Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack – Minimalist Pack Designed by The Awesome Real Hiking Viking

My new favorite backpack for day hikes and light overnights. The Mountainsmith Zerk 40 is only 28 oz. making it lightweight, minimalist and comfortable. It is designed by no other but The Real Hiking Viking himself, a well-known thru-hiker. Developed over 2 years, this pack has traveled thousands of miles to be what it is now.
Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack

Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack on Eliza

Mountainsmith has combined a couple of different styles of backpacks to bring this to you. It has the straps of an ultra-running pack, the roll-down top of minimalist bags and the size of a large day pack. For a really long day hike, I was able to fit everything I needed to in it with plenty of room to spare. Layers, raincoat and rain pants, food, lots of water… it all fits.
Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack
Even though I had a lot of room left in the pack, the side compression straps and roll down top kept the backpacks profile svelte. There are three buckles to secure the roll down top, one on each side and one going over the top. The breathable mesh back panel is made of stiff action foam keeping it lightweight. This also helps with moisture control which I found to keep my back from getting too hot. 
Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack

Testing the Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack

My first trip with the pack was a 16-mile day traversing a ridge. I was delighted by how wide the straps are and how they distributed the weight. I’ve never been a fan of thin shoulder straps and this pack reinforced that opinion. The straps didn’t move around or rub my shoulders at all. There is also a sternum strap to make sure it’s secure.
Another perk of these wide shoulder straps is the mesh shoulder pockets! There are two pockets on each side and can hold quite a bit of stuff. Pro Tip: I found that the pockets hold a block of cheese perfectly. You could also fit other snacks, a small water bottle, a small map and other trail essentials in there.
Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack

Zerk shoulder pockets

Pocket a little too loose? Not to worry, there are elastic drawstrings along the top to keep everything in place. And speaking of pockets, the pack has two layers of XL pockets on the side to store any items you want quick access to. If you’re still worried this pack doesn’t have enough space, fear not, there is an additional massive mesh pocket on the front of the pack. 
The pack also features a waist belt to keep the pack secure on your torso. It is not padded but rather is 1.5” webbing. Because of this, you can’t transfer as much weight to your hips. I was at first skeptical of this but didn’t find it to be an issue thanks to the weight dispersal from the shoulder straps.
Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Backpack
Or, if you would rather, you can remove this waist belt to shed a couple of ounces.
Overall, I was impressed with Mountainsmith’s design. 
The Zerk 40 is perfect for anyone trying to go fast and light. It’s minimalism sacrifices the bulk but keeps the comfort.
The only potential issue this pack is this: It might be too large for you, and I don’t mean its 40 L size. I have a pretty small frame and all the shoulder straps are cinched all the way down. 



Eliza Lockhart

Eliza Lockhart

Eliza Lockhart

Growing up snowboarding and hiking in the bitter cold winters and humid summers of northern Vermont, Eliza learned how to beat up gear and quickly became infatuated with new technologies. After moving to Colorado in 2015 to pursue a degree in recreation and outdoor education at Western Colorado University, her passion for the outdoors grew exponentially. Soon after, she picked up rock climbing, telemark skiing, backpacking, canyoneering, and is slowly learning to love rafting. Through these learning processes, Eliza began to understand the importance of the right gear and hopes to share her experiences and knowledge with others through Engearment.

Eliza Lockhart in water

Now working for Beacon Guidebooks as the ‘Wearer of Many Hats’ (yes, that is her official title), Eliza has learned the ins and outs of the outdoor industry. She has also worked on marketing teams, as a photographer, media coordinator, outdoor instructor and as a wrangler. She is especially excited to encourage other women in the outdoors and is an advocate for diversity and inclusion.

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