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Mystery Ranch NICE Metcalf

By Matt Cashell, Rokslide Prostaff

I started tesing Mystery Ranch's updated Metcalf last summer.  I was able to drive to their Montana location to meet the Mystery Ranch crew and get fitted for the Metcalf.  I posted my initial thoughts after some short trips into the field last August.  To see how this testing process started off, check that post here.

Fall was at my doorstep before I knew it and due to an unexpected delay on a home improvement project, I found myself missing the first two days of archery elk camp.  My buddies Jared and Kenny had wisely left without me. I could only cyberstalk them as I received SPOT messages about their camp locations in some of my favorite Western Montana elk country. Finally, though, all the tile mortar was setting in the home addition and I was free.  The next day I was off in the early morning dark headed for the September woods with weeks of vacation ahead of me. The Mystery Ranch NICE Metcalf rode shotgun, ready for the challenge.

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Paradox Pack Review

By Jared Lampton, Guest Contributor

"It's lightweight yet very strong. It's rigid yet flexible. It's simple and efficient yet incredibly versatile."

These were the claims being made about Paradox Packs over a year ago while I was trying to decide what new pack to spend my hard-earned dollars on. Fitting descriptions, I thought, given the name of the pack. But, could this young pack company deliver on their claims? I decided to give them a shot.

In the fall of 2013, I bought a Paradox Evolution frame, 6300 cubic-inch pack bag, with a lid and the Day Talon from Seek Outside. By my calculations, I logged a total of at least 290 miles scouting and hunting during 2014 with this pack. About 72 of those miles were off-trail through rough terrain and about 17 miles with loads exceeding 80 pounds. Probably about one-third of the total miles were with backpacking gear, weighing approximately 25-35 lbs. In this review I'll go into detail on some of the unique design features of the pack and talk about how the pack performed for me.

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Exo Mountain Gear 3500

by Mark Huelsing, Guest Contributor

Exo Mountain Gear hit the market with their first pack designs in early 2014. The company might be the new kid on the block, but their designs clearly display a hard-tested maturity that's beyond the company's short life.

Exo Mountain Gear offers a single frame and harness design, with three sizes of waistbelts. On that frame, you can choose to put Exo's 3500 or 5500 pack. The pack bags are nearly identical in features and layout – the main difference being the larger volume of the 5500, which add little more than few ounces of weight.

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I chose the 3500 for a week-long archery elk hunt in Colorado. It was just the right size to get my week's worth of gear packed miles-deep into the backcountry and setup camp. I nearly maxed-out the 3500's internal storage, but there were still plenty of options for strapping gear onto the outside of the pack, as well as in the load shelf between the bag and the frame. I like the 3500, but unless your gear list tends toward the minimalist side, you should consider the 5500 for endeavors lasting a week or more. (I should also note that the packs have more volume than their name implies, since the rating and naming convention don't account for the pack's full-length side pockets and other smaller storage areas.)

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Kifaru's Extended Mission Ruck II (EMR II)

By Sam Millard, Rokslide Prostaff

What defines a great pack? For me, the most important characteristic of a great pack is how it carries the most challenging load I'll be faced with. I want a pack that will be comfortable to carry for miles on end, and be capable of transporting more weight out of the woods when the tags get punched. As a dedicated long range hunter, I typically carry more on my back for day hunts than some carry for overnight trips. In mid-2014, I decided to bid farewell to a pack that carried my rifle well but lacked a suspension capable of heavy loads. I ordered a Kifaru Duplex frame with an EMR II attached to it, and I'm glad I did!

As of press time, Kifaru offers two frame systems and nine different pack bags that mount to either one. Having already owned a Bikini frame, I wanted to try a Duplex frame mainly because of its legendary load carrying characteristics. The decision to use the EMR II on the frame was an easy one for me. The cavernous, yet easily accessible main bag, meant no more gear strapped to the outside of the pack. The side pockets, or "wings", provide excellent compression points for a heavy rifle carried on either side. The EMR II is constructed of durable 500-denier DWR coated Cordura, and is available in five colors, including three camouflage patterns.

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