The final production sample pack is finally done! We are working as fast as we can this week so that the website will be up and ready taking pre-orders by Monday the 10th. I took these photos yesterday and then over-nighted the pack to a good friend Mark Huelsing who is getting the studio images shot. As soon as it gets back Lenny and I will shoot some product videos going over all the details and options. Once that is done the website will be up and taking pre-orders. Things are still looking good for April 15th-30th for a ship date.
The final weight came in at barely over 4.5lbs with a bag size (lid and main bag) of 3500ci. (That does not include the side spotting scope pockets and exterior stretchy pockets which add another 1,000ci)
Lenny and I have been getting a handful of requests wondering about time-frame’s for pre-ordering, for delivery and wondering what accessories that we will be doing this year. I wanted to put this post together to address some of those questions. One thing we really tried to do was design a complete pack, something that wasn’t bare bones so you didn’t immediately have to add accessories to get it to function. We also realize everyone likes to customize their set up for their style of hunting and packing gear so we that in mind we plan to do the following accessories. If there is something you would really like to see let us know and we’ll do our best to make it happen.
Accessories for 2014:
- Hip-belt pouch (will be sized to fit most rangefinders)
- Meat shelf accessory panel (will be designed to use with or without the bag) (going to make a great shed hunting pack that would be sub 3lbs!)
- Rain fly
- Water Bladder accessory pouch (will be designed so it can be removed from the pack and used as an ultralight day pack/ stalking pack)
- Bow Carrier
- Mesh ditty sacks
- Mesh pocket w/ zipper that can be moved to a few different attachment points inside the pack
- March 7-14th- will start taking pre-orders on Exomountaingear.com (we will be doing some sort of promotion for the first 2 weeks)
- April 15-30th delivery of first run of Exo 3500 packs in Coyote Brown (ASAT will be about 1 week behind Coyote shipping)
- June-July accessories will be ready and shipping
- July 1st delivery of Exo 5500 pack
- After running the poll on bag sizes it was pretty even between the 5500 and 6000. We decided to go with the 5500 thinking if the demand is there we could add a 7500 down the road.
- Bags are interchangeable between frames so you can purchase a 3500 bag now and the 5500 will fit on it when they become available
- All the above dates are estimations but we can promise we are doing everything we can to make sure we hit them
Over the last year Lenny and I tested a seemingly endless combination of hipbelt and lumbar pad configurations. Between sizing, foam, foam thickness, foam density and overall stiffness the variables really start to add up. Ask 100 experienced backpackers and you’ll get 100 different answers on what they prefer. Some would never buy a pack without a lumbar pad, some people hate them. Some like a soft flexible hipbelt some prefer a really stiff rigid one with plastic sewn in as backing. The truth is there so many body shapes, spine profiles and other variables there is no perfect answer or a one size fits all application. With that in mind this was our approach…
I want to briefly explain why and how we ended up with the design that we did. The final product is a soft flexible hipbelt that has a concave shape with 5/8′ of foam; a soft 1/2″ and then 1/8″ backing foam to add a little rigidity. With the soft hipbelt this will conform and mold itself to more body types and in our experience the ride is substantially more comfortable under all conditions. We tested some really stiff versions and under heavy 100+ lb loads they feel slightly better for the first mile but by mile 3 your hips will be rubbed raw as the friction created between the moving parts of your body and the non-moving / non-flexible belt create hotspots. With the flexible design it will just sit there and move with you so the ride quality does not degenerate the farther you hike.
One thing we did realize through this process was that if you built our same belt out of a cheaper upholstery foam the result is completely opposite. You then you have to go with a more rigid design, most likely why some people out there prefer a stiff hipbelt. Fortunately with the foam we are using we can do this and the end result is an extremely comfortable hipbelt that is great with 20lbs or 120lbs.
The Lumbar pad:
On the lumbar pad we ended up settling on a 1.5″ thick design that has a soft density foam on the outside backed by a more dense foam on the inside. What happens is this; with light loads (40lbs under) the soft foam has a great feel and cushion to it that gives you some resistance so you don’t have to cinch the hipbelt down extremely tight to keep the weight off your shoulders. As the weight of the load increases the soft foam will compress and hit the more dense foam so that you have good resistance to really cinch the belt down as the heavy load will be pushing into your lumbar area. When the soft foam compresses it also reduces the overall thickness of the lumbar pad which helps distribute the load more through the entire hipbelt and not just concentrate it on the lumbar area.
So in realizing that there isn’t ever going to be one perfect hipbelt we designed it with all these factors in mind and to further accommodate people we are going to offer custom options. There will be 3 different overall sizes so everyone from a 29″ waist to a 40″ waist should be covered. We also designed the lumbar pad area so that it is extremely easy to remove and are going to offer (down the road) different thicknesses for people to try out if they want a thicker or thinner lumbar pad.
- Reverse pull webbing that helps you gain substantial leverage when cinching the hipbelt
- Non-slip lumbar surface helps keep lumbar in place and helps prevent shirt from sliding up back
- Removable webbing to accommodate hipbelt pouch accessory and holsters
We have started working on the larger bag that will be shipping this summer so we wanted to get everyone’s opinion on what size they want for a large expedition bag? Bags will be interchangeable between the frames so you can have the 3500 for the short under 5 day trips and the larger bag for the week long trips. We originally planned on the larger bag being 4800 ci but after talking with a lot of people over the last 5 weeks it seems like some want an even larger bag than that. We would love to hear your opinions and thoughts on this? The vote is running on facebook or just comment below.
Size options we are considering:
4800, 5500 or 6000
Just wanted to give a quick update on the status of how the pack is progressing along. Lenny and I just had a long meeting this morning with the sew shop and have all the last few design tweaks finalized. They are going to get final samples made up in the next two weeks and then its off to full production. As long as everything goes smoothly we will be shipping packs by April 15th. After all the feedback from the color vote (which was outstanding by the way, thanks!) we are going with ASAT and Coyote Brown for the first production run. We plan to do Foliage and or multicam on the next run of packs which will be in the summer.
We are building the actual company website right now and the plan is to have it launched and taking pre-orders by March 1st. We are going to offer some sort of discount for people who pre-order and by pre-ordering we will also guarantee you get a pack in the first run. There is a chance that we’ll sell out and then it wouldn’t be until the summer run that the packs would ship.
We did make some decisions over the last few weeks that added a little weight, we are guessing about 4oz to the 3500 so it will be in the 4.5lb range now. When it came down to it we decided in favor of long term durability and comfort vs: saving a few ounces. We up sized webbing to 1″ instead of 3/4″ in a few places, adding re-enforcing in other places, made the hipbelt and lumbar pad slightly larger, added a couple interior pockets and a few other small decisions. We felt people would appreciate these features over the saving the 4oz in the big picture of things.
Also I will be at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmans show on Saturday Feb. 8th with the pack in the XXX Archery booth. Stop by and say hi if you happen to be in the area.
We are getting really close to putting in our orders for fabric and have it narrowed down to four colors: Coyote Brown, Foliage Green, ASAT and Multicam. We are going to pick two of the colors based on everyone’s vote and go with those for the April production run. We have a vote going on now on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Exomountaingear. Please chime in with your preference or comment below with your choice.
By far the biggest request we have received so far is how does the pack handle heavy loads with our Titanium Skeleton frame that flexes. Part of the beauty of the design is that while it flexes left and right as you walk and move it is extremely rigid vertically and the frame will keep its shape so it can handle heavy loads. This is just quick video showing how the pack handles 150lbs of sand.
Testing the Exo 3500 under 150lbs of sand from Exo Mountain Gear on Vimeo.
This is a quick introduction to Exo Mountain Gear. We will be putting out videos on a weekly basis so stay tuned for more details and information. The pack used in the video is a current 3rd generation prototype but the final product may vary slightly.
Exo Mountain Gear Intro from Exo Mountain Gear on Vimeo.
Exo Skeleton Frame Panel:
- Titanium Skeleton frame (the heart and soul of the pack!) 25″ tall
- Non-slip lumbar pad fabric to prevent lumbar pad shifting
- Micro adjustable torso (16″-22″)
- Open suspension design for maximum breath-ability
- Adjustable load lifter angle
- Locking ladder locks buckles to prevent critical webbing from moving
- Micro adjustable lumbar frame angle for custom fit
- Angled compression straps for better load hauling
- Meat hauling load shelf
- Closed cell cross-linked ethylene copolymer foam provides excellent load distribution
Exo 3500 ci bag:
- 3500 cubic inches (4800 will be available summer of 2014)
- Total of 14 different compression straps to secure items and loads to the pack
- Reverse lid for ease of top access to bag when pack is loaded
- Stretchy external pockets for room when pack is full and keeps items tight and quiet
- Three different pockets to carry a spotting scope
- 9 pockets total for organization
- 18″ Side zipper for quick main bag access
- 4 places to mount hydration bladder
- Main Fabric currently 500d Cordura (still testing other fabrics)
- water resistant #10 YKK zippers
- Starting at $449 for bag and frame (available spring 2014)
- Tentative color options; Coyote Brown, ASAT and Multicam
- Made right here in Boise, ID USA
Specs are for the current 3rd Generation pack, the final product may vary slightly
In Lenny and I’s opinion we think that a pack begins and ends with the suspension (frame, shoulder harness and hipbelt) this is the single most important aspect of a hunting backpack. It easy to change features of the bag by adding pockets, zippers, extra space etc; all you have to do is sew it on. Whats hard is getting a suspension design that will span the borders of being comfortable under day pack loads and maintaining its shape with 120lbs of horns and meat strapped to it. There probably isn’t a single pack on the market, hunting or backpacking that is harder to design than a superlight hunting backpack. It has to be durable, comfortable, functional and hold up to ridiculous loads.
We looked at nearly every frame concept on the market and weren’t satisfied with any of them. What makes a frame comfortable under heavy loads is rigidity, but that rigidity is what causes discomfort under lighter loads and decreases range of motion. With light loads you want a frame that moves and flexes as you hike, thus the reason internal frame packs have become so popular in the last few decades.
Can one frame do both? Can a frame be both rigid enough to support 100+lb loads effectively, while also providing enough comfort when only carrying the essentials? We think so, and we set out to design that frame.
We found our inspiration from the human body, we have a central support structure (spine) that carries our upper body weight down to our hips. Its extremely rigid vertically while still having a little flex in it to absorb energy. It also has the ability to rotate left and right as your body moves. The idea came up that we could make an very rigid frame much like an external frame but bring it inwards towards the spine. This would allow the frame to move and flow with the human body, while at the same time transferring the load on the pack directly into the lumbar -where it needs to be. The narrow frame would centralize the load towards the lumbar area, which drastically reduces fatigue on your hip flexors as nothing but padding touches them.
What material to use?
Our next issue was what material to use for our frame. We needed a material that was extremely strong but also lightweight. We immediately ruled out aluminum as we knew it wouldn’t be able to handle the loads with the design we had in mind. Our next option was carbon but we also ruled it out as while carbon can be extremely strong it can also very easily break if a load is applied in the wrong direction.
We then moved on to Titanium and upon researching the material immediately knew it was what we wanted to use. Titanium is incredibly strong and has the exact properties that we needed. It has an amazing ability to flex and move but won’t bend and won’t ever break.
So far our Exo Skeleton frame has proven to be extremely comfortable with day pack loads, while still being more than strong enough to handle heavy loads. (its been tested over 200lbs) This is possible because the frame is extremely rigid but still able to pivot around, allowing for freedom of movement in the hips; and not binding against every step you take.