Western Edge Gear Bullion Butte Youth Pack Test and Review ***Updated 12/29/20***

TheCougar

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I just received the Bulllion Butte Youth Pack along with several accessories to test and review over the course of my kids' fall hunting season. I will be covering build quality, fitment and sizing, tests on light and heavy training hikes, as well as field tests at the range and on their AZ Rifle Elk hunts in November. Western Edge Gear has generously sponsored the Rokslide 2020 Best Youth Photo Contest and the Bullion Butte pack and accessories package will go to the winner of the contest! Subscribe to this thread to follow along with the review, and don’t forget to submit your best youth hunting photo to the contest thread over on the Youth Forum: https://www.rokslide.com/forums/thr...ontest-sponsored-by-western-edge-gear.188443/

If you have any questions about the pack or accessories, or if you have ideas for the test and review, please post them up and I will incorporate them into the review.

***Edit 12/29/20*** Complete review available here.
 
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twall13

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I've been interested in these since the first time they were a sponsor. Looking forward to the review as my oldest boy is almost to the age/size he'd benefit from one of these over the REI pack he's been using.

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TheCougar

TheCougar

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I've been interested in these since the first time they were a sponsor. Looking forward to the review as my oldest boy is almost to the age/size he'd benefit from one of these over the REI pack he's been using.

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My son wore it today for a bit and he keeps telling my how much better movement he has in it than the women’s Kelly pack I had him use last year. He really likes it. I’m going to start posting this week as we test it out.
 
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TheCougar

TheCougar

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Western Edge Gear Bullion Pack Review Post #1

Western Edge gear is the only hunting-oriented youth backpack maker that I am aware of. All the packs are handmade by Steve Rude, hailing out of Dickinson, North Dakota. He tests all his ideas and gear designs on his own family before he releases them for purchase. Steve is following this review, so if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to him.

In my conversations with Steve, one of the first things that struck me are the underlying principles behind his gear - Adaptability, Durability, and Resale. Anyone who has kids knows that clothes and shoes are on borrowed time and are often viewed as "disposable items". It's a race to either outgrow or destroy kids clothing, shoes, and gear! When Steve created Western Edge, it was with the knowledge that a youth backpack needs to both grow with the hunter and be durable enough to be passed to the next sibling or be sold to another youth hunter.

Adaptability: The Western Edge backpacks are designed to grow with your kids and be versatile enough to easily fit the widest range of youth sizes with minimal effort. There are two frame or "backboard" lengths - 18" and 20" as well both small and large belts. There are two bag designs - the Mud Butte Scrambler, a 1950 cubic inch bag for your smaller hunters on a 18 or 20" frame, and the Bullion Butte, a 2760 cubic inch bag for the older kids. By mixing and matching frame height, belt size, and bag type you can pretty much cover any youth hunter from 50-150 pounds and from 48" up to about 64". What's more, since Western Edge was born from tinkering with Kifaru bags, several Kifaru accessories will attach to the bags and frame.

Durability: At the risk of sounding cliché, this pack is basically built like a mini Kifaru. As soon as I picked it up, I immediately noticed how much it looked and felt like a Kifaru bag - just smaller and at half the weight! The design is similar: the materials, belt attachment, frame stays, bag design, etc are all reminiscent of a Kifaru, albeit not as hefty. The belt and shoulder strap attachments are hook-and-loop - a similar and simplified version of a Kifaru frame design. The bag itself is made from 500D cordura and the buckles and attachment points look like they could have come from any one of the major hunting pack companies. Keep in mind what this pack isn't - it isn't designed to haul an elk rear quarter. When your youth hunter weighs 80 pounds, a 40-pound load on the pack is the equivalent of a 100-pound load on dad. I have no doubt that this frame could handle a 70-pound load, but many of us would struggle with that weight, let alone a youth hunter. With that in mind, this frame and bag combo is perfect for a youth hunter - light enough to meet its designed use, but with the same materials and design that gives confidence in long term durability that we have come to expect from a hunting pack.

Resale: The expected long-term durability of the Western Edge packs is a perfect segue into something that should speak to every Rokslider and father - reuse and resale. As a father of four, I know that I can get one pack and cycle it through all my kids, over time spreading the investment across a decade or more in the field. For those who will use the pack for a shorter period of time, Steve wanted to design a pack that was durable enough to be resold to another hunter. Knowing that the pack will last and you can recoup a significant portion of the investment is a major motivator in considering the purchase of a youth-specific pack.


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Felix40

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How big is the kid you are going to be testing this on? I know there’s a lot of adjustability but that’s a data point that I’m curious about.
 
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TheCougar

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How big is the kid you are going to be testing this on? I know there’s a lot of adjustability but that’s a data point that I’m curious about.
I’ll be testing it on three of my kids. I am going to do a complete fitment write up and include their measurements as a reference. I’ve got a 12, 10, and 7 year old who will try the pack on.
 
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TheCougar

TheCougar

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The backboard or frame comes in two sizes - 18” and 20”. I’ll be testing out the 20” frame on my kids. The 18” frame is better suited for the smaller end of the spectrum, under about 54”. I’ll be trying the 20” frame on my 7 year old daughter, about 48” tall, so I’ll get to see what is the true bottom limit of the taller frame size. The backboard is covered in cordura and has two carbon “arrows” to stiffen be backboard and support loads - very similar to a Kifaru stay design.



As you can see above, there are attachment points on the backboard that allow you to connect load compression straps that cinch down the bottom of the bag or allow you to attach an object to the bottom of the frame (sleeping pad, tent, etc). More on this in a future post.

I’ll also mention here that Steve is working on a load shelf that attaches to these points and permits carrying items between the bag and frame. He is testing the load shelf out this season and will hopefully have some feedback to post here.

The belt attaches via a “pocket” and hook and loop system that attaches to the backboard and under the lumbar pad.



There are also straps on the belts that attach to the sides of the frame and allow adjustment.



The large lumbar pad is covered in Cordura and exhibits medium firmness. When putting the pack on my son, the lumbar pad was the first thing he mentioned - he said it felt much better than the women’s Kelty pack he had been using and it locked into his back and waist better.






The shoulder straps have several inches of adjustment and use a simple hook and loop attachment. Both the shoulder straps and the waist belt have very simple attachment mechanisms, which really help if you have more than one kid who can use the pack. It only takes a minute or two in order to swap out the belts and adjust the shoulder straps.



You will also notice the lack of padding on the frame, which I thought might be an issue. So far though, my son has carried 30# in the pack and hasn’t mentioned his back rubbing on the frame.


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TheCougar

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The bag attaches to the frame by two parallel attachment straps that also serve as compression straps.




The top of the bag has a pocket that slips down over the top of the backboard. There are attachment points for the load lifter straps on the backboard and the frame pocket has cut-outs for the load lifters. This design should look very familiar to many of you.




To swap bags, put something between the bag and frame, or attach something directly to the frame, all you have to do is unhook the load lifters and pull the bag pocket off the top of the frame, loosen up the compression straps, and reattach the load lifters to the frame. You can also use the frame as a hauler without the bag, utilizing the load panel and a single compression strap across the frame.

There are two belt sizes - large and small. The large will accommodate waists from 24 - 34” and the small will accommodate 21 - 30” waists. At the larger end of the size range, the limiting factor is the padded belt which is not reach all the way around the hips.


A key feature to note is the small belts is only 4” wide compared to 6” for the large. There are two direct consequences of the smaller belt design - 1. Less surface area to distribute weight, which shouldn’t be an issue given the small stature of the youth hunter it is designed to fit and 2. The narrow width ensures smaller hunters can bend and sit without the top of the belt digging into their rib cage and stomach. Small design touches like these really show the thought and testing that went into making a kid-friendly design.




The bag I am testing is the Bullion Butte bag, approximately 2700 cubic inches in volume. The bag has an integrated lid with a large zipper. The lid is spacious and will easily hold a jacket or a large handful of gear for quick access.






The bag is accessed via a large drawcord opening under the lid or a large vertical center zip that runs the length of the bag.




The Bullion Butte bag extends down below the bottom of the frame unless you use the bottom compression straps to cinch it up. I thought it might get in the way when it hangs below the frame, but my kids hadn’t even noticed it when I asked them about it. It enables extra volume on a small frame size without the bag sticking comically far above the kid’s head.




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TheCougar

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The sides of the bag include PALS webbing for miscellaneous attachments. There is also a third compression strap on the bag itself that runs parallel to the two compression straps that attach to the frame.






The inside of the bag sports a loop for hanging a hydration bladder and a
Port for running a hose.




The exterior of the bag has two vertical side pockets that run under the compression straps and can fit a stool or tripod.

Accessories

The water bottle holder has PALS attachments that can be used on the belt. It is a simple design with a drawstring closure. It works fine for a water bottle or other items.




The accessory pouch has a zippered closure and also mounts to PALS or the waist belt.




The load panel is reversible with blaze orange on one side. The panel doubles as a pouch.






It is designed to operate as a compression panel on the outside of the bag. I also tinkered around and used the bottom cinch straps to attach the load panel directly to the frame, if you desire to use the frame as a load hauler without the bag.







Of note, in this configuration, there is only one horizontal strap holding the load secure, not including the top straps that attach the load panel. I think this is sufficient for the designed loads which are smaller and lighter than what adults might carry in a similar manner on a full size pack. It might be nice to have an extra set of attachment points on the frame for more straps, if desired.

Also included was a gun bearer. The gun bearer from Western Edge is designed to attach to the bottom of the pack with the rifle vertically situated under the horizontal compression straps.











You can also run the rifle between the bag and frame, assuming you run the bag in the “load panel” configuration with the top of the bag disconnected from the frame. I tried this and wasn’t a fan. The bag is less stable and the rifle and scope get mashed into the hard frame panel.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t prefer these type of gun bearers - I use the type that attach to the side of the pack or ones that hang forward from the waist belt and shoulder straps. I’ll also freely admit that I have no intention of trying this on a hunt. I carry the rifle on the kids hunts until it is time to shoot, as there is too much that can go wrong with kids and a scoped rifle attached to them.

I have a few reasons that I avoid these types of gun bearers. The foremost reason is that the weight is significantly aft of the frame, which tends to pull the user backwards, causing an exaggerated forward lean to compensate for the aft shift in the pack’s center of gravity. I found this to be untenable when I tried this on son. With a loaded pack, he had to practically lean at a 45 degree angle to compensate for the weight of the rifle pulling him back. The problem was mitigated a bit by running the rifle between the back and frame, but that puts a lot of stress on the scope and doesn’t allow for easy access to the rifle. Perhaps this isn’t an issue with skinny kids who aren’t built like a beanpole, but for my kids this option is a no-go. After testing out various methods with my kids, who tend to be tall and skinny, I don’t think there is any place to put the rifle on the pack or person that won’t significantly affect their balance and comfort. For reference, a 10 pound rifle equates to 15% of body weight for my largest kid. That’s the equivalent of a 30 pound rifle being carried by a 210 pound adult. I don’t know how I could comfortably carry a 30 pound rifle in the woods!


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TheCougar

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Here is the first of three fitment posts, using my oldest three kids as guinea pigs.




Here is the relative size difference between the large and small belts. The small belt gives up 1 1/2” total per side, or a 3” smaller diameter than the large belt. As mentioned in the previous post, the small belt is also thinner in width at 4”, which really helps the smaller kids move and bend over or sit without the belt digging into their stomach and ribs. Based on fitting the packs to my three kids, I would say the bottom end of the large belt fits a 23” waist (basically cinched all the way down so the buckle is up against the hip belt) and the bottom end of the small belt is around 20”. The maximum diameter of the two belts is limited more by the hip pad than the actual length of the belt. I can get the large belt around my 32” waist pretty easily with room to spare, but the padded belt barely reaches my iliac crest. Realistically I think the belts would accommodate a maximum of 28” for the small and 32-34”inches for the large.

For a detailed description of how to measure your kids, see the Western Edge Fitment webpage, located here: https://www.westernedgegear.com/fitting

I pulled the measurements for my kids exactly as described, and I called Steve to get his thoughts on what sizes would be appropriate.

My 12 year old son is 59” tall, and weighs 75 pounds. His waist measures 23.5 inches and his back measurement is 15 inches.

For my son, I ended up using the Large belt. The small belt also works for his waist, but I intend on putting my son through some training hikes and letting him carry gear and hopefully meat on the pack out, so I wanted the larger belt to better distribute the weight. With his small 23-24” waist, I basically had to crank the Large belt down all the way to the buckle when there was more than 20# in the pack. Plus he might be wearing some bulkier clothes on the hunt, so it seemed better to err on the larger size. I used very little of the shoulder strap adjustment, and there is quite a bit of room left on the load lifters as well, so I think he could probably continue to use the 20” frame until he hits 5’6” or so, then the frame will become too short for him.

Small belt and 25# in pack









Here is my son with the large belt and 25# loaded in the pack. I’ve got it belt tightened as much as it will go.




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TheCougar

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My 10 year old daughter is 57” tall and weights 65 pounds. Her waist measures 23 inches and her back measures 14 inches. I’m going to use the small belt for her. She is pretty thin and I’m not going to have her pack much weight, and the large belt is just too bulky for her frame.

This is with the small belt and 25# loaded in the pack.

There’s still a few inches you could cinch the small belt down.








A lot of room left of the load lifter angle, a d she can tilt her head back just fine.



The bag is riding fairly high, but it tends to settle an inch or so after some hiking. This is pretty typical for packs on my kids that had no hips or butt to speak of.



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TheCougar

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This is my 7 year old daughter. She is 49 inches tall, and weighs 60 pounds. Her waist is 23 inches and her back is 12 inches.

I’m really pushing the 20” frame on this one. Frankly, she needs the 18” frame. As you can see, the frame reaches too far up and impedes her head movement. She can’t look up, basically. More importantly, the shoulder pads won’t adjust down low enough to properly fit her shorter frame. Can she wear it? Yes, but really she should have the shorter frame length to allow for proper shoulder pad fit and for better head movement.

Note in this picture, I have the shoulder pads adjusted so low that they actually spill down onto the lumbar pad. I was experimenting to see if it would work. She said it bothered her back.







On this attempt, I cinched the shoulder straps all the way down at the bottom, but still couldn’t get the right fitment. Again, I’m trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole - she needs the smaller frame.






A bit more room for small
belt adjustment at 23” waist.



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TheCougar

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Besides the obvious comfort aspects of having your kids use a pack designed for them, I’ve discovered some utilitarian benefits.

For example, my Kifaru frame and bag is too big for them to use shooting seated or kneeling. This frame is perfect for them to use as a rear support or as a rear bag when seated off a tripod.







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TheCougar

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The next posts will be during the kids elk season. If there is anything specific you want to see or questions you have, please let me know.


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