During the spring I didn't get the chance to really test the pack to extreme weights. The weight I did put on the pack felt like half. I was extremely pleased with the overall performance.
I tried to pack everything I would have for a 3 to 5 day hunt. The only thing I was short on was extra food and my tent. I only kept enough food for two days. With that being said I was still hauling roughly 35 to 40 lbs.
After a few days and right around 12 to 15 miles of rough country I was blown away that I didn't have near the shoulder or hip fatigue I usually get. I felt like I could hike all day and night without having to take it off at all. Normally I'm ready to shed my pack after just a couple of miles.
I had very high expectations for this pack, but I worried I may have set the bar too high. Well it definitely wasn't set high enough. The creators of this pack, Steve Speck and Lenny Nelson, far surpassed everything. I was able to pack everything I needed with extra room available. The gear was easy to access and I found a specific place for my equipment to keep it all organized. The weight of the pack is hard to beat. The overall design of the pack held up to what was stated on the site. The load stayed even on my back, once the straps were tightened there was no give, and for the majority of the days I couldn't even tell the pack was there.
I did have one question on the pack as far as being noisy. As I answered them I don't know if there is a true whisper quiet material out there but the material the Exo is made out of is a lot quieter than I expected. I was very impressed with how quiet it actually is. I wasn't sure how it would be as out of the box I did notice it to be somewhat noisy. After my tough hike and having to climb out the bottom of a chute to my pickup I continually ran into branch after branch. The material held up and was much quieter than I thought it would be. So all in all it's a very tough quiet material.
I did run into one issue and that was having the back support slip up on the titanium rail, which made the pack uncomfortable for a period of time. Once I figured out the problem and readjusted it was back to normal.
The biggest things I was happy with was being able to organize my gear with ease of access, the amount of ways to attach gear, the durability, ride of the pack, lack of adjustment after hiking for miles, and having more than adequate room to keep me out longer.
One feature that I was very pleased with is the outside stretchy pocket. I was able to add and remove layers as needed an never had to worry about knowing where each item was.
Another nice feature is the strap keepers. They are very simple by design but keeps everything together an leaves no excess straps to catch on things.
One thing that also caught my attention was the lumbar pad. It was amazing how much that feature helps. It is a gracious amount of pad, but made such a huge difference even with only the normal weight I carry. The padding will definitely show what it has to offer once a hind quarter from an elk is added or any other significant weight.
I was also very surprised that I had little to no sweat on my back. The only sweat I noticed was just normal sweat you would have from hiking even without a pack.
I'm very excited to add some accessories to the pack to give it a little more customization. I have already added some Velcro to things I attached to the hip belt, but the items coming out specifically for the pack will be a great addition.
I couldn't find a whole lot that I would do different to the pack. The only things I found I may change was a little more padding to the back padding between the shoulders. Not that it isn't adequate by any means it was the only area that had a little discomfort. It definitely wasn't a discomfort that made the pack horrible it was just an area I felt a little more than other areas. A lot of that had to do with it slipping up. Most likely it was an adjustment error on my part.
Another area was pockets. This was an area I mentioned in part 1 as well and it's just a preference for me to keep gear just a tad more organized. With that being said I was still able to keep very organized. This was mainly due to the main compartment zipper which gives you access to equipment from both top and bottom as well as the small mesh pocket in the main compartment, and the top lid pocket.
In the end I'm still blown away by this pack. I have truly found my extended an day pack. Overall I give the pack a 9.5 out of 10. The only negatives I feel are just me being picky.
If you are in the market for a new pack I would strongly suggest getting your hands on this pack. It will serve me for my day hunts to as long as 7 day excursions. I look forward to putting this pack to the test this fall. My next adventure will be archery antelope of drawn followed by a lengthy archery elk hunt where I should be able to really tax the pack.
Here are a few photos of my use in the field.
I had been anticipating finally getting the chance to chase after some black bears after recently moving to western MT. I never really put much thought or effort into actually hunting them, but now that I'm living right in some great bear country I couldn't pass up the chance to do so.
After getting nice and rested up I headed back to the same area as the previous day and glassed a wide open area that would give me the opportunity to spot a bear in the open. I began the morning by spotting several elk and had the privilege of getting to see them interact in their environment. It was great to see them chasing each other around. I spent the morning glassing for around 4 hours and didn't see much. I explored some more of the area as it is all new.
After going back to work for the week and having the itch even more I headed back to see if I could find another bear. I headed back to the same area, but hiked in from the other direction on a different trail head. The drive in was great once again with plenty of elk spotted. One cow even gave me the opportunity for a quick photo right off of the road. I hit the trail right at sun up.