Earlier this summer, I made my first trek into the backcountry in search of mule deer. This was the first time I had ever set foot into this particular area, and although it was good looking country with a lot of potential, I only managed to turn up five bucks.
A few short weeks later, a second trip was made into the area. Each trip was a fifteen mile round-trip hike with 4,000’ in elevation gain/loss and the majority of time was spent at elevations that ranged from 12,000-13,000’. Absolutely spectacular country, but a long, long grueling hike.
On these particular trips I was using the KUIU Icon 5200 to pack all of my gear. Although my scouting trip pack weights were relatively light, I was very impressed with how the pack rode. I knew that the true test of the pack would be when I returned for a third time for the actual hunt with a much heavier pack.
My Colorado archery hunt spanned over the course of nine days. During this time, I moved my entire camp twice. I am not sure how many miles and vertical feet I covered, but it was more than I have ever covered on any previous hunting trip. Proof of this was when I returned home and hopped on the scale and it read nine pounds lighter than when I had left. Needless to say, I became very familiar with the 5200 over this time and became very fond of this pack.
The end of September I made another trip with the 5200 into the high country of Wyoming. Before it was all said and done, we took one hell of a buck and endured the worse snowstorm I have been in while backpacking. The conditions were blizzard like and temperatures were extremely cold. I had absolutely no issues with the pack during these conditions.
The ICON 5200 pack system retails for $549.98 and is comprised of a carbon fiber frame (which can also be used with other size ICON bags), suspension and an ultra-light, expedition grade, water repellent 160 denier Cordura 5200 cubic inch bag. It weighs 5.5 lbs and is available in either Phantom gray or Verde and Vias camo patterns. Just for the record, I am a big Verde fan.
When in need of extra space, the 5200 can be converted to carry a load (additional 1800 ci) between the bag and the suspension. I had no problem fitting all of my food and gear in the pack. Although I made use of the extension collar on top of the pack for additional space, I never did use the pack in the additional load sling mode.
The only issue I had with the pack in all of my trips was one of the small molded zipper pulls broke during the Wyoming hunt…..with that being said, I would hardly call that a big deal!
Torso Adjustment - Very first thing, I adjusted the torso length. This is extremely easy. Simply loosen the Velcro where the shoulder straps attach to the frame, slide up or down as necessary, and reattach Velcro. Since I have a somewhat short torso and prefer a pack’s torso length to be shorter, rather than longer, I simply adjusted it to the shortest setting and it felt great. I never touched it again after this initial adjustment.
Shoulder Straps – The form fitting design of the shoulder straps proved to be very comfortable with sufficient padding. Most packs I have used in the past have not had very comfortable straps; therefore, I was very pleased with the Kuiu design.
Compression Straps - There are two straps on the front panel, two removable straps on the bottom and two compression straps on both sides of the pack for a total of eight straps. I used all of the straps except the two removable bottom straps. If you don’t use them, I would suggest taking them off. I actually had one come off and just about lost it.
Lid Pockets - Beginning with the removable lid, there are three wide pockets – two on the top and one on the bottom. I never did use the one on the bottom, but the outer two pockets were greatly used. When hunting each day, I would use one pocket for my daily nutrition, while the other housed all of my archery supplies – armguard, release, rangefinder, etc.
Side Pockets – I used one of these to hold my Swarovski 65 mm spotting scope, the other was used for a couple of extra water bottles and several other items.
Front Pockets – There are also two additional pockets on the front of the pack. I used the top horizontal one for various items and the lower, vertical one I used for easy access to my rain gear.
Water Bottle Pockets – There are two open “stuff-it” water bottle pockets on the bottom of each side of the pack. Not only did I use them for water bottles, but I also used them in conjunction with the side compression straps to secure my arrows, tent poles and tripod.
Interior Pockets – The 5200 has eight internal zippered pockets. One located inside the upper horizontal pocket on the front of the pack (which I used to store my hunting license), the other seven are located inside the main body of the pack. Two of them can be used for a hydration bladder (both left & right side), and the other five can be used for small, easy to lose items you want to secure.
In addition to what comes standard with the pack, I used the following accessory items on all of my trips as well:
- Hip Belt Pouch – I used one on both the right and left sides of the hip belt. I used these to store my small compact digital camera, cell phone and other small items I needed quick access to.
- Pack Rain Cover – The rain cover proved to be invaluable on all of my trips. During my scouting and archery hunting trips, it rained every single day. In Wyoming, we had snow every day. The cover did a great job of keeping the pack and its contents completely dry at all times. The port also has a port hole for a rifle if you choose to strap your rifle to your pack.
In summary, the KUIU Icon 5200 is easily one of the best quality packs I have used in all my years of hunting the backcountry. The carbon fiber frame and suspension made for a super comfortable pack which puts this pack in the upper echelon of packs on the market today. After spending an entire season with this pack, it WILL be my go-to pack in the future.
If I had to summarize the KUIU Icon 5200 in four words: “One Bad Ass Pack!”