If you hunt, you more than likely carry a pack. I have been on a quest to find a hunting pack that would meet all of my demands and I had been coming up short. Most packs I found that had everything I needed also had a ton of stuff that I did not need. I am a function over form kind of guy so if something looks awesome but is not functional for my purposes, I am not impressed. I needed a pack that was durable and could handle whatever I put it through. I also needed a pack that was comfortable to carry because an uncomfortable pack is a terrible thing to carry. I also wanted something functional that was capable of carrying significant weight and could pack plenty of meat on an elk hunt. My search for a new pack led me to check out the Exo Mountain Gear 3500 pack.
Exo Mountain Gear packs are built with durability, comfort, and function in mind. In fact, it was these very requirements that led the founders of Exo Mountain Gear to start the company in the first place. By focusing on the suspension system of the pack, they were able to develop a pack that is a natural performer in each of the aforementioned categories. So with a pack that looks good on paper, it was time for me to put the actual pack to the test on my recent whitetail hunt in Oklahoma.
The first thought I had when I pulled the Exo 3500 pack out of the packaging was how light it was. I have an Eberlestock X2 pack that I have used for years and the Exo 3500 is significanty lighter while also having more features and more space.
My next thought was how many buckles and straps are on the outside of this pack. There are seriously a ton of straps and buckles. As I started really looking at each strap and the purpose it served, I realized that this pack is a highly advanced piece of gear. There is an adjustment strap for practically every aspect of how this pack fits and sits against your body. Not only that, but you can remove the pack to reveal a cargo system for carrying larger loads. This pack has so many features, but there are a few specific ones that stood out to me the most:
Waterproof Main Compartment
The main compartment of the pack is made from a very durable, thick diamond ripstop fabric. This is important because when you are carrying things like caped elk heads, antler sheds, etc., the main compartment needs to be very durable and tear resistant. When the compression straps are loosened and the pack is opened up to full capacity, the 3500 ci bag is plenty roomy for days of supplies and plenty of meat.
Additional Exterior Storage
The Exo 3500 also has 3 exterior pockets that add an additional 1000 ci of storage space. Additionally, the full length pockets are stretchable and capable of carrying plenty of odds and ends. I liked carrying items that I needed quickly in the front pocket because the stretch fabric kept everything secure and silent while the location allowed for quick access when needed.
The two side pockets are deep and durable. One also has a hanging strap and port for a hydration packet. The side pockets are purposefully made to be just large enough to fit a rifle or shotgun while being stretchy enough to form to the contours of any stock. No need to buy any accessories to properly fit your rifle; this pack already has a pocket that is designed to carry it.
I was bowhunting while I was in Oklahoma and needed to secure my bow while hiking. Luckily for me, the straps can be used to tightly secure any bow to the outside of the pack. There was no play in the positioning of my bow; it was locked down and was not going anywhere.
There are a total of 14 different storage locations on this pack between the main compartment, exterior pockets, zippered lid pocket, cargo load shelf, etc. If you can’t pack your gear in this pack, you can’t pack it in any pack.
Built In Cargo Load Shelf
By removing a few straps on the top, bottom, and sides of the pack, the main pack can be removed, exposing a 2500 ci load shelf for carrying heavy cargo loads. The load shelf is flat with a reinforced middle. This load shelf is perfect for strapping down an elk quarter and carrying it for the long hike out of the backcountry. The titanium reinforced frame is strong while being formed in such a way as to allow maximum breathability.
Heavy Duty Lumbar Support
The lumbar support is the thickest and most padded I have ever seen on a pack. With the pack filled with weight, this lumber support helps relieve your lower back from the unwanted pressure of a heavy pack. It is covered in a thick synthetic that is very durable and water proof. Most importantly, this pad has a non-slip surface which will prevent your pack from slipping and shifting the weight on your torso. This pad was very comfortable and made wearing this pack much more enjoyable than other packs.
Advanced Suspension System
The suspension system of the Exo 3500 is very advanced and effective. A poor fitting pack will lead to injury, specifically pinched nerves and compressed or ruptured discs in your spine. Proper fit is crucial to dispersing weight properly.
From the size-specific hip belt, adjustable waist strap, shoulder load adjustments, velcro adjustable shoulder strap position, and other features, this pack can be adjusted in any way necessary to fit your specific, unique physique. I always had a tough time finding a pack that comfortably fit my shoulders while also being able to properly fit around my waist (I have a v-shaped torso with a small waist). This pack made possible for me to get a comfortable fit that dispersed the weight load properly.
Flat lock Waterproof Side Zipper
The main compartment is not only accessible from the top; it also has a 20 inch waterproof flat lock seemed zipper that allows quick side access. This is very convenient when you need to get something that is at the bottom of your pack.
The Exo 3500 is loaded with additional features including:
- Floating Lid
- Stretch external pockets for room when pack is full and keeps items
- 7 compartments total for organization (can add up to 3 velcro mesh pockets as well)
- Angled lower side pockets so you can access while wearing the pack
- hydration bladder compatible
- Velcro strips sewn inside bag zipper and lid to custom fit our Mesh pockets (can add 3 total)
- 1 water bladder tube port hole
- 500d Cordura and 420d Diamond Ripstop
- Daisy chain webbing and loop
- Titanium Skeleton frame (the heart and soul of the pack!) 25″ tall
- Frame is vertically rigid but moves with you laterally
- Modular Interchangeable bags- all Exo Bags will fit on the same frame
- Micro adjustable torso (16″-21″)
- Open suspension design for maximum breath-ability
- Angled compression straps for better load hauling
- Heavy duty 1″ Compression straps and buckles
- Size-specific belt sizes (Small 29-32″, Medium 33-35″, Large 36″ +)
- 1.5″ webbing for attachment of holsters, pouches etc on hipbelt
- Assist pull hipbelt webbing
I could not be happier with my decision to use the Exo 3500 pack. When I consider the type of hunting I do and the demands I have for a backpacking/hunting pack, I could not be more confident to use this pack for all of my future hunts. Knowing that all Exo packs will fit on the same frame also allows me to use the larger 5500 pack if I ever do a longer hunt and need the extra space. For now, I think the 3500 will meet all of my needs and then some. Whether I am going duck hunting and need to pack in decoys and my shotgun or packing an elk out of the deep mountainous backcountry, this pack is going to do everything I ask of it.
If you want to check out the Exo Mountain Gear Exo 3500 pack for yourself, follow this link: ExoMountainGear.com