View Full Version : Zulu Review/Grocery Store Test

04-22-2006, 04:59 PM
Inspired by someone else's message board post, I took my brand-new Zulu to the grocery store to see how much it could carry. I was, to be frank, AMAZED. I posted the following review on the Zombie Squad Forums (www.zombiehunters.org) and someone suggested that you guys might like to see it, too. So, here it is:

So, my package from Kifaru arrived! It consists of a Zulu, 2 back pouches (to go on the sides of the pack) one E&E back pouch (to go on the back of the pack), the eXtreme Top Lid, a padded PALS/power pull waist belt, a Claymore pouch which I attached to the outside of the XTL, a Liter-plus pouch which I attached to the waist belt, and of course it's all in MultiCam. I also got a set of pullouts. Inspired by someone's post on the Kifaru forums, I decided to take my new ruck to the grocery store and see how much it could haul. I'm used to making this run regularly, using both a frameless medium ALICE, and an ALICE large pack with frame, so I've got a good control group to compare my experience to.

I assembed the pack the day I got it. Right before the test, I removed all of my BOB/survival/travel gear from the pack (I'm in the process of getting organized for Japan and California adventures this summer). This was much easier because of the pullouts: instead of pulling out dozens of pieces of gear, I just remove the pullouts: the gear stays organized! This is one of the best advantages of the pullouts: you can keep your BOB loaded, then unload it to use the pack for something else, while keeping your gear organized.

So, I strapped on the pack and walked the comparitively short distance (about 2 1/2 blocks or so) to the grocery store. I know this is a really short distance, and that's intentional. This was not to be a test of what I could/would want to carry all day, for ex. while "bugging out." Rather, this is a test of how the pack feels when obscenely overloaded. I bought a bunch of stuff at the grocery store, some just to eat, and also some stuff to add to my "bugging in" kit, which consists of having a good amound of non-perishable food in my pantry. The bill: $80. I should point out that this is $80 at the cheapest grocery store in town, on the edge of the ghetto, and as you'll see, there's no expensive luxury stuff like liquor. Rather, this is $80 of cheap, bulk food.

Here's me walking home, wearing the pack:


And a shot of the pack:


This doesn't quite give a sense of how monstrously huge this thing is. When Kifaru says that the pack "mushrooms" in size, they mean it! Empty, it compresses down to being roughly the size of a Medium ALICE pack. But, overstuffed, it's MASSIVE; about the size of a seabag/duffel, plus the Back Pouches, each of which is the size of a (very) small daypack, such as the kind that Camelback often sells, or a small school backpack like the Jansport you might have had back in grade school. This metamorphic scale shift is one of the keys to its versatility.

This thing is grotesquely heavy; I'd bet I've got about 80 pounds in it. I'm bad at numbers, though: guesses, anyone? (See the photo of contents below before you guess.) Anyway, despite holding WAY more stuff than a large ALICE pack, it is vastly more comfortable. It's sort of a surreal experience, actually: the pack is so comfortable, conforms to my body so well, it actually feels like there's nothing on my back at all, I'm just on a planet where gravity is stronger so I weigh 80 pounds more! The waist belt is one of the best pieces of engineering I've ever seen: it conforms so well to the shape of my hips, taking all that weight and putting it on my hips, and feels like Natalie Portman's got here hands on my hips and we're slow dancing. I strongly advocate anyone considering purchasing a Kifaru pack that doesn't come with a waist belt, buy one as an addition. It really distributes the weight perfectly, like an impossibly utopian Communist government only wishes it could distribute wealth. The shoulder straps, with the additional "lift" strap, are excellent as well.

So, staggering under the weight like an astronaut on Jupiter, I made it home. My legs were feeling weak, it was pretty exhausting, but there were no "hot spots" or pokey bits or anything. So, I got home and took off the pack. Here it is, off of me:



So, what have I got in there, you ask? Okay, here we go. In the Liter Plus pouch on the waist belt:


A bag of carrots!

Left side Back Pouch:


Four jars of peanut butter
2 jars of salad dressing (one Ranch, one Bleu Cheese)
2 canisters of Parmesan cheese
2 1lb blocks of Mozarella cheese
1 big ass can of Pineapple juice
1 airsoft tactical nuke

Just making sure you're paying attention. Anyway, in the E&E back pouch:


Seven 1 quart jars of spaghetti sauce. I love me my pastas I do.

In the right side Back Pouch:


4 bottles of Olive Oil
4 bottles of Rubbing Alcohol (I use it to dissolve acrylic paint)
1 more jar of spaghetti sauce
1 jar of garlic salt

That's it for the back pouches. Let's move on, shall we? This is the Claymore pouch I've attached to the XTL:


04-22-2006, 05:00 PM
And what's in it?


Eggses! Any broken?


Nope! I could have fit way more in that Claymore pouch, but I didn't want to risk crushing 'em. Easy on those compression straps! Let's see what else we've got here.


Here's the pack with the XTL flipped open. To the left is the pile of everything I've taken out so far. See that PALS webbing on the inside of the XTL? You could attach another pouch there; I'm considering one of the Lock and Loads that Kifaru sells. Anyone know what model would be a good fit there? Anyway...what? Yes, that's broccoli up there. Anyway, under that PALS webbing is an inside zipper pocket. Let's see what's in there:


Two bags of Iceberg lettuce salad mix. I'm not a big fan of iceberg (used to be, when I was a kid, now it's just bland and boring as all hell) but it's all they had. Not too exciting. This pocket is small and unobtrusive but easily accessible; good for something little you want easily accessible such as a map, field dressing, etc. There's a similar pocket on the outside of the EXL, but I didn't put anything in that one.

Under the XTL, on top of the main compartment:


Two heads of Broccoli, held down by the front-to-back compression strap. I like to chop it and add it, along with the Mozarella, to pasta.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty eager to see what's in the main compartment:


Five frozen pizzas
1 gallon of milk
8 boxes of pasta (gotta put all that sauce on something)
1 jar petroleum jelly (I put in on the threads of jars of paint to keep 'em from sticking)

Okay, well then, here's everything:


Quite a lot, eh? Oh, wait. There was also that 20 pound sack of rice in the bottom of the main compartment! /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif


There, THAT'S all of it! What do y'all think that weighed, anyway? I don't have a scale and I'm lazy.

04-22-2006, 05:24 PM
Dude...that's just wrong... /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

Very interesting post. I now know I can fit a trip to my grocery store in my Zulu. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

04-22-2006, 05:44 PM
Very cool , man. thank you for your share.

your Zulu just like a mini grocery store.
And E&E can hold Seven 1 quart jars of spaghetti sauce??? wow!!! /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/eek.gif

I am planning to get either Zulu or express. After your review, i think Zulu is more fit to me.

Lone Piper
04-22-2006, 06:19 PM
Great review and awesome pics!! I love my zulu...it truly is multi-purpose getting as small as a marauder and bigger than a pointman! Thanks for sharing!

04-23-2006, 12:36 AM
Wow...I'm so glad I ordered the Zulu. My grocery shopping will never be the same! Now if it would just get here already...

04-23-2006, 04:27 AM
Glad I finished my cereal before I scrolled down to the broccoli pic /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

Gotta ask, what was the staff doing while you were shopping? Backpacks make people in my area nervous when you are just walking out of the woods(combination of laziness & too much tv) so I can't begin to imagine what shopping with a full size ruck would result in /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

Woods Walker
04-23-2006, 11:27 AM
Totally strange but somehow cool at the same time... Thanks for the post.

04-23-2006, 02:06 PM
You know, I've never really thought about it. Some grocery stores make me leave the ruck at the front of the store, with the security guard, but Save-A-Lot doesn't. It's a smaller store, and they've always got at least one uniformed guard on duty, who can pretty much see 90% of the store. They're also right in front of the exit, and can clearly see all of the registers as well.

At Save-A-Lot, you bag your own groceries, and they don't give you grocery bags, you can either bring your own or buy them. It's a really low-cost grocery store, very wisely placed between a college neighborhood and a ghetto. So I think they're at least somewhat used to people bringing backpacks and things to put them in.

At any rate, the bagging table is right in front of the security guard, so I was taking my groceries out of my cart and loading 'em into the ruck right there in front of the security guard. We actually had a conversation about it, but it was more friendly praise than anything else. He was really impressed with the pack (although, when he asked what it cost, and I told him, he said tha t he could get a car for that, which is true...).

So, I think if I'd been shady about it, he might have worried, but because I was loading it right there in front of him, while talking to him, it was pretty obvious that I wasn't sneaking anything.

04-24-2006, 06:33 AM
great pics. pretty amazing that all that fits.

04-24-2006, 09:37 AM
I fell off my chair when I saw the eggs
and the 20 lb finale!

cool pix!

04-24-2006, 11:26 AM
Now all I have to do is convince the wife that SHE needs a new ZXR in Multicam for HER grocery shopping "adventures"...I'd only borrow it from her on occasion... /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

imported_Scott Cunningham
04-24-2006, 11:29 AM
I'm not going to ask what the industrial sized jar of Vaseline is for...

04-24-2006, 01:04 PM
S64,,, wanna take a trip to MD to go grocery shopping? As long as we keep up on adding water to the radiator my car should make it (or I could just fix the leak... pepper they say.)

Great thread, you're my new shopping idol! Do they take food stamps? (which are actually a little credit card that doubles as your welfare and medicaid card in NY...

04-24-2006, 01:13 PM
Haha you beat me!
But then again you have the new Zulu ZXR!

And choose more wisely when it comes to food.
I bet I could stock more stuff in the maincompartment if I'd skipped the 12 2L coke bottles.


Darn you! Now I want a ZXR!


Good show though. Only problem with this becomes the trek home. My stuff clocked in at 30.2Kg = 66.6 pounds!

04-24-2006, 05:13 PM
You guys have the most expensive grocery bags I've ever seen.

04-25-2006, 10:05 PM
Plastic, Paper or Kifaru?


04-26-2006, 08:05 PM
Kerberos and Ken: Haha, that's not a ZXR! I fit all that in a plain ol' Zulu! (I got the eXtreme Top Lid, which is probably what fooled y'all.)

I chose the Zulu over the ZXR because I plan on piggybacking it onto an EMR someday in the distant future, and also because the ZXR would be a little too large for my current needs. The plain Zulu is just the right size for me right now: I've heard it compared to the ALICE medium pack before; that's crap! With the three Back Pouches, it holds WAY more than an ALICE large. I know this because until I got the Zulu, I did this exact same shopping trip on a monthly basis with an ALICE large. Not only does it hold more, but it's literally 232498058923 times more comfortable. If I need a larger pack, it's because I'm trying to carry literally everything I own on my back, for which purpose the EMR with the Zulu piggybacked to it should do nicely.

Kerberos: Thanks for the idea, man. It was your post that inspired me to do this test.

murphquake: Food stamp cards are a common sight at Save-A-Lot, yes. It's right on the edge of a ghetto, so a lot of the people that shop there are on public assistance.

04-27-2006, 09:27 AM
Awesome review Jeriah.

I want to be stood next to you if the fecal matter hits the air conditioner. Forget ammo and meds, a big pile of pizzas and several jars of peanut butter are what I'll be looking for.

04-27-2006, 04:39 PM
Jeriah- I didn't think it was a ZXR...that just happens to the the zulu I would like! (I've got a Spike and a LH'rondy...the ZXR would be a good 'tweener pack for me.)

Cool post...thanks!

Woods Walker
04-27-2006, 07:29 PM

So the Zulu is that comfortable? I am going to order an EMR in June and was thinking of a smaller pack for warmer weather camping. Does your Zulu take a Pod (medium or large) on the bottom? I think someone showed pics with a ZULU/POD combo. The pod would be perfect for my bag. Was looking at the ZXR but can only give Patrick so much money in a year and was looking for something smaller like the Zulu when the EMR will not be needed.

04-29-2006, 02:30 PM
Woods Walker:

If you are planning on ordering an EMR, I would strongly suggest getting the Zulu and not the ZXR. The reason I say this is that the EMR is super-large, and the ZXR is pretty damned big too. Basically, IMHO, if you've got one, there isn't a whole lot of need for the other: either way, you've got a big-ass ruck. The ZXR is ideal if you wanted one ruck to perform both functions (warm and cold weather) but it looks too big to be a "smaller alternative". Bear in mind that I don't actually own a ZXR, so take what I just said with a grain of salt.

I believe that the basic Zulu is the ideal companion for an EMR. It gives you three options: Zulu only (for warm weather camping), EMR only (for colder weather), and Zulu piggybacked to EMR (for carrying obscene loads and with the flexibility of the CFP-90 type detachable "assault pack" concept). The Zulu is much bigger in capacity than a Medium ALICE pack, I think it's somewhat bigger even than a Large ALICE. Its size is quite flexible, too, it compresses if you've got a small load, but expands if you need to carry more. It seems to me that it would be ideal for warmer-weather camping.

The Zulu has loops on the bottom which I believe are intended for attaching a Pod. I thinkI read in the catalog that all Kifaru packs are now made with attachment points on the bottom for a Pod, and I'm pretty sure that's what those loops are. I'm not sure whether the Pods would attach with a metal three-bar or with the dock-and-lock buckles; I would presume the latter but don't take my word for it.

Regarding comfort: Yes, the Zulu is very comfortable. It conforms to the body very well. One piece of advice: GET THE WAISTBELT. Mine is the padded waistbelt with PALS/power pull; it is AWESOME. The engineering on the waistbelt is some of the smartest gear design I've ever seen. It really conforms to the shape of my hips, it's not bulky or "pokey" at all, and it secures the load so there's no movement at all. Everything Kifaru says in the catalog and on the website about the superiority of the thinly padded, shaped belt being superior to thickly padded competitor's brands appears to be 100% true. The pack is probably plenty comfortable without a waistbelt but only with more reasonable loads; the waistbelt distributes a heavier load partly to your hips to take some of it off your shoulders. The Zulu's shoulder straps are pretty interesting, too; they have this additional "lift" strap that provides a sort of adjustment to how the load hangs. I've been playing with them to see what fits me best; having that flexibility is awesome.

It occurs to me that if you've got an EMR, you could probably use the EMR waist belt on the Zulu (I think it's the same belt) if you didn't mind moving it back and forth. If you were going to use a Piggyback wrap kit to put the Zulu onto the EMR, they'd both need their own waist belt, but you could use a horizontal lash kit to put a beltless Zulu onto the back of the EMR.

Woods Walker
06-03-2006, 11:47 AM
Well the EMR is going to be used for long winter camping trips and my "bug out" pack. I have always used 3 packs types. A big one for longer winter trips and bug out, Medium pack for hunting and 3 season camping and a little pack for day hikes.

The EMR is going to replace my UM21. The bug out pack does not get used much. Unlike the rest of my gear. The medium pack is now the Large Alice W/TT straps or my molle 1. The smaller day pack is the Med Alice pack without frame or the UM21 patrol pack.

If the EMR works out I will be replace the rest with Kifaru packs. Maybe go with OD. For the smaller packs I like pockets. So I have tons of woodland pockets. But I don't care to use lots of pockets in the Larger pack.

Never did consider piggy backing a Zulu to the EMR. But the ZULU or Express may be the ticket for my smaller daypack needs. With a pod and some pockets maybe it can do double duty for warm weather camping/fall hunting. But I don't intend to go shopping with it. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

Maybe the XZR or Pointman for my camping/hunting pack. I know the EMR could do everything these packs can but that means dumping everything out of my bug out pack. I hate having my stuff floating in the wind.