Steve Speck is an elk hunter from Idaho who also owns S&S Archery. His fascination with hunting gear led him to create Solid Broadhead Company, and now Exo Mountain Gear. Exo launched its first hunting pack – the 3500 – last year to some exciting reviews from backcountry hunting minimalists, and now the 5500 is brand new off the line (available this July). The 5500 is geared toward pushing the fine line between being as functional as absolutely possible and as light as possible.
Frame/suspension: The Skeleton frame is a lightweight internal frame with a formed titanium rod centerpiece, which is extremely sturdy for its slim presence and which is contoured to allow for more head clearance. It is designed to be used completely separate from the bag for meat hauling when necessary, including its own set of compression straps, and is also integrated for use with the bag with the meat between the bag and frame. The bottom is adjustable in length between the bag and frame, and the top has a thin “sleeve” that fits down over the shoulders of the frame, similar to the Mystery Ranch Metcalf. A meat-hauling Cordura load shelf supports the meat in this scenario.
The suspension has a very slick, micro-adjustable torso system. It features three different hip belt sizes and a very thick lumbar support pad. Also, the frame is modular so that it can be used for both the 3500 and 5500 model bags.
It compresses well, with 14 total compression straps to keep loads tight. It also has bottom loop straps for a sleeping bag, etc. The compression strap near the bottom side pocket can lace under the side pocket so that you can compress or tighten a load without cinching down on your rifle or spotting scope. It also features daisy chain loops for an infinite number of tie points.
It has full-length spotting scope/tripod style pockets, and low side pockets and a front pocket made of stretchy material to adapt to awkward or bulky items. The main bag has top and front zipper access, and on the zipper access there is a small mesh interior pocket that folds out for quick access.
The lid is a floating style to adjust to extended height and is adjustable on all four corners (the 3500 bag did not have this option).
Color/camo options: Coyote brown, foliage green, ASAT.
Best qualities: Functional yet very lightweight; fairly weatherproof; compression straps directly on frame for meat hauling; designed to put meat securely between frame and bag; 3 stretchy external pockets.
Could be better: Great weight savings does have a cost, and this frame is not as beefy as some others in review; no dedicated rifle/bow holder, though you’ll be able to purchase one; could use slightly more padding.
Cost: $499. Contact: www.exomountaingear.com.
Recommended accessories: Coming soon: hip belt pouch – $14.99; meat shelf to be used without main pack bag – $29.99; bow carrier – $29.99; water bladder carrier – $29.99; rain cover – $19.99; mesh pocket – $5.99.
Similar Exo Mountain Gear to consider: 3500 – $449; 3500 bag only – $219; 5500 bag only – $269.99.