Almost four years. That’s how long I’ve been using the Zpacks Arc Blast for my hiking adventures. The Arc Blast is very sturdy, lightweight and has got an external frame to give you the opportunity to carry heavier loads, up to 16kg.
For the past couple of years I’ve not really been using or rather needing that extra weight range. Pack weight has gone down. Not really by changing out many of my items but more because of learning what works for me; leaving things at home and picking better food to match the kind of activities I’ve been doing.
I’ve also had some issues with the Arc Blast that the frame comes undone. This was something I had seen and heard prior to buying it. He who showed it to me was also frustrated about this with his pack. When this happens you’re not using the frame at all and it carries somewhat like a frameless backpack.
Therefore with these things in mind I started looking at a replacement. Or truth be told not really a replacement but a adaptation of my backpack to what I want in my pack. Still very happy with my Arc Blast.
Enter, KS Ultralight KS50 backpack!
What I wanted in a new pack was the basic features of the Arc Blast. Waterproof outer shell and big mesh pocket on the bag. These things are not too hard to find on your average lightweight backpack nowadays.
I’ve seen KS Ultralight backpacks in the flesh before as Jon got himself a KS Ultralight Gear Imo Pack a few years ago. I knew that these packs would be just as well made as Zpacks or even better so the choice to pick one up was a little easier. It doesn’t hurt either that the owner Laurent, is a really nice guy.
Customizations is a very big thing with KS Ultralight packs. Back in the day, Zpacks would make you custom fits too but not anymore as they’ve grown. Customization or rather, a lot of options, are available to you when picking your KS backpack. Everything from what type of fabric, colors (yes that’s plural) and additional bells and whistles. It’s all there for the picking. If you’re missing something in particular, just drop an e-mail and it’s probably doable.
All of this is still within reasonable money! It’s still cheaper or around the same money as your average off-the-shelf backpack.
So what is my setup?
I went with a KS50 backpack. As the name suggests it holds 50 liters. There’s also a KS40 if you want to go even smaller.
There’s no Dyneema Cuben Fiber option but there’s VX-21 fabric that I was told would be the equivalent of DCF. VX-21 feels very durable and is softer than DCF and thus I guess it’s not as likely to break if folded and pinched. Keep in mind this is not something that I’ve had happen with any of my DCF items but it’s something I’ve read about that can happen with prolonged use, read multiple thru hikes.
VX-21 comes in a variety of colors and can be mixed as you see fit to get your own one-of-a-kind backpack design. I went with coyote brown for the main body and red side pockets.
Hip- and shoulder pouches is something that I wanted. Two of each but I think I’ll only be using one of the shoulder pouches, the one with the mesh. The reason I ordered two is because it’s a good option to have and while ordering it would be more of a hustle to order an additional pouch later on if I decided it’s something I’d want.
This is my complete order
- KS50 X-Pac
- X-Pac VX-21 Coyote Brown body with VX-21 Red side pockets
- Removable hip pouches
- 20mm sternum strap with whistle
- Internal pad pocket with pad
- Quick trekking pole holder
- Load lifter straps, lineloc+cord
- Shoulder pouch
- Shoulder pouch (mesh addon)
Total cost excluding shipping: ¥31 850 JPY (~299 USD)
With many packs you have ice-axe loops located on the back of the pack. Many use these for storing your trekking poles while road walking or going up steep climbs when they’re just in the way. I don’t like taking off my backpack just to put them there and then again when I want them. So I asked if he could make trekking pole holders on the side, just like the Osprey packs have. Sure thing, not a problem! It’s now even a standard option for you to pick with your KS backpack.
The only real downside with KS Ultralight packs is their website. But once you get used to it there’s nothing complicated with it.
You pick your pack and then add what ever options you like to have. Fabric is picked in a different place from where you get all your pack accessories and options so this is what I found most confusing. However if you manage to order something that doesn’t work or that can’t be combined, everything is proofread prior to manufacturing so there’s no risk of you getting a non-working backpack.
Final thoughts upon delivery
Wow, just wow! What a backpack!
It’s super comfortable and feels very durable. Knowing that “this is my pack” adds to the wow-feeling. I could probably have gone with the KS40 but as the weight difference is minimal I still decided on the KS50.
Note: KS 50 is the most versatile: highly compressible for almost same weight and price.
With all of the things above it weighs in at 583g. Removing the shoulder pouch (non mesh) you’ll skip an additional 25g. This compared to my similarly outfitted Arc Blast (623g) they weigh about the same.
A more in-depth review will come around May/June of 2018.
That’s really a great looking backpack. I don’t need another backpack and I’m not going to buy one, but the gear junkie in me do love the looks of that pack.
I hope you’re happy with it, and I’m looking forward to a potential long term review later on
I contemplated for many months before “upgrading” to this pack. I probably could have gone for a long-long time with the Zpacks pack. Didn’t really need the frame and also wanted it small enough so it could work as a carry-on when flying.
So far so good. I haven’t really tested the is so much that I can do a review of it yet. But from other KS packs that I’ve seen and tested they’re good.
If you don’t need a new pack, don’t get one 🙂
What is you long term review of the KS 50? Are you still using it?
I would much appreciate your feedback.
A copy-paste of what I responded to your e-mail.
Yes I’m still using it and I must say that I’m really impressed with it. Compared to the Zpacks which I have used for much longer peried of time it feels sturdier and also kind of like where Zpack was back in they day with customizability.
I’m about to make a video about it soon so stay tuned for that one.
The only downside compared to a cuben fiber (or Dyneema Composit) pack is that it’s not as waterproof and a liiiitle heavier. That’s really the only downside. Customer service and all that is just as good as any cottage manufacturer.
If you have any more question just let me know and I’ll try to help as best I can.
All the best
Thanks for the review. I think I might get one, but since I am only recently looking into UL, I am unsure about what options really need / dont need.
Right now, I am thinking of KS50 with large belt option (I have a skinny waist), load lifter lineloc, external frame, the sit pad (for the back), and shoulder strap 20mm option. What is your opinion on this setup? I might miss having the Removable pocket 1L, but more options becomes too expensive for me. Any advice?
All the best
I think that sounds like a good setup, pretty close to what I have actually.
Depending on where you live and how expensive shipping/import will be it might be worth saving up for a little longer and get those 1L belt pockets. They’re really handy and is something that I can’t live without. External storage that you can access without taking off your pack is what I like a lot.
Thanks for the reply Andre!
With the 1L belt pocket, it becomes 220 euro in total (with shipping). It might be a good option, but then it suddenly becomes a high-end priced pack imho.
Do you have any advice on fabrics? Would standard (X-pac X21RC cloud grey fabric and default black cordura 330D) be the best, or do you think nylon 200D Spectra might be better? I plan on walking in rainly places.
Well yes it’s 220€ but compared to other similiar packs this is still “cheap”, considering it’s a custom made backpack. But we all have our limits in terms of budget etc so I’m not judging you in anyway. Zpacks Arc Scout that you could have as an option is 285€ without shipping and that’s an off-the-shelf backpack.
I use VX21 on my pack. Keep in mind that none of these are waterproof!! It’s not Dyneema Cuben Fiber (DCF) which in itself is. These backpacks are also not seam sealed so it’ll leak by that too. I knew this before hand and also have experience with it. You’ll need to line your pack with a trash compactor bag. That’s what I do.
Looks like a really nice pack! Currently on the hunt for a pack and I’m considering this or something from Atompacks. How heavy of a weight have you comfortably carried in this pack, have you found its limit? Also how much extra did customs + taxes cost you? Also living in Sweden, so trying to calculate the cost of the delivered pack:)
And yes it most certainly is. I’ve probably carried around 10kg with everything like water included, not a problem. The limit I guess would be when it breaks so I haven’t really tested it. Compared to the Zpacks pack I have I would guess they take the same amount of weight but the frame being the difference, meaning comfort and over a long period of time the pack will break.
Customs like everything in Sweden is based on 25% VAT and the handling fee I think is around 150SEK so that’s what you need to add to the price.
If you’re close to Jönköping we could probably meet up if you wanna have a hands-on look at it.