KUIU has built its company and reputation on providing hunters and outdoorsmen and women the most versatile and ergonomic clothing and equipment for the serious hunter. They’re the folks who go out farther, stay longer and push that extra mile or two to get a shot at a bigger buck. Building on personal experience, the idea behind KUIU was to make equipment that takes the punishment of extended backcountry treks and still be ready for more.
When testing KUIU’s Icon Pro 3200 pack system, I recalled starting backpacking with the standard Boy Scout rucksack, then graduating to various military surplus packs, aluminum external frame packs and first generation internal frame packs. I appreciated the overall improvements of each, but still frankly felt more like a draft horse than an adventurer on those occasions when I ventured into the wilderness.
While doing background research on KUIU’s pack systems, I was struck by the focus on weight reduction, durability and comfort. My curiosity piqued, I spoke with some of my coworkers and discovered there were more than a few fans of the KUIU system in my own backyard.
The heart of the KUIU pack systems is modularity. Once you have the frame and suspension system, any KUIU bags can be used on the same frame. In fact, one of my coworkers told me he packs a smaller KUIU bag into his larger bag so he can take a couple of days of food and clothing and shelter to extend his range in the field.
In short, versatility is the hallmark of the KUIU system. While they are marketed to hunters, these bags are also usable in a wide variety of scenarios outside of hunting.
The Icon Pro 3200 is rated by KUIU as a 1-to-3 day pack. This full-featured pack is manufactured of 500D Cordura Nylon and is load use tested to 150+ pounds. The full kit including frame and suspension weighs in at 4 lbs. 4 oz. The Icon Pro 3200 features a 2500 cubic inch load sling for carrying additional loads and more pockets, straps and load adjustments than you can shake a stick at.
A YouTube search brings up an abundance of tutorial videos on how best to distribute the load in these packs efficiently and as expected with an eye to packing for a deep wilderness hunt. Focusing on the versatility aspect of these systems, I took a different approach to this particular evaluation. The Desert Southwest in general, and Southern Arizona in particular, is a big draw for tourists. Since many of the resorts abut national forest or national monuments, hiking trails abound. Unfortunately, visitors tend to underestimate the difficulty of desert hiking trails and the effect extreme heat can have in a very short period of time.
This summer saw a record number of out of town and even local hikers who hit the trails with very little water and subsequently ended up the lead on the evening news. Some were found alive and severely dehydrated, others were found too late to save and some have yet to be found.
When hikers go missing, a local search and rescue team comprised primarily of volunteers who are expert level hikers, scour the trails looking for these lost souls. With that in mind, I packed the Icon Pro 3200 with the supplies I would take if I were a member of the search and rescue team. That meant first and foremost water--lots of it. I packed two water bladders, one 2.5-liter and one 3-liter, and two 32-ounce bottles. I also packed 75 feet of 1,000-lb.-rated rescue line, a field first aid kit, multi-tool, small fixed blade knife, rain gear (monsoon rains are always a possibility) compass, cell phone and a couple of power bars and headed out to the Saguaro National Monument on a warm Sunday morning.
The pack was not full by any definition, but it still went about 40 lbs. or so. Add to that a couple of cameras and you have a pretty good load to carry up and down the trail. The Hip Belt accessory pouches provided handy access to the compass and my cell phone.
I had taken the time to adjust the pack straps and waist belt before getting on the trail, but once the hike started, I had to adjust the main straps so the pack rode more comfortably. Fortunately, all of the straps on the KUIU systems are very easy to adjust on the fly.
When all was said and done, my hike spanned nearly seven miles and temps had risen from the high 70’s at the start to just under 100 degrees at the end. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at the overall comfort of the ICON 3200. Despite the rough terrain and the high temperatures, I experienced no chafing or abrasions from the straps or the hip belt. The lumbar support in the hip belt and the padded shoulder straps were especially welcome support and helped me avoid any back or shoulder pain.
I have to say that my experience with the KUIU system has given me a greater appreciation of what a backpacking trip can be with the right kind of equipment.
KUIU systems are created with the hunter as their primary focus but as with all their innovations, these systems are compatible with a wide variety of scenarios. With the smaller systems such as the ICON 3200 and its smaller cousin the ICON 1800, that versatility is nearly limitless. They can fill many roles--daypack, emergency pack, bugout bag--and provide a rugged and comfortable way to smooth the way in the great outdoors.--Randy Gibbs
Specs: KUIU ICON 3200
• Molded Spread Tow Carbon Fiber Frame (Made in USA)
• Large interior mesh hydration pocket
• Two external zippered pockets and two side stuff-it pockets
• Twelve external webbing loops for attachment of bow and rifle holders or compression straps
• Includes four removable accessory straps for use internally or externally
• Built in T-Lock Track System for easy torso length adjustment
• Internal structural support in waist belt for heavy weight carrying
• Power pulls for easy waist belt tightening
• Velcro retainers added to webbing ends
• Increased durability of hip belt and compression straps
The ICON 3200 system retails for $149.99 for the bag only, to $424.98 for the bag, frame and suspension system