I am mostly a day hunter and have used several daypacks over the years, none of which fit my 6’-4” frame very well. So this year I began my quest for a new pack that could double as a daypack and a meat hauler. I narrowed my search down to two online companies, one of them being Exo Mountain Gear. Both companies offered at least a 30-day trial period and I took advantage of that. If you can swing it, I would highly recommend it, as I ended up going back and forth between the two for a few days.
The Exo pack I purchased is the K2 2000. The competitor pack was an 1850 ci model and their system is similar to Exo where you can use different bags on the same frame and suspension system. Features I cared most about were: layout and organization; ease of use; securing heavy loads; and overall comfort and fit.
The competitor pack had more built-in pockets, which was nice. The Exo pack comes with Velcro strip sewn inside the bag so you can add a few of their mesh zipper pockets. I also liked how the Exo pack has a webbing strip with Velcro that secures their accessory hip pouches (also with Velcro) very nicely. And the webbing strip has plenty of room for additional items, such as a side arm.
I found the Exo pack’s load shelf was easier to access than the other. Simply loosening and removing the load lifter straps along with the side compression straps causes the bag to easily fold away from the frame. And I love how Exo provides two dedicated compression straps attached to the frame. The competitor frame did not have any.
The Exo pack performed better at securing loads. The two straps on the frame alone made it easier. Then, when you bring the bag over the load and use the side compression straps the entire load feels very secure. The competitor pack relies solely on the bag and side compression straps to hold things together. It works okay but was more cumbersome to secure than the Exo.
Initially both packs seemed to fit me nicely, but that was under “daypack” loads. But when it came to loads over 30 lbs, the Exo left the other in the dust and was the clincher for my decision. Holy cow, what a difference! With each pack, I walked around the house with upwards of 50 lbs. Right away I felt rubbing in my lumbar from the competitor’s pack. By the time I had walked around for 20 minutes, I had a nice raspberry. In comparison, after 20 minutes of wearing the Exo with the same heavy loads, there were times I forgot I had it on. Seriously.
The Exo pack was more expensive than the competitor pack, but when I weigh the comfort combined with the fact that these packs are made in the USA, and right here in the Pacific NW, I knew it was the right decision. I can’t wait to get this pack in the field for turkey season, backpacking with my wife this summer and then elk and deer season in September!