Anyone who has followed along with me has seen a kifaru logo on plenty of my gear, especially my packs. I did have a small lapse to test out another pack and was left disappointed. Around the time it came to sell off the failed test the new muskeg bags and frames were released. I knew it had to be fate as they were everything I had been wanting! I ordered the ultralite 24″ frame and muskeg 5k bag as soon as the money hit my account from selling the other bag off. The frame and bag saw plenty of mountain nights and extended hikes but only saw one elk pack out last year. I feel that I am lucky to get to spend more time with a pack on my back than many do in a year so I figured it was a good time to line out my thoughts after over a year of use!
First off is a small reference, my old kifaru frame was a bikini frame and it was a lighter more breathable frame than the standard duplex hunter. Being as I only get to pack a few animals in a year on average and maybe some bear bait I had opted for the added comfort daily and possibly less comfort on pack outs. I was not disappointed with my decision as time went on. When the new ultralite frame came out I saw the hybrid frame I had always wanted them to make! Claiming to be just as light, breathable and comfortable as my bikini frame but with more rigidity and torsional stability like you would get with the standard duplex. So far, for what I have put it through, they delivered on those claims! The frame also has many updates over my older bikini frame which just made the whole package even more enjoyable to use, I honestly have no complaints on my end at all! I have seen some people mention that they missed the higher points to attach the meatshelf to but I had never actually used the meatshelf feature and so have no input. A large positive feature worth mentioning is that all the old and new frames are built so that they can be used with any of the old or new bags as well so at any point you can upgrade or test out a different set up without starting from scratch.
The muskeg bags are made of an xpac waterproof material and are built to be used for any of the wettest conditions without using pack covers and tons of dry bags. Now some may wonder why someone in the high desert areas of Utah needs waterproof anything, and the honest answer is that you don’t. This bag is made to conquer the pacific northwest, Canada and Alaska downpours, with plans to hunt those places one day I wanted a single bag to do it all. The layout of the muskeg bags is what drew me in from the start as it seemed to be just what I was after; a ruck drawstring style top with a front zipper for easy access into the main bag, a small but useable front pocket, small side sleeves to stick a tripod or trekking poles into, just the right amount of compression straps and very little excess in the way of frills past that. I had previously used a highcamp 7k that is just a ruck style bag which left no organizing at all then I had used the EMR2 bag which had far too many options for stashing stuff that wasn’t really needed. The muskeg looked to be just what i wanted between the two extremes! Once I got the bag i quickly fell in love with it and had claimed it would be the last bag I would own (I lied). The bag cleaned well including blood, never seemed to take on smells, was waterproof for everything i did and had almost no noticeable noise over the regular bags other than when it got into below freezing and even then it was minimal increase.
I found really only three main things that i didn’t love about the muskeg and all were fairly minor. First is i pulled the bottom compression straps off (I do this on all my packs), I never strap stuff to the bottom of my bag and once weight is involved you don’t need them thanks to gravity holding the pack down. The next thing id have liked is a horse shoe access zipper or even just a full length zipper, personally i like the easier access versus going through the top of the bag but have had times were the zipper just didn’t seem to want to let my stuff in or out. Lastly is taking a small thing from some of their smaller bags and that is adding the stiff pieces of plastic inside the drawstring closure of the bag, I’m sure this isn’t done so you can close the drawstring super tight but i preferred to leave it loose a little so my straps weren’t pulled into the center line of the bag as much. I think having a roll top option may have also been a cool feature and even saw someone talking about another waterproof zipper as the top closure instead of a drawstring. Obviously all three of my issues didn’t add up to much and the bag is still awesome to use!
I had originally bought the medium sized (5k CI) bag and was running it with a guide lid, it was great for the hunts i normally do and held all my gear as well as fit 2 full elk quarters inside the bag at once. However with the idea for longer hunts and possibly after bigger game hopefully in the near future I have recently upgraded to the large (7k). I did feel the medium bag alone without a lid compressed down great for day hunting, was just right for a few night trips and honestly was totally useable up to 5 night trips. Adding the lid for quick access layers as well as using the front pocket to hold my 82mm spotter really freed up extra space in the bag. In comparison the large really does seem to be a bit excessive for smaller trips and so I have gone on the search for a smaller bag to use outside of actual hunts, although the small (2800 CI) muskeg bag was catching my eye I have decided to branch out into some other bags for now!
If you are seeing last years muskegs for sale on classified ads and you are torn on upgrading or not, my vote is to give one a shot and you may just find a new favorite child, i mean bag!