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Evaluations : Jon E. Silks
Last Updated: Feb 22nd, 2007 - 18:37:03

Field Evaluation: Kifaru LongHunter Pack
By Jon Silks
Jul 17, 2006, 06:33

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Kifaru LongHunter Backpack - Part 1

Kifaru International founder Patrick Smith has been designing and manufacturing backpacks for over 20 years. His passion is to help on-foot hunters live among the animals they are pursuing. To do that we have to walk long and far and carry everything we need on our backs. No cheap pack will suffice and even some of those that are more expensive do not do the job according to reports.

Kifaru has built a great reputation and has a host of adventurous hunters singing their praises from one end of the country to the other. Smith and company makes a selection of packs that provide comfort, superior load handling and durability.

In this first of two parts we will look at the basics of the Kifaru LongHunter backpack along with a few simple tests. In the second part the testing will go much deeper as the pack is put through the paces in the Idaho wilderness during the first 10 days of their elk season in September.

At first glance it is not easy to see why the Kifaru is special. My first impression was that the LongHunter was a lot like other packs I have checked out. It takes a little experience with the pack and a little backpack knowledge to see the difference.  

All Kifaru packs are internal frame structure. The LongHunter's framesheet consists of twin contoured aluminum stays and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE). The stay aluminum is aircraft grade for maximum durability and strength. Both can be removed and bent to the shape of your back for increased comfort. HDPE material is efficient at spreading the weight of the pack over the entire back and also provides the mounting surface for the suspension.

Kifaru custom fits the suspension of each pack to the individual hunter. When you order your pack you will be asked for your:

"    Height
"    Waist size
"    Inseam length
"    Weight
"    Whether you are right or left-handed

When your pack arrives it will be custom fit to you, however, feel free to fine-tune it even further. The weight of the LongHunter is suspended on the frame, which alleviates stress points and absorbs shock. A shoulder width adjustment allows the stays to be pulled closer together for narrower shoulders and spread apart for broader shoulders. A recessed spinal cavity provides ventilation and keeps pressure off of your spine. The shoulder straps are contoured and employ upper lift straps that pull the weight up off of the shoulders and distributes to the back and hips where it belongs. A thick lumbar pad protects the lower back and tailbone. More contoured structure can be found in the waist belt, which is wide for weight distribution and comfort. It is also removable so longer or shorter belts can be substituted. Soft but firm Drilex covered torso pads are raised and cushion the pack to back interface.

The LongHunter's urethane coated 500 D Cordura bag is packed with features. The main components include a top pocket, bottom zipper access, interior divider panel, bottom compression straps, main compartment, an inner storage sheath and storage bungee. The top pocket not only serves to cover and protect the main bag top access but it also removes to become a day bag. The internal divider allows the pack to be organized into upper and lower compartments. A bottom zipper, which is a hearty number 10-size to avoid jamming, is used to access the lower compartment. The inner storage sheath has a draw cord an is perfect for tripods and spotting scopes. A sleeping bag or other gear can be lashed to the underneath of the pack with the bottom compression straps. There are also compression straps evenly spaced up the side of the bag as well. The main bag is a single large cavity and only divided if desired with the internal divider. A storage bungee on the back of the pack makes for easy packing of lighter items such as a jacket or sleep pad.

The pack comes dressed in a set of removable fleece panels known as DoubleQuiet (DQ) panels.  One side is fluorescent orange and the other Mossy Oak Camo.

Kifaru's LongHunter is available in three volumes (5,200 cubic inches, 7,200 cubic inches and a huge 8,500 cubic inches) and two modes (backpack and hauler). The hauler configuration coupled with an optional cargo chair is created when the frame is removed from the bag. This allows heavy game loads to be carried comfortably.

Accessories available include a water bottle pouch, Platypus Water Reservoir, boot bag, Side Pockets, Phone/GPS Pouch, back pouch, possibilities pouch, Pull-Out Pouches and the cargo chair.

Initial Testing

My initial testing included a waterproof test and a few hikes up and down the mountains of Pennsylvania.

In the waterproof test I placed the bag, loaded with gear, outside during a three day drenching rain. The top pocket contents got wet but the main bag contents stayed completely dry. The Cordura material that the top pocket is constructed of is waterproof, however, the days of soaking rain must have gotten through the zipper and stitching holes. This would most likely happen to any bag that didn't have a rain cover. Speaking of rain covers, Kifaru has one if you plan on hunting in wet conditions or you could just rig up a plastic bag.

The LongHunter was packed with 60 lbs of gear for my second test. I climbed the tallest mountains in my area many times. As I climbed, I learned. First, I learned that adjusting the shoulder straps with the lift straps was the single best thing I did for comfort. Get the pack up off of your shoulders and let your hips do the work! The lower shoulder straps can also be adjusted on the fly for precise tuning to your needs. I didn't feel the need to adjust or bend the stays, as they seemed to fit me fairly well. I found the LongHunter to be extremely comfortable on these relatively short outings and plan to go out on longer outings as my training level increases.

Stay tuned for PART 2!!!! In the mean time you can check out Kifaru's gear on their web page at:
Jon E. Silks


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