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.
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.)
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.
Stone Glacier Sky 7400
by Matt Wymer, Rokslide Prostaff
The last few years have seen an evolution in the gear I use and own. I've progressed from wool solids and external frame packs to finely tuned high quality gear. I continue to be impressed with the innovations and technologies now available. As hunters, it's a great place to be as gear technology and options are expanding exponentially making it a tough balance to stick with what works vs. try the latest and greatest.
Since 2006, I have cycled through several packs trying to find a balance of durability, load carrying capability, and most importantly fit. Each "upgrade" helped me move closer to what I was looking for, but I never could find the perfect combo. My trouble with packs is that when I get much over 50lbs, they start to sag off my waist, primarily at the small of my back. I have to constantly tighten the waist belt and it's a nagging issue that I have dealt with over the years.
Convinced this issue could be at least mitigated, I began to look around at different packs. Several things pointed me to Stone Glacier, the chief being the light weight and configuration options. As an Alaskan sheep hunter, weight is always a key component of gear decisions. The Sky 7400 is incredibly light considering its size, durability, and capability.
Kuiu Ultra 6000
Given all the drama surrounding this pack when it was introduced I was apprehensive to purchase it for review. I do my best to avoid such nonsense and feel that “taking sides” with gear companies doesn’t do any good. Rather I just prefer to call it like I see it and choose the gear I use because it’s best suited for my needs given what I can afford.
Eventually the gear junkie in me won out. In April I bit the bullet and ordered up a Kuiu Ultra 6000 in sage green with the tall frame and small waistbelt. I couldn’t resist trying out a 6000 cubic inch pack that is only roughly 3.5 pounds with a frame stiff enough for heavy loads, and a price tag of only $350. Below are my thoughts on the pack. Others may come to different conclusions. Take these opinions for what you paid for them :)