people retire (a.k.a replace) gear when a  “new and improved” model appears on the market.  I prefer to replace gear when something wears out and can no longer be repaired. Instead of constantly “upgrading” the money saved can be saved and invested.

Looks like it’s time for me to retire some gear.

zPacks Zero Packpack

This backpack is really just a stuff sack with shoulder straps. I bought it 6 years ago. The only option I added to the basic pack was a couple side pockets for water bottles. Back in 2011 I paid $110 for it. I’ve gotten my money’s worth. It’s starting to delaminate in several places, and there are a few holes here and there that I’ve repaired over the years. Some of the delimitation is due to abrasion, and some is just wear from a lot of use.

Delamination is occurring in several places on the bottom of the back, especially where the material is sewn to the sides.
The material has worn thin in the creases of the side water pockets.

I might be able to get a couple more trips out of it, but I’ll probably just retire it this week during my gear retirement ceremony.

The pack only weighs 4 ounces an is made from thin Cuben Fiber material. I really didn’t expect it to last this long. The main reason I bought it was to get a feel for the material as a backpack. At the time I was in the process of ordering a custom made pack from Dan McHale, a Bump 32Dan suggested making it in a heavier and more robust hybrid Cuben Fiber and I wasn’t confident that the material would last, so I bought the zPacks Zero to experiment. In the end I had Dan make the Bump out of Dyneema X-Grid with heavy duty Spectra in the typical high wear areas — a decision I am extremely happy about and don’t regret.

But the zPacks Zero lasted much, much longer than I anticipated. Over the past 6 years I have used my McHale Bump and my McHale LBP much more than the Zero. However, the Zero went with me on many trips… the Sierra, the San Jacinto Mountains, the San Bernardino Mountains, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza Borrego State Park, sections of the Appalachian Trail, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, Tennessee, New Mexico,  Illinois, Vermont, Ohio, and probably a few places I forgot.

Sandia Mountains, New Mexico


Anza Borrego




Eel River


Sierra Nevada

Replacement Pack?

Will I buy a new pack to replace the Zero? No. For one thing, zPacks no longer makes the Zero. If I wanted another extremely ultra light stuff sack with straps, I would buy the new zPacks Nero. This pack is the Zero with the most popular options and a Cuben Hybrid material that is much more robust than my Zero. The Zero was a pack that had several optional features, and Joe Velasco, the owner of zPacks, wanted to introduce a similar pack without the labor intensive options. The Nero weighs 10.5 ounces.

If I want a stuff sack with straps, I can strip down my much more durable McHale Bump to about 1 pound 9 ounces. Yes, this sounds a lot heavier than the Nero, but consider this.

On my last trip my total pack weight was 11 pounds, 6 ounces and included 4 days of food. With a stripped down Bump without the frame, my total pack weight would be around 12 pounds, 11 ounces. Not much difference in total pack weight. Once the total pack weight gets near 15 pounds, I want a pack with a good frame. My McHale Bump with the frame inserted can comfortably carry 30 lbs. You can’t put a frame in a Zero or a Nero. So why buy another pack when what I have will work very well.

Mizuno Universe Wave 4 Cross Country Racing Flats

I was hoping to get 400 miles out of these. The soles are completely worn and there is no traction. On my last trip I slipped fell several times due to a lack of traction on steep, rocky, and sandy hills. These shoes are very light, less than 5 ounces each, and I have worn out several pair in the past 6 years. I love these shoes, and bought several pairs to keep in inventory because shoe companies discontinue great shoes, which Mizuno has done with these. I thought I had one pair left, but when I went to get them for the shoe retirement ceremony, I found a 2nd new pair. Woo Hoo! So I have two pairs left. And yes, we will be having a solemn retirement ceremony this week for the old pair and the zPacks Zero.

Worn out Mizuno Universe Wave 4 compared to a brand new one.

If you are thinking these shoes are much too fragile for backpacking, you’d be wrong in my case. Since I rarely wear shoes at home, my feet are conditioned for minimal footwear and  walking barefooted. I just need a minimal sole to protect my feet from sharp objects. This shoe fits the bill. I don’t know what I will buy once the remaining shoe inventory is worn out. Mizuno came out with Version 5 (even lighter) a couple years ago and those are already discontinued. Currently Mizuno is not making any cross country racing flats, but there are other companies that do. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.



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