I was quite DOWN on the older KUIU pack.
But they made a good turn around.
4.5 stars overall
KUIU ICON 7000 Review
New, innovative, cutting edge internal frame hunting or expedition pack. A modular system that when interchanged can take only a minute to go from 5000 cubic inches to 7000. Designed with a Carbon Fiber suspension the Icon is lightweight but tough enough to carry heavy loads. This concept allows the hunter or backpacker the flexibility for extended day hunts/adventures out on the mountain or for short bivy’s.
KUIU’s Icon 7000 is made of 54 oz 160 Denier 100% Nylon Cordura Ripstop featuring a moisture-resistant outer face fabric. With 7000 cubic inches of max volume this pack is big enough to keep you out on the mountain for days at a time. The bottom and back panels of the pack are double reinforced. The Icon is innovative, highlighted by a Load Sling designed between the bag and frame. Four compression straps, tightened on the side and front panels give you the ability to securely compress the pack. A removable, quick-release top lid is roomy and useful. The Icon’s pocket configuration features 2 exterior vertical side pockets, 2 exterior stuff/water bottle pockets, and 7 internal pockets that allow for gear organization. Two side pockets are designed to store a hunter’s spotting scope, tri-pod, rifle or other gear. The Icon’s pocket system provides great flexibility for use. The 2 interior left and right dual hydration pockets with ports are well designed and located inside the main compartment. The Icon 7000 is also designed with two external daisy chains for attaching gear as well as a key clip. The occipital cavity provides unrestricted, comfortable head movement. YKK reverse coil zippers with custom molded zipper pulls are invaluable. KUIU’s cutting edge Carbon Fiber suspension system flexes perfectly to provide your body invaluable support and comfort. The suspension system is easily adapted to your size and build with velcro adjustable shoulder straps that can be adjusted up or down as needed. The memory foam in the shoulder pads and waist belt provides the cushion needed when packing heavy loads. Two exterior pockets on the waist belt allow you instant access to your headlamp or other important gear. The newly designed lumbar pad on the waist belt is tacky and doesn’t slip off the crest of your hips. The two way waist strap tightening system is simple to use and allows you to cinch the pack up uniformly. There are many other small details that were added to the Icon such as small web keepers on every loose strap and hydration tube holders on the shoulder strap that take this pack to a higher level.
Guiding desert sheep hunters on backpack only hunting adventures is tough work. Multi-day hunts into some of the most isolated, rugged high desert terrain in North America requires the best in gear as it can be exhausting and will test the mental and physical abilities of even the most hard core hunters.
When I’m out in the field it is absolutely critical that I have a backpack that will hold up under the most extreme conditions, yet be very functional and comfortable in providing me with the flexibility to pack and utilize a wide variety of gear such as climbing ropes, rifle, stoves, food, water filters, etc, etc. Not only does the ultimate success of our hunts depend upon the functionality of my backpack but at times it can be the difference in keeping you and your hunters safe out on the mountain.
This fall I had the opportunity to field test KUIU’s remarkable and innovative Icon modular backpack system. Designed, redesigned, prototyped and tested by KUIU founder Jason Hairston, who is a true hunter himself, I personally found the Icon to be the best pack that I have ever thrown on my back!
Abusing the Icon on 4 different desert and rocky mountain sheep hunts allowed me to test it under the most hardcore of field conditions. Believe me, my Icon 7000 was pulled up over cliffs, lowered off ledges, and carried loads in excess of 90 pounds. The pack stood up to everything that I or Mother Nature’s diverse arsenal could throw at it including hail storms, abrasive sandstone, mud, dust, cactus, brutal heat and “sheep blood.” Without blowing anymore smoke let me cut directly to the chase…… here are the specific reasons I chose to give the Icon 7000 my highest rating possible!
Loading, Capacity and Organization – For the extended day backpack trips I must plan for while guiding desert sheep hunters I stay out on the mountain for 7 to 10 days at a time. That takes a lot of gear crammed into my backpack so loading, capacity and organization are very important features that I look for and demand in a backpack. I quickly discovered that Jason Hairston had designed the Icon so that it could be loaded from the front, side, or top. The main compartment/panel of this pack can be accessed/loaded by unzipping the dual direction zippers on the front of the pack to expose the entire compartment. It was simple for me to then begin to load my gear according to weight, size, etc, into the pack. To make it even easier, the KUIU Icon has 7 internal organizational pockets that enabled me to fit much more gear into specific locations. The two dual hydration pockets were perfect for my water bladders and collapsible H2O bottles for storage. The ports to run my hydration tubes through were great as I could easily secured them to the shoulder harnesses, one of which is fitted with a hydration tube holder. After loading most of my gear, I like to pull the front panel of the pack closed, push the sides together so I don’t blow out a zipper, then zip both sides up utilizing the dual zippers. Any additional gear, can then be loaded into the pack from the top, before securing a dual draw string to close the main compartment. To ensure even greater capacity, the pack can be expanded further, by utilizing the upper frame pocket before closing the upper drawstring. You are then ready to pull the top lid of the pack down over the top of the main compartment before buckling and tightening. The top lid itself, has three different pockets designed for you to store miscellaneous gear in. This “lid” is also removeable. The Icon 7000 definitely “stepped up to the plate and hit a home run” in meeting my specifications for loading, capacity and organization!
Load Sling – Wow, what a great, ingenious, innovative feature! Jason and his industrial design team built the Icon suspension so that you could easily prepare the pack for what KUIU refers to as “load sling use.” By simply disengaging the load lifter strap and compression straps from the pack bag, I could open the lower frame stay pockets and engage the Icon into load sling mode which gave my pack the room to carry a boned out ram with no problem in the load sling space between the frame and bag. This clever architecture helped me greatly because I didn’t have to worry about cramming a hunter’s boned out animal or cape into the main compartment of my bag with all my other gear. Great job guys! Super feature. The load sling can also be used for your tent or other gear.
Carbon Fiber Frame/Suspension– When you are out on the mountain every pound and ounce counts when having to pack it on your back. Remember, the lighter your load, the more mobility you will have to climb mountains in pursuit of trophy rams, bucks or bulls. With that said, KUIU’s 13 ounce molded carbon fiber backpack frame is absolutely incredible. It’s lighter in weight than other frames but every bit as strong. In fact, Carbon Fiber is twice as strong as steel and half the weight of aluminum. At no time when I was packing extremely heavy loads did my Icon 7000 feel like it wouldn’t support the load. Engineered with vertical stiffness for heavier loads and horizontal flexion this frame literally moves with the hunter or backpacker to maximize comfort and mobility. The Carbon Fiber frame is arched so that it provided me with the critical ventilation I need to not overheat in the hot, dry air of the desert and KUIU’s inset waist belt pivot and independent shoulder pad adjustment provided a very comfortable fit. In fact, when I tightened up the load lifter straps in this suspension system, designed to bring the load closer into my body, it made the pack actually feel like it was part of me. The dual density shoulder straps never dug into my shoulders like other suspension systems do as KUIU’s suspension flexes the frame so that you can transfer the weight of the pack onto the crest of your hips/waist where it belongs.
To be successful I’ve always believed that you must change with the times and KUIU has definitely stepped it up with their Carbon Fiber Frame. Not only is this backpack frame the most technically advanced system out there but it is also extremely comfortable.
Waist Belt/Lumbar Pad
The Icon 7000’s new lumbar pad threw me a curve ball at first but once I adapted to it I have found the pad to be comfortable and very supportive to my lower back. This lumber pad is quite thick and has a tacky material on the outside that allows it to remain firmly against the small of your back without slipping. The pad itself is filled with a firm, dense foam. I found that it took several backpack trips for the shape of my body (waist & hips) to adapt to this pad and for the pad itself to compress properly against my hips/back. It is very important that you fit the pad high on your waist, not low. I have several herniated discs in my lower back and actually found that the lumbar pad helped provide additional support for me in this skeletal region. If you are experiencing trouble with the lumbar pad I suggest you experiment a little and give it time. After several extended backpack trips you will love the support and fit.
Well Thought Out Details That Make A Difference
The difference between a great backpack and one that is mediocre always comes down to the additional, well thought out details. It makes a big difference when someone who gets out on the mountain and is a hunter like Jason Hairston is at KUIU designs a backpack to meet a hunters needs. Here are the specific, little details that definitely sold me on the KUIU Icon 7000 that many other packs simply don’t incorporate into their design.
• Reverse coil zippers with custom pulls that allow you to open the pack and outside pockets from different directions. For instance, on the vertical outside pockets, I can pull the zippers in two different directions so that my tripod can extend through the opening created at the top and bottom of the pocket. This allows me to remove the tripod or other needed gear more quickly. Excellent feature.
• Waist belt pockets that allow instant access to items such as your headlamp without having to take your pack off your back.
• Webkeepers on the straps to keep loose ends from dangling.
• Compression straps that can be tightened on the sides and on the front of the backpack’s main panel. This allows better compression of your gear.
• Hydration shoulder strap holder.
• The Icon 7000 has a large, center pocket on the outside panel that can be used for gear that you want to get at quickly without digging through your pack. I like to use this center pocket for items like my down jacket, rain gear, game bags/knife, etc. Very, very handy.
• The occipital cavity created with by the Carbon Fiber suspension gives you head space to look around when hunting in steep mountainous terrain. With other packs your head is uncomfortably pushed forward by the top lid.
• The waist strap web belts/load stabilizer straps can be tightened at the same time which allows you to adjust these straps uniformly around your waist. On other backpacks that I have you are forced to tighten each strap separately.
• The velcro shoulder straps can be adjusted easily to fit the size of your torso. These straps are actually a pleasure instead of a chore to adjust!
• Adjustable sternum strap.
• The backpack frame handle is well sewn and designed to lift the heavy load of your pack without tearing the sewing. When you have a 100 lbs in your backpack you don’t want to have to lift it by the shoulder straps.
• The Tri-Glides, buckles, tension locks and hip belt clips will take all the abuse you can give them without breaking down in the field.
In the hunting world today you must be willing to pay the price for quality gear. There’s no doubt that successful hunters incorporate and utilize the latest innovative gear and technology when they are “out on the mountain.” KUIU’s Icon 7000 backpack and Carbon Fiber frame have a price tag of around $600 but in my opinion are well worth their weight in gold. I personally own 10 different backpacks and the Icon is my first choice for my extended backpack hunting expeditions!
Stay safe everyone and “keep your boots warm” for your next hunting adventure.