Loading an Icon PRO

A question that frequently comes up this time of year as guys are shopping for and receiving new packs is “What’s the best way to load my pack?” Here I will thoroughly cover how I typically pack my Icon PRO 7200 for a multi-day outing. This will be quite a bit different from how I pack an Ultra bag, which I’ll cover in a future post. Let me preface by saying that there are a number of logical ways to load the Icon PRO with gear, below is simply what has proven to work best for me through trial and error.

Below is my empty and compressed 7200.

IMG_1904

What’s Going In?

For the sake of this demo, I’ll pack what I would take on a solo 4-day October high country Mule Deer rifle hunt. This will be a pretty universal gear list, as the only main differences for longer/shorter or colder/warmer hunts will be variations in the amounts of food and clothing.

Here’s what’s going into the pack:

IMG_1906

Light and Bulky to the Bottom

Let’s get the big stuff out of the way first, all of which stows inside the main compartment. My sleeping bag is the lowest item in the pack, as it provides lightweight loft to keep heavier items riding higher in the pack. Keeping the heaviest items high and tight to the body aids in making a pack not feel as heavy, compared to if the heftiest pieces are stored low and away. The sleeping bag is not an item that will need to be accessed in a rush, further qualifying it’s place at the very bottom.

IMG_1908

On top of the sleeping bag sits the rolled up tent body and fly, and on top of that is where I keep my Super Down jacket. Keeping the Super Down here serves two purposes: 1) It provides additional loft from the bottom as described above, and 2) It sits at a level where its easily accessed by opening just a small portion of the main horseshoe zipper. It’s nice to be able to grab the down jacket quickly when sitting to glass or take a break. If it’s cold out and you plan to remain stationary for a little while, you want to get insulated before any accumulated body sweat starts to freeze.

One more note on starting from the bottom- If the lower webbing loops on the pack aren’t occupied by a weapon holder accessory, I like to install the compression straps and cinch the bottom together- essentially raising the lowest resting point of the main compartment for a higher overall gear load (photo below).

IMG_1936

Hydration

My 3L Platypus Hoser always goes in the right side, interior vertical hydration pocket. This pocket has a hanger and convenient hose port to run the hydration to to my right shoulder strap. While the matching pocket on the left also has a hanger and hose port, I’m right handed so I like to drink from the right. For lefties, the right shoulder strap hose clip can be removed and re-attached to the left shoulder strap.

My extra (usually empty) 1L Platy Bottle and gravity filter are stored in the left-side interior vertical pocket. If using a gravity filter, keeping it inside like this adds extra protection from impact and insulation from freezing.

IMG_1909

IMG_1910

Optics, Tripod, Camera

Now that I have up to 3 Liters of water hanging on the right side of the pack, I need to balance it out- a perfect job for the tripod. My tripod always goes on the outside of the pack, on the left hand side. The feet slide into the exterior stuff-it pouch, and the upper frame to bag compression strap secures the top end with a single wrap.

IMG_1911

Optics, whether is be a spotting scope or 15×56 binos, fit nicely into the exterior vertical-zip pocket. I put my game bags underneath them, just to keep the weight sitting a hair higher.

IMG_1920

My camera typically moves back and forth between the lid and the main pack compartment. If there’s enough room in the lid with my clothes (addressed later), I prefer to have it there for fast access and to keep the weight nice and high. If there’s not space in the lid, it sits in the same area as my Super Down which still offers efficient accessibility. There have been times, usually during epic pack outs, where I’ve simply buckled the camera case into my bino harness to keep it at the ready. Whatever you do, don’t ever have your camera too deep in the pack to draw in a hurry.

Organizing with Dry Bags

While the Icon PRO offers plenty of pockets to keep items separated, I still find myself making use of dry bags in various sizes to compartmentalize. Bulk food, cookware, clothes, and small rarely used items get dry bagged. Not only is it convenient to pull out a bag of related items that are typically used together, but it’s nice to have the peace of mind that electronics, paper, and small gear won’t be easily lost or damaged due to moisture. Furthermore, in the event that maximum interior bag space is needed for meat, the dry bags and their contents can be lashed to the outside of the pack.

IMG_1914

IMG_1915

Food

My food almost always fits into a Medium roll top dry bag. This simply goes into the main bag compartment on top of everything else above that’s already in the pack. As items get eaten and trash is generated, I like to reserve the large lower mesh panel pocket as a dedicated waste location. Putting wrappers back into the food dry bag just creates a mess of confusion after a couple days, and having bits of garbage tucked “wherever” throughout the pack is just plain annoying.

IMG_1916

Cookware and Tags/Small Items

The dry bags with cookware and small items (tag, license, pen, ibuprofen, Havalon blades, moleskin, emergency headlamp, etc.) fits easily into the large mesh top panel pocket.

IMG_1918

Clothing

I’ve always liked to keep my extra clothes in the pack lid. While I don’t have a great reason for doing this, I just like to keep the bulk down in the main pack compartment. And at night a lid stuffed with clothes, removed from the pack, with a shirt around it makes a pretty nice pillow. As seen in the photo below, this dry bag of clothes only takes up one of the two large lid pockets.

The Chugach NX Jacket rides on its own in the other lid pocket for easy access in the event of an inadvertent rain or cold biting wind.

IMG_1921

Quick Access

Small frequent use items always ride in the top outside horizontal zip pocket. With a built in zip divider, this compartment is actually two pockets in one. The innermost pocket has a key clip, making it a safe place for… you guessed it, keys. Being that it takes opening two zippers to reach, it’s also a safe location to keep a wallet if you don’t like keeping your wallet at the trailhead.

IMG_1922

In the larger outer portion of this pocket are my headlamp, tripod head with bino adapter, Merino beanie and neck gaiter, Merino gloves, Havalon knife, snacks, and extra shells (rubberbanded to eliminate noise). Because it’s so common to end up using the pack as a shooting rest, keeping extra shells here is a smart move for fast access during the heat of the moment.

IMG_1923

Hip belt pouches are another excellent place to store frequently used odds and ends. Here I typically keep my chapstick (Scarpa makes really good chapstick by the way), wind indicator bottle, cell phone, bundle of three extra shells, and handheld GPS if using one.

IMG_1929

Rifle

Just the same as the tripod on the left side, I make use of the stuff-it pocket and frame compression strap to securely attach my rifle. By running the compression strap between the scope bell and barrel, a firm downward pull is achieved which really locks the gun into place. In the event that extra protection for the scope and action is desired, the side vertical pocket can be opened and strapped over the outside of the gun.

For inquiring minds, this is a Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight RC in .270 WBY Mag. The scope is a Nightforce NXS Compact 2.5-10×42 with IR and ZeroStop, mounted in Seekins Precision bases on a Talley 20MOA base.

IMG_1935

Fully Loaded, How Much Room is Left?

Below you see the pack loaded with everything that’s gone in up to this point. While it looks pretty full, there’s still plenty of space to add even more gear, and/or pack out a large load of meat.

  • The back pocket of the lid is only 1/3 full.
  • The left inside vertical pocket only has two small items in it.
  • The lower inside panel pocket is empty.
  • Both large exterior side vertical pockets are empty.
  • The exterior back vertical zip pocket is only half full.
  • Gear in the main compartment has plenty of room around it.
  • Gear in the main compartment stops well below the snow collar.
  • Extending the snow collar would add at least 2,000 cubic inches.
  • Load Sling mode would provide yet another 2,500 cubic inches.
  • If push came to shove, dry bags could easily be strapped to the outside.

IMG_1933

 

I hope this has helped answer some of your questions. If nothing else, it’s always fun to see someone else’s kit and a few pack photos. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to post in the comments section below.

Lastly, we’ve added a Subscribe option for The Hunt. Scroll up to the first photo in this post and you’ll see it on the right. Please subscribe!

-Todd Harney

 

 

 

 

Featured Customer: Erik Rosini

Occasionally featured on The Hunt will be customer stories and photos. The way we see it, ‘KUIU Customer’ is synonymous with ‘KUIU Prostaff’. Experienced paying consumers are the most credible resource out there, as they are free to use what they want and speak their honest thoughts on products with no strings attached. 

When Erik Rosini submitted a Mountain Goat photo to be posted to the In The Field page, I decided to give him a call to hear his story on the hunt. Erik, a four-year KUIU customer, works for a seafood brokerage company out of Southern California, which distributes fresh fish to hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets nationwide.

Erik’s August, 2014 Goat hunt took place on the North Coast of British Colombia with Copper River Outfitters. While this region is well known for its history of producing Boone and Crockett goats on a fairly regular basis, Erik stressed the fact that these quality animals are no cakewalk to hunt, nor are they found around every corner.

DSCN0030

Over the first six days of his scheduled 9-day hunt, Erik spent time in two different mountain ranges where he and his guide endured nights with 70 mile per hour winds, and days with very few goat sightings. Three days and many a hard mile hiked in the first range resulted in nothing but a few nannys and ewes. An additional four days and even more boot leather burned in the second range turned up only more nannys and just one young billy who’s horns had yet to curve.

DSCN0024

By the end of day seven, Erik was ready to throw in the towel. Physical exhaustion and zero quality goat sightings had taken its toll on his mind and body. He and his guide pulled out once more, and took day eight to recover and formulate a new plan for the remainder of the hunt.

A day off the mountain and a shower proved to be just enough recuperation for Erik to get his mind and heart back in the game. By the early hours of the ninth morning, he was ready to attempt another climb into a new area.

Following a long hike up a degraded logging road, Erik and his guide once again found themselves glassing above timberline by 8am. This time, they spotted a quality billy some 6,500 feet above them in a nasty, vertical avalanche chute. Any excitement Erik felt was overwhelmed with pressure, as he was suddenly faced with a monumental climb in a now-or-never situation on the last day. Once the hunters were confident that the billy was content to stay put, they began their ascent up the back side of a knife ridge that would keep them out of the goat’s line of sight.

DSCN0005

Some 6 grueling hours later, the hunters had reached what they expected to be an equal elevation to where the billy was last spotted that morning. After catching their breath, they slowly began making their way around the ridge (as it was too steep to call it going ‘over’ the ridge), glassing ahead carefully with each step. Erik watched his guide stop in his tracks, hunker down, and slowly turn his head back to say something…

Guide, “He’s right there!

Erik, “Right there as in what? 20 yards? 100 yards?”

Guide, “No… more like 10 yards!”

Erik slowly took the lead, rifle ready. A few short steps is all it took for Erik to find himself face to face with the trophy he’d spent the better part of nine days tirelessly searching for, and nearly giving up on. A neck shot was presented immediately, which he took, sending the billy tumbling down the granite to his final resting place 300 feet below.

Erik

Erik’s goat measured 9.25″ in length with good mass and a quality coat. By 9pm they had the goat caped, boned, and back to the trailhead; using up virtually every last hour available on the trip.

Erik2

Erik’s Mountain Goat Clothing List:

  • Guide DCS Jacket
  • Guide DCS Vest
  • Attack Pant
  • Ultra Merino 145 Zip Bottom
  • Merino 250 LS
  • Merino 185 LS
  • Tiburon Gloves

 

-Todd Harney

The Bino Adapter, Your Next Secret Weapon

IMG_1697

Over the years the hunting market has become inundated with the “latest and greatest” of products that are high on promise and low on delivery. The ads are everywhere, repeating the same phrases like a broken record. “Harvest more game with this!” “Never again take to the field without that!”

I know I’m writing to a crowd here that likely sees right through the gimmicks, but there are a few under the radar gadgets out there that I truly believe lead to an increase in success. The product that I want to highlight here is the Outdoorsmans Binocular Adapter. While glassing with binoculars mounted to a tripod isn’t necessarily uncommon, it amazes me that more people still haven’t caught on; especially with the simple and light weight mounting options that are readily available on the market.

We all know the significance in having a rock solid foundation when glassing with a spotting scope, yet it’s often ignored when the time comes to sit down for a glassing session with binos. Because binoculars have a much larger field of view than spotting scopes, we get a false sense that we can hold them steady enough by hand to pick out small details at relatively long distances. In reality, the small details we’re looking for not only appear even smaller through binos than through a scope, but there’s more to see and be distracted by due to the larger field of view.

I began using the Outdoorsmans Bino Adapter last Fall (2014) after using the Vortex Uni-Daptor mount in previous seasons. While the Uni-Daptor is a good product that performs well for the price point, the Outdoorsmans adapter is in a league of its own.

IMG_1887

The Outdoorsmans takes pride in the quality of their product, which is apparent upon initial inspection of their Bino Adapter. Machined in Payson, AZ, all parts are made out of light weight yet incredibly strong 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum. This is an item that requires zero babying in the backcountry.

The OBA is a two part system. The 1.9 oz adapter (which attaches to the tripod plate) is purchased separately from the stud (which threads into the binoculars). It’s important to note that the adapter comes in either a Tall or Short version; the only difference being that the Tall adapter provides extra clearance to keep large (56mm) objective barrels from hitting the tripod head when squeezed together (see photo below). The Tall adapter is also recommended for use with the Swarovski EL Range due to its over-sized electronics housing on the underside of the barrels.

IMG_1368

The small stud portion is a make/model specific piece that securely threads into the existing hinge threads on the binoculars. Weighing less than half of an ounce, there are zero drawbacks to having the stud become a permanent fixture your binoculars. Because they are sold separately, it’s easy to purchase a stud for each pair of binos in your arsenal to be used with the single adapter. I find myself frequently switching back and forth between my 10×42 and 15×56 during glassing sessions. Both pairs have their own stud attached which makes for a quick and simple transition depending on which pair I want mounted in a given situation. Lastly regarding the bino stud, The Outdoorsmans is the only company authorized to install a stud in the Swarovski EL without voiding the warranty. The EL series must be sent to Outdoorsmans for installation, whereas all other studs are easily installed at home by the user.

IMG_1895

Mounting the binos for use is a quick and simple action. Simply press and hold down the knurled top button to open the locking mechanism inside the mounting hole on the adapter. Slide the stud into the hole and release the button. Lastly, twist the knurled button to the right to lock the latch. At this point, the binoulars will not come out of the mount until the button is once again unscrewed and pressed in. The entire process of inserting/removing and locking/unlocking takes less than 5 seconds. I’ve found that having the binos fixed securely to the mount is a huge benefit when quickly changing glassing positions over short distances. Many times I’ve found myself standing up and moving with my binos and tripod hanging from my neck as I walk. This keeps both hands available for carrying a weapon, pack, etc. Once I sit back down, I can get right back to glassing.

IMG_1901

Once locked into the adapter, the binoculars still have some rotational play. This allows the binos to be leveled for comfortable viewing, even if the tripod is not completely level. Because of the precision machining, center of view remains the same even as the binos are canted side to side.

Don’t assume that you need to invest in high powered, 12x-15x optics to benefit from mounting binos on a tripod. I became a believer back when I began using this method with nothing but my 10x42s, as it lead to my first 30″ mule deer in 2012. Three of us were glassing a distant basin on an early October afternoon. We had yet to turn up a deer for size reference at that distance, which made the glassing tough (it’s always easier once you know the size of parts to look for, isn’t it?). I had my field of view locked in place on a small quaky patch at the base of a granite face. Just as I was about to scan to the left, I saw a wide-framed buck move quickly through an opening in the top right corner of my picture before disappearing back into the trees. His body was much smaller than I thought it would be at that distance, and there’s no way I would have seen him had I been free-handing the binos. To make a long story short, I made it up into the basin and killed him just as daylight faded. Without catching that first quick glimpse, I would have never made it up there in time- let alone known he was up there at all.

IMG_1206

If you’re looking to adopt new tactics or upgrade gear this year, you simply will not be disappointed by picking up an Outdoorsmans Bino Adapter. It will last forever, you’ll increase your odds at success, and you’ll soon be out-glassing your hunting partner. This unit is priced at about $59 for the post and right in the $20 ballpark for each stud. For those on a tighter budget the Vortex Uni-Daptor, while not as refined and stable, will still provide a serious boost in glassing effectiveness at around half the cost.

For a limited time, mention this article when ordering a Bino Adapter from The Outdoorsmans for special pricing. They can be reached by calling 1-800-291-8065.

Todd Harney