Kifaru Woodsman Pack Review

 

Kifaru International is a company in Wheat Ridge, Colorado that hand sews their backpacks to order. They have a variety of backpacks and accessories as well as a full line of shelters and stoves.  I am doing a full scale Kifaru Woodsman Pack Review.  I first learned about Kifaru from some archery friends, they all were part of a group of hunting and camping enthusiasts who hiked regularly as part of a Kifaru group. I was very active in the Train to Hunt community and had tried several packs to use in the dreaded meat pack for this event where you had to run with between 75 and 120 pounds. The first time I tried a Kifaru pack, it felt like a dream compared to the others because it actually fit.  When I bought my first Kifaru pack, 3 years ago, I ran into several snags, but the customer service team handled it like a dream. Since then, I have developed a friendship with many members of the Kifaru staff. When one of those people asked me to review a backpack for them, I jumped at the chance because they appreciate honest opinions by people who use the gear and set out to put it through the ringer.   I borrowed this backpack for about the month, I stuffed it as full as I could, took it on a plane, sat on it, and filled it with geese.

The Kifaru Woodsman pack I am reviewing is part of a modular system of bags and frames that are widely interchangeable. I was using the Woodsman bag on a 22-inch tactical frame.

Kifaru Frame Systems

Kifaru frames come in hunter and tactical as well as sizes 22”, 24”, and 26”. I personally own the older style frame in 24 inches and was excited to try the 22-inch version of a newer, lighter design. The pack I borrowed belonged to Dayna Monroe. When I got the pack home, I realized there was something wrong, it just didn’t feel right.  I called customer service, snapped a few cell phone pictures and accidentally discovered the reason for the stay system that Kifaru uses.  When I bought my pack, Aron Snyder just looked at me and put the pack together. I didn’t know that I had a flat back until this review pack did not fit me correctly. The waist belt of Kifaru packs should sit snugly with the top of your hip bones in the middle of the waist belt. With the Curvy stays, the belt was at the top of my hip bones and the back pad was in an uncomfortable spot on my spine. (right side of the picture). When we put in the other stays, the pack fit perfectly, the middle picture is the comparison between the two stays.   If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this pack just wasn’t for me, luckily their system allows for different body types.

Frame sizing is based largely on your length of torso, but also preference. When you order a pack, they ask your height as well as inseam to determine your torso length. At 5’7” with a 32-inch inseam, I have a short torso and am at the smallest size the 22-inch frame would go. That being said, I prefer my 24-inch frame for heavier loads because of the more lift, due to the angle of the stays to my shoulder that I can get with those extra inches on the load lifters.

Kifaru Woodsman

The Kifaru Woodsman is a 3400-4000 cubic inch pack that is, according to Kifaru.net, designed for day hunts with the capacity to pack out an animal with the built in meat shelf.  While it is designed for day hikes, many of my hunting partners have this bag and I have been on several 3 to 4-day back country hunts where the bag worked well for a tent, sleeping bag, stove, food and everything else one would need for a hunt of that duration.

Like most of the Kifaru bags, this one has accessory loops so you can add accessory pockets to extend the space and organize your bag.  The system is modular.  This brings me to the one thing that I dislike about Kifaru packs, switching bags. I don’t like it because I have weak hands and sometimes it is hard for me to work the clips. This is a minor inconvenience as it is easy to have someone else do it for me, but when I do it alone, I get frustrated.  I have changed out my bag 3 or 4 times in the 3 years since I’ve owned it, so it isn’t a deterrent for a purchase and I understand that this is an efficient modular system to change and secure the bags.

Testing

When thinking about a backpack, you consider what you would use it for. Because of the time of year, I used it mostly for travelling and as a hunting day pack.  One great thing about the 22-inch frame is that you can use it as a carry-on.

This was perfect for my recent trip to Pennsylvania as I packed all my hunting things either in the pack or my bow case.

On this trip I also used the pack to carry in my blind in the snow. Despite the awkward size and shape of the blind and my chair (not pictured), it was easy to clip in and cinch these down, keeping my hands free for shooting if an opportunity arose. .

While, it might have been a bit of over kill, in terms of size, for spending a few hours out in the woods when hunting within 2-3 miles of the house, having a frame pack is nice as you can use it as a seat or a bow rest without worrying about the cold seeping through. The k-clip compression kit attached to the bag I reviewed allowed me to make the pack very compact for such use.  If I had harvested a deer, I could see the benefit of having the larger pack to use it to carry it back down the hill to the house.

I also took the Woodsman goose hunting, while it was a little tight in my lie-in blind ,

being able to put 8 geese in the pack for the mile or so hike back to the truck at a few of the places we go is preferable to carrying multiple birds by their necks or over your shoulder back to the car.  I put 5 geese in the meat shelf and 3 in the straps/fold-over portion on the bag. Geese average about 6 pounds on the low end so I had at least 48 pounds of animals plus my multiple cameras, coffee, and snacks, I’d guess around 60 pounds total. I would say this is a low to average amount for someone of my size to carry out when packing meat even if I had it slightly off kilter.  The carry was great, I felt normal and comfortable compared to carrying similar weight with my pack that is taller in stature.

While I didn’t take the pack on a multi-day back country trip, I packed my gear for a weekend deer hunt in Nebraska in December to see how it would do.  I crammed all of this in there.  That is 2 weights of base layers, rain gear, knives, game bags, 3 different pairs of gloves, 2 cameras, my treestand harness and lifeline, and my heavy weight jacket. My pants didn’t fit but I strapped them to the outside of the bag.

Conclusions

This bag and frame combination is one of the most versatile around.  When the 22-inch frame came out a year or so ago, I thought it would be too small for me, and I am happy with the frame that I have. However, after trying it, putting together the $376 for this frame is now on my list.  I do quite a few fly and hunt over the weekend trips, so having the extra room for travelling would be amazing. While I prefer the smaller Antero in a tree stand, not carrying 2 carry-ons outweighs that, especially if I added a few small side pouches for organization. The meat shelf and the up to 4000ci of storage makes this pack a good choice for weekend warrior hunters, I often find with my larger bag that take more than I need (the left bag in the first picture). This intermediate sized bag is ideal for a tent, sleeping bag, pad and food for a few-day backcountry journey. If you only have one Kifaru backpack, I would recommend this one as it is useful as a travel bag, as a daypack, and for those few-day backcountry trips. You can purchase the Woodsman bag ($220) and the 22-inch Tactical frame ($376) at Kifaru.net.

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