Here’s a write up on how the new Stone Glacier XCurve frame and Sky 5900 bag performed for me on a 3 week hunt in Kodiak this past October & November.
Let me first start off by giving a little hunting and hiking background information.
My first sheep hunt was in 2013. I had no clue about what a lightweight backpack was at the time. I used my big Barney’s Pinnacle pack and frame to hike in for what I was planning to be a 3 day hunt. I had flown out on a trip for moose and realized I was close to the mountains and figured I’d try to get a sheep. My 3 day sheep pack weight along with my 12 pound Weatherby was in the 60 pound range going in. I managed to get a sheep the second day in the mountains amazingly and was thoroughly hooked on mountain hunting sheep.
The next year I really started to dive into lighter weight gear and packs in particular. I bought a Kifaru Bikini and Highcamp bag and borrowed a Stone Glacier Terminus as well as Kuiu Ultra 6000 to test out. I ultimately ended up ordering myself a Stone Glacier Krux frame and Sky 7400 with center zip for my 2014 trip into the Brook’s range. I honestly think the Kifaru was slightly more comfortable on me with bigger loads, but the pack layout and general comfort of the SG with my standard gear and food was right on the same level. I put in over 80 miles on that trip with my longbow in search of a legal ram and ended up getting 70 yards from a full curl ram, but not closing the deal. I loved every minute of it.
In 2015 I again used my SG Krux and Sky7400, logging probably close to 40 miles. My hunt partner who was using the same pack setup and I both ended up getting rams that season. I noticed while hiking out heavy that a pressure point on my hips was forming. I made some adjustments in the field and it helped, but it still was there and I just took things a bit slower to keep it at a minimum. I didn’t have to hike too far with the heavier load, but could tell that if I was going to have to put in serious miles, that the hip belt would likely be a bigger issue for me.
For 2016 I started training pretty hard early in the season with heavier loads in my pack. I was resolved to try out a different frame and hip-belt setup. A couple guys recommended the new Kifaru hunter setup. I bit the bullet and ordered the newest Kifaru Hunting duplex and Argali bag along with a bunch of pockets and guide lid. I trained with it heavy and it edged out the SG for comfort on my hips, mostly due to the pressure distribution of the wider belt and downward conical shape that molded to my hips over a bigger area. My hunt partner also bought the exact same setup for our hunt. We hunted hard in some of the nastiest glacial country I’ve ever hunted. While the packs performed well, we both found that the meat in the bag deal was far from our preferred method to pack out. We both had leaky blood issues in our bags and found that trying to fit everything into over 8200 cubic inches of bag (meat, food, gear) was near impossible without strapping stuff to the outside of the pack. We spent quite a bit of time on this trip discussing the things about packs that we liked the best and what we came up with was that we both loved the simplicity, stream line look, and effectiveness of the SG load shelf system. After we returned from the field, my hunt partner quickly re-ordered another SG Krux and Sky 7400 setup for a Kodiak hunt we were doing two months down the road. I was at a cross-road on packs and frames. I loved everything about the SG, except at those times when I hit the higher weight loads for distance hikes.
I called Kurt with SG and had a really good discussion about packs and fit. I had read about SG making custom modifications to the Krux belts to help guys and figured it was worth a try. Kurt was very patient and listened intently to what was going on with me and the pressure issue I was experiencing. That’s when he told me that he had a new prototype frame and bag that he wanted to send me. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I gladly accepted the offer and received the pack from Jumar on here who also was testing it out.
When I received the pack, I quickly loaded up 30 pounds in it and started to tinker around with the new hip-belt double tensioners. I could tell right away that the ability to control the upper and lower pressure around the hips was going to be a game changer. I loaded up 80 pounds in the new Sky5900 pack and put some miles on it. I did a few minor hip tension tweeks right away in the hike and after that, the pack rode along perfectly. There was zero pressure points and the belt stayed put like it was super-glued to me. The new integrated forward assist pulls on the XCurve belt are the best I’ve used. They lock down tight and stay put. In fact, they lock down so tight I had to use two hands to loosen the buckle from the webbing after taking it off. I’m happy to use two hands for this though, rather than having to mess around while hiking re-tightening the belt.
I ended up putting 3 weeks on the pack in Kodiak hunting. It was used to haul several deer as well as gear/food for goats. Weather ranged from sunny and warm to blowing snow whiteouts. The terrain the pack was used to haul weight in varied from flat beach hiking to jungle infested nightmares and everything in between. The streamline pack and bag on the SG really works well at moving through brush with very minimal hang ups. I’m a sucker for a very streamlined pack without a bunch of add-on items. The only real hang up I had was my rifle barrel, but I’ll have that licked soon with a 4.2lb short barrel mountain rifle. To say that the new frame is impressive is an understatement. Even with additional clothing layers on for cooler temperatures, the ability to adjust the hip belt pressure allows me to get the fit perfect every time. The new curve shaped frame really distributes pressure on the lumbar area. I never had issues with lumbar pain, but this new frame is similar to having the lumbar in your truck seat adjusted to that sweet spot that makes long hauls extra comfortable. I wasn’t told about any other upgrades to the new frame, other than the obvious differences, but there was obviously some additional SG Magic put into this frame. The new curved shoulder straps and foam in dual density foam in the hip belt are just icing on the cake for me.
The new Sky5900 bag that I received with the XCurve frame is a beautifully thought out bag. I have never put panel loading ability on my list of critical bag features, but after using this bag, it makes the list. The ability to lay the pack down in my Hilleberg Soulo vestibule and easily open up the panel for access while sitting down is luxurious. There’s no need to haunch over my pack or bag to go digging around for anything. The re-loading of the pack from the panel load is awesome as well. I can more effectively pack my bag in less time through the panel access. I’ve always wanted a dedicated big spotter pocket in the center of my pack that also holds my tripod. The spotter pocket on the Sky5900 nails it way out of the park. I also had enough room in the pocket to fit my foam seat, which is a nice way to put a layer of protection around the spotter and tripod and keep things hunkered down more. My hunting partner finally gave up getting his spotter out when we stopped, since I could get mine out and setup so fast with the easy access. As you can see in several of the pictures below, I used the larger side pockets on the pack for my rifle. The larger side pockets also worked for keeping a Nalgene bottle handy. I was concerned at first that I might lose it, but the bottle stayed put.
Overall I think this new frame is a dream come true for guys like me who loved everything about the SG system and bags, but had fit issues with the older Krux hip-belt. I want to thank Kurt for giving me a chance to test out this new frame and bag. It’s great to see the owner of a company take customer input and then turn them into awesome products. It’s a sure win for the hunters out there.
thanks for the awesome review on kifaru kuiu and stone glacier.
have you had a chance to try an exo?
curious how it would compare.
I have one, and have found it makes my lower back hurt!