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Stone Glacier Sky Talus 6900 Review
By Justin Crossley, Rokslide Staff

The Sky Talus 6900 is a full featured backcountry pack designed for everything from day trips in 4000 C.I. bivy mode to expedition trips of 7+ days. It features a 6400 C.I. main bag and a 500 C.I. removable lid. The volume can be increased even more with the load shelf to over 8000 C.I. for those long excursions or when packing out your animal on a successful hunting trip. The bag features four external pockets and attach points for multiple internal pockets when more organization is desired. The waist belt is also designed for the attachment of belt pouches or holsters, etc.
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I tested the Sky Talus with the Krux frame and 3-piece medium belt. At first the belt was tough to get as tight as I like it with a load, but once the power-pulls were added I found it worked well for me with loads from 20 lbs. to over 80 lbs. I found the shoulder strap and waist belt padding adequate for comfortable hiking on long trips. One small complaint I have is the perforated material that lines the inside of the belt and shoulder straps tends to get pine needles stuck in it.

Pack fit is a very personal thing but with the adjustment this pack offers I feel it will work well for most body types. The rifle carrier attaches to the frame and does a great job of keeping the weight on your hips. It includes a strap for the top of the rifle with a quick release buckle that holds well but due to the location above/behind the shoulder strap, I found it tough to reach and release quickly with the pack on.
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The Sky Talus bag is one of the most versatile pack-bags I have used. I really liked the two lower side pockets for water bottles or longer items like hiking sticks, or the butt stock of my rifle. I tried the optional water bottle pocket which hangs off the shoulder strap under your arm but decided that I preferred to just use the lower side pockets. For extra organization, I used two Swing-out Pockets attached to the inside next to the center zip and the Camp Pocket attached against the frame inside the main bag. I found that I really liked the internal pockets and was impressed with how light they were. The two long, zippered side pockets featured the same water resistant zippers as the main bag and gave me a great place to put jackets and other items I needed quick access to. I feel the side pockets should have been longer to fit spotting scopes better but made do with my spotter just inside the center zip. The little "bucket" pocket that sits next to the center zip was perfect for holding the feet of my tripod.
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There are four side compression straps on each side of the Sky Talus 6900 which work great for keeping loads from sliding down whether I was using the load shelf or simply putting the load inside the main bag. The top compression straps also work to tuck the top of the bag nice and tight when in bivy mode. I packed one bear out of the Idaho backcountry using the main bag which is my preferred method and I tested the load shelf during multiple training hikes with sand bags. I'm confident in saying both work well depending on your preference.
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The removable lid fits the pack well and is a good size for gloves, lunch, jackets, or whatever I needed to keep readily available without loosening compression straps and opening the bag up. I thought the loops that the lid straps run through in the front worked awesome for keeping the straps from sliding down the sides of the pack. The dual attach points for the straps going down the back of the pack was another cool feature that I liked and they worked well when going from full blown expedition mode to bivy mode.
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Pros:
• Weight for the Sky Talus with lid and frame is just over five lbs.
• The ability to use as day pack or multi-day
• Hydration bladder compatible
• Center zip for access to main bag
• Versatile pocket layout and options
• Load shelf for packing heavy or odd shaped loads
• Very water resistant design and materials
• Plenty of compression straps to keep loads high and secure

Cons
• Side pockets should be bigger for spotting scope
• Location of rifle carrier top strap was hard to reach
• The belt should come standard with power pulls
• Perforated liner material on inside of belt and shoulder straps can collect debris
• The under-arm water bottle holster can be annoying
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Now days, hunters have a few great companies to choose from when selecting a hunting pack and Stone Glacier is one of the best. After my testing, I think the Stone Glacier Sky Talus 6900 should be considered whenever a versatile, light weight pack is what you seek.

Here is a video of the Sky Talus in Day Hunt Mode

Here is a video on water testing: Water Testing

You can ask Justin questions or discuss this article here

 

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KIFARU Reckoning Backpack Review
By Jordan Budd, Rokslide Staff

Besides being 100% made in the USA, one of the coolest and most attractive things about Kifaru is the number of bags they have for different situations. All are designed by true backpack hunters for real hunting styles and scenarios. Another huge point I'd like to make is the quality of Kifaru customer service. Every time you call in you're talking to people that know the product inside and out. I've also heard numerous positive reviews of Aron Snyder, Kifaru's Chief Designer, answering questions and calling guys back after hours, during the weekend, and even on the side of a mountain. You can't get that anywhere else.

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Last year was my first year with a Kifaru system, and I settled in with the AMR. Fellow Rokslide staffer, Brock Akers, has a great review of the AMR bag here.

When Kifaru released the Reckoning bag last fall, I had to get my hands on one. My normal backpack trip needs are three to five days with the occasional extended trip in the north country. They pulled designs from three or four of their other packs combining them (with some spice) to come up with to come up with the Reckoning design. Empty, with all compression straps and buckles, the bag comes in at 2 lb. 13 oz. and totals in at 7,500 cubic inches of bag space at its max.

The bag features include:

- 3 sewn-in horizontal compression straps on each side anchoring the bag to the frame
- 3 more horizontal straps sewn down the back that are independent from the side straps
- Integrated fold over lid
- Bellowed side pockets (500 ci each)
- Full length center zip with 2 zippers (one from top, one from bottom)
- Sewn-in meat shelf with two different attachment points
- Water bladder hanging system between bag and frame
- Two rows of PALS webbing on the bottom to attach additional pockets and accessories
- Big top and bottom carry handles with the bottom doubling as a bow-carry system

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Bag loaded with five days of gear and food

The side and back compression straps work independently from each other allowing you to keep things strapped to the back that you want quick access to like tripods or your weapon, but without losing bag compression while unbuckling them. Things that you don't want crushed while wrenching down on the side compression straps like a spotting scope are also great to strap onto the back-compression straps. The bottom carrying handle also doubles as a loop to put the cam of your bow in then strap on for easy carrying.

reckoning with bow

The integrated lid is a very simple idea. There are two tab loops on top of the collar that take open-ended female buckles.  Then when the collar (lid) is folded over, the vertical compression straps hook into the female buckles. This eliminates the need for any additional lid. I however like to run the additional Guide Lid on top, mainly for organization holding my camera, maps and anything else I need quick access to. The vertical compression straps are also attached using the K-clip system, and can be moved up or down the bag as needed

The side pockets are probably my favorite feature of the bag. I usually run my spotting scope (80mm Swarovski) and a rain jacket in one side; then my tripod and glassing seat in the other side. Each side is 500 cubic inches, so there's still quite a bit of room left for puffy jackets or other gear if needed. The 95mm Swarovski scope  also fits with ease. A tab loop at the top of each pocket lets you to hang a water bladder as well if needed (see video here) They are also bellowed, so they fold flat when not in use.

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The full-length zipper is my second most favorite feature. Nice when the bag is completely full but great for when it's collapsed in day mode. The center access and zipper that comes from the bottom lets me get into the bag without unbuckling many straps and losing compression.

They've also incorporated a sewn-in meat shelf with two attachment points. One for bigger loads and another for smaller loads that fits closer to the frame to keep loads more elevated. However, the guys over at Kifaru really discourage using the meat shelf with a full load of gear in the bag, as it expands your load out rather than up and decreases comfort by a large margin. There's also a tab loop between the bag and the frame meant to hold a water bladder that, I think, works very well.

reckoning meat shelf Dry bag between the Reckoning and frame, demonstrating the load shelf

The main bag up to the top of the frame (with lid folded over) runs 5000 ci; with the lid folded up and in use (like a collar,) the bag is 6500 ci. Each side pocket is 500 ci totaling the whole bag at 7500 cubic inches. I run mine with a guide lid (1200 ci) and two medium belt pockets (215 ci) on the bottom PALS webbing, giving me an additional 1660 ci in organization space.

In closing, the Reckoning is proving to be a perfect fit for most of the backpack hunts that I do. Expanding into an extended pack while being able to collapse to a very stream line and functional day pack is gold to me. The bags are starting at a respectable $284 at Kifaru.net

reckoning sheep

You can watch a video review by Jordan here Part I and Part II

You can ask Jordan questions or discuss this article here

 

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SJKBounty Custom

SJK Bounty 2.0 Backpack Review
by Matt Cashell, Rokslide Staff

The day was cloudy and bitingly cold. My son James was shivering in his boots, but still peeking through his binoculars to the expanse of snowy burn below us. At 12-years old, this was his first year chasing elk. We had hiked about four miles in calf-high snow that morning, and finally setup the spotter on a rocky point we refer to as "the glassing spot." I had already been picking apart the tumbled mess of sticks for about a half an hour when I realized my fingers were going numb.

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Read more: Review: SJK Bounty 2.0 Backpack

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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.

 

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Read more: EXO 1500 Horn Hauler