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Kifaru ZXR Pack


6/18/06 - Ever since the versatile Zulu was introduced more than two years ago (as of this writing), customers have been asking/hinting for a larger version of the Zulu pack with an upgraded suspension for carrying heavier and larger loads. At the 2006 SHOT show, Kifaru announced the new ZXR (Zulu Extreme Ruck), which gave the masses what they had been clamoring for. Since the design and inspiration evolved directly from the Zulu, Kifaru went with the 'ZXR' instead of giving it an entirely new name. It's finally available and well worth the wait.

Overall Specs - Kifaru combined key features from the Zulu, Pointman and EMR into the ZXR. Capacity of the bag itself is 3800 c.i., 1000 c.i. more than the Zulu, and 400 c.i. less than the MMR (the next top loader up). It weighs in at 6 lbs 13 oz. It has top access via the storm collar opening and a Pointman-style bottom lid with zippered access. The ZXR is available with the new XTL (Extreme Top Lid), or the standard Zulu top lid. It's constructed of 1000d Cordura fabric and is available in 2 standard (coyote, OD) and 5 specialty colours (woodland, MultiCam, UCP, desert tiger stripe and black). ITW-Nexus Ghillietex plastic and metal hardware is used throughout, except for the shoulder strap buckles which are from ACW.

The photos below on the right show the size of the ZXR relative to the Express and Zulu.

Note that in all the photos below, the PALS webbing seems to photograph differently depending on what the angle is (like on the photo of the bottom lid - the vertical compression straps look more brown and the PALS webbing looks more gray even though they're exactly the same colour to the naked eye). The 1" webbing is the same colour throughout the pack and matches the MultiCam fabric very nicely.

ZXR with Extreme Top Lid

Back view

Storm collar compressed

Express, ZXR, Zulu

Side view

Bag (external) - The ZXR bag is the same circumference as the Zulu and MMR and follows the familiar taper of the other Kifaru packs (the bottom being wider). Some 'stuffed out' dimensions I measured (approximate) off the ZXR are: Bottom circumference - 47", Middle/top circumference - 43". Height from bottom of pack to top of slot pockets - 22". Height from bottom of pack to top of extended storm collar - 30".

Like the Zulu, the ZXR has an inner and outer bag/layer. The space between the inner and outer bags form the 3 slot pockets - all are 18" deep. The two side slots are 11" wide (7 PALS channels) and the center one is 9" wide (6 channels wide) with 7 rows of PALS covering the outside of the bag. There are three horizontal compression straps; one at the top of the slot pocket openings, the middle one 4.5" below that, and the bottom one 7" below the middle one. The slot pockets are designed to hold long items securely - the top compression strap keeps the openings shut. Each slot pocket has a D-ring sewn inside at the top for dummy cords or suspending hydration bladders. I was able to fit a 100oz bladder in a padded Packteen cover in the center (smallest) slot pocket (shown partially inserted). The side slots can also be used to haul a rifle or carbine. It won't be quick to access with a full pack, but if you don't need immediate access, you've got that option. It'd be advisable to counter the weight with something like a bladder on the other side. I was able to stick the M4 carbine with optics in the side slot (shown below)
I've also found that running the two vertical compression straps under a couple of rows of PALS instead of on the outside helps keep them aligned and in place.

Bottom lid - The MMR-sized bottom of the pack has 4 pod anchors (which can also be used for dock & lock pockets), and two cargo chair anchors. 3 rows x 10 channels of PALS webbing are on the bottom lid. Inside, the zipper-accessed lid has four web loops and common loops to which straps or D&L (dock & lock) pockets can be attached. Lightweight sleeping bags (commpressed) should have no problem fitting there. The bottom lid (at its widest points) is about 17" wide and 10" deep, however it'll 'stuff out' to about 12" deep.

Storm collar - The top of the bag can be compressed down to the top of the stays, or extended about 7" above them for extra volume (to where the MultiCam fabric ends on the storm collar, and the 420 OD cordura begins). Note that with a fully extended and stuffed storm collar, there is no head clearance when prone (if that's an issue to some people). When the collar is compressed to stay-level, there's head clearance in the prone position. The collar has a 550 cord cinch cord and an over-the-top compression strap that starts at the top of the middle slot pocket and buckles at the back of the pack where the carry handle is located. It's also useful for stowing the carry handle out of the way behind it - just unbuckle and rebuckle it for quick access to the handle.

Bag (Interior) - The caverous interior is typical Kifaru. There are no internal dividers or additional compartments, other than the hydration pocket. Common loops on the inside front and back are located for hanging pockets (a chamber pocket is standard). The hydration bladder pocket will fit most systems, and has a 550 cord cinch top. The hose is routed behind the chamber pocket and out the top radio zipper access instead of through a dedicated hose slot.


Bottom lid

Inside of bottom lid

Back pouch D&L'd

Storm collar cinched

Bag interior

Hydration bladder pocket

WrapTech Plus Suspension system - The WrapTech Plus suspension is unique to the ZXR, as it's a combination of the Wrap-Tech and Duplex suspension systems. It uses 23" aluminum stays, located behind the torso pads. The shoulder straps are EMR straps, which have thicker padding than on the Pointman shoulder straps. They're independantly adjustable in length. The pack-ends of the shoulder straps have stiff inserts which slide behind the torso pads. A 1" web strap is sewn onto the end and attaches to a metal buckle at the bottom of the stay guides/pockets. The length of the shoulder straps is adjusted by shortening or lengthening the 1" web strap. Proper shoulder strap length is achieved when the metal slider that provides the front shoulder lifter strap take-off point is centered between the bar tacks, and centered on the collar bone when the pack is worn correctly.

The drilex-mesh covered torso pads are the same as on the EMR. The ZXR waistbelt is essentially a modified EMR waistbelt (hypalon stay pockets are added at the bottom). It's cupped/contoured to fit the Iliac crests of the hips. The belt is lined with Spandura for comfort and a non-slip grip to your hips. The waistbelt is attached using a WrapTech type system, but with an EMR-thickness lumbar pad. The triangular hypalon patch on the lumbar pad keeps the lumbar pad from slipping down once the belt is cinched up. The lumbar pad is fixed at the bottom, and at each of the upper corners is a metal bar slider that slots into a plastic common loop sewn to the back of the pack. The metal sliders are disengaged from the common loops to swing the lumbar pad down. The waistbelt can then be removed by sliding the stay hypalon pockets off the bottom ends of the stays. The stays can be removed from their pockets/guides for adjustment if necessary. I removed mine and bent them to match the contour of my back quite easily (I have more of a curve in it than standard). Although the waistbelt is removable, the ZXR cannot be used without it (like on the Pointman). It's removable in case you need to swap it out for a different size.

Wrap-tech plus

Waist belt

Torso pads

Lumbar pad and stay guides

Stay ends

Extreme Top Lid (XTL) - The new XTL can be used on the ZXR, Zulu, MMR or EMR as a replacement/upgrade for the standard lids. The XTL is a lid with much added versatility and modularity over other lids currently available. It first functions as a lid, of course, with the addition of the Perimeter Cinch System (PCS). Mel came up with this but refused to name it the 'Terkla cinch' even though I jokingly egged him on about it. His humble nature dislikes products names that are named after the inventor as they're 'non-descriptive'. The PCS is a 'skirt' that extends over the top of the pack, almost like an upside down storm collar. Around its perimeter is 550 cord, which is cinched tight around the top of the pack. This serves to stabilize and compress the top of the pack. When items are put on top of the pack under the lid, the PCS conforms to the load and secures it when cinched down. Jackets or sleeping pads can be carried under the XTL and the PCS will keep them in place. Normal procedure is to open up the PCS, adjust the XTL over the load, then cinch it up tight.

The XTL attaches to the pack with ladder locks in the back and side-release buckles in the front, which interface with the main vertical compression straps. Removing the XTL is accomplished in a few seconds. The lowest the XTL can compress is to the height of the top of the stays, and the highest it can go is limited by the length of the straps.

The XTL has a main compartment with 600 c.i. in volume, and zippered access. Inside is a chamber pocket (included). On the top of the XTL are 3 rows X 10 channels of PALS for attacment of molle compatible pouches. On the underside of the XTL are 4 rows X 8 channels of PALS for additional pouches. Also included are pod anchors (the four common loops). Behind the inside PALS grid is a zippered map pocket.

The XTL can be used by itself as a quick-detach 'go bag'. Configure it with the bare essentials for E&E or as a first aid kit. It has compression straps that go across the top, its own carry handle and removable padded shoulder strap. There's a little slot pocket in the front designed for carrying the shoulder strap and tucking in the excess length of PCS cinch cord. A 4" x 2" patch of velcro is sewn on the front for ID patches.

XTL attachment

XTL top


Strap pocket
Interior Strap attached
XTL attachment modification - One modification I did to the XTL lid was change the attachment from a ladderloc to a ITW surface mount female buckle (GTSR-1 SUR-MNT Body 810-1059). I cut off the ladderlocs at each corner of the XTL, and installed the surface mount buckles. You can see the buckles in further detail in my ITW hardware reference pics. Four small slits in the fabric had to be made for the buckles, and they fit perfectly on the corner. The advantage is two-fold: the XTL lid can be cinched down further than with the ladderlocs, and it's now a quick-release to take it off.

XTL modded with surface mount buckles

Shown below is the ZXR stuffed out with storm collar extended to illustrate max volume. Slick (without external pockets), it maintains a relatively streamlined profile. For reference, I'm 5' 7", 155 lbs, and it's not an overly-large pack for someone of my size.

ZXR slick

Shown below is the ZXR with two long/side pockets and a back pouch dock & locked. There's enough room to mount two back pouches side-by-side instead of one in the middle, but if that much additional capacity is needed, might as well move up to a larger capacity pack like the MMR.

Strap configuration

Two long pockets and a back pouch

The ZXR is my first 'large' Kifaru pack (the largest I have is the Pointman), and the comfort of the WrapTech Plus is noticeable for heavier loads (over 70 lbs for me). Kifaru designs their suspension systems to match the design load that each size pack is meant for. Yes, the packs can all be overloaded beyond their optimal weight capacity without fear of busting a seam or breaking something on the pack, but it's not the most comfortable or efficient way of using the pack. I often get asked 'which is the better suspension system or pack?'. My answer is 'the one that's designed for the weight you're going to carry'. 'Comfort' is a relative term, though. No matter what load I'm carrying, I'll feel it somewhere. In my legs, shoulders, hips etc. But whether that load carries without discomfort due to the design of the pack is how I rate 'comfort'. Is the physical pain due to the weight I'm carrying or made worse by the design of the pack? I've been on a couple of 3-mile walks with 60-70lbs in the ZXR so far and no, it didn't feel like I was floating on air. I felt like I had 60-70lbs on my back. But other than the normal pressure I feel on the hips and shoulders, I didn't notice any discomfort caused by anything other than the weight of the load. By varying the weight distribution between my hips and shoulders with minor strap adjustments, everything felt kosher. The waistbelt cradles my hips comfortably even when cinched down tight (as required for heavier loads). No 'hot spots', edges or abrasions. 'Comfortable', in my opinion.

With the introduction of the ZXR with XTL and their ever expanding line of products, Kifaru has made it both easier and harder at the same time for the consumer to make up their minds. Many will agree that the answer to what brand of pack to get is 'Kifaru'. The question is now 'which Kifaru?'.




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