Lets say, just for the sake of seeing how much we can get into these packs, that we are going on a November muzzleloader elk hunt in Utah's Uinta mountains.
We will need a good supply of clothing.
We will need a warm place to sleep.
We will need the ability to cook food.
So, you buy a pack.
You want one with the ability to carry elk meat on the load shelf so you narrow it down to a Stone Glacier or a Kuiu.
The Sky 5100 or the Icon pro 5200.
Well, lets see what we can get in there!
Things we are going to need.
I am a big fan of ultra light dry bags.
Nothing worse than getting dumped on, or taking a dunk in a creek to ruin a trip.
Wet clothes, wet tent, wet sleeping bag, wet everything.
You may have noticed that I am also packing a very big tent, and wood burning stove.
Its November in the Uintas, its gonna snow.
So, lets see how the two packs pack up.
First the Stone Glacier Sky 5100.
All that crap has got to go in here.
Sleep system in. Tent in first, bag and sleep pad on top.
Clothing in next.
I know, its not typical to carry that many clothes. This is just for the sake of a pack comparison. I usually only have one dry bag of clothes. The other is food.
Next cook system, optics, misc items fill in the space.
And that, is the Stone Glacier Sky 5100.
The top bag is empty. Nothing in it. All gear in.
So, we can fill the top bag with food, or if we eliminate some clothes, we can have lots of extra space.
Now, what about hauling elk meat?
Well, lets say we have that extra dry bag full of elk meat.
Its load shelf time.
As you can see, the Stone Glacier is sleek. Its about getting it done. Its a narrow pack, it does not stick out past your body. This is nice when going off trail to get to a spot.
The Sky 5100 handles the gear well. Its great to wear. The feel of the loaded pack on your back is very nice.
So, lets look at the Kuiu Icon pro 5200.
With 100 cubic inches of extra space, this should be easy.
Sleep system in first.
Clothing in next.
To be honest, the full zipper thing was a big selling point for me. But I hate it.
The gear tends to fall out of the pack if its open, and once its full, trying to close it can be a pain. Its not an issue though, you can top load it through the sack.
Next, cook system.
Hey! what the crap? the bag is totally full!
Well folks, thats because the space is used in sewn on pockets, not the main bag.
Lets get the rest of the gear in there.
Spotting scope and tripod.
Now, the bag is packed.
The top bag is again, empty. We could fill it with freeze dried meals, extra gear, whatever. Also the side pocket on the far side is empty.
And the meat bag, for the load sling.
Whatever you think about these companies or the products, that is a lot of gear to fit into a pack. Both companies make larger offerings, but I find that this size is plenty.
As you can see, I don't use all the space in either.
And I am packing a very large tent, and a wood burning stove.
Both packs wear very nicely, even with the weight.
My personal belief is that you cant go wrong with either.
So, what is the difference?
Well, weight is one. The Kuiu weighs 5 lbs 9 oz v/s the Stone Glacier is much less at 4.1 lbs.
But, that comes at a cost. The stone Glacier is stupid expensive at just over $600 where the Kuiu is a much better bargain at $450.
Any frugal consumer can see that the Kuiu is more economical.
Also, one thing to note, these packs were designed by the same man. Kurt from Stone Glacier was hired by Kuiu to design the icon packs. Then Kurt broke off and started his own company, Stone Glacier. The fit and feel of the packs is very similar.
I bet they would both claim to have completely different products, and have major design differences, but if you own both, you know its not true.
They are both very good packs.
I prefer the Stone Glacier.
I don't need, or use the pockets and the 10 million zippers on the Kuiu. It all just adds weight and reduces the usable space in my opinion.
But, some guys like that kind of thing. For you, the Kuiu might be the better option.
Both packs are most than enough for early fall hunts where you don't need so much gear. The frames on these packs are sweet. If you keep your pack around 40 pounds or less, you won't even know you are wearing it.
That is, if you get it set up right. Some people seem to have issues with this.
Also, if you are obsessed by the need to have every piece of your gear camo, the Kuiu is a the choice. Stone Glacier only comes in grey. Hopefully that never changes.
Both packs come with a host of options from gun and bow holders to hip belt pockets and more.
I find both of these packs to be superior to the other three packs I own. But thats just my opinion. There are loads of guys who are fanboys for those brands as well.
Don't make the mistake of buying a horn hunter system. That thing deserves its own nightmare of a review. Heavy, uncomfortable terror of a mess.