I knew I wanted to test the 2019 Exo K3 4800 pack system the first time I heard about it. I reviewed the K2 3500 in 2017 and had very few complaints so I was interested to see the new version. The team at Exo has been continually improving their products over the last few years and I had really high hopes for this latest pack. More info available here.
When I received the Exo K3 4800 Pack System the first thing I noticed was how compact it was cinched down for shipping. And, it felt light in my hands as I pulled it out of the box. I liked the ranger green color with grey accents. The horseshoe-shaped access panel provides full access to the inside of the bag. Which would make the swing-out pockets very accessible. I liked the looks of the new belt and harness system as well. Finally, the new lid with two compartments was a great addition.
Exo K3 4800 Specifications and Features
- Weight 5lb 6oz (Frame, Bag, and Lid)
- Capacity 5205ci with lid
- Reversible frame extensions
- Integrated load shelf
- Hipbelt wrap is adjustable up to 2″
- Assist-pull hipbelt
- Separate bladder pocket
Exo K3 Frame And Harness
The K3 is loaded with improvements. At only 2lbs 14oz, it’s one of the lightest, most capable packs available. The two frame heights (Short 24″-25.5″ and Tall 25″-26.5″) means you can get exactly the frame height you need. While the reversible frame extensions allow you to run the frame lower until you make a kill and need additional height for heavy loads.
The hipbelt holds very well on the hips and I never experienced slippage. This is the first belt I’ve used that can be adjusted by up to two inches to get the exact amount of wrap you prefer. The lumbar pad even allows the user to add or remove foam inserts.
The shoulder straps attach with Velcro and can be individually adjusted. They fit torsos from 15″ to 23″ tall. Getting the fit dialed in was extremely easy. Finally the stretch material at the top of the shoulder straps keeps your shoulders more comfortable on long pack outs.
Having compression straps built into the frame is one of my favorite features of the Exo K3 Spyder frame. It is so easy to open up the bag from the frame then load and secure meat.
Exo 4800 Pack Bag
The K3 4800 bag comes in three colors – Ranger, Multicam, and Fusion. Exo lists it as “A perfect do-it-all hunting pack”, and I think that’s about right. The size fits a sweet spot that works well for everything but extended trips where you need huge capacity. It’s a roll-top bag with a full-access, horse shoe opening on the back. There are two stretchy side pockets and one that is zippered down the back as well.
Compression is easily achieved with two horizontal straps on each side and two in the middle of the bag. Two vertical straps allow you to cinch the bottom of the bag tight to keep loads high. One thing I don’t like is the lack of auto-lock buckles. I experienced straps loosening sometimes with awkward loads.
Water Bladder Pocket
The separate water bladder pocket works great. With waterproof fabric between it and the main bag you don’t have to worry about a leak or condensation wetting your gear. It is accessible through a separate zipper at the top of the bag and features a center hose port for running the hose to either side.
K3 Removable Floating Lid
The lid has two zippered pockets for keeping small items organized. It is available to match all three pack colors and also blaze orange. The orange was a bit muted but I like having it as an option for rifle hunts. Some readers may have heard about a batch of lids that did not fit correctly. My first lid had the problem but Exo sent a new one and the fit is great.
There are many accessories available that should cover most needs. The belt pouch attaches securely but doesn’t always open and close easily with one hand. And, I would like to see an option for a bigger size. The Stash pockets for the inside of the bag weigh almost nothing and work great. An optional Crib Load Panel is great for using the frame as a stand-alone meat hauler. Exo offers a dry bag for the three larger sizes that work great for keeping gear clean and dry in nasty conditions. The K3 rifle carrier can be mounted to the back or either side and holds the butt securely. In fact, it’s a bit tight for a lot of rifle stocks. One accessory that is still missing from the lineup is a water bottle pocket for the belt. I would really like to see that added.
In The Field
The Exo K3 4800 worked well for all my hunts this fall from a horse pack bear hunt in September to late season elk. The size worked well for all my gear and the meat shelf is so easy. Exo nailed it with their new Velcro attachment for the top of the bag. I packed deer and elk out this year with the longest packout being four and a half miles. Comfort was exceptional and there was no belt slip.
An Additional Opinion
I asked my friend Jeremy Sample to take the Exo K3 4800 on a backcountry elk hunt to get another point of view. Here is what he had to say.
“I tried on the Exo K3 Spyder frame the first time when I only had a day to get ready for a 10 day hunt. Usually, with a new pack I load some weight into it and do some short hikes to make sure it is adjusted correctly. Luckily, the frame felt good at 26.5” so I left it as is and loaded it with my 65 lbs. of gear for the hike in and headed to the elk spot. Our camp was around 5 miles in and I had the pack feeling comfortable and adjusted well right out of the gate.
The only issue I noticed was that the straps for the load adjusters were harder to pull on when the pack was loaded. This was noticeably different than other packs I’ve used. Once they were adjusted, however, there was minimal extra adjustment needed to switch between 30 lbs. of gear and 110 lbs. of elk, while still keeping the pack comfortable. I packed out my elk in 5 trips so weight was changing constantly.
The meat shelf was easy to open and close, so I wasn’t wasting time fiddling with buckles. I removed the lid while packing meat, which was easy. I did break one zipper pull on the lid. The pulls look like they should consist of one piece of continuous cord but are actually bonded at the end of the rubber and that’s where it failed. It’s a design that should be improved.
The drybag’s weight inside the pack was unnoticeable, keeping my gear dry in a 2-day downpour and also protecting from the blood that got onto the pack from the meat shelf. I like the long zip pocket on the pack because I could put all of my daily essentials in there, however it was hard to access once the pack was loaded with meat and compressed, as I had to undo the outer straps.
The stretch side pocket was an awesome place to keep my water filter for quick access. In my other pack, it is necessary to remove the pack to get to it, but not the case with the Exo 4800. I like the hydration pack pocket and how it is separated from the main compartment as well. It’s easy to remove the hydro pack as necessary and rout your tube to whichever side you prefer, as well as it keeps the hydration pack from sweating on your gear in the main pocket.
This pack was much more comfortable than I expected. I usually get some hip burns, rubs, and pins & needles when I’ve carried heavy weight over long distances, and I did not experience any of these symptoms with the Exo. Overall I enjoyed using this pack and would consider purchasing one in the future.”
The Exo K3 4800 is a top-quality pack for serious backcountry hunters. Simple adjustments mean comfort and proper fit are easily achieved. A built-in load shelf, separate water bladder pocket, and reversible frame extensions are just a few of the great features. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a versatile meat hauling pack that also makes a great daypack. Order yours here.
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