Sitka Mountain Hauler 6200 Review
By Josh Boyd, Rokslide Prostaff
I used my first Sitka pack in 2008 when the Bivy 45 was first introduced. It was a great pack for carrying camp and day gear but performed poorly when stuffed with a full load of boned elk meat. Even after going through several makeovers, it never became a true load hauler. So, when I first heard that a new Sitka load-hauling pack was under development, I was eager to get my hands on it for some testing. I ended up putting the Sitka Mountain Hauler 6200 to use for its intended purpose during spring bear hunting and archery elk seasons in 2017. This is how it stacked up in the competitive pack market.
Specifications, Adjustability, & Sizing
The main bag is 4000 cubic inches (in3) and 5000 in3 when an internal zippered baffle is expanded. The outer back pocket adds 700 in3 and the lid 550 in3 for a total volume of 6250 in3. The empty pack without any accessories weighs 6.4 pounds.
The shoulder harness yoke will adjust to fit torso lengths from 17” to 22”. My torso length is 17.5” and I had the yoke pulled into the small setting. The load lifters can be adjusted in height along the frame by moving a metal tab into one of five webbed loops. This gives the user a 2.5-inch vertical adjustment range allowing for a variety of load lifter angles. The waist belt on my test pack is a large and fits a 28” to 36” waist. The extra-large will fit a 34” to 40” waist. The front buckle is a 2” variety with 1.5” webbing that pulls frontward to adjust. There is a large lumbar pad centered between the curved sides of the hip belt. Like the shoulder harness yoke, the waist belt is covered in open mesh fabric.
The frame is solid aluminum rod bent and welded into shape, though it has a fiberglass rod attached to the bottom of the frame to give it a little flexibility in the hips and lower back. The frame length is 26” and the width tapers from 13” where the shoulder straps attach to 10.5” at the waist.
The waist belt is vertically stiff, flared in shape and well cushioned, making for a comfortable fit. There is space for accessories which are secured with horizontal Velcro straps. Shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable with mesh backing. The chest strap is easily adjustable as it slides up and down on a raised track and has been very durable.
There is an internal expansion baffle which is zippered and adds 1000 in3 of volume to the main pack when unzipped. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was really needed, but in actual use, it is a useful feature that adds significant capacity when fitting a really bulky load into the bag. A load sling attaches directly to the frame inside of the main bag. The top and bottom clip into the frame with quick release buckles. It easily holds an elk quarter on the upper two-thirds of the frame. The straps are long and adjustable up and down as load sizes vary. It rolls up and clips out of the way or can be stowed in the hydration pouch when not in use.
Antler straps are attached to the main bag above the outer pocket and clip into loops on top of the frame near the load lifters. The straps are over four feet in length allowing for very creative lashing patterns if needed. I used them to lash a very awkward elk head to a full load of meat and camping gear and was very grateful of the long length. These are very useful features.
There is one external zipper on the lower bag, which is similar to a more traditional circular “sleeping bag style” of zipper. It was useful to access the lower contents of the bag, but I would prefer full-length two-way side zipper access. The back pocket is very handy for storing clothing. I used it frequently, storing a puffy jacket, rain jacket, and warm gloves in it for quick use. A full-length two-way zipper bisects the pocket, making for easy access. The two side pockets are mesh with a little elastic around the top. They are large enough for a full-size Nalgene bottle, a rifle stock, a couple of grouse, trekking poles, or a wet tent fly.
The fabric is a 220-denier nylon with a coating of polyurethane on both sides, which allows for easy cleanup of blood from inside the pack as well as keeping the bag somewhat water resistant on the outside. The fabric generates noise when scraped by tree branches and brush, but it isn’t any noisier than the Cordura fabric found in other high-end packs.
The removable 550 in3 top lid is divided into two separate pockets with zippered access to each. There is a small removable waterproof pouch attached inside for extra waterproof insurance for valuables like a smartphone, small camera, maps, or fire starter.
This bag feels a little tall with day loads in the pack, but not too bulky and it may feel completely different to a person with a longer torso. Under big heavy loads, I didn’t get any chaffing or rubbing on my shoulders, back or waist. The padding on the shoulder yoke combined with the cupped waist belt eliminates any potential hot spots caused by slippage or poor fit. The padding breathability is on par with most other packs on the market. Over the course of use, the belt stayed tight and didn’t slip under heavy loads.
The frame is wider than most other internal frame packs, which adds a little more stability. When loaded down, it feels like an external frame pack but with more flexibility and stability because the load rides closer to the spine and offers a lower center of gravity. The load shelf does a good job keeping heavy loads snug and in the perfect position against the spine.
The main bag compresses enough when empty for it to stay out of the way and not feel really bulky. I used it for day hunts once a spike camp was in place and I didn’t feel hindered by the size or noise of the pack. It sits a little high to be a real stealthy compressed daypack, especially in heavy brush and timber. But this height provides excellent control of heavier loads due to the leverage it affords with its length. In fact, I archery killed an elk in thick timber while wearing the compressed pack and was glad to have the available capacity and stability.
The ideal user is a hunter who needs a large volume pack for extended trips and is prepared to carry camping gear and meat in the same load. The Sitka Mountain Hauler 6200 is a pack for someone who wants a comfortable and durable pack and values organization over having the lightest weight pack on the market. This is not a specialized lightweight pack for the ounce-counting ultra-light crowd, but more of a general duty pack for the hunter who does one or two trips a year into the backcountry. It could also be a great pack for the front country day hunter who wants a pack in the truck ready to haul a massive load of meat back to the vehicle. Or a fly-in/float hunter who wants to carry as much meat as possible in one trip back to camp.
You can comment or ask Josh questions here.