Kuiu Icon Pro 5200 Review
Over the past few years, I have become sort of a backpack nerd. This is pretty funny to me, because when I first really jumped into hunting, I really didn’t see the need to have one. The first backpack I owned was a 2300 cubic inch day pack. I loved that pack until I actually killed something and realized that I had no room in there to haul meat. I was also starting to grow an interest in backpack hunting. From there, I jumped to an Eberlestock Just One pack. Right off of the bat I was impressed with it, but started experiencing some pains in my hips whenever I would wear it. It is one tough pack and can handle anything you throw at it, but it just wasn’t for me. So, the search began! It came down to 2 choices for me. Either an Exo-Mountain Gear 3500 or the Kuiu Icon Pro 5200. Both packs had all of the features that I desired and both had fantastic reviews. What made my decision quite a bit easier, was the fact that the Exo’s were all sold out and I needed a new pack quickly for the upcoming archery deer season. Before I knew it, I had a big Kuiu box delivered to my house. I didn’t want to do a review on this pack right away, so this review is actually taking place roughly 1 year after my purchase. Plenty of time for testing.
My first impression was simple. “WOW!” Before I even put the pack on I was impressed with the quality of construction, materials used(500 denier Cordura rip-stop), and the weight of the pack. For being so light at a mere 5 lbs 9 ounces, this looked and felt like a pack that could withstand a heavy beating and still be ready for more. All of the YKK zippers were extremely easy to use with no snags whatsoever. The pack is loaded with a generous 14 internal and external pockets for organization. That was a big selling point for me. I also didn’t notice any frills or blemishes in the sewing at all. Simply put, a work of art.
Adjusting the Icon Pro to my body was a snap. Kuiu employs a built in T-lock track system for easy torso adjustment. Basically, you can adjust the length of the torso simply by peeling the velcro secured shoulder straps away from the frame and sliding them either up or down, depending on your needs. Doing this is vital in ensuring that you have proper fit, so don’t skip this step. Don’t let the velcro put you off. This is a very secure system and I haven’t had any issues whatsoever with it.
Another thing that I was impressed with about the fitting was the design of the waist belt. They call it a power pull system. So, instead of tightening your waist belt by pulling the straps away from your belly button, you pull them towards it. This makes it WAY easier to cinch down for heavy loads. Once everything was properly adjusted and cinched up, I was amazed by how secure this pack felt to my back. I noticed right away, even though I didn’t have any weight in it yet, how rigid and strong it felt with the carbon frame. That was something new to me, that I wasn’t used to, but not against by any means. Time to load it up!
Loading up the Icon Pro
Once I had the Icon adjusted, I ran upstairs and started grabbing all of my backpacking/hunting gear to load up the pack. A feature that is really nice is the full horseshoe-zip. With the whole front half of the pack pretty much opened up, this makes loading up extremely easy. No reaching down in from the top of your bag blindly trying to configure gear. Everything is just right there in front of you for easy access. About 30 pounds of gear went into the bag on this first go around at my house. Still, it felt great. There is a ton of compression straps on the bag to make sure everything is tight, as well as to attach any extra gear you might need. Very secure to my back with no sagging or swaying. I actually found myself just walking around my house doing daily tasks paying no mind to the fully loaded backpack that I was wearing.
Over the past year, I have taken this pack on more scouting trips and hunts than I can count along with a few backpacking trips with my wife. It has handled great and is definitely tougher than I am. Many times I have even forgot that I was wearing the pack. The backpacking trips that we have done were anywhere between 3-7 miles with around 30-40 pounds of gear/food and water, traversing through all kinds of terrain and weather. Not once did I doubt the performance of this pack.
As far as hunts go, I have had the privilege of packing out a pretty hefty black bear and a coues buck with the Icon Pro 5200. With the bear, we just loaded the hide and head INTO my bag and didn’t use the load sling mode, which is one of the features of the Icon Pro system. In short, the bag detaches from the frame and allows you to pack meat or gear between the frame and the bag, allowing for more storage on the inside of the bag in order to get camp out with your harvest, should you be on a backpack hunt. On top of that though, Kuiu has also included an internal lashing system in the main compartment of the bag, should you want to secure meat or heavy gear on the INSIDE of your bag.
The bear load was easily over 100 pounds and the pack handled it beautifully. No rips, no tears, no sagging, and the load lifters worked great. You can read about that hunt and packout in my post about “My first bear.” With my coues buck, I did in fact use the load sling mode and packed out the whole deer in one trip. I was very impressed with how secure the bag still felt while using this method. Admittedly, I was a skeptic before trying it out with a changed tune in the end.
Pro’s of the Pro
Let’s recap some of the pros of this pack:
- Durable material and construction
- 14 pockets for organization
- Molded Carbon Fiber Frame
- 2 hydration ports
- Power pull system for easy waist belt adjustment
- Handles heavy loads great
- Plenty of compression straps
Cons of the Icon
The cons of this pack are in my opinion minor, but cons to me nonetheless:
- Price – You are going to pay a pretty penny for this system, but you definitely get what you pay for and in my opinion, it is worth the extra money.
- Top lid – I love how much room is in the lid, but when loaded with enough weight, the lid will actually sag down below the frame, so the frame is sticking up above the lid. Personally, I don’t like this. I don’t think it does anything to the performance, but is just a cosmetic issue. I find myself constantly prying the lid above the frame again once the pack is off of me. This doesn’t happen when the main compartment is fully loaded.
- Squeak noise – I first noticed this after a rain storm. Every time I would take a step there would be a subtle squeaking noise that came from somewhere right behind my head. This isn’t a big deal, if you are just using this pack for backpacking, but does cause concern while hunting. It is a noise that has come and gone. For example, as of late I haven’t heard it, but during the summer it was very evident. This might be something that only happens when the pack gets wet, but it seems like it stays with it for quite sometime afterwards.
In closing, this is an excellent pack and one that I think will stand the test of time. Kuiu is a fantastic company that is constantly testing their gear and coming up with new ways to innovate. If you aren’t familiar with them, give them a look. They are sure to impress. There you have it! My review of the Kuiu Icon Pro 5200. If you have any other info to add or just want to share your experience with this product, feel free to leave a comment!