I have two youth Daughters who hunt quite a bit with me the last few years, and just added a third who turned 10 in time for a late cow elk hunt. The older two have gone on some grueling pack-in elk hunts and have been lucky enough to take bulls on several of those. One thing that hasn’t helped on these is the youth gear we have used. Primarily packs that don’t fit well—either too big or having to go with a pack that is small and can’t carry what we need it to. One successful elk hunt where both of my daughters had oversized packs turned out miserable on the packing end of things. The packs hurt their shoulders or hips just due to lack of adjustment down.
Western Edge Gear
Steve with Western Edge Gear knew I wrote for Rokslide, and contacted me about a youth pack he wanted me to review. I was excited and I think I messaged back in 30 seconds! Unfortunately, the backpack arrived right after a couple of backpack elk hunts with heavy pack-outs. However, it came in time for a deer hunt.
A Well-Made Youth Pack
Right away, it caused a fight. Both daughters fought over who got to use it first because it fit both so well. #dadlife
My first take on it was that it is well made with quality materials, very streamlined, and simple; the hip belt is thick and cushy. The shoulder straps are nice and solid but cushy (not sure I’ve ever used that word). More info here.
Because Western Edge Gear Specializes in youth gear, primarily backpacks, Steve was very helpful throughout the testing process. I learned quickly that he is always looking to make any improvements he can. He strives to make his packs adaptable, durable, and saleable. I think he does all that very well.
My Three Pack Testers
My daughters hunting this season are aged 14,12, and 10. They are all slightly framed but range in height from 5’7″ on down to 5′. Western Edge Gear has several options to choose from. With my wide range of users and the fact we usually do backpack hunts for elk, Steve decided to send me a prototype Long X 22.
Long X 22
There are about four inches of adjustability in the shoulder straps. The Long X 22 also comes with a larger bag that is 4000 cubic inches. This pack has a larger torso than most of the packs Western Edge Gear makes. In fact, as of press time, 20” was the tallest they carry on their website.
Western Edge Gear Long X 22 Bag Features include:
- 500 Cordura material
- Grab handle
- Center zip opening
- Drawstring top opening
- Hydration reservoir hang loop and hose port
- Two side pockets for water bottles or gear
- Two-row/4-column PALS grid for attaching pouches
- Detachable top lid with “back door” zipper
- Main bag 9″x13″x30″
- Side pockets 3″x7″x20″
- Top lid: 10″x12″x1.5″
- 4000 cubic inches (65 L)
- 4 lb, 10 oz, with 22″ backboard and large belt
Adjustability Is Good
We went on a hunt soon after receiving it. Being that it fits my two older girls so well in comparison to what they used in the past, we didn’t take the time to learn all of the capabilities and how easy it is to fine-tune the adjustment.
It wasn’t until I took my just-turned-10-year-old daughter on a late-season cow hunt. She is quite a bit smaller than her sisters. Steve sent me a video after seeing a picture with my daughter and noticing the pack wasn’t adjusted properly. I had it fixed in a snap—super quick and easy. Now I can switch it back from one daughter to another very quickly.
My older daughters on their deer hunts fought over the Long X 22. They both got to use it while carrying more weight than they ever had. They loved it and both said it was comfortable which is a stark contrast from packing with other oversized packs. All I normally hear are complaints. “My hips hurt”, and “my shoulders are going to fall off”. I usually feel awful and end up carrying anything of theirs I can fit into my pack. This time I found myself sticking extra water and other items in the Western Edge Gear pack. #dadrevenge
Good Bag Access
The bag is large and easy to get items in and out of. It has a big zipper that goes down the middle making it easy to access items at the bottom. The mouth is wide and easy to get large jacket-sized items in and out even while wearing heavy gloves. Kids tend to get cold and hot a lot faster than adults. Hiking up they will be pulling stuff off; then sit for a minute they will want it all back on. It was nice to have a pack with plenty of room with easy access to the top. In the past, I just carried their jackets rather than stop and mess with the packs.
Three compression straps wrap around the pack’s top, middle, and bottom allowing you to compress loads. And make the pack less bulky when used as a day pack. They also support meat on the meat shelf. I didn’t realize at the beginning that the pack had a meat shelf and actually a quite good one. It is fairly similar to my EXO, except for the bottom (which holds the meat) is quite a bit simpler and works better in my opinion. It’s also designed to hold the meat up higher without slipping. The pack bag, also similar to an EXO, can be pulled off the frame fairly quickly.
The Long X 22 comes with two side pockets which are big enough for a normal sized spotting scope and a tripod for reference. The large bag easily will fit anything a kid would need for any type of hunt. It fit an elk quarter no problem (as said, I didn’t realize it had a meat shelf when we killed that elk).
The bag seems tough and to me is very similar to a Kifaru—simple but effective. The belt comes in different sizes. And it’s also similar in design to the Kifaru belt. It has webbing to add pouches to either side of the hip belt. There are multiple webbing spots on the pack to attach items as well.
The lid is very functional and has two zippers— one on the outside and one on the inside. There are straps on the lower portion of the pack that attaches to the lid and allow you to cinch it down. They offer several accessories including a rifle carrier that I want to try out.
Looking Forward To More Use
We didn’t get to use and test the pack to its fullest capabilities due to receiving it after all the backpack hunt seasons were over. We are excited to use it extensively this upcoming season.
But it’s easy to say already that it is top-notch quality. From what I can tell, it will hold up really well as far as durability goes. At this point, it’s hard to point out any negative. I do wish I had gone with the 20-inch frame as all my daughters used it below quite a bit from max height, and for my youngest, it was a bit too big.
It seems to have some of the best qualities from both Kifaru and EXO, which are packs I personally use. There is not enough quality youth hunting gear out there and it is important to give our youth the best chance to enjoy hunting and become hooked for life.
I’m starting to learn everyone doesn’t like pain like I seem to. Making kids miserable isn’t going to help make them lifelong partners. The packs aren’t cheap, though, and it can be hard to spend money on growing kids. But with the quality, they can be passed down from kid to kid. Also, I don’t see my daughters ever growing out of it since I think it would fit many smaller adults, especially women. If you have only one kid and they grow out of it, it is such a quality piece of gear and with so little competition in the market, it should be very salable. See all the pack options and order here.
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