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EXO 1500 Horn Hauler

By Ross Russell, Rokslide Staff

Shed hunting as an activity has increased 10-fold in the last two decades and companies are seeing a marketing opportunity specific to this activity. EXO Mountain Gear out of Boise, Idaho recently introduced the EXO 1500 Horn Hauler Batwing Pack. After one quick internet search, I was all in to use it for spring elk shed hunting in Idaho. So when Rokslide was able to secure an EXO 1500, I had my hand up first and soon the pack was on my front porch.

 

Shed hunting has been in my blood for two-plus decades. When I first started shed hunting, I would use an old style lashing Army pack board. This did the job, but was not comfortable and did not include anything for carrying supplies. For the last few years, I have been running the Horn Hunter Full Curl. This pack was an improvement over the army pack, had features I liked, was comfortable most of the time, and the warranty work was good, but I’m always willing to try the next best thing.

The first thing I noticed about the EXO Horn Hauler is how light it is! This pack was built with EXO’s 2015 Skeleton Titanium Frame, coming in at 3 lbs 2 ounces for the basic frame with hip belt. (for mid-2016, the Skeleton has been upgraded to the EXO K2 Titanium @ 2 lbs 3 ounces, and additional 15 ounces of savings).  You then add the Batwing attachments and you have a pack specifically designed to conquer the mountains in an ultralight design for antler hunting (the Batwings are listed at 1 lb, 6 ounces and my scale verified this amount for a total weight of the pack with wings at 4 lbs, 8 ounces). Having a very lightweight set up is a big plus for mountain-related activities, especially since I am in the 50+ crowd!

The second thing you notice about the pack is that the pack moves with you. Meaning the pack has vertical rigidity. You can physically twist the pack with your hands around the vertical titanium rod design. This allows the pack to move with you as you wear it, while maintaining its integrity under load, which in turn reduces fatigue to your body. There would be times while I was out this season with 40 lbs on my back that I would almost forget I had the pack on. This was very nice as much of the area I shed hunt is heavily timbered, with downfall and heavy brush. This pack does not fight you as you bend and navigate over and under obstructions throughout the day. It moves with your body, helping to prevent tension and keeping you in balance reducing the fatigue factor that a poorly designed pack creates.

 

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Bat Wing capacity is substantial

The pack is set up around a 25-inch frame. It is designed with a 6-inch adjustable torso and comes with three hip belt sizes. I was able to customize the frame to my 5’7″ stature with ease. A great feature for someone who sweats a lot and wears a pack for hours on end is the No Slip Lumber Pad. This feature helps to keep the pack where it is supposed to be, reducing slippage issues. I sweat much more than most and can honestly say I had no slippage, nor hot spots on my back from wearing this pack over 80 + hours in temperatures ranging from the high 20’s to the low 80’s. The hip belt is designed with a power pull system belt so that you can quickly and easily adjust the belt tension to fit your needs. When needed, you also have the ability to use the load stabilizers to help balance heavier loads for those days when luck is with you.

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EXO Horn Hauler Hip Belt and Frame

Antlers can get very cumbersome to haul around since each one is a unique size and shape. They are also difficult to lash to the pack in a way that prevents the pack from moving aroud your body as you navigate the vegetation and terrain.  As with the frame design, the guys at EXO put a lot of thought and creativity into the Bat Wings and the added accessories that help an antler hunter enjoy his time afield.

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Horn Hauler in full-use mode with Antler Straps and Lash Straps in use

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EXO Horn Hauler 1500 loaded and ready for the trek out

Batwing highlights and what they bring to the table:

 The simple design of the batwing allows for added compression to the antlers, while at the same providing plenty of carrying capacity within the wings themselves.

  1. Each wing is 750 cubic inches and will you allow you to use a 3 liter bladder. In my case I used 4 water bottles, 2…..and 2…If you choose to use a bladder each wing has a hose tube built into the top of the wing.
  2. The water resistant YKK #10 zippers open to the outside to give you easy access to open the wings throughout the day to grab various items as you need them without rummaging around. The zippers were tested to the full extent as I jammed various supplies into the wings stressing the zippers, with zero failure.
  3. Each wing has a velcro strip attachment to an internal stretch pocket to add an organizer pouch if wanted.
  4. On the exterior of each wing there are built-in in pockets to stash easily accessible miscellaneous items and bungee chords to help lash coats and other items you may have.
  5. The wings pivot and move on the frame to wrap around the antlers providing additional stability to your load.
  6. There are D-rings on each of the wings, so if you want to run a lid with the wings you have that ability.

To go along with the wing design, the EXO team came up with two further creative ideas. In years past I have used a lot of rope to secure antlers by bundling them together and then lashing them to the pack. This meant each time you found an antler you were either adding more rope or untying the maze of rope and then retying.

  1. Two antler straps made of a stretch elastic rubberized material. You use these to bundle and secure the antlers together to create a more stable pack. No more using endless supplies of rope and tangled messes!
  2. Two G-hook straps. The G-hooks loop into the pack on the meat shelf and you then criss-cross the straps creating a lift on the antlers so they are snug and do not slip down. This helps keep the antlers in an upright and balanced position centered on the pack.

On my longest hike of this antler season, I had the opportunity to test my pack against my buddy’s non-antler specific designed pack. Let’s just say his pack had a lot of sway, a lot of rope, and was not conducive to a long successful day of antler hunting!

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EXO has nailed it with their Horn Hauler 1500 both on the design of the frame and with the wings. If your looking for a lightweight pack that is extremely comfortable, simplistic, very functional and efficient, EXO may be the design for you! I found the pack so comfortable that I plan to get the load panel/beaver tail and use it to pack out my elk this fall. Additionally, EXO offers various accessories to customize your pack, including quickly detachable pouches.

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You can also view a video of the EXO HH 1500 here

You can ask Ross questions or discuss this article here

 

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Ross russell
Ross has resided in the Northwest for 30+ years, grew up in a family of elk hunters and the passion of the hunt was instilled early on when his family would gather in North Idaho for the annual general rifle season. When falls arrives, Ross can be found in the high country of North Idaho and Northwest Montana, with Bow or Rifle in hand. "As long as I am chasing Big Bulls in the backcountry there is a smile on my face. Many would call Elk Hunters an odd lot, as who in their right mind would want to put their body through the trials and tribulations that we do each fall, with no guarantee of success. It takes dedication, perseverance and someone who enjoys hardwork to be successful year in and year out. I like hardwork, so count me in"! Many a fine bull has been taken by Ross' bullet and arrow. To expand his love of the outdoors and his knowledge of Elk, he can be found each spring fervently pursuing Elk Sheds. "Shed hunting gives you an arm up on the quality of bulls in the area, expands your knowledge, is great for training and is another opportunity to be in the great outdoors." Ross resides in Liberty Lake Washington, with his wife Kirsten and his shed hunting companion Magnum.