Exo Mountain Gear arrived on the scene in 2014 producing high quality made in the USA packs out of Boise, Idaho. In that short time they have risen to be among the top hunting backpack manufacturers in the industry. I’ve now spent a good amount of time under my Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800 backpacking, hunting, and hauling heavy loads of meat. I have this to say: I wouldn’t trade my Exo Mtn Gear pack for any other, even from other top manufacturers like Kifaru, Kuiu, and Stone Glacier.
One of the first things I think about when reading a review, is who is this and what’s their experience? Why should I listen to them? My career has consisted of muling around heavy loads. From Hotshot firefighting with a 16 hr a day base load of 40 lb and frequently adding 43 lb with a 5 gal water cubey, or less often 70 lb with a water pump kit, or most frequently 20 lb of chainsaw gear… to backpacking deep into USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis survey sites randomly assigned anywhere in the Rockies with forest. More importantly I grew up backpacking and backcountry hunting. Now I have the lucky job to test gear. As a result I’ve tried many backpacks in all conditions and the supportive design, titanium frame, and thick padding of the Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800 is as comfortable as they come for real heavy ass loads.
I put my K3 4800 through enjoyable “tests” of many days spent backpacking including summiting South Teton (pictured top) and many days scouting, backcountry hunting, and harvesting a once in a lifetime non-typical bull elk (shown below) on my local over the counter archery tag. You can find more about that hunt here @americangearguide on Instagram. Pack weights ranged from 45 lb of backpacking/hunting gear to around 90-100 lb of meat hauling on many mountain miles. Thick lumbar, hip, and shoulder padding over the rigid titanium frame, with meat packed close to the body between the bag and frame made the K3 impressively comfortable with those weights. Backpack fit and adjustment was excellent after I quickly adjusted it following Exo Mtn Gear’s youtube fitting video.
The K3 4800’s volume is about 4805 ci (78.7 L) without the lid and 5805 ci (85.3 L) with the lid which is ideal for me. The K3 4800 weighs 5 lb 3 oz. with the frame and bag, and 5 lb 10 oz including the lid. The longest self supported backcountry trip I did with the K3 was 6 days but I could imagine doing any number of days without needing more space. Keep in mind that my gear is the highest quality and most compact you can get such as a Feathered Friends sleeping bag and down jacket, FORLOH camo, Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xlite pad, Zpacks DupleXL Tent, and the list goes on… Personal gear choices have a big effect on how large of a bag you need. On my last load packing out elk I probably had about 60 lb of meat on the load shelf plus all of my backpacking gear inside the bag and still had plenty of room to spare.
There are many features I enjoy on the K3 4800. Some of the features that stand out:
- Ease of velcro-detaching the bag from the frame to load meat directly onto the frame shelf.
- Horseshoe shaped pack “face” zipper allows quick access into the guts of the pack.
- Thick padding and tacky grip at the lumbar support.
- Nice hip pocket for snacks and my range finder.
- My Sig and or bear spray strapped perfectly on the other side of the hip belt.
- Plenty of pocket space plus large, long side pockets that are a good fit for a spotting scope, bugle, tripod, narrow tent, sleeping pad, etc.
- The titanium frame removes from the fabric so you can stuff the bloody pack into a washing machine.
- Stretchy side pockets for water bottles and gear.
- I prefer roll top designs like the K3 4800 for expanding or shrinking with the size of your load.
As far as craftsmanship – the stitching, fit, and finish is excellent on my pack and quality control performed its job. Materials like the 500d fabric and larger #10 YKK zippers are well chosen to stand up to the abrasive nature of backcountry hunts. Backcountry scrambles and bushwacking are hard on packs. The area I imagine wearing out first is the thin stretchy side and back pockets… though I do like stretchy pockets and enjoy them on other packs like my ultralight ULA Ohm 2.0 backpack (which I don’t use for hunting). That said, I expect the K3’s burly construction to hold up for many memorable years of hunting that I look forward to.
The Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800 is a versatile pack that performed extremely well. It will comfortably pack an expedition worth of gear and haul 100+ lb of meat. To sum up my thoughts, I’ll repeat what I said before. I wouldn’t trade the K3 4800 for any other pack on the market. I think that’s a compliment.
The K3 4800 can be found directly through ExoMtnGear.com.
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