111: Zero Days

Show Notes: Episode 111

Today on the First 40 Miles, hiking and backpacking go together like Lewis and Clark, but is it ok have a day in the wilderness where you don’t hike at all?  Absolutely!  We’ll give you a few ideas for what else you can do.  For today’s SUMMIT Gear Review, a pack that is incredibly adaptable.  Next, our Backpack Hack of the Week is a soul-filling pot of beans that can only be made on a zero day.


  • “Zero Day”
  • The concept of a zero day was new to Heather, even after her first few backpacking trips.
  • A zero day is a day in which you don’t move camp.
  • Nero Day: Nearly a zero day.

Top 5 Types of Activities for your Zero Day

Active Recreation

  • Swimming, exploring, hiking without your big pack, peak bagging, etc.
  • Getting to know the lay of the land, creating that cognitive map

Passive Recreation

  • Rest, wandering, soaking, hammocking, recovery, elevating feet, soaking your feet in a creek, rock skipping


  • This is probably more likely to happen on longer trips—not weekenders
  • Laundry, repair, knife sharpening, injury management, cleaning out pack, re-sorting gear

Personal Enrichment

  • Journaling, painting, goal setting, reading, podcasts, writing, sketching, talking, mind puzzles, sudoku

Campside projects

  • Long cooking projects, pioneering, birdwatching, fire tending, whittling

SUMMIT Gear Review: Gregory ZULU 55 Pack


  • Designers went to work, they had two things in mind suspension comfort and adaptability (cinch straps, loops everywhere, ways to tighten of loosen outside pouch, toggles)
  • Compared to other Gregory packs, this one really is much more streamlined and compact. It’s not as wide as a Gregory packs have been in the past—but definitely just as fully featured.
  • Body: 210-denier nylon; lining: 200-denier embossed polyester
  • Suspended Mesh Back Panel that can be expanded—and it even has a little drainage hole for if you decide to stash your rain gear there
  • Enhanced lumbar foam layering increases load-bearing comfort
  • Ventilated mesh back panel for superior ventilation


  • Compartments: Massive brain (Top lid), not really removable, 2 water bottle holders, hang toggles inside that hold the hydration sleeve/daypack, large mesh pouch—and behind it there is a zippered pouch to hold the removable rain cover.
  • Comes with a waterproof pack cover
  • Removable water bladder sleeve which doubles as a summit pack
  • The Gregory ZULU 55 has 3 access points: through the top (where it’s cinched closed and covered with a lid or “brain”, through the bottom—which is typically where people store their sleeping bag, and then through a u-shaped zippered opening behind the stash pocket on the back—this is typically where people stash rain gear)
  • The zippered stash area is interesting—and it’s expandable and has a latch so that gear is more secure.
  • All over there are toggles, loops, cinch straps—so if you can’t fit all your gear inside—there are ample places to strap it to the outside.
  • The torso length is fixed, not adjustable


  • Pack (without rain cover and hydration sleeve) weighs 3 lbs. 11 ounces
  • Rain cover weighs 4.5 ounces
  • Hydration sleeve/removable day pack weighs 4.5 ounces
  • All total, the pack weighs 4 lbs. 4 ounces
  • Right on target for advertised weight–impressive


  • Wash when needed in a bathtub tub with unscented detergent
  • We had good luck reviving an old Gregory Deva last year. We used a clean toilet plunger
  • Dry completely in the garage or outside in the shade
  • Untighten all the belts, unzip everything and loosen the “brain” or top compartment/lid


  • $199


  • Great suspension
  • Lumbar support takes some getting used to (especially if you’re used to a minimalist pack)
  • A good unisex pack, even though it isn’t necessarily marketed as one

Backpack Hack of the Week™: Zero Day Beans

3 cups water

1 cup navy beans

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 mustard packets

4 ketchup packets

salt and pepper

5 tealights

a windscreen made of aluminum foil

a cat food can (empty!) it can be your alcohol stove

Set pot on empty cat food can and place lit tealights around can.  Add water and beans to pot and cover.  Cook for 3 hours—checking every hour to make sure tealights are still lit.  When beans are tender, drain off some of the water, then add brown sugar, ketchup and mustard, salt and pepper!

Trail Wisdom

“A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.”

-Paul Dudley White