Are you thinking about making the Kifaru Muskeg your latest purchase? Well after getting mine in the mail last week hopefully I can shed some light on my feelings and thoughts about it, and why I think it may be my favorite pack to date after trying well over a dozen different models in the past. There are several things that I am loving about this new design right out of the box.
Duplex Lite Frame
First off I want to mention the new frame which has been paired with the release of the Kifaru Muskeg. The duplex lite is quite possibly the most significant upgrade to this new pack over the hunting frame/woodsman combo I had previously been using. The differences looked subtle at first, and I wondered how much difference I would really notice, but as soon as I tried it on I had no more questions. The simple addition of the horizontal crossmember to the frame makes the frame leaps and bounds more rigid horizontally, which was my only real complain with the older version.
Also, although I obviously don’t have a ton of time under this pack yet, it seems that the breathability and airflow for the wearer’s back will be much better. For someone who sweats a lot, and who has had heat stroke twice, this is also something that I care a bit about. The new lumbar pad on the duplex lite is also a little better in feel in my personal opinion, and as before, Kifaru still has the best hip belt that I have seen on any pack, any where. The hip belt alone is what convinced me to switch to a Kifaru backpack in the first place.
This bag really is my favorite to date. I have griped a bit in the past about there not being a great offering from Kifaru in the real of 3,000-4,000 cubic inch bags, which is the sweet spot for what I like in a pack. The Woodsman was an appealing option when it was released, and it served me well over the last year. However, I had some things that I didn’t particularly care for personally, but this muskeg has addressed those.
My main complaint with my previous pack was that the compression straps were on piece that ran fully around the bag. Sometimes this works great, but at times it leaves a bit to be desired. Specifically with the use of the meat shelf, the compression system of the woodsman was impossible to get as tight as I wanted it at times. The muskeg now has separate compression on both sides of the bag, and it runs in the proper direction as well (meaning the buckle end is towards the frame not the middle of the bag.)
I also really like the incorporation of the xpac fabric, and the overlayed 500d cordura in all of the spots where it is likely to encounter the most abuse. This allows for a pack with a few extra features at a similar weight to one that has no features, or at a lighter weight than one made of only 500d. A couple of my favorite features on the pack are the small slot pockets for tripod legs on both sides of the pack, and the side zip entry.
I have long viewed a side zip entry as the best possible zip access for a bag from a bowhunter’s perspective, because you can access the bag without removing a bow that is cinched to the pack. The zipper on this bag, and on the xpac belt pouches for that matter too, is the smoothest and best feeling waterproof zipper I have seen on any bag. Usually waterproof zippers are stiff and a pain to use, but this one is fantastic, and probably even better than the zipper on the 500d bags. I also am enjoying the slim outside pocket that runs down the back, which will allow me to stash my hat, gloves, and an empty water bladder in a spot that is easy to access.
The 3,000 cubic inch version is an extremely sleek and slim pack which I really like about it, however, the great part about the muskeg is that Kifaru has offered it in 3 sizes so that you can tailor the bag to the amount of space you need. After several initial loadings of the pack with all my archery elk gear, it seems that I can get all my gear plus about 6 days of food inside this bag for me. I would be able to stretch this pack out for 10+ days by leaving my camera out, but instead I will most likely attach a guide lid in the case of trips beyond the 5-7 day mark.
If you have a system of ultralight gear that is minimal and very dialed, then the Muskeg 3000 might be right for you. For general backpacking use I think most people would find the 5000 cu in model most effective, and for those with cold weather gear or long extended trips, the 7000 inch bag may be the perfect fit. Whichever one you pick, this is a pack that I am really excited about wearing for the upcoming fall, and probably well into the future. It has everything I need in a pack while being able to maintain the compact feel that I like on my back.