Monday, 27 December 2010

Unboxing: Kifaru Long Hunter G2 Review

I’ve needed a new pack in the 70+ litre class for a while now, the last one, a Berghaus,  having lasted well over twenty years, was looking a bit tired and it’s adjusters had succumbed to plastic fatigue and I was being mocked by The Northern Monkey (jealousy init).

In pack design there are two schools of thought; light but flimsy for ultralight hiking and tough-as-old-boots but heavy for hauling. At both extremes there are a couple of manufactures that really have it going on and a host of ‘me too’ outfits some good, some good-ish and loads where you’d have more fun burning the cash and roasting marshmallows over the flames. The fit of your rucksack is so important and no off the shelf pack can fit all people, so adjustability is the difference that makes the difference, but all that adjustability comes at a premium. One that personally I think is worth paying for. After ‘boots and bed’ the pack is the most important thing you’ll buy, for most bushcrafters not as covetousness inducing as another new knife, but a huge influence on your comfort levels and when actually afield a bigger influence on morale than that (now scratched) custom knife.

For the kind of the money the really good ones cost these days, a new pack has to be one that’ll last a long, long time.  I wanted a big-ish pack that would do double duty as a pack frame for manoeuvring heavy loads: be that carrying tanks of butane and water to the hut in the woods, collecting wood, lugging a dead deer across the fields (or even that as yet elusive bow-hunted Elk), or if history were to repeat itself in Italy it would be a lot more use than a stretcher getting someone off the hillside. When buying that last pack as a teenager I'd had a choice between tall and thin or squat and square-er with an extra five litres and if I've learned anything from carrying the same pack all those years it's a pack that's long and narrow not only gets in the way less but it also lets you keep the load closer to your spine making for a much less fatiguing carry.

Which gave me this list of criteria:
Very fit-able
Super long-lasting
Frame and pack separate-able
Tall-Narrow load

Kifaru have an amazing reputation and from what I'd read a credible design philosophy. Handmade in Colorado, Kifaru are the brain child of Patrick Smith (who founded Mountainsmith in the 70's), developing packs made to a standard not a price in very small production runs. My kind of company and the closest thing to a 'bespoke' handmade pack.

Kifaru now do three ranges of pack: lightweight, military and hunting; with the military being the coolest and most expensive, I've never seen lightweight, and hunting being the best value. Be warned, set against a backdrop of cheap Chinese manufacturing, anything handmade will look expensive - with Kifaru that means anything bigger than a day pack and you're at famous-maker custom knife money. I’ve bid on a few second hand Kifaru military packs on ebay but they seem to go for most of (or even more than) the new price.  I had been seriously considered buying just a frame from another maker and cutting the straps off my old pack and lashing it to the new frame. Then the LongHunter came along - I told myself; it was my birthday soon, crimbo too, I could live without food if I really had to, and if it lasted as well as the last pack I’d be nearly seventy by the time it would be due for replacement. The second hand price clinched it.

The last time I bought a big pack, soft packs with semi-frames were the new thing, and while they are lighter, they don’t support the big loads like the framed packs do. The idea is to carry all the weight on your hips, with the shoulder straps just stopping the pack falling over backwards. Kifaru’s aim is to achieve this by darts, and adjustable straps sewn into the pack, shaping it to your spine and directing the weight onto your hips. At 85 litres (5,200 cubic in) the G2 Long Hunter was a bit bigger than I'd been looking for but I've tried travelling with a full pack and it's neither convenient nor comfortable. Briefly transported to a dream world where I find a horde of treasure in the woods or on the beach and am delighted by the extra carrying capacity I pressed 'send' and the new-to-me LongHunter was on it's way.

The LongHunter makes the base of a custom set up you get:
The 5200 c3 pack frame
The sack in 500D Cordura (a lighter grade than the military packs)
The belt with 'power pulls'
The compressible wedged-shaped hood that removes to become a shoulder bag or lumber pouch.

I've also got a couple of extras coming in the post so I'll show you my customisation as and when they arrive.

Stuff that comes with the LongHunter that I didn't get:
Camo/Blaze orange cover - supposed to make the pack quieter
Internal pouch - I would upgrade this to the lined pouch
Gun Bearer - an excellent idea puts the weight of your rifle on your hips not your shoulder
Shoulder strap for the hood/lumber pouch - I'm using one off an old tool bag

In summation:
Very clever design
Handmade in the USA
Lifetime guarantee
Bombproof construction
The cognoscenti’s choice

More to come in part 2
Your pal


Albert A Rasch said...


Some of the SpecOps boys have 'em and they seem to be happy with them. Methinks I may have to take a look at them myself!

Happy New Year to you and all!
Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Albert Rasch In Afghanistan™

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Hey Albert

Good to hear the British Military issue crimbo didn't do you in LOL

I've had to fool around with it for a while and have watched the tutorials 'nuff times but now I think I'm at a definitive adjustment, and yeah I'm very happy with it.

If i was buying from new I'd want to try it side-by-side against the mystery ranch Crew-cab which was what I was planning on getting before I heard all the Kifaru fans online.It's also eye-wateringly expensive, but a little less 'strapy'

Keep well