Best Backpacks of 2021 – Exo Mountain Gear K3


Exo Mountain Gear K3

best hunter
By: Austin Miller

Exo Mountain Gear is a fairly new company in the hunting industry, coming to the scene in 2014-2015. Based out of Boise ID, Exo hand makes each and everyone of their packs. Nothing gets sourced out over seas; everything is built to a very high standard here in the US of A. Exo is a direct to consumer brand, meaning you will not find their pack in stores. This is becoming a popular business model amongst several brands throughout the outdoor industry these days. They are strictly online. Exo; among the rest offer a limited lifetime warranty. As well as a 30 day back guarantee.. It allows for a better product to be put to market, as well as, a better price point for you, the consumer. Exo Mtn Gear is passionate about building packs for the diehards, the guys who love to get into the backcountry with just the things they can carry on their backs. Their mission at Exo is, “to build the best mountain hunting packs available, provide the best service possible, and to do it all right here in the USA”.

K3 6400 Bag only

K3 Spider Frame

Weight: 2lb 5oz                                                    

Weight: 3lb

Volume: 6400 ci

Price: $375

Dimensions: 3.5x 11.5x 25 (compressed)

Price: $299

The K3 is their newest pack in the line up. These were designed with the taller hunters in mind. There are two difference frame sizes available to purchase, short (24”-25.5”) and tall (25”-26.5”). This will cover a wide array of people. They offer 3 different hip belt sizes – Small, Medium and Large. Exo has designed these packs to be streamline and efficient. Starting at the top and working down the pack – at the top we have a 400 ci lid that has two pockets facing towards the back of your head if you were wearing the pack. The first pocket is a smaller pocket meant to store gps, phone, headlamps, etc.. The second pocket is much larger, a great pocket to stick gloves, snacks, tags and headlamps. Bigger items that still need to be grabbed with ease. Along each side you have a mirror imagine in pocket configuration, two pockets that run the whole length of the bag with a stretchy water bottle pocket. The side pockets were designed for tripods and spotters to slide down and you have easy access to a Nalgene bottle from either side. On the back of the pack you have another stretch pocket that runs the whole length of that back as well; great for storing a puffy jacket or extra layers. The 6400 model has full-length zipper on one side to get into the main compartment of the bag. Once inside you get to most of your storage space. Exo put tether loops in side the bag as well as throughout the rest of the pack to be able to attach “stash” pockets (sold separately). Part of the main compartment is your water sleeve. This is technically a separate pocket that you access from the top of the pack right above where the shoulder straps connect to the frame. The pocket is fully waterproof just in the event a water bladder pops. The oversized pocket accommodates wet rain gear, wet socks all while leaving room to store a water bladder. This also keeps blood from soaking through to the gear you have in the main part of the bag. The pack does separate from the frame, making it very easy to haul camp and meat when you are successful.

My initial thought of this pack is it’s extremely comfortable right out of that box. The hip belt and shoulder straps are made of a soft padding, with what seems likes a memory foam material that it’s not irritating to the skin. When I first put a little weight in the K3 and put it on my back, I was blown away with how comfortable it was. It felt like the pack was hugging me; initially I thought this might not breath very well in the warmer months, but much to my surprise it breathed just as well as any other pack. It has a sleek and slender look to it. Although the pack is a 6400ci, it compacts very nice for day trips all the way to multi night stays. I didn’t experience any uncomfortable rubbing from weight shifting around while climbing in elevation. The shoulder strap adjustments are very easy to navigate, to get the desired fit. Not having to worry about hot spots or pinch points makes a world of difference. Having a pack that doesn’t ride well or fit you is less than ideal on a hunt, even if its just a day or 5. Using all the cinch straps and buckles was very simple; I didn’t notice any frustration in that department. The bag itself is very tall and can pack a lot of gear for the longer extended backcountry hunts. The “stretch” pocket on this bag is very nice for keeping exterior layering systems easily accessible. I could see a possible future issue with this material losing its elasticity from constantly pulling gear in and out, big or small (this is something I would watch for).  The side pockets on each side of the pack are a great design. I personally like the idea – it was great for storing my tripod on one side and spotter on the other. The only issue I had was getting a 80mm angled spotting scope in and out easily. The tripod would slide in and out with no problems, but the spotter needed to be a little more planned out. I’m sure a straight spotter would do better in this instance. The hood has a split compartment, top compartment being about 1/3 of the hood and the bottom being the other 2/3’s. This actually works well as it gives a decent amount of organization. Instead of everything being thrown in one pocket. I can keep my batteries, charging bank, SD cards and headlamp in the smaller compartment and keep my snacks, gloves and beanies in the larger compartment. I had the pleasure of packing out two mule deer in the fall and an archery bull this year with this pack and it carried the load exceptionally well. The heaviest load being a rear quarter, front shoulder and lose meat from the elk (bone in). I hauled all off the meat inside the bag it’s self, using the compression straps to secure the weight. The pack performed very well with a very heavy load. The trip out was about 1.5 miles on a pretty consistent steep grade. Throughout the whole hike out it felt like the pack was sewn to my back. Both deer were the same experience; this time I used the load shelf and I was blown away. Was super easy to use and road very well once I got the load lifters and chest straps adjusted properly.

Finding a pack can be an overwhelming task this day and age. In my opinion, Exo has made this process as easy and painless as possible – buy the pack and try it out, if it’s not for you, send it back and try the next one on the list. From a buyer stand point that gives a lot of peace of mind knowing you won’t get stuck with a pack that doesn’t work for you. It also speaks to the company in that they want to make sure you are satisfied with your product.

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