Alaska Sheep Season 2020: New Gear Review

adventure907

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2014
Messages
645
Location
AK
The 2020 sheep season has come to an end for myself, so I've been doing a little evaluation of my gear as to what worked, what could be better, and what goes in the scrap heap. I started the season by replacing quite a bit of equipment for a variety of reasons. Some of my gear had reached the end of its useful life, some of the gear was replaced with the idea of lightening my "into the field" pack weight, and some of the new gear was bought just for the sake of, well, like many of you guys I am a gear junkie. I hope some of you guys will find my experience and evaluation useful and I am happy to answer any questions you guys might have.



Frontier Gear of Alaska, Freighter Frame and Hunter Pack Bag:

The gold standard for many Alaska guides over the years has been the Frontier Gear of Alaska Freighter Frame and Pack. Also known as the "Barney's Pack", Frontier Gear of Alaska is the private label brand of Barney's Sports Chalet in Anchorage, Alaska. Barney's is a small, high end hunting shop in Anchorage. I've used their external frame and pack bag almost exclusively for the last 11 years, with 9 of those years working as a guide. While my old frame is still in great shape and perfectly functional, I decided to treat myself and buy a new frame and suspension this season while using one of my old pack bags on the new frame.

While this system isn't new to me, Kevin at Barney's has recently released a couple of accessories for his pack system that I tried out this season and figured they deserve a review, along with the new frame. First off, the new frame and pack performed exactly as I expected, unequaled in it's ability to carry heaviest of loads. It provides an extremely rigid platform that does not allow the weight in the pack bag to shift back and forth while hiking, unlike some of the internal frame packs that I have tested. The shoulder strap suspension and hip belt are easily adjustable to move the point of load bearing, whether you prefer a little more weight on your hips, or a little more weight on your shoulders. The hip belt has been redesigned within the last few years and now offers a forward pull, which has been a significant improvement in the ability to cinch and keep the hip belt tightened. The new frame and suspension with my old bag performed great while packing out dall sheep this season, and in my humble opinion there is no pack system that carries 100+ pound loads as comfortably and efficiently as a Barney's Pack. Some people tout the weight savings of the new style internal packs, but when packing out 100 lbs, 2 or 3 extra lbs in pack weight is irrelevant when considering the advantages that a Barney's external frame pack has over the newer internal designs. And just as a disclaimer, I have previously owned a Stone Glacier and sold it and currently own an Exo K3.

I had hunters bring both Kuiu and Stone Glacier packs this season and I made a point of trying each of them out when loaded heavy. I wasn't a fan, too much weight shift, too many straps, not enough room, inferior hardware, etc, etc...I also didn't like the load shelf concept. I prefer to have the meat inside my pack bag, lined with a compactor trash bag. One hunter had a Stone Glacier and he attempted to use the load shelf for packing meat. This limited his ability to get the weight higher up on his back where it belongs and the meat bag seemed to sag from out of the sides of the load shelf. Every time he took his pack off or sat down for a break, I was a little horrified to see the meat bag touch and or roll around on the turf/dirt. Anyway, I know many people are staunch believers in these packs, but these are just a few considerations I see with these packs. Granted I am no expert on the internal frame packs and the offerings of kifaru, stone glacie, Exo, etc, and I am sure there are adjustments my hunter was overlooking, but in my mind simple is better. I was especially surprised at how much the weight shifted back and forth on the Stone Glacier. After completing a fairly significant river crossing, I went back and grabbed my hunters pack to shuttle across the river for him. It was loaded with gear, sheep, and rifle and upon putting it on, I was very surprised at how much the weight shifted back and forth. I had a little more sympathy after trying his loaded pack as we had already put in a hard day of hiking heavy and now I could see why he was a little salty. To me, it looked like the bag/frame attachment points are too narrow and that contributed to the significant weight shifting.

Anyway, for those that already use the Barney's pack, I'd recommend trying out the new accessories Kevin has released. The first accessory I tried this season was the new hip belt pouches. I bought two of them, with one going on each side of the hip belt. They simply slide over the hip belt and provide easily accessible storage for whatever item you might need to access quickly. I carried my pistol in the ride side hip belt pouch and either my binoculars or inreach/cell phone in the left side pouch. They would also be a great place to carry a rangefinder, camera, or whatever small item you want quick access too. More info on the pistol and binoculars later.

The other accessory, which I used on my second hunt of the season is the new lumbar pad. This pad has a wrap around Velcro strap that attaches it to the middle of the hip belt, which then sits in the small of your back. At first while hiking into the hunting area, it was a significantly different feel and took me a little while to get used too. The lumbar pad proved its worth though when the pack was loaded heavy and the time came for a long, roughly 7 mile pack out. The lumbar pad significantly helped keep the hip belt in position and from sliding down my hips. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 lbs on my back, it really helped hold that weight up. One problem I've had in the past while packing heavy loads is the hip belt will sometimes eat into the points of my hip bones and tear them up pretty good. The new lumbar pad eliminated this completely on my first pack out with it and the hip bones sure thanked me. I kept the lumbar pad on for my third hunt, it has found a permanent home on my pack. My hunting partner that I guide for also used the new lumbar pad on one of his sheep hunts that he guided and he concurred that it helped and was a worthwhile addition to his Barneys' pack.

(Here you can see both the lumbar pad and hip belt pouches)
 
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adventure907

adventure907

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Messages
645
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Kifaru 20 Degree Slick Bag, Regular/Wide:

Down or Synthetic, that is the question. Well, after a few years of using a Western Mountaineering Alpinlite down sleeping bag, I decided to research and hopefully find a suitable synthetic bag replacement. While the Alpinlite has been a great bag, I have always been a little leery of the pitfalls that may come when a down bag gets wet. Sometimes in the sheep hills, no matter what you do all of your gear is going to get wet. Whether it was rain, snow, condensation, unexpected swims in rivers, there is always the possibility that you sleeping bag is going to get wet and I had somewhat tired of worrying and being meticulous in care of not getting my down bag wet. I also missed the ability to crawl into my sleeping bag completely soaked after a long day in the woods and wake up with dry clothes. Prior to my Western Mountaineering down bag, I used a Wiggy's Glacier Hunter 15 degree bag. While it was a great bag and I still have it, I knew Wiggy's wouldn't be an option this time due to the weight and bulk that comes along with their bags. I had been spoiled with the compressibility and light weight of the down bag, so I knew finding a suitable replacement in a synthetic bag was going to be tough and that I would have to sacrifice a little in both of those categories.

A few things I look for in a bag, a quality zipper that doesn't have a propensity to snag, length suitable for me to fully cocoon myself inside the bag, and a proper cut that is wide enough for me to roll around a bit and spread out, as I tend to toss and turn. After researching synthetic bags it became apparent that there is a limited selection in bags on the market that would meet the requirements. My research led my to the Kifaru slick bag and I decided to give it a try. Barney's received a big shipment of Kifaru stuff, so I ran down there and tried out both the regular length and long version of their 20 degree slick bag, wide cut. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the regular length was going to be plenty long enough for my 6 foot frame and I wouldn't be needing the long version. Both my previous bags, the WM and Wiggy's were both the long models so I was very pleased that the Kifaru regular was plenty long enough. I picked up the 20 degree in Regular/Wide from Barney's and I was off to the sheep hills.

This is the first Kifaru product I have owned and while I have always heard good things about their stuff, the slick bag didn't disappoint. It was apparent it was of quality construction and would hopefully hold up to the rigors of mountain hunting. I wasn't sure how I would like the center cut zipper, but it didn't cause any issues at all. The bag was suitably compressible and the weight penalty for leaving down wasn't that bad, maybe 1/2 a pound or so. I used a Large Sea to Summit compression stuff sack which worked very well keeping the bag dry while I had it tied to my pack during rainy hikes.

Sheep season was very wet this year so I was glad I went back to synthetic. On a couple of occasions, I crawled into the bag for the night completely soaked and just slept in my clothes with the intention of drying them out. The bag worked great, dry socks and pants in the morning. We also had some extremely cold, clear nights that got down into the low 20's. The bag performed great in relation to temperature rating. Even on those cold nights I didn't need long johns and just slept in my skivvies. I am very happy that I went back to synthetic and for anybody looking for a new sleeping bag, I'd highly recommend the Kifaru slick bag.


Hilleberg Niak 2p Tent:

This may be the perfect sheep hunting tent, if there is such a thing. I am a devoted Hilleberg disciple and while they aren't the lightest tents on the market, I have found them to be the right combination of weight, quality, and ability to weather the harsh storms that Alaska will throw at you. For the last 5 or 6 years, I've been using two "one" man tents on my sheep hunts, one for me and one for the hunter. The last few years I have been using the Unna and Soulo for my sheep hunts, and have also owned the Akto in the past which I sold. This year I decided to pick up the Niak in an attempt to save a few pounds. The Niak falls into the Hilleberg Yellow Label category, which classifies them as a 3 season tent. These are their lighter weight tents, with lighter weight material and smaller diameter poles. On my first hunt, the Niak would be replacing my Soulo, while the hunter used the Unna. It was a very wet hunt, but the tent performed great. While it is classified as a two man tent, it is actually a one man palace. The vestibule had plenty of room to tuck my pack in at night and the inside of tent spoiled me with enough room for all my gear and then some.

I didn't have any condensation issues on a very wet hunt and was quite pleased with the simplicity of design. Nothing is worse than breaking down a wet tent and packing it up while moving, which is another reason I prefer Hilleberg tents. If wet, you can crawl under the fly and detach the inner tent while still dry and pack it separately. When setting up at your next camp site you simply set up the wet outer fly first, crawl inside, re-attach the inner tent and there you go, dry tent at your new camp site.

On my second hunt of the season, my first camp site only had enough room for one tent. I set up the Niak and me and the hunter tested the two man ability of the Niak. This had been the first time I stayed in the same tent as my hunter in about 5 years or so. While it was cozy, the Niak is a few inches wider than the Stone Glacier 2p tent and we had no issues getting a good nights rest. Just remember your ear plugs when your partner snores.

My third hunt of the season was a late season hunt which I knew would put the Niak to the test. We had rain and wind, lots of wind. Our campsite ended up being in a river bottom which was unprotected from the wind and the shape of the drainage we were in served as a wind funnel. The first few days this was fine, but when I received a weather report that said we would be getting 70mph gusts in the Alaska Range, I knew the Niak was going to get a proper test. I had planned to move our tents into the alders to provide some protection, but as often happens on sheep hunts our plans quickly changed. An old ram turned our campsite move into a long, long day on the mountain, and by the time we got back to camp at 12:30 in the morning, the storm had hit and moving camp was not an option. We were busheled from the long day and crawled into our tents to crash for the night as the storm hit, skipping dinner and hoping the tents would still be upright in the morning.

After a long night of strong gusts, I woke up to the Niak still on its feet. I crawled out of the tent to check on things and all of the guy lines had pulled their stakes throughout the night, which had the Niak bending pretty far with the gusts, but it held strong. I re-staked the guy lines and piled boulders on top, then went over to my hunters Enan that he had brought and did the same for his tent. The storm was roughly 24 hours and brought all sorts of nasty wind and rain. The Niak did well and has quickly become my favorite tent. While I would probably opt for my Soulo on the late season hunts from here on out, simply for the potential of snow load, I think the Niak could be quite possibly be the perfect early season sheep tent.

 
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adventure907

adventure907

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Joined
Jan 6, 2014
Messages
645
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AK
Swarovski STX 65mm Spotting Scope:

Wow, just WOW!!! My old scope is an STM 80mm HD. Before season, I had decided to look for a 65mm In the old style Swarovski scope with the intention to save weight. Well, I was faced with a deal I couldn't refuse and ended up buying a brand new STX with the 65mm objective instead of an STS 65. While I self defeated my purpose of saving weight as the new STX 65 is essentially the same weight as my old STM 80, it is a beautiful piece of glass. When testing it side by side against my old 80, I found it to be crisper and clearer, which is saying a lot because I've always been extremely happy with the old STM. I was very impressed with the STX and unfortunately for my wallet, I can see myself picking up a 95 or 115 objective in the future for my non backpack hunts.




Zeiss Victory 10x25 Pocket Binoculars:

While I have had these binoculars for quite a few years this was the first sheep season I have used them since 2015. The past few years I have been using 8x30 Swarovski's coupled with a Marsupial gear bino harness. In my never ending quest to save weight, I decided to go back to the Zeiss's this season and see how I liked it. This allowed me to ditch the bino harness, which I've never been a big fan of anyway, and it saved me a little weight. I carried the 10x25's in either a pant pocket (Fjallraven Keb trousers) or the new Barney's hip belt pouch on my pack. I very much preferred carrying my bino's this way and was glad not to have the cumbersome harness to deal with. It gets old taking the harness on and off every time you want to shed a layer of clothes so I was definitely glad to be without it. The Zeiss's did very well and they will be with me on my sheep hunts in the future. Since I am packing around a spotting scope, big binoculars aren't necessary on sheep hunts and the pocket binoculars are just fine.

Smith and Wesson M&P340, .357 Magnum:

Once again, this hard headed sheep guide is trying to save weight. I don't pack around a rifle when guiding sheep hunters, just a pistol. I have been carrying a lightweight .44 Smith and Wesson in a Diamond D leather chest holster. The past few years, between the sternum strap of my pack, my bino harness, and the Diamond D chest holster with pistol, things were pretty busy on my chest. I decided to start looking for a lightweight .357 and when one popped up on the classifieds last winter, I grabbed it. I was getting tired of the .44 and chest holster system, which when in the Alpine, ended up staying in the tent most of the time anyway while I was out hunting. A lot of good that would do me if I ran into an ornery bear. So I picked up the Smith 340 which saved quite a bit of weight between downsizing pistols and eliminating the chest holster all together. With a little good fortune, the new Smith just barely snugged into the new hip belt pouch of the Barneys pack which was a great way to carry the pistol. The pistol was now quickly accessible and I didn't have a reason to leave it in the tent while I was out hunting for the day.

I picked up some buffalo bore ammo for it, and while quite painful in recoil, I hope to never have to use it for it's intended purpose. I plan on picking up some .38 Special +P rounds in the future and testing those, hopefully making it a little more pleasant to shoot.


Peak Refuel:

Goodbye Mountain House....This season was the first that I tried these meals. They lived up to the hype. While they may be a few dollars more expensive than Mountain House I would say they are well worth the cost. First of all, they just tasted better. And while the portions seemed to be a little smaller than Mountain House, they packed more calories which is another great benefit. Between tasting better and more calories, they are a win win, but the biggest benefit I found was the fact that they use significantly less water than Mountain House. Often in the sheep hills, especially when you get up above brush line, water can be a hard commodity to find. We will often pack up a few days supply of water up the mountain when we know we won't be able to find any up high. With these Peak Refuel meals using less water, it's a no brainer. And did I mention, they taste wayyyyy better than Mountain House. Chicken Pesto Pasta for the win!!


Leukotape:


I wear plastic boots and while I haven't had many foot problems over the years with plastics, there is the occasion that I develop a hot spot or two. On my first hunt my feet/boots got wet while packing a heavy load down hill. The constant pounding of my big toe on the downhill led to a blister. Fortunately, I had a little time between hunts for it to heal up, but the biggest thing I learned from that blister was how well Leukotape works. My hunter had brought some along and let me try it out. It did a great job of alleviating the development of any other hot spots with the wet boots. On the last two hunts, I pre-taped up my feet in the area's I knew I might have issues and the leukotape worked great. I didn't have any problems the last two hunts and will be pre taping my feet on all my backpack hunts in the future.


Vortex 1800 Rangefinder:

When a hunter shows up, we go through their gear and eliminate anything they won't need in an effort to save weight. In order to avoid redundancy we also only bring one range finder. In the past, I usually like to let the hunter bring their own rangefinder, simply for the reason that they are familiar with it and hopefully knows how it works, and in this age of precision shooting (turrets, fancy scopes, etc), I figure it's best to let the hunter use what they are comfortable with.

I am re-thinking that policy. On my first hunt the hunter brought along his vortex rangefinder and I left my Sig behind. Bad idea. Simply put, the vortex sucked. I could barely get it to read, and when it did pick up a reading, anything over 400 yards wasn't happening. Not having a rangefinder that could reliably provide information while we attempted to close the distance on the rams almost cost us. Luckily it didn't and we were able to get close enough that a rangefinder was a moot point, but from here on out I am bringing along the Sig, weight savings be damned.


I think that may be all of the new gear I used this year, at least that I can think of at the moment. If I think of anything else I'll try to add it. There was a lot of new gear for me this year and I am mostly pleased how it all worked. It was a great yet demanding sheep season and as you guys know, having the right gear can make or break a hunt. I know I probably babbled on too much, but hopefully some of this will help out if you are in the market for anything new, and if you all have any questions on my experiences this sheep season, I am always happy too talk all things sheep.


Josh

 
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NUGGET

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
328
Great write up! I’m going to have to pick up some of those hip belt pouches for my pack!

Also fwiw most of the new mountain house meals do not have as much food and now take the same amount of water as the peak refuel. I agree though, that chicken pesto is legit!
 
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adventure907

adventure907

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Joined
Jan 6, 2014
Messages
645
Location
AK
Great write up! I’m going to have to pick up some of those hip belt pouches for my pack!

Also fwiw most of the new mountain house meals do not have as much food and now take the same amount of water as the peak refuel. I agree though, that chicken pesto is legit!


Ahhh, good to know on the mountain house....no way I can give up Chicken and Mashed Potatoes!
 

BrooksRanger

Junior Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2019
Messages
20
Location
Southeast Alaska
That was a well written and thought out review. Thanks for taking the time to be so specific about your experience this season as well as how it compared to previous gear and experiences.
 

Chirogrow

Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2018
Messages
85
The 2020 sheep season has come to an end for myself, so I've been doing a little evaluation of my gear as to what worked, what could be better, and what goes in the scrap heap. I started the season by replacing quite a bit of equipment for a variety of reasons. Some of my gear had reached the end of its useful life, some of the gear was replaced with the idea of lightening my "into the field" pack weight, and some of the new gear was bought just for the sake of, well, like many of you guys I am a gear junkie. I hope some of you guys will find my experience and evaluation useful and I am happy to answer any questions you guys might have.



Frontier Gear of Alaska, Freighter Frame and Hunter Pack Bag:

The gold standard for many Alaska guides over the years has been the Frontier Gear of Alaska Freighter Frame and Pack. Also known as the "Barney's Pack", Frontier Gear of Alaska is the private label brand of Barney's Sports Chalet in Anchorage, Alaska. Barney's is a small, high end hunting shop in Anchorage. I've used their external frame and pack bag almost exclusively for the last 11 years, with 9 of those years working as a guide. While my old frame is still in great shape and perfectly functional, I decided to treat myself and buy a new frame and suspension this season while using one of my old pack bags on the new frame.

While this system isn't new to me, Kevin at Barney's has recently released a couple of accessories for his pack system that I tried out this season and figured they deserve a review, along with the new frame. First off, the new frame and pack performed exactly as I expected, unequaled in it's ability to carry heaviest of loads. It provides an extremely rigid platform that does not allow the weight in the pack bag to shift back and forth while hiking, unlike some of the internal frame packs that I have tested. The shoulder strap suspension and hip belt are easily adjustable to move the point of load bearing, whether you prefer a little more weight on your hips, or a little more weight on your shoulders. The hip belt has been redesigned within the last few years and now offers a forward pull, which has been a significant improvement in the ability to cinch and keep the hip belt tightened. The new frame and suspension with my old bag performed great while packing out dall sheep this season, and in my humble opinion there is no pack system that carries 100+ pound loads as comfortably and efficiently as a Barney's Pack. Some people tout the weight savings of the new style internal packs, but when packing out 100 lbs, 2 or 3 extra lbs in pack weight is irrelevant when considering the advantages that a Barney's external frame pack has over the newer internal designs. And just as a disclaimer, I have previously owned a Stone Glacier and sold it and currently own an Exo K3.

I had hunters bring both Kuiu and Stone Glacier packs this season and I made a point of trying each of them out when loaded heavy. I wasn't a fan, too much weight shift, too many straps, not enough room, inferior hardware, etc, etc...I also didn't like the load shelf concept. I prefer to have the meat inside my pack bag, lined with a compactor trash bag. One hunter had a Stone Glacier and he attempted to use the load shelf for packing meat. This limited his ability to get the weight higher up on his back where it belongs and the meat bag seemed to sag from out of the sides of the load shelf. Every time he took his pack off or sat down for a break, I was a little horrified to see the meat bag touch and or roll around on the turf/dirt. Anyway, I know many people are staunch believers in these packs, but these are just a few considerations I see with these packs. Granted I am no expert on the internal frame packs and the offerings of kifaru, stone glacie, Exo, etc, and I am sure there are adjustments my hunter was overlooking, but in my mind simple is better. I was especially surprised at how much the weight shifted back and forth on the Stone Glacier. After completing a fairly significant river crossing, I went back and grabbed my hunters pack to shuttle across the river for him. It was loaded with gear, sheep, and rifle and upon putting it on, I was very surprised at how much the weight shifted back and forth. I had a little more sympathy after trying his loaded pack as we had already put in a hard day of hiking heavy and now I could see why he was a little salty. To me, it looked like the bag/frame attachment points are too narrow and that contributed to the significant weight shifting.

Anyway, for those that already use the Barney's pack, I'd recommend trying out the new accessories Kevin has released. The first accessory I tried this season was the new hip belt pouches. I bought two of them, with one going on each side of the hip belt. They simply slide over the hip belt and provide easily accessible storage for whatever item you might need to access quickly. I carried my pistol in the ride side hip belt pouch and either my binoculars or inreach/cell phone in the left side pouch. They would also be a great place to carry a rangefinder, camera, or whatever small item you want quick access too. More info on the pistol and binoculars later.

The other accessory, which I used on my second hunt of the season is the new lumbar pad. This pad has a wrap around Velcro strap that attaches it to the middle of the hip belt, which then sits in the small of your back. At first while hiking into the hunting area, it was a significantly different feel and took me a little while to get used too. The lumbar pad proved its worth though when the pack was loaded heavy and the time came for a long, roughly 7 mile pack out. The lumbar pad significantly helped keep the hip belt in position and from sliding down my hips. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 lbs on my back, it really helped hold that weight up. One problem I've had in the past while packing heavy loads is the hip belt will sometimes eat into the points of my hip bones and tear them up pretty good. The new lumbar pad eliminated this completely on my first pack out with it and the hip bones sure thanked me. I kept the lumbar pad on for my third hunt, it has found a permanent home on my pack. My hunting partner that I guide for also used the new lumbar pad on one of his sheep hunts that he guided and he concurred that it helped and was a worthwhile addition to his Barneys' pack.

(Here you can see both the lumbar pad and hip belt pouches)
Love the review thanks for sugggesting it to me! Since you’ve had a stone glacier and exo, how does it stack up to those for a day pack for comfort?
 

JustinsDad

Newbie
Joined
Sep 20, 2020
Messages
2
The 2020 sheep season has come to an end for myself, so I've been doing a little evaluation of my gear as to what worked, what could be better, and what goes in the scrap heap. I started the season by replacing quite a bit of equipment for a variety of reasons. Some of my gear had reached the end of its useful life, some of the gear was replaced with the idea of lightening my "into the field" pack weight, and some of the new gear was bought just for the sake of, well, like many of you guys I am a gear junkie. I hope some of you guys will find my experience and evaluation useful and I am happy to answer any questions you guys might have.



Frontier Gear of Alaska, Freighter Frame and Hunter Pack Bag:

The gold standard for many Alaska guides over the years has been the Frontier Gear of Alaska Freighter Frame and Pack. Also known as the "Barney's Pack", Frontier Gear of Alaska is the private label brand of Barney's Sports Chalet in Anchorage, Alaska. Barney's is a small, high end hunting shop in Anchorage. I've used their external frame and pack bag almost exclusively for the last 11 years, with 9 of those years working as a guide. While my old frame is still in great shape and perfectly functional, I decided to treat myself and buy a new frame and suspension this season while using one of my old pack bags on the new frame.

While this system isn't new to me, Kevin at Barney's has recently released a couple of accessories for his pack system that I tried out this season and figured they deserve a review, along with the new frame. First off, the new frame and pack performed exactly as I expected, unequaled in it's ability to carry heaviest of loads. It provides an extremely rigid platform that does not allow the weight in the pack bag to shift back and forth while hiking, unlike some of the internal frame packs that I have tested. The shoulder strap suspension and hip belt are easily adjustable to move the point of load bearing, whether you prefer a little more weight on your hips, or a little more weight on your shoulders. The hip belt has been redesigned within the last few years and now offers a forward pull, which has been a significant improvement in the ability to cinch and keep the hip belt tightened. The new frame and suspension with my old bag performed great while packing out dall sheep this season, and in my humble opinion there is no pack system that carries 100+ pound loads as comfortably and efficiently as a Barney's Pack. Some people tout the weight savings of the new style internal packs, but when packing out 100 lbs, 2 or 3 extra lbs in pack weight is irrelevant when considering the advantages that a Barney's external frame pack has over the newer internal designs. And just as a disclaimer, I have previously owned a Stone Glacier and sold it and currently own an Exo K3.

I had hunters bring both Kuiu and Stone Glacier packs this season and I made a point of trying each of them out when loaded heavy. I wasn't a fan, too much weight shift, too many straps, not enough room, inferior hardware, etc, etc...I also didn't like the load shelf concept. I prefer to have the meat inside my pack bag, lined with a compactor trash bag. One hunter had a Stone Glacier and he attempted to use the load shelf for packing meat. This limited his ability to get the weight higher up on his back where it belongs and the meat bag seemed to sag from out of the sides of the load shelf. Every time he took his pack off or sat down for a break, I was a little horrified to see the meat bag touch and or roll around on the turf/dirt. Anyway, I know many people are staunch believers in these packs, but these are just a few considerations I see with these packs. Granted I am no expert on the internal frame packs and the offerings of kifaru, stone glacie, Exo, etc, and I am sure there are adjustments my hunter was overlooking, but in my mind simple is better. I was especially surprised at how much the weight shifted back and forth on the Stone Glacier. After completing a fairly significant river crossing, I went back and grabbed my hunters pack to shuttle across the river for him. It was loaded with gear, sheep, and rifle and upon putting it on, I was very surprised at how much the weight shifted back and forth. I had a little more sympathy after trying his loaded pack as we had already put in a hard day of hiking heavy and now I could see why he was a little salty. To me, it looked like the bag/frame attachment points are too narrow and that contributed to the significant weight shifting.

Anyway, for those that already use the Barney's pack, I'd recommend trying out the new accessories Kevin has released. The first accessory I tried this season was the new hip belt pouches. I bought two of them, with one going on each side of the hip belt. They simply slide over the hip belt and provide easily accessible storage for whatever item you might need to access quickly. I carried my pistol in the ride side hip belt pouch and either my binoculars or inreach/cell phone in the left side pouch. They would also be a great place to carry a rangefinder, camera, or whatever small item you want quick access too. More info on the pistol and binoculars later.

The other accessory, which I used on my second hunt of the season is the new lumbar pad. This pad has a wrap around Velcro strap that attaches it to the middle of the hip belt, which then sits in the small of your back. At first while hiking into the hunting area, it was a significantly different feel and took me a little while to get used too. The lumbar pad proved its worth though when the pack was loaded heavy and the time came for a long, roughly 7 mile pack out. The lumbar pad significantly helped keep the hip belt in position and from sliding down my hips. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 lbs on my back, it really helped hold that weight up. One problem I've had in the past while packing heavy loads is the hip belt will sometimes eat into the points of my hip bones and tear them up pretty good. The new lumbar pad eliminated this completely on my first pack out with it and the hip bones sure thanked me. I kept the lumbar pad on for my third hunt, it has found a permanent home on my pack. My hunting partner that I guide for also used the new lumbar pad on one of his sheep hunts that he guided and he concurred that it helped and was a worthwhile addition to his Barneys' pack.

(Here you can see both the lumbar pad and hip belt pouches)
I appreciate that post. I’ve hunted all my life but never in high or really cold areas. Going to AK in March so I gotta get a bunch of new gear and your post is really helpful
 
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adventure907

adventure907

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2014
Messages
645
Location
AK
Love the review thanks for sugggesting it to me! Since you’ve had a stone glacier and exo, how does it stack up to those for a day pack for comfort?

As far as a day pack goes while hunting light during the day, the Barney's pack is as comfortable or even more so than both those other packs. Although, my day packs still usually have 20-30 lbs in them depending what I am up too and whether or not there is a chance I might be siawashing on the the mountain for the night. I think it's pretty easy for any pack to be comfortable when they are light, the money gets made though when the pack has a heavy load.

One thing I never did like about the Stone Glacier or Exo was the lack of outside pockets for quick access to stuff. I am sure that has changed a bit as newer pack bags have came out, but I always found it frustrating to have to undo all of those buckles and straps to get inside the main compartment. The Stone Glacier had a center zipper into the main compartment, and while the Exo is a little off center, with both packs you had to undo a number of the compression straps to gain access.

I do prefer the Exo over the Stone Glacier though as far as day hunting goes, but when it comes down to it, the Barneys pack will always be the pack for the heavy lifting.
 
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Nick Muche

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 21, 2012
Messages
3,363
Location
Alaska
I had a Leukotape First this year.. Now I've used the shit for several years, without fail. However, I found out that my wife is allergic to it and thankfully it didn't start to get bad until a day after, and we were home. Her entire foot swelled up and anywhere the tape touched had huge blisters/boils. She couldn't wear shoes for two weeks. Just be careful I guess.... That is the first and only time I've heard of anyone having a reaction to the tape...
 

Trial153

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2014
Messages
6,665
Location
NY
I had a Leukotape First this year.. Now I've used the shit for several years, without fail. However, I found out that my wife is allergic to it and thankfully it didn't start to get bad until a day after, and we were home. Her entire foot swelled up and anywhere the tape touched had huge blisters/boils. She couldn't wear shoes for two weeks. Just be careful I guess.... That is the first and only time I've heard of anyone having a reaction to the tape...

Ouch! Hopefully she is feeling better!
 

SLDMTN

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2015
Messages
1,175
Location
Palmer, AK
Call Aron, get a Kifaru sent to you, and do a review. Interested to get your take compared to the Barneys.

This is my opinion based on my experience so take it for what it’s worth. Went from a Barney’s to a Kifaru. There’s actually 4 of us in my group that have in the last few years.

Pick one of the following:

Comfort (Kifaru)
Strength (Barney’s)

Kifaru’s aren’t as durable, not even close. They’re the most durable comfortable pack.

Barney’s aren’t as comfortable, not even close. They’re the most comfortable durable pack.
 
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