Monday, April 1, 2013

Product Review: Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack


Packing efficiently for a hunt deep in the backcountry or just off the beaten path takes time and some thought. Not only do you have to consider getting your camp in and out, but what if you are successful in killing an animal? That also must be factored in. It usually means you have to find some way to pack your entire camp out with the animal in a couple loads or you divide it amongst your hunting buddies. If you are hunting solo that decision is made easily - it's all up to you. For the past few months I have been reviewing the Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack. It's light, solid, quiet and quite efficient.

Description from the website:


  •     Frame with Lashing System
  •     Unique Lashing System Secures Meat for Long Hauls
  •     Includes 3 Lashing Straps with Webbing Strap Extenders
  •     Freighter Shelf Supports Heavy Loads
  •     Shooting Stix Holder
  •     Adjustable Shoulder Harness
  •     Padded Waist Belt and Shoulder Straps
  •     Mesh Back Band for Better Ventilation
  •     Clevis Pin Attachment
  •     Flashlight and Knife Pockets
Specs
  • Weight: 5 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Torso Range: 17" to 23"
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Waist Belts: Standard Fits Waist 26" to 40" / X-Large Fits 40"+

Initially, my review was going to take place on my Colorado elk hunt, but I left the Commander in camp because we were only going out for a morning hunt. Word to the wise, if you think you will need it - bring it! So I decided to utilize it during the San Gabriel Bighorn Sheep Survey. 




I wasn't sure how well the pack would fit my shoulders with a heavy load, so in order to test the capabilities I piled everything on it. The Commander has a shelf that can be lowered and this is a great feature. I loaded camera gear, a spotting scope, tripods, food, water, etc. You get the picture. When I weighed the pack 3/4 loaded it was 57 lbs. I'll admit, planning to hike over a riverbed full of boulders, running water and thick brush may not have been the most comfortable way to test it out. On the other hand, I think it was one of the best ways because I got to see how it would feel and work in a crazy situation. After I lad it loaded, I was able to tighten the side straps attached to the shelf to tighten the fit. This was a very nice feature.

Once I loaded the Commander with my gear and separate backpack, I ran out of strap for two of the three on the back side. I wasn't sure I could secure everything, but Alps Outdoorz thought of that and included three lash extenders. Let me tell you, these worked very well. I was able to clip them in, cinch everything down and nothing moved.




Once on my shoulders, I was able to adjust the shoulder harness and belt with ease. The pack itself was very comfortable even with the extra weight. I was sure to keep most of the weight on my hips and that freed up my shoulders. There were a few times that my gear shifted on the frame and pulled me one way or another. A few minor adjustments and I was back in business.



The hike in was a true test, but I kept imagining having to pack out an elk in the backcountry. We hiked in nearly a mile and a half. Most of the terrain was rocky, no make that full of boulders. My legs were given quite a workout, but I managed. Some of the areas were tricky and it was good to have more people around to lend a hand when needed.

The pack was run through the gamut. I dropped it on rocks, sat down and dinged it up, and I even dragged it a few time just to make it over some major deadfalls. Some of the fabric tore underneath the shelf, but that was about it! It held up well through the beating.




I was pleasantly surprised at how well the straps held everything down in the back. They didn't loosen up and were also easy to adjust if needed. Some pack straps lock down so tight that you tear flesh trying to release them. This was not the case as the Commander straps locked down easily and even with me going through thick brush they stayed locked down. Releasing them was super easy and required a little effort, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Loading the pack back up for the hike out was quick and painless. Everything had a place and I had confidence that my camera gear would stay locked down through the journey. That made the hike even more memorable. Everything stayed in place and while I drifted toward the back of the pack (my legs were super tired), I was able to truly enjoy the remaining quarter mile over semi-even ground. The weight was still manageable and my shoulders and hips did not ache.

The Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack suggested retail is $129.99. When compared to other frame packs, the Commander falls right into the average price range for one of this quality. Well constructed and durable. I would recommend this frame pack to anyone. This pack would have been great to have on the mountain when I was packing out my elk. The next time I am hunting in conditions like that I will have the Commander frame pack on my back.


Originally posted to the Pocket Ranger blog.

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