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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralNeed a pack recommendationNeed a pack recommendation
New Post
7/24/2011 10:03 PM

I have been looking at lot's of packs, but I am having trouble deciding which way to go. I am looking for a decent quality pack for day hiking, day hunts, and light overnight trips. I really like the look of the Kifaru Spike Camp, but wonder if the pack warrants the price it commands compared to one of a similar size from North Face, Mountain Hardware etc AND if it will be big enough. Any input would be appreciated. I am trying to avoid adding to the pile of daypacks in my gear room, and come up with a decent quality pack that will fill the above roles for many years to come.

New Post
7/25/2011 10:05 AM

This is probably my favorite pack category -- what I've always called a "day and a half pack". Size range is 2500 - 3500ci. Compresses well enough to use for a summer day hike, but big enough for a gear intensive winter outing or summer overnight. A pack like this can be packed and ready to go for any eventuality. In fact, mine is sitting about 10 feet away from me as I write this, ready to go. It has all of the stuff I always carry:

  • 4 qts water
  • cook kit (trangia stove nested in REI ti tea kettle)
  • day's worth of food
  • standard clothing layering system
  • first aid kit
  • water filter
  • 4 spare magazines
  • instep crampons
  • golite utopia 2  floorless tent
  • REI crazy creek knock off
  • mountain serape

In the fall / winter / early spring, I'll also be carrying my small wood stove and maybe a snow shovel. With this setup plus the stuff in my Kit Bag, I'm basically good to go anywhere anytime. Depending on night time temps, I may not be super warm in just the Mountain Serape, but I'll get by, even moreso with the wood stove.

For training hikes  (like yesterday's 6 miler), I'll add 30 pounds of weights to up my pack weight to 65 or 70 pounds. For a planned overnighter, I just strap my bedroll to the top of the pack. The bedroll consists of thermarest neo air trekker, slumberjack 30 degree bag, and 2 pillows stuffed into a smallish sleeping bag sack. With the bedroll plus mountain serape, I'm good down into the low 20s.

About the only downside to this setup is that, as loaded, it's a little heavy for mountain biking. The pack itself is plenty comfortable for mountain biking, thanks to a HPG design that allows for free shoulder movement. 30-40 lbs is just too much weight to ride with.

So, how do you choose a pack to fill this role? The only thing truly superlative about Kifaru packs is the duplex hipbelt (that doesn't come on the Spike Camp - it's an upgrade). I don't believe that a better hipbelt has ever been made, and it's enough better than everything else that it is the only hipbelt we'll use. We use them on everything from lumbar packs on up to full size external frame packs. Other hipbelts might work fine for other folks, but based on our experience, any pack we make or buy has to be compatible with the Kifaru duplex hipbelt (PALS version for mounting our water bottle holsters) or it is a no go. For example, Scot is now using an REI XT85 for his full size pack -- fitted with a Kifaru duplex belt. Many packs can be made to work with the Kifaru duplex, but it might take some figuring and rigging on your part to do so. Kifaru packs, of course, can all be used with the duplex.

The Spike Camp is a nice little pack with a very trim design. Add a grab it, PALS duplex belt, and a couple of our 1qt bottle holsters, and you've got a pack that will fit the niche we've defined pretty nicely. It sucks that it doesn't have wand pockets, but that is what it is. What are weight it's limitations? The stay length (21", same as on my day and a half pack) aren't really enough to keep heavy loads off of your shoulders. My personal pack makes use of the HPG shoulder harness, which distributes weight a lot better than Kifaru shoulder straps. That's what makes 70lbs doable. I haven't personally used the Spike Camp to know at what point the shoulder straps become uncomfortable. I can tell you that, with my MMR, I don't want those shoulder straps to be load bearing at all. Not comfortable. With the 24" MMR frame height, they're not load bearing.

Will packs from other companies fill this role as well or better than the Spike Camp? No doubt -- if they have decent load transfer to the hipbelt and the hipbelt is a Kifaru duplex. When it comes to packbag design, there are many companies that are ahead of Kifaru and you're far more likely to fall in love with another company's packbag than you are a Kifaru. Depending on the exact role you want to fill, you can also angle for something with enough frame height to give you true shoulder lift under heavy loads. Your torso length will dictate what this is, but I would imagine that 23" is a minimum for most folks. I didn't really expect my day and a half pack to carry 70lbs as comfortably as it does. I was optimizing in the other direction when I built it. I was thinking in terms of beltless carry and airline travel. Now I'm thinking that maybe I should have just added a couple of extra inches in height to make it super capable. There are always trade offs.

Well, that's plenty to chew on for now. I hope some other folks chime in with their thoughts.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
7/25/2011 1:19 PM

Evan, thanks for the awesome post!

SO...where are the HPG packs?? :) Now it would be a drag to buy a pack now only to see you release one 3 weeks later!!

I do like the look of the Spike Camp, but I am going to check out a couple of other packs I have looked at recently to try and see if the Kifaru belt would work on them.  Now with the Kifaru duplex you mention, are you referring to the Omni belt then? The Kifaru site isn't really clear (to me anyway) that the omni belt is an extra. The grab it is a good idea. I wonder if it would work decent enough to hold boned out meat in their meat bags to the outside of the pack?

I have been using the same Lowe Alpine day pack for the last 20 years. It has been a decent pack, but it doesn't fit the bill for all the things I need it to do.

The quest continues!

New Post
7/25/2011 2:11 PM

It's not work if it's something you love, right?

I used a Lowe Contour 1 for a lot of years. Think I got it around 1987. It got better with a framesheet, but still the load mostly rides on the shoulders. I've still got all of my climbing gear in it.

The duplex is a big step up from the omni belts. It comes on the EMR, MMR, and longhunter packs. Purchased separately, it's an $80 belt.  The Spike Camp comes with an omni. Don't know what the upcharge for a duplex is. I've had people go from not liking their Spike Camps to loving them with the addition of a duplex belt.

The grab it would let you haul a sit pad or snow shovel or snowshoes or what have you under normal circumstances. Then you'd want to put your meat baggies inside of the pack, and use the grab it to hold all of your other gear so the greatest weight stays close to your center of gravity.

We've done preliminary costing on packs and we'd have to charge around $300 or more for something like the one in the pictures (including duplex quality belt). That just doesn't seem like a good value for folks, particularly when there are so many alternatives. I think packs are in our future, but that will come when we've got something that is without peer in the marketplace, rather than just solid execution of something you can get 10 other places.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
7/25/2011 8:59 PM

Quit teasing us with your pack already! Dont even talk about it if we cant buy one, its hard enough already. I would gladly pay $400 for a HPG day and half pack in ranger green. I will be waiting impatiently. 

I love my spike camp though, now that i have a better hip belt on it. The omni belts just dont work for me. It would also be alot better with an inch or two taller stays. 

New Post
7/30/2011 9:02 AM

Well the quest continues! I was in an outdoor store the other day and spent over an hour looking at commercial off the rack backpacks. I can't believe how many packs are made in Vietnam!

I looked at packs from The North Face, Vaude, Marmot, Lowe Alpine, Osprey, and a few others I can't remember. There was only one pack that looked like it could be upgraded to a duplex belt without major modifications, and that was one from Lowe Alpine. Unfortunately, while an interesting pack, it is too big for what i had in mind. It was a 65L pack expandable to 85L. Vaude had a nice 55L pack, but the hip belt on it was a weird design that I didn't care for. It didn't look like it could be replaced easily.

I completed my search the same day with a look at the Mystert Ranch website. They have two packs in their hunting line that interested me, the Dragon Slayer and the NICE Longbow.

Any input on the Mystery Ranch line and their NICE frame? The Dragon Slayer is not part of the NICE line. How do they compare as a pack builder to Kifaru?

I need to narrow down my decision soon! I have a backpack hunt on September 11th for a week. I got a draw for Mountain Goat in the same area I bagged a Goat two years ago. I have some supplies cached, so I still only need a 1.5 day pack, even though I am going for a week!

Looking at the price range of the packs that I have seen so far that interest me, I also have no issue with a $300 range HPG pack! Only trouble is, you need to make one before I go hunting!

New Post
7/30/2011 4:14 PM

For me to recommend a pack i would need to know how your going about goat hunting. If your gonna be hauling a goat out of the mountains(either a day trip or backpack) then i would rule out the MR Dragon Slayer.

I would say MR packs are better than Kifaru in the following ways: They have better designed pack bags. They are built alot better and are stouter than Kifaru packs.

Kifaru is better than MR because the have a great suspension system, better hip belts and alot more comfortable over all than MR.

This is just my opinion, others will agree or disagree. Tell us more about your goat hunt so we can help you better. One thing about MR is you can order a pack, get it less than a week. Then try it on and send it back if you have too. If your hunt is in Sep. I would call Kifaru before ordering, dont want to not get your pack or get it and find out you dont like it days before your hunt.

New Post
7/31/2011 9:23 AM

The Mountain Goat Hunting trip ascent takes about 6 hours to get to our base camp/cache. During the ascent, I carry the essentials, food and water for the day, clothes for a change in weather, survival kit, rifle and ammunition. The pack is then used everyday to carry what I need while away from the base camp.

The last time I packed out with a kill, I had the same stuff, a sack of boned out meat and the horns as well as a Mossberg 500 in the pack. (I used an Eblerstock Gunslinger on the past trip.) I shot a two year old Billy for meat so I didn't have the head and cape to pack out.

The only difference on this trip would be if the hunt is successfull and I shoot a decent Goat, I will have to pack out a head and cape on top of everything else. The Mossberg isn't going this time either, just the rifle.

I won't be using the Eblerstock on this trip...I sold it off. I ended up not being a fan of having the gun boot incorporated inside the pack.

New Post
8/1/2011 7:53 AM

I'm glad Big W chimed in because I don't have any first hand experience with the MR stuff. I will say that my favorite big load pack, the Dana Designs Terraframe, was designed by the man behind MR. I do use Patrick's hipbelt on it though.

Every Osprey pack that I've looked at could be converted to use the Kifaru hipbelt.

I will say that based on your description, I'd be looking at more load capacity rather than less. I'd rather be carrying a 5lb "full size" pack compressed than most daypacks. Have you looked at the REI XT85? I'm pretty sure it's made by Osprey and is doggone near a perfect packbag design.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
8/1/2011 8:22 AM

I have a G1 Express similar in purpose to Evan's pack. Same suspension as the Spike Camp but heavier material and weight. In G2 garb, they now weigh the same. Go figure. I never tried it with the Omni-belt so I can't compare, but with the Duplex belt from my LH Guide it is pretty comfy for such a small pack. I use it for weekend trips carrying my camp (bag, pad and shelter) in a medium pod on the back and the rest within. If the weather isn't too cold, it holds enough and carries the weight fine. It is also intended for day hunting for elk so that I can get out a decent load and then return with my "big" pack for more. It's a very versatile animal, although I suspect Evan's execution is somewhat more than solid.

However, for your purposes I'd really think it too small. If you are looking at a G2 version, the pack weighs over 4 lbs. Do you want 2,300 ci and reduced carrying capacity or 5,400 ci and increased capacity (referring to the load weight) for only about a pound more in pack weight? The REI pack Evan references is very intriguing. Hadn't really noticed it before. What all needs to be done to get it to work with a Kifaru belt?

New Post
8/1/2011 8:50 AM
I have been using an xt85 large with a kifaru duplex hipbelt since the beginning of the summer. It took a couple of minutes to put the kifaru hipbelt on it. I am on the road but will try to get a full review up later this week. The sort version is I recommend the pack.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
8/1/2011 8:52 AM

Scot has an XT85 that he's used on one backpacking trip and quite a few training hikes. He's loving it. I suspect it has a more capable suspension than the new Kifaru Timberline, although smaller volume -- sort of. Anything that extends above the stays on a pack must be properly stabilized. This is a combination of lid design, lid attachment design, and frame design. The Osprey lid and lid attachment design (identical between the XT85 and Osprey packs, which is why I think the XT85 is an Osprey) is simply superb. Combine that with a perimeter frame sort of like an external on the XT85 and I think it is going to do a much better job stabilizing an above frame load than the Kifaru packs do. Just throw an ultralight stuff sack full of gear up there under the top lid to get your 7500 ci. Pocket layout on the XT85 is fantastic.

The Kifaru hipbelt goes right on it. The only modification that I made to mount Scot's was as follows - the perimeter frame terminates in either corner of the hipbelt in an unfinished end. I thought that over time those uncovered frame tips might work a hole in the hipbelt pocket. So I just doubled over some 1" webbing and sewed each side of them and slipped those tip protectors onto the perimeter frame rods. You could accomplish the same thing with electrician's tape or something. I'm not sure that it's even necessary really. I should also note that in addition to the perimeter frame (also identical to one I've seen on an Osprey pack), there are traditional twin vertical stays that are spaced properly to slide right into the stay pockets on the Kifaru hipbelt.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
8/1/2011 6:56 PM

I started a new thread with my review of the xt85

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
8/3/2011 7:09 AM

I am not clear on how a Duplex Belt would be best used with a Spik Camp or Express.  Do you remove the stay pockets from the belt and add velcro?

Or do you cut a slit in the packs stay channels and use the Haplon stay pockets?  I am guessing the shoulder strap attachment  would be removed from the belt?  

I have a Duplex belt on another  pack, but it seems like som non reversable modifications will be nessesary.  Thanks, Woody

New Post
8/3/2011 9:34 AM

Perhaps it depends on the generation of Kifaru pack you're talking about. Every one of those two models I've seen (which isn't many) has the bottoms of the stays exposed once you undo the lumbar pad. You just put the bottoms of the stays into the hypalon stay pockets on the Duplex belt. A trick I've used on other non-Kifaru packs is to cut a section of old samsonite suitcase ($1.50 yard sale specials for the most part) to the correct height and width to fit into the big pocket on the duplex hipbelt and then be vertically trapped by the lumbar pad. I've used this on kid carrier, Gregory, and Dana packs.

As to the shoulder strap attachment, you've got a couple of options. First, you can tie or tuck the now unnecessary shoulder strap attachment away somewhere like underneath of the lumbar pad. Second, you can do what I've done on a couple of these belts and cut the shoulder strap attachment with enough length left over to fold it over and sew it together with a looplock in the loop. Then add a metal 3 bar to the other part of the shoulder strap attachment and you've got a removable shoulder strap attachment. This is the non-reversible modification that doesn't really give anything up. Admittedly, this goes from being a trivial task if you have a heavy duty sewing machine to a little bit of a headache if you have to find someone to do it for you.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
8/3/2011 11:51 AM

I've got a G1 Express and the stays are compleatly enclosed.   I would be inclined to try sewing velcro to the Duplex Belt vrs. cutting a slit in the stay channel.

New Post
8/3/2011 12:47 PM

It works just laying the belt in there. You wouldn't think so to look at it, but it does. I had planned to add velcro at some point but have never needed it even with relatively heavy loads.

New Post
8/3/2011 10:45 PM

That REI XT85 is pretty interesting looking, but it seems a tad large for day and a half trips. MInd you I tend to pack pretty heavy anyway, but I think if I start carrying a pack as big as the REI I will allow myself to start carrying a beer keg or something!

I have been up in the mountains of Whistler, BC the last few days and have been in all kinds of outdoor shops looking at different packs. Nothing really has caught my eye here. Might try and get down to Seattle and have a look at some more packs. I do appreciate the post on the REI XT85. I looked at them online and will see if REI has something similar that might work, just a bit smaller.

New Post
8/4/2011 8:15 AM

There is a smaller 70L version of the XT that may suit you better. Same perimeter frame construction. Even better color IMO. ;)


New Post
8/8/2011 8:27 PM

I managed to make it into the REI store in Bellingham today. I picked up an REI Crestrail 70! Looks like an awesome pack. I hope to have it out on the trail this Saturday.

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