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.

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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:

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

22 thoughts on “Loading an Icon PRO

    • Thanks Keenan,

      To tell you the truth I don’t have a good scale at home for weighing my pack, otherwise I would have posted the weight here. I figure the load above to be 34-36 lbs, before the gun. I don’t get too hung up on actual weight; I know I have what I need and nothing more so it’s one of those things that “is what it is”. I’ll keep you in mind and get an actual weight posted. Thanks for reading and good luck with your 7200.

      Todd

  1. Great Article keep them coming. Looking forward to my 7200 arriving. I Already see that I will be changing how I load a few things differently from my MR 6500.

    W

  2. Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just too magnificent. I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it sensible. I can’t wait to read much more from you. This is really a wonderful site.

  3. Great post. When do you plan on doing the Ultra demo? I like these details, and for not being able to touch/see the gear before I purchase, this is about as close as it gets. I’m torn between choosing a few different pack set ups, and another demo could be the determining factor.. perhaps the ultra 6000? Thanks!

    • Thanks Stein,
      I don’t really go by any kind of schedule on my posts, just depends on what comes to mind week by week. I will keep you in mind and try to get it done sooner than later. Email me if you have specific questions on our packs in the mean time. ToddH@kuiu.com

  4. Pouring over packs for a year now. Just built MG arms rem ultra mag. I know heavy for sheep but it’s ultra light mountain gun. Can’t decide on size 7000 or 6000. Or even 3500. I guess depend on outfitter. I am really lost here. I like to get one item that fits all needs depending on hunt. don’t want to go with ultra pack as I am gear geek and like all the pockets. I have never done a mountain hunt but planning first one next year. I figure a high altitude elk hunt would be a good warm up n gear test. I typically hunt fanny packs for deer,pigs n duck blinds. This is all new to me but I almost have all the gear as I read post and just start grabbing it. Help me get best set up. Solo trips not in near future at least for a few years till I get more experience.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Feel free to email (toddh@kuiu.com) or call me at the office (855-367-5848) with specific questions and I’d be glad to help you figure out the best pack for your needs. Based on what you wrote here, the Pro 5200 comes to mind… but we can talk more in-depth about the choices with a phone call.

  5. Thanks Todd I picked up the 5200. I love the pack. My first hunt is going to be at Broudmouth Canyon in Utah. I won’t need a tent nor a sleeping bag. Probably will pick up day back also 1850 with suspension only. I will just try and organize gear so I can do a quick transfer from big pack to little. I would just check the 5200 on plane loaded up. Then carry 1850 on plane with optics and a day of hunting cloths in case checked bag ends up in Bangladesh. Thanks

    • Hi Ken,

      Glad you like your new 5200. When flying I like to check my packed 7200 without the frame and suspension, which I use with an Ultra 3000 for carry-on with optics/cameras/etc.

      Todd

  6. Great pics..At 66 I cannot carry this amount with L3 4 5 totally gone. But for the young turks out there, what a PACK! Have you carried our anything with the weight of a full elk quarter yet? My son is a back country hunter and has hauled out many quarters on different packs…..always searching for the ultimate pack? Any ideas/responses?

  7. Todd- This is something I’ve always been experimenting with. The way you packed your 7200 is an art, I will be using this article as I pack for my WY mule deer hunt next week. Thanks for the info! Just out of curiosity, how much does your gun weigh with scope?

  8. That was awesome. I am a first time user with the Icon Pro 3200 and I thought I had packed it pretty good but this gave me several new ideas, ie dry bags for extra storage, that will prove useful. I thought I knew your product line front and back but for some reason I didn’t know you had the dry bags. Thanks again.

    • Hi Dave,

      I almost always carry 15×56 instead of a spotting scope. They are way more comfortable for extended periods of glassing and I’ve yet to need more power when deciding whether something is a shooter or not within 2 miles.

      Todd

  9. Todd, my gear is VERY similar give or take a few things. i have the 5200 and the Ultra (mostly for the wife, I like being compartmentalized). I also pack very similar including bag at bottom but lately have been utilizing the the internal backboard straps for my sleeping bag which makes it flatter rather than bulky like a bball. Other than that my main take away was I was always under the impression that you want heavy items down low so not to be top heavy. I will try your method in hopes of making the pack feel lighter. Thanks for the article. I’ve created a backcountry checklist for most scenarios and both bow and rifle seasons if you’d be interested in sharing. Thanks again for the insight.

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