Initial Thoughts Out of the Box
I recently received my pack. The anticipation for the pack to arrive was driving me crazy. I kept in contact with one of the makers of the pack, Steve Speck, who made the decision to purchase this pack much easier. Once the pack arrived I was blown away.
I have decided to put together a 2 part review of the pack. For the 1st part I will be going over the initial feel for the pack out of the box. I will highlight the features of the pack with pictures included. For the 2nd part I will go over a more comprehensive review after I get some field testing done.
I always kept in the back of my mind that I may have not made the best choice in buying a pack without trying it on and getting a feel for it. As with most hunting equipment now days things become an investment due to prices. If you are going to get the best gear on the market it is going to burn a hole in the pocket book. After getting the pack it was a very wise investment and there is absolutely no regrets with this pack.
The design and function from what I have seen so far has exceeded my expectations. I have been in the market for a pack that I could use as an everyday day pack, but also allow me to go on a hunt for 3 to 5 days at a time. The Exo 3500 is exactly what I was looking for as it is spacious enough, but not overly large to where I will feel I'm carrying too much. Plus there is also the 5500 pack available in the near future if I were ever to need more room.
For the lid at the top of the pack there is a ton of room. This is the area where I keep all of my quickly needed gear. It can quickly be accessed from opening the zipper at the top. I generally will keep extra gloves, warm hat, GPS, maps, headlamp, and snacks to keep me going. This is an area for me when taking breaks that I can grab things quickly. There is a ton of space just in this pocket alone for gear.
The lid has a reverse buckle system, which allows easy access to the main compartment even when packing out meat, which is hauled between the pack and frame. This is very well thought of and a smart addition to the pack.
Also on the back of the pack there is an easy access to a stretchy pocket by simply lifting up on the bottom of the lid. This is a great area to keep additional jackets and layers for ease of access.
The main compartment is the largest area of the pack obviously and has the most room. There is two ways to access the main pocket, which can be done by unbuckling the lid and opening a drawstring. The other option is a vertical pocket on the outside of the pack.
Back of Pack
For the back of the pack I will start with the two horizontal straps. For me this will be where I secure my bow to the pack while I'm hiking. There is a ton of strap available so the options are endless. They also have keepers attached to the straps that allow you to keep them together so that they are not flailing all over.
There are two identical pockets on both the left and right of the pack. There is two separate pockets. One pocket runs vertically the entire length of the pack, and the other is made of the same stretchy fabric as the back of the pack. This is a great location for a water bottle.
Shoulder Harness and Waist Belt
The shoulder harness and waist belt are packed full of options. For starters they are not overly large, but not too small to hurt your shoulders. The padding is very adequate and comfortable.
The heart and soul of this pack in my mind is the frame. It is specifically designed to carry a ton of weight. By far one of the lightest frames I have thrown on my back.
If you look at the website you can see it is made with a titanium rod, which outlast me that's for sure. The frame is very rigid up and down, but left and right it is allowed to move with you as it pivots near the bottom of the pack.This is a great feature as I just mentioned in the area of the waist belt I had problems with other packs being too rigid around my hip area.
The pack can be removed from the frame, which allows you to go out with an extremely light weight frame alone. I know there is a couple of accessories that can be purchased such as a water bladder and meat shelf, which will be a great addition to run with just the frame and leave the pack the truck.
I have always been interested a pack that I could keep on me and also be able to have a frame to haul meat out with. This pack meets that requirement. You simply remove the load lifters, pull the buckle through a hole and unbuckle four straps. The pack can no be pulled away from the frame. There are two horizontal straps on the frame, which allows you to secure the meat to the frame. Next you simply pull the pack back over the meat and re-buckle the straps on the side of the pack. The straps are designed at an upward angle, which keeps the meat lifted and the majority of the weight on you back and not the hips. The bottom of the pack is also designed so that the weight doesn't sink to the bottom and remains more in the middle of the pack. After those are secure you simply re-do the load lifters and you are set. Once all straps are set I don't think there is anything you can throw on this pack that will make it uncomfortable.
Having the luxury of hauling that first load back tot he pickup rather than walking back to the pickup to get a frame is imperative. It saves time and can help make sure you get your meat back to the pickup before it spoils. As stated before all of the buckles and straps are made very durable and will take a beating.
In closing, at first glance the pack appears to be a simple design, but it is very complex and very well thought out. The lightweight durable design of the pack will have others drooling over it. Like I stated earlier in this I believe this will be the pack of the year and I have no regrets buying this pack before I tried it on or got my hands on it.
I'm sure there is more features to the pack that I missed, but I am very excited to now hit the mountain and get some field testing done. The guys from Exo Mountain Gear hit a home run with this pack and I can't wait for the accessories to come out. At this point I see myself picking up the rain fly, hip pouch, and bow carrier.
I look forward to seeing what this pack is made of and I'm afraid it is much more than I will be able to put to the test. I am also looking forward to putting together a more comprehensive review of in the field testing and heavy loads. I'm hoping I can capitalize in a couple of weeks as I will try to put together my usual 3 to 5 day pack and come out with a bear. At this point I feel it's very wishful thinking that I will have a bear attached, but unless you are out in the field it won't happen.
If you have any questions go to my contact form and let me know. You can also have questions answered at exomountiangear.com. Make sure and stop by the site and place an order, you won't be disappointed. There is some great photos and videos on the pack.