Seek Outside vs KUIU Packs - A few seasons with both... by Luke Stephens

wildernessmaster

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Greetings Roksliders...

Introduction
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3 years ago, after a lot of research, I decided to upgrade my backpacks to premium, game hauling packs. I was starting my journey into backpack hunting, and more specifically solo backpack hunting and was ready dive full bore into it. My research led me to both Seek Outside and KUIU packs as MY choice and I ended up buying some (yep got suckered into more than 1) of both.

In this post, I would like to share with my general thoughts about each, and some comparison of the two packs. In future posts, I plan on providing more detailed thoughts on each brand and the specific packs I own.

Before I go further, I want to say a few things... First, I abso-freakin-lutely love both brands. If you asked me to give up either - I couldn't. They are both very different (as I will share). Anything I say in part of full negative about either brand is only a gnat-on-a-dogs-arse of negativity. I love both. Second, no I am not sponsored, endorsed or remunerated in way by either company. I bought everything I own with my own freaking benjamins! Finally, there are other great packs out there. Yes I considered Kifaru, SG, Mystery Ranch and others. After years of humping bags, though, and being "and old guy" - I knew what mattered to me, and these two companies backpacks lined up best - FOR ME.

This is in no way a "caliber war" of backpacks. Backpacks are uniquely "human". Every one does not work for everyone! So if you love your SG, MR, or other wise - keep lovin!

Mac vs Windows (Well....)
----------------------------
Unfortunately (or fortunately) my "day job" involves a lot of technology. So I am going to go propeller head on you a bit.

Remember the commercials in the early 2000's about Mac and how easy Mac computers are... In those commercials Macs were portrayed as easy compared to MS Windows, didn't break as often, and well just worked for humans.

Well that is not what I am going to make here...

So why do I bring that up?

In the techie world Windows is considered the MacDonalds of operating systems - cheap, over consumed, and utterly without caloric value. However there is another operating system, called Linux, that is complex, elegant, and is the virtuoso swiss army knife of operating systems (you can do ANY thing with it!). Its an amazing system.

Entre Mac vs Linux...

In this corner is the Linux computer. Small; can run on any freaking hardware you can find; elegantly built; runs the freakin space shuttle (actually runs many nuke simulations); can leap tall buildings in a single bound - oh and eats tacks and spits out nails. Unless you are a true propeller head you will never get the value of it because its hard to learn, and sometimes even more difficult to use.

In this corner is the Mac computer. Moderate sized; runs on proprietary hardware; is elegantly built; makes movies, songs, and digital art that wows you; can leap tall buildings in a single bound (but you would never know it) - looks cool and makes you the coolest, smartest guy on the block. Anyone can use a Mac... so much so, Mac users are often called "Mac Idiots" by the propeller heads!

That's essentially the same comparison in a nutshell of Seek Outside and Kuiu packs.

Both packs are amazing packs. They are well built, tough and can take a licking. Both packs can accomplish pretty much any mission I put them through. So which is which?

Well...

Seek Outside is the linux of the pack world, and Kuiu is the Mac. Yep that sums it up.

The first time I received my Seek Outside pack, I literally had to call their help line to use it. Now remember, I spent 13 years in Special Forces in the days before "great packs". In fact, a lot of the pack ideas you guys use regularly these days came out of our taking our packs to riggers and making those mods - before people thought of them.

So for me to swallow my pride and have to call for help was a big thing.

In part this was due to the number of exposed features on the pack. Literally every aspect of the pack is exposed so you can use it how you want it. This is part of the power of the Seek Outside product. It is literally infinitely diversely usable (are those really words) (and did I just string those together??). There is no part of the Seek Outside pack system you can use the way you want.

Like Linux I can use my Seek Outside product in crazy ways... elegant ways... any way I want. I can strap things to it how I want. I can add things to it how I want. A swiss army knife, thermo-nuclear bomb of a pack!

On the other hand... The first time I got a Kuiu pack, I was able to completely take the pack apart and use it in the normal ways I planned on using the bag without even cracking open any user guides or videos. Trust me that was very fortunate, because the first Kuiu pack I got went straight to the field and I was quickly "load hauling" game out.

The down side to this ease of use, though, is it hides some of its capabilities, as well as limits some of the diverse usages. I can't always attach things where-ever, however I want.

Mac vs Linux...

Oh here is a secret I didn't share in my Mac and Linux descriptions. Mac's are actually Linux (well an early variant of Linux at the core). What Apple did was steal that variant (yep pretty much) and wrap the power house capability with idiot-proof, ease of use.

Guess what there is a market for both.

Now Kuiu didn't steal anything, but pretty much when you dissect these two pack systems, Seek Outside gives you access to "the bare metal" of its system. Kuiu has as robust of system, but wraps it with a more user/consumer friendly package.

Pros/Cons of Each Pack System
----------------------------------

Both Pack Systems:
- Both are some of the lightest on the market for meat/game haulers
- Both are "break away" bags that allow for integrating loads of game meat.
- Both are high quality products (all of mine have "worn" well).
- Both were the more "bang for buck" bags (IMHO) of premium bags I researched.
- Both feel very comfortable under loads. Note: Each carries differently and this could be an area your body style may find one is better than the other.
- Both stand behind their products!

Seek Outside Pros:
- Unlimited usage of every aspect of the pack system. Kind of the lego's of packs. Make any pack into anything you want.
- Tons of well thought out acccessories, add-ons, etc.
- (Mostly) Waterproof. The main bag is always Xpac
- No need to buy Seek Outside bow or gun slings to carry.
- Will carry the titanic.
- Variable load capacities for any given bag size. Because you can strap pockets, top bags, talons, your own suitcase - you freakin name it to a SO bag... Even if the base bag size is 3300 ci - you can carry about whatever you want.

Seek Outside Cons:
- Hard to use, sometimes hard to figure out.
- Extra cost in accessories
- You have to get the shoulder straps and hip sizes right to carry heavy
- Limited entry points into the bag system (top and sometimes full side)
- More "mechanic" work has to go into using the bag under different scenarios.
- Rarely can you snag a SO bag on a deal, even more rarely will you find a used one.

Kuiu Pros:
- Damn easy as hell to use. I can peel the bag off to haul meat in 30 seconds.
- Lots of zippers and entry points into the bag system.
- Lots of pockets on the bag. Well thought out pocket placement as well.
- Will carry the titanic
- Not a lot of extras to buy
- Different scenarios work pretty much the same.
- Can cruise their "outlet" and get deals on the bags and accessories.

Kuiu Cons:
- Can't accessorize much. Few additional add-ons
- Generally speaking you need to buy the Kuiu bow or gun sling to carry.
- Fixed load capacities. The bag plus pockets is close to what you get. Yes you can strap things, but the system is not as open to do so.
- When something doesn't work your options to make it work in the field are more limited.
- You have to buy and carry a rain cover.

My Final Thoughts
---------------------
As I said, I love both of these pack systems. Each fills a niche when I plan an outing. For instance, when I can only take 1 pack - its my SO Saker. It can do any profile of hunt from day pack to expedition. When I am doing "drop camp and hunt" hunting - I take my Icon 2300 bag (day pack kit) inside my Icon 5600 Pack (on frame). Then when I find a camp spot I drop the 5600 off the frame, pull the 2200 out of it and put it on the frame and hunt. Great system!

For the record here is what I have of each:

Kuiu: 1850, 2300 and 5600 bags with 2 harness & frames.
Seek Outside: 3300 Peregrine, 4800 Goshawk, 7400 Saker (full kits) plus a Broadwing and Fortress Bag (great for water ops).

I hope this helps others in their choices...

Luke Stephens aka Wilderness Master
 

Kevin_t

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As one of the designers of our Seek Outside Platform, let me say thank you for taking the time to do this and for being such a loyal customer. The Linux comparison is a good one. One of our goals and over all view of backpacks is that backpacks are for carrying stuff .. what .. who knows it's up to the customer, but we wanted to build in the adaptability to adapt really to whatever you want to carry.

That being said, one of our goals last year was not to introduce a lot of new products in the pack line, but to streamline the configuration and instructional content so it is easier for people to take out of the box, and put on and walk with. So I believe we have made a lot of progress on the initial curve in the past year. Also, we introduced a new pack line called the Flight. It is more of a backpacking and scouting pack not a load hauler, but one of our goals was to make it really really easy to put on and wear .. almost a compliment to our big pack line. So far the feedback on the Flight has been very positive.
 

ManyBullets

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Excellent write up. Once you get past the initial learning curve the SO is bad ass. Their customer service is top notch too so if you need a hand just ask them and you'll be set in about 5 minutes or less.
 

snowcamoman

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As a prior Linux user, that was a perfect comparison. Thanks for taking the time to put that together.

Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
 

LJ Buck

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Oct 7, 2013
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I don’t think these two packs really compare when hauling heavy loads. SO is in a different league on comfort based on my experience.

Also one is made in the USA and the other is China which you can tell in the quality.
 
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Gatorgrizz27

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I don’t think these two packs really compare when hauling heavy loads. SO is in a different league on comfort based on my experience.

Also one is made in the USA and the other is China which you can tell in the quality.

Vietnam actually. USA is still preferable to me, but thought I’d point it out given the Covid issue.
 

Hatchie Dawg

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Jan 3, 2015
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Great review and comparisons. I had to call also when I got my first SO. That was years ago. Still running the same one.
HD
 
OP
wildernessmaster

wildernessmaster

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Pittsboro NC
I don’t think these two packs really compare when hauling heavy loads. SO is in a different league on comfort based on my experience.

Also one is made in the USA and the other is China which you can tell in the quality.

I pointed out that "for me" both of these load well... For others they may find differences and favor one over the other. I unfortunately am built like a pack mule - so I carry loads well (thank god since I always had the entire medic kit on missions!).

But I concur with you. I will say I can see where some people might favor the Kuiu loading profile over the SO equally. Remember the frame on the Kuiu is a bit narrower and if you aren't very broad it might carry better. The "single" thing I find remarkable as a difference in loading is the more and more variable strapping system on an SO bag allows for infinite loading/strapping/balancing scenarios - which comes in very handy when you have awkward or unbalance loads.

As far as China and quality... Good point... My patriotism is kicking in these days, particularly since China has now identified itself as an enemy of the "world" and anything Chinese I am going to stop buying... Yep, gonna have to move into a log cabin and eat only beans :)... Seriously it is a good point out and one that Kuiu has taken a lot of heat on. That said, mine have not suffered in quality.
 

Chris F

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Apr 9, 2018
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I've got first hand experience with both brands. SO is an Evolution. Kuiu was a first Gen. I was attracted to the light weight and load carrying capabilities. Kuiu was light and comfortable. I only packed game out once with the Kuiu but have put on many miles of training hikes including a 20 mile boyscout hike/camp weighted at 40+ lbs.
I believe my Evolution is the first generation of SO packs. I've also got miles of use on this pack and multiple animals.
My experience is that the SO carries loads much better. My training sandbag is about 60# and the Evolution handles that without problem. I was always afraid I would break the carbon fiber legs on the first gen Kuiu when I set the pack down while hauling the bag. They have since removed those legs (for lack of a better term) in subsequent designs. That brings me to the biggest problem with the Kuiu.
The OP didn't address durability of the packs. That is the biggest difference between the two. The Kuiu's light weight came at the expense of durability. Mine was falling apart before I had a year on it.


To their credit Kuiu replaced it with a Gen2. When I called to arrange the replacement, the lady at the other end of the phone said they were targeted toward guides, and intended to last for only a season of guiding. Not good for me.
My SO Evo has become my #1 pack, and while it's dirty, and it's developed a squeek that I have to trouble shoot, it's trucked along without significant problem. The only call I made to SeekOutside was to compliment them on the material lining their inner hipbelts. The inner lining is durable and grips well to hold the load up in place. Guy I spoke to said he helped design the pack and they were especially happy to have found that material.
 
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RockChucker30

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My SO Evo has become my #1 pack, and while it's dirty, and it's developed a squeek that I have to trouble shoot,

Squeak is likely the joint in the bottom of the frame or in the frame pockets at the top. A little cleaning and some wax should clear it up.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Gmark

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This was very helpful insight for me as I am starting to research for my first pack, thank you!
Also liked the Linux / Mac analogy.
 

Ihatecrashing

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Squeak is likely the joint in the bottom of the frame or in the frame pockets at the top. A little cleaning and some wax should clear it up.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Any particular kind of wax? I developed a squeak this weekend after a gnarly windstorm that blew dust everywhere. I pulled the frame out while glassing (two cheers for the ability to field strip!) and cleaned off the bottom joint a little and most of the squeak went away. I still had some from the upper frame pockets, but I think that was the rubber stoppers on the aluminum.
 

RockChucker30

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Any particular kind of wax? I developed a squeak this weekend after a gnarly windstorm that blew dust everywhere. I pulled the frame out while glassing (two cheers for the ability to field strip!) and cleaned off the bottom joint a little and most of the squeak went away. I still had some from the upper frame pockets, but I think that was the rubber stoppers on the aluminum.

Johnson's paste wax works well. Teflon spray would as well. WD-40 in a pinch.
 

smokingfire

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Love the review. I pulled the trigger on Seek Outside a year ago and have been extremely happy with the purchase. No buyers remorse whatsoever.
 

Jason_307

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I found that the frame squeak came from the end of the tube rubbing on the shoulder of the female side. I put a plastic cap on the end and haven't had a squeak since.
 
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