By Michael Deming

Whether you are climbing Mt. Rainier, trekking to the top of one of Colorado’s 54 14,000 foot peaks, packing into a backcountry stream to land some brookies, or looking to get a few ridges between you and the main roads to tag the trophy of a lifetime, pack weight and gear is a huge topic of conversation in any circle.  It can certainly take on a life of its’ own and create some fairly heated conversations amongst the most serious packers.

This column is not intended to venture into that heated debate, but rather give you a roadmap to lightening your load and making your venture into the backcountry more enjoyable.  

If you are intending on doing any of the above activities, lightening your own personal load is the very best place to start.  If I use myself as an example; at six foot tall and right at two hundred pounds and I am planning on doing a week long backcountry trip, I will probably have a pack loaded with 30 pounds or more.  This 30 pound pack is only 15% of my total body weight.  If I can drop 10 pounds from my personal weight, I will burn fewer calories throughout the week.  More details can be found out about this information through the internet, by looking into the Nutribase Calorie Expenditure Chart.  According to the charts, 200 pounds and my 30 pound pack at a moderate level of hiking, I will burn 940 calories per hour.  If I were to be at 190 pounds, and carrying the same pack, I would burn roughly 892 calories per hour.  Considering that you are probably hiking 8 to 10 hours a day as well as doing other activities, this equates out to most people burning 7,000-10,000 calories each day.

It doesn’t take long with this kind of activity to get you into a good aerobic fitness level and at which time you are going to start looking at places to reduce your pack weight even more.  The next reduction is going to come with gear you choose to carry as well as leave out.

Over the years, I have put together a backcountry pack which has the essentials I must have and I’ve gotten rid of those items that I either never used or only pulled out occasionally. A good example of this would be excessive clothing or a can of smoked oysters to enjoy around the fire.  Cutting a few luxury items out of your pack is a good start to lightening the load.  On your first trip out, you will probably think that you need everything under the sun until you hoist that pack onto your back and it tips the scale at 60 pounds.  Start a list of everything you put in the pack and then cross reference it when you come back and see if it was worth carrying it.  It won’t take too many trips to realize you could have done without a few items that add up to several unwanted pounds. It is on your back and you should make the call.

Items essential to backpacking trips are a good pack, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, shelter, stove, and water purification system.  You can possibly cut as much as ten pounds out of your load in these departments alone, but it is going to cost you some hard earned cash.  Simply put, the lighter weight products usually have a higher price tag attached to them.  It is up to you to decide if it is worth the dollars to chop off a few pounds here or there as well as make sure the product fits your needs and will hold up to the rigors of your tasks.  We have had the privilege of testing some of these great products for many years and others for just this season.  We picked the best products in the light weight category with items to fit nearly every price range and here is our feedback.

Shelters

Big Agness-Fly Creek Ultralight Tent

Big Agness-Fly Creek Ultralight Tent
This tent is the cream of the crop when it comes to lightweight tents, but it was also the most expensive in the field.  Including a 6 ounce floor saver (sold separately), stakes, fly, and pack bag, this tent barely made the 3 pound mark.  This is a 3 season free standing tent with single hub aluminum pole design.  The tent fly as well as the floor are made of silicone treated nylon rip-stop with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating.  Most of the tent body is made of polyester mesh making it super lightweight, but during our testing, it also made it extremely breathable with no condensation. The tent has 28 square feet of floor space and is sufficient for 2 people, but was ideal for one person and their gear.  The tent came out of the box ready to hit the field with all guy ropes attached.  This tent was my personal favorite during all of our testing and well worth the $369.95 price tag attached to it.

Kelty-Trail Ridge 2

Kelty-Trail Ridge 2
This tent won’t break the bank or your back.  Packed up and ready to go, it tipped the scales at 5 lbs 3 ounces.  It is also a 3 season free standing tent.  We really liked this tent because of the 2 door design as well as 2 separate vestibules on each side.  This setup allows for either person to get up and out of the tent without disturbing the other party.  It has a total of 32 square feet of floor space and was extremely comfortable for 2 people and all of their gear.  Comes with 3 DAC poles and high quality stakes that will get you through years of usage.  It comes with all the guy ropes setup, but must be attached to the tent on the appropriate tie down points.  The tent and floor are made of 68D polyester with 1800mm coating and the fly is made from 75D polyester with 1800mm coating. One of our employees has used this tent for over 200 days of field use and thinks it is the best thing since sliced bread.  If you are hiking with a partner and split the weight in half, it is very manageable and very well priced at $160.00.  Truly the best value in it’s’ class.

Marmot Limelight 2

Marmot Limelight 2
This tent weighed in the heaviest of all of our light weight 2 person models at just a hair over 6 pounds packed up and ready to go.  This is almost a pound over the spec weight on the box, but since we used the same scale for all of our testing, we will stick with it.  This tent has a lot more material in the tent as opposed to the mesh with the other tents which adds to the weight, but it also came with a floor saver.  Tent poles are made of DAC.  It has a total of 32 square feet of floor space and plenty of room for 2 people and 9 square feet of vestibule area which held our packs and gear.  We were able to test this tent in some severe winds and rain and it held up perfectly and better yet, kept us dry and comfortable.  This tent model has been out for several years, but our team didn’t have much experience with it so we reached out to some of our backpacking community friends for some feedback and the remarks were glowing.  Durability was the key in every response we received and for the one minor problem found, customer service was top notch and a reason to go back to Marmot in the future.  This is a great tent which will give you years of service, but can be picked up for under two hundred bucks.

Sierra Design Navassa Bivy

Sierra Design Navassa Bivy
If you are hitting the trails and expecting good weather or are just willing to take your chances, a bivy is a great way to go.  It will provide you some waterproof protection if the weather changes, but minimal room.  This bivy is made of nylon DRIZONE™ waterproof fabric which breathes extremely well.  The mesh window provides added ventilation when the weather isn’t bearing down on you.  A bivy isn’t built for comfort, but if you need protection from the elements and want to stay dry, the SD Navassa Bivy is the way to go.  It weights just over a pound and compacts down to the size of a large coffee mug.  It is an essential piece of equipment in my bag if lightweight is what I am looking to accomplish.  It will cost you about a hundred bucks.

Sleeping pads left to right: Thermarest Prolite Plus, Big Agnes Q-Core Insulated, Thermarest NeoAir XLite, Big Agnes Insulated Air Core, Exped Synmat 9 Pump Deluxe

Sleeping Pads

A good night’s rest is essential to having high levels of energy during your hikes.  In our evaluation of sleeping pads, we looked at weight, packability, and most importantly, comfort.

Thermarest NeoAir XLite
This pad was the lightest weight pad in the test which was right at 14 ounces and it also packed down to the smallest of sizes when compressed.  It is 2.5 inches thick when inflated and extremely comfortable to sleep on.  The center of the pad has a reflective layer similar to a solar blanket which helps to radiate heat back to your body instead of escaping into the ground.  It comes with an individual repair kit.  We love this pad, but it was a little on the noisy side.  However, it got the top spot in size and weight and is a great choice when weight is your biggest concern.  This pad will cost you approximately $160.

Thermarest Prolite Plus
This pad is designed for a little colder weather.  It is a self inflating pad with Diagonal punched Urethane foam which greatly reduces heat loss.  This pad is slightly tapered which reduces the weight, but it still tipped the scales at 1 lb 8 ounces in the stuff sack.  It is also a little hard to get back into the stuff sack once inflated, but can be accomplished with a little effort.  This pad is one of the most durable out there and due to the closed cell foam design, a hole in the unit won’t totally ruin your night’s sleep. Thermarest has been building pads for forty year here in the United States and they have proven that they know what they are doing. Retail price is $99.95 for the regular sized model tested.

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core
This pad was super comfortable as well as quiet.  It has a built in Primoloft insulation inside the 2.5” thick pad. 50% of the insulation is made from recycled materials making it much better for the environment and at $89.95; it isn’t bad on the pocket book either.

Big Agnes Q-Core Insulated
This is a new design from Big Agnes and one look at it says comfort.  It has an egg crate design and at 3.5” thick when inflated, you can get the comfort that you need  whether that is a low inflated soft pad or highly inflated firm pad.  This pad fit everyone’s comfort needs when tested.  It packed back into the stuff sack nicely and only tipped the scales at 1 pound 8 ounces.  It comes with its’ own repair kit as well.

Exped Synmat 9 Pump Deluxe
Comparing this pad to the others in this column is nearly comparing apples to oranges, but I know how important sleep is when on the trail.  You will definitely sacrifice some weight when you pack this pad since it tips the scale at 2 pounds 2 ounces, but it is also 5” wider than all the other regular size pads tested.  It also comes equipped with a built in hand pump within the unit.   This keeps the moisture out of your pad from inflating the unit with forced air from your mouth which will eventually deteriorate the materials in the insulation.  This pad has an R-value of 6 which makes it a great 4 season pad.  It has been hands down the most comfortable pad in the testing, but at nearly a pound heavier than the next step down, you will need to make the choice of whether to carry the extra weight.

Sleeping bags left to right: Kelty Light Year 20, Kelty Light Year 0 Degree, Marmot Trestles 15, Sierra Design Zissou 15 with DriDown, Western Mountaineer Badger

Sleeping Bags

All sleeping bags tested were 6’ and either a 15 degree bag or 20 degree bag in mummy design to keep comparison as close as possible.  Once again, the more you spend on a sleeping bag the lighter it will usually be and built with better quality materials.  It is up to you to determine if the added money spent will be worth it in the long run.  We spend hundreds of man days a year in the field and sleep in a sleeping bag nearly as much as we do in our home bed.  So, this is an extremely important category for us here at Sportsman’s News.

Western Mountaineer Badger
This company builds one of the very best bags I have ever had the pleasure of sleeping in.  I’m not a big fan of mummy bags because I have broad shoulders and with a full 66” of inside girth around the shoulder area, I didn’t feel confined in my movement.  This was the highest priced bag in our testing and it will put a dent in your pocketbook by about $490.00, but at over 100 days a year spent sleeping in here, the $5.00 a night is well worth the rent.  It is stuffed full of 23 ounces of 850 fill down which is some of the highest rated down fill on the market.  This bag compressed quite small and bounces back quickly when unpacked due to the great quality down and had a total weight packed of 2 lbs 10 oz.  WM uses a Dacron stiffener around the zipper which totally eliminates jams or better yet renders your zipper useless on cold nights.  Anyone willing to spend the money on a Western Mountaineering bag won’t be disappointed.  It has great comfort as well as performance.

Sierra Design Zissou 15 with DriDown

Down sleeping bags provide the highest weight to insulation ratio on the market and it is the reason that many choose down sleeping bags. They have one downfall.  Once wet, down loses all insulation value and is almost worthless.  Sierra Design has launched a new product called DriDown ™ which is a process of adding a hydrophobic finish on each down plume making it stay dry longer, loft better, and dry quicker.  The Zissou uses 600 fill DriDown™ to insulate this bag that weighs in at 2 lbs 8 oz.  The inside shoulder girth on this bag is 62” which didn’t give me as much shoulder room as I like, but it is still extremely comfortable and is nearly half the price of the WM Badger model. This is a great bag and worth every penny.

Kelty Light Year 20
I probably have more experience with Kelty sleeping bags than any other product tested for this column.  Kelty has always provided a great value as well as solid products.  The Light Year 20 is no exception.  It is filled with 23 oz. of 600 fill down and built with slanted baffle construction.  The inside shoulder girth on this bag is 64” which is extremely comfortable for my large frame.  Total weight of the bag and stuff sack is 3 lbs. 2 oz, but the compression stuff sack included allows you to completely compress this bag into a very small area.   This bag is new and will get years of use, but as discussed before, I have owned Kelty bags for years and have had the opportunity to test out their customer service.  I blew out a zipper on a great bag and one phone call to customer service was all I needed to know that I would be happy to buy Kelty products in the future.  The bag was very old, but they treated me as if I had just purchased the bag. Within a few weeks, it was back in my hands.  This bag is 15 years old and still in my arsenal.  Kelty rocks!

Kelty Light Year 0 Degree
Same great features as the 20, but a little heavier due to the added insulation.  Total weight of this bag was 3 lbs 15 ounces and since it is a zero degree bag, it is designed for a little colder weather.

Marmot Trestles 15
This is a great bag for the budget conscious camper.  It comes in at just over a hundred bucks.  As we discussed before, the reduced cost will usually give you added weight and this bag in its’ stuff sack tips the scale at 3 lbs 12 ounces.  However, this bag is insulated with synthetic Spirafil 120 which still has insulation qualities even when wet.  If you are camping in an area or during a season that is sure to be wet, you can’t go wrong with synthetic insulation.

Stoves

A hot meal on the trail is one of the greatest parts of the day in my opinion.  It fills my tank with fuel as well as warms me up and prepares me for the next day’s adventures.  Having a stove in my pack is something that I just won’t do without.

Jet Boil Sol Cooking System

Jet Boil Sol Cooking System
I personally have carried a JetBoil stove for the last couple of years, so I have more than my fair share of experience with the brand and much more than any other model tested.  I am a big fan of this stove because it is small and compact and an all in one type of unit that suits all of my needs when scouting for big game. It comes with the self igniting stove assembly as well as a 27 oz. anodized aluminum cooking cup.  It comes with an insulating cozy as well as a lid which has a sipping hole to drink through.  The entire unit weighs in at 11 ounces.  It is the perfect setup for a one person camp, but you can add the Sumo companion cup for those bigger camps which holds 60 oz. of liquid.  The Sumo companion cup will add an additional 9.5 oz. to your load.  In all of our testing between 5800 all the way out to 13600 feet of elevation, the longest that it ever took to boil two full cups of water was 2.5 minutes.

MSR Reactor

MSR Reactor
This is a great stove and boiled water faster than any of the other stoves tested.  Regardless of elevation, it got two cups of water boiling right at the two minute mark.  It has a total capacity of 57 ounces and is a great stove when you have a couple of people in your group.  This is a true workhorse and one of our mountain climbing Pro-Staffers says that it melts snow in nearly half the time of most other units.   It comes with the heating unit as well as its’ own 57 ounce cooking container and lid which works as its’ own storage container.  The radiant burner nestles inside the bottom of your cup which makes this an ideal unit for cooking in high winds. The stove assembly itself weights in at 6.5 oz and combined with the cup and lid, the total unit weights in at 1 pound, 1 ounce.

MSR MICROROCKET with ignitor and case

MSR MICROROCKET
If size and weight is the biggest concern, you need look no further.  The stove itself only weights 2.7 oz and when you throw the igniter that comes with it on top, you are still only at 3.2 ounces.  You will still need to include some sort of cooking cup, pot, or pan into your arsenal which will add minor weight.  However, this is the true minimalist type of stove.  The entire unit comes in a plastic container and it folds up and will fit in the palm of your hand.   It boiled two cups of water in 2.5 minutes at 9,000 feet of elevation. This is the ultimate stove and is worth throwing into your pack as a backup.

Water Purification

Getting a water-borne illness deep in the backcountry can not only shorten your trip, it could possibly dehydrate you to the point of death.  I won’t hit the backcountry without some sort of water purification system that gets rid of viruses, protozoa, and bacteria’s.  Below are two of the finest products on the market today.

SteriPEN Adventure Opti and the KATADYN Hiker Pro Microfilter

SteriPEN Adventure Opti
The SteriPEN uses Ultraviolet light technology which disrupts the DNA of microbes.  Without this function, the microbes in tainted water cannot reproduce and make you sick.  This technology is used in many major cities to purify your drinking water.   Putting this technology into a hand held unit is extremely efficient and lightweight.  The total unit weighs in at 3.6 ounces and is as simple as turning on the UV light, dropping the unit into your water bottle, and agitate the water for 90 seconds which will give you one full liter of filtered water.  The UV light and also makes for a great backup light, in the event your flashlight crashes on you.  This unit doesn’t do anything for particles in the water though, so you will need to buy a prefilter or carry some inexpensive coffee filters with you to get out unwanted sediment.

KATADYN Hiker Pro Microfilter
This handy little kit comes with the filter assembly, carry bag, prefilter,and bottle adapter to make getting safe and good tasting water a snap.  The system is extremely easy to set up and will filter up to 300 gallons of fresh water with the included filter, but this will depend on the quality of water you are filtering.  It will not only remove bacteria and cysts down to 0.3 microns, but it also removes smell and improves taste.  It will not totally remove tainted color, but you can be confident that the water you are drinking through this unit is safe and won’t ruin your trip.  The total kit tips the scale at 12 ounces, but this added weight is a good piece of mind when you have to drink from an unknown source.

 

The contents of each of the packs was the same to allow for a fair comparison.

Packs

The pack is probably one of the most talked about products in the field of backpacking. The one thing that I have come to realize is that there is no “One Perfect Pack” only the “Perfect Pack for the Specific Job.”

Before you start looking at investing in a pack, you need to first determine the application for which it will be used. What I mean by this, from a hunters standpoint is; Is lightweight the most important thing for you or will you need to go in light and come out heavy? If you will be going to the frigid north country and plan on living off of your back while chasing sheep for ten days and possibly covering over a hundred miles with a guide and packer in your corner, you might be able to have a lighter pack. These packs are more in the mountaineering category with “LIGHT” being the priority. You might pack out your horns and cape, while your guide and packer carry the major load of meat and gear. If you are hitting the backcountry for muleys or elk on your own and plan on taking your camp as well as a full load of meat after the kill, you need a more heavy duty pack. These heavy duty packs are great and they do exactly what they are designed to do and that is haul heavy loads. The disadvantage of these packs is they add excessive weight right out of the gate and usually don’t have as sophisticated of a suspension system. This is why you have to evaluate your needs before buying a pack. We have tested some of the best packs in both categories fully loaded and ready for the backcountry. We loaded each pack with the same equipment, which is on our gear list for an Alaska Dall Sheep hunt and used it in our training program to provide some apples for apples testing.

Lightweight Mountaineer Style Packs-These packs work great for those situations when you will have a guide and or packer with you and the major weight burden will be on them or if you plan on coming back to the truck after a successful hunt and grabbing a freighter frame.

 

Black Diamond Mercury 75

Black Diamond Mercury 75
This pack is one of the most comfortable packs I have ever had on my back. When you are talking about lightweight from the start, it tips the scale at 4.9 pounds which is a great starting point. This pack is very sleek and the large model has a capacity of 4699 cubic inches, but doesn’t include the expansion into that equation which makes this pack over 6000 cubic inches when expanded. Our test model is designed for a man with 19.5” to 23.5” torso and waist sizes from 34” to 39” which is a perfect fit for my 6’ 200 lb frame.

The ERGO ACTIVE XP aluminum frame is an extremely unique design. The ball joint in the belt allows for the entire load to pivot as you maneuver your way through uneven terrain and the cabling system in the shoulder straps helps in this process as well. It allows the load to work with you rather than against you which is extremely important when you are jumping from rock to rock or trying to stay dry on a stream crossing. The pack is hydration compatible and it also has two stretch pockets (one on each side) for additional water bottles. This pack can be loaded from the top or from the front zipper compartment. We really liked this feature because it allowed us to access heavier items at the bottom of the pack without totally unpacking our gear. There is also a front pocket which provided a great place to store camera equipment for easy access. The lid or top pack has waterproof zippers and plenty of room. This piece also removes from the pack with its’ own hip belt attached, allowing you to use it as a minimalist day pack away from your base. My fully equipped sheep pack with 10 days of food and 64 oz of water tipped the scale at 42 pounds, putting it right in the target area for perfect weight according to Black Diamond. We did add 40 additional pounds to simulate some success on our trip and although this load exceeded the maximum recommendation by 30+ lbs from BD, it handled the load perfectly and showed no signs of a problem. This pack has earned the right to travel to Alaska with me this year and probably a few other trips as well.

Gregory Baltoro 75

Gregory Baltoro 75
Our raw pack weighed in at 5.6 pounds, which was slightly less than the weight listed on the Gregory website which is always great to see a company under promise and over deliver. It is just over a 4700 cubic inch pack which is suited very well for those 3-5 days trips in warmer weather when you won’t need so many heavy and bulky clothes. This pack has tons of adjustability to fit just about every body type available. The AFS or Auto Fit Suspension system is extremely comfortable with heavy loads. This system allows the hip belt to pivot to the perfect position for you and your load. The shoulder harness connects to the frame of the pack via rotating Auto-Cant attachment points, giving you a perfect fit every time. The Baltoro 75 is hydration compatible and also has a hideaway water bottle pocket as well as mesh pockets on the outside to store more bottles if needed. This pack has its’ own sleeping back compartment which can be accessed by its’ own zipper panel. The main compartment is accessible through either a front compartment or top load. As with the BD model, we really like this feature to access heavier items packed lower in the main compartment. There are two full length side pockets down each side of the pack which was a great place to store items you might need throughout the day for easy access like a spotting scope or first aid kit. The lid is also removable and acts as a great fanny pack. This pack is loaded with cinch points as well as compression straps. Securing your load with the Baltoro 75 is something you won’t have a problem with. Overall, this pack is great for those shorter trips, but when loaded with our overall sheep hunt setup, we maxed out the space available. So, getting a cape or anything additional in this pack was impossible. With all the cinch points, we could have attached it to the outside, but this is not a choice we wanted when packing many miles.

 

Kelty Red Cloud 90

Kelty Red Cloud 90
The raw pack weight on this pack was 5.5 pounds which was a full half pound lower than their advertised weight on their website. It also has a load capacity of 5600 cubic inches which easily handled our sheep hunt test load with room to spare. The Red Cloud 90 will also fit the budget minded consumer because it can be had for less than two hundred dollars which isn’t very common for a pack of this weight and quality. It is equipped with the adjustable CloudLock II suspension system, which consists of twin lightweight aluminum stays, a horizontal anti-barreling stay and an HDPE framesheet for reliable support. This design provided good stability and load-bearing strength during our testing, but didn’t have the comfort level of the higher priced packs. This pack has a separate compartment for your sleeping bag, but with the size of the main bag, we had plenty of room for our bag and pad as well as our bivy, which allowed us to have our entire load within the pack, yet still easily accessible. We like this because anytime something is attached to the outside of a pack, it has the possibility of getting damaged or worse, “lost”. Nobody wants to lose a sleeping pad and be forced to sleep on the ground. The main compartment is a top load only, but with pockets on each side as well as on the front, there is plenty of room to put items you may need to easily access throughout the day. As with the other packs, this one is hydration compatible as well and has a removable lid which seconds as a fanny pack. This pack had everything we needed for our sheep hunt, but the suspension of the higher priced pack edged it out. However, anyone looking for a great pack at a great price can’t go wrong with the Kelty Red Cloud 90.

Hunting and Heavy Duty Load Packs-These packs will fit any situation, but they are specifically designed for those of you who are the do-it-yourself type of hunter where you will need to get all of your gear into the backcountry as well as your trophy back out. These are also great guide packs that can handle the rigors of heavy loads in excess of 100 pounds, day after day and season after season.

 

Eberlestock J34

Eberlestock J34
To make sure we provide full disclosure, it must be said that I have over a dozen years of experience of carrying Eberlestock packs. I carried these packs long before I got into the outdoor industry and have probably over a thousand days with an Eberlestock pack on my back. The J-34 (Just One) is probably the closest thing that you can get to a one-pack-fits-all purposes type of pack. You can start out with a super compact, 1700 cubic inch daypack which has a rifle scabbard close to your back, but as you unzip and expand this pack to accommodate those situations like packing your camp into the backcountry, you have a 4600 cubic inch heavy hauler. Add a few extra accessories like the spike camp duffel and now you have an 8000 cubic inch pack. This pack is my personal favorite and I’ve hauled many a trophies out of the backcountry on this pack and it has never let me down. Since it is a more heavy duty pack, it does tip the scales at 7.5 pounds raw, but that added weight won’t bother you when you know you might be hauling out a 150 pound load. This pack is also hydration compatible. It has good number of torso adjustments and one is sure to fit most any size person. Don’t expect it to fit and ride like a mountaineering type pack. It fits extremely comfortable, but it is designed to be a heavy load carrying piece of equipment and everything is built with that in mind. The accessories available for your Eberlestock pack are too much to list in this short column, but a full menu of items as well as how they look expanded can be viewed at www.eberlestock.com. This is a top load pack with two full length side pockets which will easily hold your spotting scope and all your daily needs. The lid has plenty of room to store food for the day, along with items you might need quick access to like headlamps or knives. I would highly recommend adding the spike camp duffle as well as a rain cover and zipper panel when purchasing your Just One pack. This pack handled all of our sheep hunt equipment, but since we have a guide as well as a packer, we will give our J34 a rest until elk season.

 

Tenzing TZ6000

Tenzing TZ6000
Tenzing is a new company that hit the streets with the 2012 season. The designer of this pack is Jay Roberts and he has a vast amount of knowledge about packs and years of experience in the field. It is no surprise that this entire line is making waves this season. Professional Hunter, Cameron Hanes has picked this exact pack as his pack of choice for hard core backcountry hunting. The TZ6000 is a good crossover mix between a mountaineer pack and a hard core hunting pack. The raw pack tips the scale at 7.5 pounds. It has a cubic inch capacity of 4400, but can expand out past 6000 for extra space. It needs to be said that the expansion unzips the whole bag and moves it away from your back, allowing you to put the heavy load of meat closest to your frame. This helps with balancing heavy loads and the sides are also vented to allow the meat to cool as it is being packed out. It has great adjustments for the torso and will fit almost everyone. It has a separate sleeping bag compartment. As with some of the more expensive mountaineering packs it has both top loading as well as an access panel on the front of the pack, which will allow you to get to the main body of your gear without unpacking the whole load. It is hydration compatible and also has some mesh pockets on each side which will hold large bottles of water as well. The material of this pack is extremely durable and the areas that will get the most torture and abrasion are built from a new material called Dyneema, which is supposed to be fifteen times stronger than steel, yet light enough to float on water. We can’t verify that claim, but we packed this pack with 150 pounds and gave it a great field test and so far, it is holding up without any problems. The lid separates from the main pack and becomes its’ own fanny pack. The pack has two long side pockets which will fit most spotting scopes on the market today. This pack has numerous tie-down points as well as built in cinch straps. It has a built-in bow or rifle holder pocket as well as its’ own rain cover. There is absolutely nothing that has been forgotten on the Tenzing TZ6000. It will get some additional testing during the Sportsman’s News teams fall hunting schedule for sure and it is a must see for anyone looking for a full sized pack this year.