Brian Rager

Beaverton, OR | exomountaingear.com

In recent months, I made a decision to invest in a new pack that could serve me well as a daypack but have the capacity to haul meat. At present, I am a day hunter and drive to/from our hunting grounds each day. I like to have the necessities on my back in the event I need them (at the very least, water!).

After watching countless videos on YouTube, reading many testimonials from various pack sites, and making my own spreadsheet comparison, I narrowed my search down to two online pack companies: Exo and one other competitor. It would be impossible to make a good decision on a pack without the ability to try them out for a period of time. Both companies were generous with time. I had at least 30 days to try them out. I purchased the K2 2000 pack from Exo and a comparable 1850 ci pack from the other.

Fortunately, my wife and I have a home gym (converted family room with equipment purchased mostly from Craigslist…) and I was able to load up each pack with sandbags to get them loaded down with 30 to 50 pounds. I then wore them around the house for a good period of time. I will be honest here. I liked the zippers on the competitor’s pack (they tout YKK zippers), as they were easy to zip with one hand. But that was about it. I am telling you, the COMFORT of the Exo pack was the clincher. It felt like I could wear that pack all day. I had no aches or pains with that pack and it fit my 6′-4″ frame extremely well. My thanks to Steve for posting a great video as to how to properly fit a backpack. It was very helpful. Carrying the weight around in the Exo pack was quite easy and the hip belt was very comfortable.

The competitor pack, however, was not as comfortable. I had a major raspberry on my low back after wearing that pack under load. There was something about their lumbar pad design that really rubbed a sore spot. I wore my hunting shirt with both packs. And even with their tall frame, I felt that pack did not fit me as well. And the final point that caused me to eliminate that pack from the running was the noise. Under load, the frame made a pretty loud rubbing noise where it inserts into a pocket in the hip belt. The Exo pack was nice and quiet. All this to say, when they tell you to try these packs out with 30 pounds or more, there are plenty of reasons why.

Finally, I love the ease of getting to the frame and load shelf on the K2. Very straight forward and I appreciate the two compression straps on the frame for securing meat or other loads. I plan to do a couple of backpacking outings with my wife this summer and can’t wait to use my K2 2000. I have already tried loading up the gear we will take with us and I am confident it will have plenty of capacity for a one or two-night trip. I can easily strap part of our tent onto the load shelf area and the bag should have plenty of room for other gear and food. And of course, I can’t wait to have it on my back when deer and elk season arrive.