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Suspension Development Concepts

I just returned from Asia working on product development and meeting with suppliers.  I feel very fortunate, KUIU’s packs are being developed by the leading Outdoor technical pack manufacturer. They have a very advanced development team that uses cutting edge technologies and manufacturing techniques.

I spent most of the week working through the foundation of two new pack designs. As I ramp up development I wanted to share my vision and get your feedback.

Pack 1: A versatile day pack for mountain hunting, with an internal frame stiff enough to carry a heavy load but comfortable to hunt in all day.  It must have the flexibility to expand large enough to pack a quarter, but cinch down to a low profile for when you are doing a half-day hunt from the truck.  Organization is a must for the small gear and optics.

Pack 2: An internal frame expedition pack designed for sheep hunting.  Built with a solid frame platform and a lot of thought behind the design and pocket configuration for hunting.  The Outdoor brand packs I have used in the past are not designed well for the hunter.

Development Room Building a Proto

My goals for these packs:

-Light weight but still having a solid frame structure for support to comfortably haul heavy loads
-Well thought out design
-Bomber Suspension
-Comfort
-Easy access
-Hydration
-Quick access to Spotting Scope & Tri-pod
-Quiet
-Dependable
-Good Lashing Points
-The ability to pack meat close to the frame

Waist Belt Development

Packs, like camo, everyone has their opinions and personal preferences.  As I begin to layout the specifics with the development team please give me your input on what you like and dislike of the current pack your using.

-Make
-Model
-Size
-Positives
-Negatives
-What you would change?
-What is missing?
-Other design features you would add?

Please be as specific as possible, your input will go into these packs.  Thank you in advance for taking the time to help.

Jason

This article has 22 comment(s)

  1. Bob Griggs

    Jason,
    Just saw your new post. I know that this is out there for you, but I have a pack idea or concept that may have some merit. If you are interested, or could point a person in the right direction for help. I would sure appreiciate any advice or help you may have to offer.
    I seem to be a bit pack poor at this time with 7 different Badlands and a few other manufactures hanging on my wall at this moment. I need to organize a list of what works and doesn’t work for me.
    Thanks

    • Jason Hairston

      Hi Bob,

      I shot you an email regarding your pack idea. I hope I can help. I look forward to your list.

      Best,

      Jason

  2. Ryan Sanpei

    Hey Jason,
    I’m currently using a Sitka Flash
    Positives-
    Light weight pack for the amount of gear and deboned meat that I can pack. Enough pockets to put all my additional gear. The lashing straps work well. The suspension keeps me cool, it’s comfortable with a heavy and awkward load. Having no metal zipper pulls is great. The two straps on the back are great for carrying my recurve for times that I have to travel miles to get to an area. It’s nice to walk hands free on those occasions.

    Negatives-
    Noisy. It squeaks under a heavy load. The lumbar support pad rubs with the back pack lining and the plastic insert which makes a squeaking noise every time I twist and turn. Really hard to stalk on a calm day. I always have to drop my pack on a final stalk.

    Changes-
    Get rid of the noise. I had to alter my lumbar support. I would love to have a better sytem for carrying deboned meat. I would like the meat to ride higher towards my shoulders and closer to my back or frame. It would also be great if that section was well ventilated. Traveling miles with unventilated meat is no good in hot weater. I could use a little more padding on the straps, maybe even wider. Having one small waterproof pouch somewhere might be nice. A more sturdy light weight frame would help, mine tends to bend with a heavy load. A quick reach external pouch for accessories like baers feet or fiber soles for final stalking. Having velcro or something to take up all the loose ends on the straps. This is not a necessity but having the pack adjustable for torso size would be cool for vertically challenged guys like myself. lol 🙂

    Thanks!
    Ryan

  3. George Hicks

    Jason,

    I have quite a collection of backpacks as well. I have two Badlands packs and don’t like either. I have the Ultraday, which is a nice concept but I found that the aluminum stays that create the ventilation compress the pack to the point that you cannot really fit anything into it. The 4500 is also a disappointment. The fanny pack is another nice idea but useless due to small size and no attachment points. The pack is realtively heavy and, uncomfortable, and too large for a day pack once I am in the back-country.

    I have an Eberlestcok J-107. It has its uses, but it fails as a day-pack. It is too wide and lacks organization. It is also very heavy. I will say that after packing close to 100 lbs. in this pack for a few days, it is the absolute best pack for heavy loads that I have ever used. That is the one place it excels.

    I love my Sitka Flash 20. I used it for a 25-mile/3-day scouting trip last season and I was able to get 100% of my gear into that pack, including 80mm spotting scope, binos, tripod, and handgun. I was amazed, as was my buddy. It was comforatble too, and the organization of that pack is excellent. It is just too small for a lot of gear and lacks the suspension for heavy weight.

    This year I am going with the Dueter 65+10. I will leave my Eberlestock in the truck and plan to make two trips if I pull the trigger. I liked the suspension system it has for the weight of the pack and will limit my load to 50 lbs max. It is also fairly good on organization and should do fairly well as a day-pack.

    With all my gear and a boned-out mulie, I would be at 120 lbs or more, which is a lot to ask of any pack. So the Dueter + Eberlestock is my plan. The pack you are describing would be my dream if it can handle that much weight once in a while.

    Hope that helps.

    George

    • Jason Hairston

      Hi George,

      Yep, I could not agree with you more. The challenge of hunting packs versus mountaineering packs. There is not the perfect solution out there yet in my book for hunting. A goal to have for sure. Thanks again for the help.

      Best,

      Jason

  4. Tom

    Jason,

    Looks like fun! You’ve got most of my inputs already, several of which echo those from Ryan.

    -Tom

    • Jason Hairston

      Thanks Tom,

      Yep your input is already on my list.

      Jason

  5. Tye Abell

    For a hunting pack I use a Sitka Flash, and for backpacking, I use a Osprey Exos. Both packs have a similar suspension that allows air to easily travel between the pack and your back, and still transfer the load to the hips well. Both of those are big points for me. I hate having a backpack that fits right on my back when I’m humping it up a mountain sweating my butt off, ventilation is a big deal to me.

    One thing I wish both of the above packs had was better located load lifters. Where these straps are now, they’re more load stabilizers, and don’t really give the shoulders any relief with a heavy pack.

    Another big point that not many manufactures go after is differing torso sizes and sizes in general. I’ve got a 17.5″ torso, 31″ waist, but broad shoulders for somebody that’s 6′ 170. Most manufactures would put me in a small based on my torso, and the shoulder harness wouldn’t even remotely be large enough for me. Interchangable hipbelts/shoulder harnesses, and a small/medium/large for the torso would be ideal.

    My perfect pack for expeditions would be around 4200 ci, have load lifters for packing out meat, have an adjustable suspension for my athletic build

    • Jason Hairston

      Hi Tye,

      I own both packs as well and agree with you on all of your comments. The torso length is a challenge and the interchangeable waist belts and shoulder harnesses would be really nice for a custom fit. There are some design challenges that would need to be worked out. I will kick this idea around. Osprey on some of their larger packs do a custom molded waist belt that gets rave reviews.

      Thanks,

      Jason

  6. Mike R.

    I own a Mystery Ranch Crew Cab

    Positives: In my opinion, the Crew Cab is the best example of a day pack that can be turned into a load hauler. The pack handles a load very well, but is still comfortable as a day pack. It is also very adjustable, especially when you factor in the different belts and yokes that can be swapped out. I also like that it has pockets for organizing but not to many. With some packs you can lose stuff in all the pockets they have. Another plus for me is that the pack is all but bomb proof. I like knowing that I can put that pack through about any situation without it failing.

    Negatives: Its heavy as far as day packs go. Also the material is kind of loud, which I thought would bother me but it really doesn’t. I tend to make more noise with other pieces of gear than I do with the pack. But this might still detour some buyers. There is no ventilation to speak of but I haven’t found a pack that keeps my back from sweating anyway.

    Changes I would make: I wish the side pockets were just slighty longer because its always a fight to get my tripod to fit in one of them. The spotting scope fits just fine. Maybe I need a different tripod! haha.

    What is missing: Some people aren’t big fans of the load lifters because they arent’ high enough above the shoulders for them.

    Mike

  7. Tye Abell

    Sorry about that, accidentally hit submit too early. To finish my statement on my perfect pack…

  8. Tye Abell

    Sorry about that, my comment got cut short. My perfect pack for expeditions would have the above mentioned qualities as well as…
    curved frame to allow for air flow between your back and the pack, a pouch or attached mesh bag to allow you to haul out a first load of meat and gear easily, zippered hip belt pockets and a hydration sleeve with tube port at the bottom of the pack for easier routing/less hose length and it could act as a drainage hole if you have a hydration bladder failure. Waterproof materials/zippers would be great as long as it was kept quiet.

  9. Tony

    Jason,

    Ryan, Tye and Mike R. have covered all my thoughts and concerns.
    I would like to reiterate Tye’s comments on torso lengths. I feel it’s critical to have varying torso length adjustments in a pack system.

  10. George

    my current pack is a KIFARU zulu with the xtr lid . .

    it is the best pack i have ever used (both backpacking and in shooting competitions) it allows me to carry alot of gear comfortably; has internal aluminum frame bars that can be molded to my shape, PALS-MOLLE racks all over it, and inside it, pods that lock in, adding room and keeping gear neat and separated by use; it’s built like a tank, doesn’t creat hotspots on my hips or back; and the XTR lid comes off, the main pack and can be used as a day pack( i have placed a survival kit, LEICA laser range finder, bottle of water and 30 rounds of ammo in it, many times )

    it truly fits the buy quality , cry once; kinda pricey at $500ish but worth every penny, as i never worry about my pack when i am on the trail or running and gunning with a load on my back –

    the owner/designer hunts and uses his gear, so it’s driven by him and end users to ensure quality and real world demands not the almight dollar .. .

    great blog sir, keep it going
    George H.

    • Jason Hairston

      Hi George,

      I am a fan of Patrick Smith and what he has done at Kifaru. I have a lot of his gear including, packs, stoves tents and ditty bags. All great stuff. Thanks for taking the time to comment and welcome to the blog.

      Jason

  11. Russ

    I’ve come close to finding my perfect pack; the Mystery Ranch Longbow. The size and weight carrying capacity are nearly ideal for my archery-mule deer-above timberline hunts. The pack bag might be just a little small, but keeps me honest with my bivy gear. I really like how it compresses down for hunting during the day, yet can carry a boned out muley and my gear out in a single, albeit heavy, trip.

    I would like to see a slightly larger pack bag as well as a little taller frame for better load lifter strap interface. And while I appreciate the “bomber” fabric they use, I can’t help but think that it could drop a notch, save some weight and still be durable enough for my uses.

    While I may be in the minority on this, my preferred packs are simple by design. The last thing I want is a bunch of pockets, pouches, pods, straps, buckles and other superfluous junk to haul up the mountain. Keep it simple and functional.

    Get me a durable simple pack that weighs 5 to 6 pounds and can carry a 100 in the 3000-3200 cubic inch capacity and my $$$ is yours (pending wife’s approval of course).

    • Jason Hairston

      Hi Russ,

      Your comments on the pack are well noted. I agree the Longbow is a great design in that 3000+/- size range. Dana builds the most durable packs on the market. Weight is the only knock I hear about Mystery Ranch and I agree there are some areas where he could cut weight. However, I have to commend Dana for staying true to his philosophy in designing for the worst.

      Jason

  12. Matt Burke

    I still think the Kifaru products have gotten the closest to perfect for me. They are a very good balance between lighter weight and carrying capacity. In a perfect world, they would add a few more pockets for organization (there is a fine line between not enough and too many) and a quiet fabric that had similar durability.

    One interesting (albeit impractical) feature a friend of mine and I have talked about is a design that would hold meat up against your back inside the main bag – like a load sling that attaches inside the pack to keep meat close to your back rather than allowing it to slump toward the bottom of the pack.

    • Jason Hairston

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your input. I agree with you on Kifaru products, I have a bunch of Pat’s gear and it is hard to find much wrong with any of it. You can tell every piece is made with a lot of thought.

      Jason

  13. Tony ZZZZ

    Your description of the 1st pack you described is what I have always looked for. One I could carry all day from camp then throw in a 1/4 to get started on the pack out. I tried a Badlands 2200 and did not like the fact it had no accessory pocks of value. The two on the belt are useless. I do not want to fish around the pack for a compass, snack or anything else. Will I am not encouraging all kinds of straps and accessories I do want a few well placed pockets and the ability to strap a coat or rain gear on the bottom or top, And hydration is a priority. By the way my favorite piece of clothing is the older 90% gear in MM.

    • Jason Hairston

      Hi Tony,

      Thank you for taking the time to give me you input. This smaller pack will work great for big day hunts where you need to get a boned out animal or a quarter out on the first trip. Your comments regarding the pockets are well noted.

      Thanks,

      Jason

  14. Matt

    Been going back through old posts and thought I would throw a few wishes on here after my latest hunt.

    High quality adjustable hip belt.
    – My waist size in the store trying on packs ends up shrinking on my hunts. I need a waist belt that has a good range of adjustment (28-34). Waist size also changes as the number of layers go up and down….
    – Some sort of “stickyness” to the belt. My waist belt gets “slick” when wet and tends to slide down with a load on when conditions are wet.

    Waterproof
    – Waterproof would be nice, but not a must have. However, it not there a good quality light waterproof pack cover would be great. Perhaps built in some how?

    Pockets / Storage
    Most packs are just a big hole you throw stuff in. I like your ideas on easily assceible spotting scope / tripod pockets. Would be nice to alleviate my dependence on stuff sacks, but having dedicated pockets to store items. Maybe removable pockets so those concenred with weight could remove them?

    Rifle / Bow Carry
    The ability to securely strap your rifle / bow to your pack.

    Chest / Shoulder Straps
    – Be nice to have an integrated Bino holder.. That bino “bra” gets old after a while.. : )

    Look forward to seeing your pack.