Gear Review: Exo Mountain Gear K² 2000 Daypack

By: strych9

The K² 2000 Daypack surprised me right off the bat with its features to weight ratio. Weighing in a 4.5lbs thanks in large part to its titanium frame construction yet easily carrying 2000 cubic inches plus the ability to expand to 5450 cubic inches using all the various features including the expanding pockets. Despite its size the bag is extremely light, almost light enough to make me nervous about the construction. But my initial inspection suggested high quality stitching, good materials and plenty of rugged capability in a well thought out platform.

Pockets and Features

The K² 2000 Daypack is an external frame pack meant for what Exo Mountain Gear calls “day hunters.” As such, the pack is detachable from the frame, or moveable so that the frame can carry a rifle or bow when a weapon carrier is added. Or the frame can be used as a meat hauler once you’ve bagged your quarry.

As shipped, the K² 2000 has a lip on the top rear of the bag which will seat over the top of the frame to really lock the bag down to the frame. This feature must be disengaged to use the meat hauler/weapon carrier features. The bag also has four clips, two on each side, which are adjustable and attach to the frame. This allows you to place what you wish on the frame, secure it with straps attached to the frame and then reattach the bag and cinch it down over your load.

There are also two straps at the bottom of the bag which are adjustable to get your rifle stock/bow down to the weapon carrier but they can be fully removed if you wish to use the frame only. Overall this system gives you a lot of options for carrying a variety of loads while maintaining a pack that doesn’t shift around on the frame or load that the frame is carrying.

Starting on the outside of the bag from the front the K² 2000 has a stretch pocket meant to hold a spotting scope. After unclipping the compression straps this pocket is accessible from the left front side of the bag via a waterproof zipper that runs the length of the pouch.

The material for this pouch, as noted, is stretchy. Initially this material worried me in terms of ripping if exposed to sharp rocks, branches or thorns. Fortunately, those worries were unfounded. Also on the outside of the bag, down on the lower sides near the cummerbund, are two external stretch pockets that will accommodate something on the size of a 32oz Nalgene bottle.

Moving past the first pouch users will find a large upside down U shaped set of zippers that are the same kind of water resistant zipper as the stretch pouch. When both are taken down to the bottom of the bag the entire pack will open up to reveal its main compartment. This pouch contains a sewn in zippered pocket that, when the bag is closed, rides at the top of the compartment.

One of the key components of this pack is that the bag has sewn-in Velcro/Hook & Loop strips down both sides of the interior of its main compartment. These allow for the attachment of up to four (4) Stash Pockets which are sold separately for $9.99 each.  Each Stash Pocket is a zippered mesh pouch measuring 6×8 inches with a Velcro strip across the top for attachment to the pack.

Using two Stash Pockets (as shown above) the pouches can be offset as you wish depending on what you’re carrying and how you choose to set up your kit. Being Velcro they can quickly and easily be attached, removed or relocated inside the bag to meet your needs and provide you rapid access to small items you’re carrying with you.

On the back of the main compartment of the K² 2000 is a large open topped pouch for a hydration system. It holds a 3L Platypus quite well but is large enough to accommodate a much larger bladder perhaps as large as a 6L. The pouch is complimented by the expected hydration port at the top of the bag and your bladder can be held in place by a loop of Velcro/Hook & Loop covered Nylon sewn into the bag just below the port.

Moving up to the top of the bag we find the roll-top ruck style opening  does double duty by allowing the bag to be expanded from 2000 cubic inches to a larger volume depending on the load the user is carrying.

This roll-top feature also incorporates another pouch, also sporting those burly water-resistant zippers, which is made of a soft fleece material. Similar to old fleece sunglass pouches it is meant to hold your delicate electronics and allow them to hang down into the top of the main compartment of the bag. The fleece pocket is fairly large for it’s intended purpose. It will hold a Kestrel/CONX combination, in their respective pouches plus a GPS, your phone and some other odds and ends.

After the base bag there are accessories that can be purchased separately. I have not used all of them. The three items I added to this bag were stash pockets, a weapon carrier and a couple hipbelt pouches. These and other items for this bag can be found here.

The weapon carrier feature is a bit of an odd duck. If you’re properly using the retention straps on the frame to carry your bow or rifle it doesn’t seem to add a lot in terms of retaining your rifle on the pack, on the other hand however it does make absolutely certain that your weapon doesn’t drop out the bottom of the pack which is certainly possible depending on what type of rifle you might be carrying. What it absolutely does do is protect the stock of your rifle or the cam of your bow if you bang into something or set the pack down.

The carrier itself is well made and nicely padded with straps long enough to cover a wide variety of rifle lengths. The drawback is that connecting it to the pack via the straps on the carrier takes a bit of figuring out because it really isn’t clear how it’s meant to attach and it comes with no instructions. Honestly the carrier seems like it was a bit of an afterthought which is kind of a downer considering how well the rest of the pack is laid out.

The hip belt pouch, on the other hand, isno’t only well made, sporting those same water resistant sealed zippers as the main bag, but is very clearly not an afterthought. The adjustment straps on the outside of the K² 2000 have Velcro along the inside of them while the pouch has this as well. Once you’ve figured out exactly where you want to place the pouch you simply set it firmly against the adjustment strap and it locks into place.

Inside the pouch is a semi-elastic section that allows you to divide things up within the pouch so that the small stuff on your hip stays organized and in place. These pouches can also be attached to the compression straps on the back of the bag and they will stay in place reasonably well but not as well as on the cummerbund since there is no hook & loop on the compression straps.

Finally, the pack straps on this bag are extremely well thought out particularly in reference to their height adjustments. The straps attach to the bag with velcro and a set of, for lack of a better term, carabineers which allow for the user to adjust the height of the bag to ride just right for them.

To set the height of the shoulder straps in relation to the overall bag, lift the back Velcro panels to expose the carabineers, unlock the carabineers and select the desired slot on the stitched nylon webbing, relock the carabineer, pull the padded panel down towards the bottom of the bag until the connection is taught and lay the Velcro panels back down on to the bag.

Use Case

I purchased this bag to run the Darin Fink 2017 Sniper Adventure Challenge due to the bag’s specific features. After trying other bags (HPG Ute and the Slumberjack Bounty 2.0) I settled on this one as being the best option. It chose it for its light weight multiple features. That said, I plan on using this bag for a variety of other activities from hiking and hunting to regular old camping.

The bag saw a lot of miles — well over 100 — during both training and during the competition. It’s been been bumped around quite a bit, dragged through brush, unceremoniously dropped on rocks gotten dusty and been though a very hard Colorado mountain rainstorm while sitting uncovered in the back of a pickup truck. It’s been slung around pretty hard, carried fairly heavy loads and has generally been through some hard use both in the bush and in and out of uncovered vehicles on very rough roads.

Overall

Exo Mountain Gear’s K² 2000 Daypack has shown itself to be a darn tough bag with exactly the features I was looking for in this instance.

At a base size of 2000 cubic inches it’s not the biggest bag out there but the expandable features of the pack make it very versatile. This bag has shown excellent rip and scuff resistance and shown itself to be effectively waterproof unless you were to actually dunk it in a pond or something. It’s comfortable, modular enough for the event it was chosen for and it’s very light for what it is.

The main issue with this pack is that, like other high end packs, it starts out expensive and it gets pricier as you add the components that you need/want to set it up for your uses. Also, like many other packs of this nature it’s not the easiest thing to set up right off the bat. For instance, figuring out how to attach the weapon carrier takes some doing. Once the carrier is attached it carries you rifle or bow securely and comfortably but don’t expect to be able to deploy that weapon rapidly once it’s attached to the pack.

One final note: The this pack uses a frame that is interchangeable with other backpacks that Exo Mountain Gear makes such as the 5500 and 3500 packs. Just as with some other high end manufacturers users can buy multiple bags individually and attach them all to a single frame meaning you don’t have to pay for a frame for each bag.

Specifications: Exo Mountain Gear K² 2000 Daypack

Dimensions: 2×11.5×25 inches (compressed). 6×11.5×30 (expanded).
Weight: 4.5lbs (72oz)
Volume: 2000-5450 cubic inches.
Materials: 500 denier Cordura and 420 denier Diamond Ripstop.
Price: $499.99-$524.99 for base bag with frame. $589.94 as shown.  Frame Only: $329.99-$339.99

Ratings (out of five stars):

Quality: * * * * *
While I was initially concerned about the stretchy portions of the bag they have shown themselves to be extremely tough.

Ease of Use: * * * *
Like many bags of this nature it has a bit of a learning curve, not as steep as some but it’s still there.

Modularity: * * *
It’s not the end-all-be-all of modularity especially since it’s basically just a rucksack with the ability to open up the back of the bag but the stash pockets,  and the ability to move them around, give the user the ability to move things around for a comfortable load.

Comfort: * * * * *
Extremely comfortable. The height adjustment system on the pack straps is pure genius and works very, very well.

Organization: * * * 1/2
Again not the best for modularity but the stash pockets make keeping small objects organized a breeze while the mesh allows you to see what’s in them without opening the pouch and the Velcro attachment system makes removing/attaching/moving/reorganizing the pockets a real breeze.

Value: * * * *
and 1/2. Look, stuff like this is expensive and you generally get what you pay for. If you’re in the market for a pack like this and you’ve got the coin this isn’t a bag you’ll be disappointed with.

Overall: * * * *
An excellent bag but somewhat of a niche item. At this price point potential buyers will want to carefully consider if this pack meets their needs or if they’d be better off looking elsewhere.

 

©2017 by strych9 (halflitngittinit.com) Permission to share or copy granted when this notice and link are included. Half Lit

comments

  1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    Where are the pictures with it on somebody?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Yeah, like the mystery Mrs. Strych…

      *snicker* 😉

  2. avatar jwm says:

    Meh. I buy day packs at the thrift store for 5-10 dollars each. Hunting bags. Get home bags. Day hike bags. I got them.

    5-6 hundred bucks for a single bag? You done bumped your head.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      If you think that pricing is ridiculous you have no idea what else is out there in the high end market (really this isn’t high-end). The prices for some of the stuff Kifaru makes would make your head spin. $376 just for the frame.

      Also, I’d point out that while they call it a “day pack” it is really expandable to the point you can live out of it for a week or more if you want to and you’re still 2lbs lighter than something like the SlumberJack Bounty 2.0. I won’t trash the SJ but it’s lower price isn’t reflective of “better value” per se, it’s reflective of a different class of pack.

      I own a ton of backpacks of all different types. For the Fink I tested multiple bags like this (Slumberjack Bounty 2.0 and the Hill People Gear Ute), hiking each one well over 100 miles. This one is, quite frankly, amazing. You really can’t understand it until you try one on and walk around with weight in it. It’s not cheap but you are getting what you pay for in this case.

      Not to nerd out here really hard about packs but there are many reasons people might pay this kind of money. Serious hunting, which is what this bag is for, is one of them. If you’re gonna drop the kind of money it takes to go hunt the mountains in Alaska you don’t give a crap about the price of this bag since just your tags are gonna run you like $10K in many cases. That’s really the market this bag is meant to be in.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Let’s get real here. I’ve seen this in other areas as well. Hunting. Surfing. Dirt bikes. Camping.

        You pick an activity and it likely has happened there to. These companies exist to stick it to the enthusiast, regardless of activity.

        And people fall for it every time. Over 20 years ago I spent 700 bucks on a wetsuit for my son to surf in.

        I refuse to play that game any more.

        But there’s always a fresh crop of chuckleheads out there that can’t wait to max out their plastic on the latest and the greatest.

        1. avatar joetast says:

          I did not kno a wet suit cost that much. Wow stuffs expensive.

        2. avatar strych9 says:

          Lightweight costs more. High tech costs more. High quality costs more. New design costs more. Small business costs more. Made in the good ol’ USA costs more.

          Again, it’s a market. Some people see a value for their uses and others don’t. If you’re not into what this bag is made for then it will come across as overpriced hype. If you’re into it you might see the value or, depending on what you already own, you might not. Tom certainly seems to like the larger version for his uses.

        3. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

          I bet that their profit margin isn’t that large. $500 isn’t that much money for something that requires a ton of machine or human work. Ti is the 9th most abundant element on earth but it is a bitch to collect and process into usable forms.

        4. avatar Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes says:

          We call them “boutique brands.”

          They exist in every industry there’s an enthusiast or aficionado with more disposable income than sense. Granted, you rarely get something practically usable if you literally buy the cheapest thing out there (new retail price anyway), but you most certainly are not getting much *more* for your money by pissing away hundreds of dollars for a stamped rectangle of aluminum or titanium or s̶c̶a̶m̶d̶i̶u̶m̶ scandium and a bunch of Cordura nylon.

          Best way to figure it, is look at what it’s made out of, look at the raw materials cost it would cost you to make it, and how long it would take you to make it. Then ask yourself is it worth that much more than you $42 investment in materials from Joann/Michaels and the 2 or 3 hours investment of time you spent in front of the sewing machine?

          Didn’t think so.

        5. avatar strych9 says:

          “Then ask yourself is it worth that much more than you $42 investment in materials from Joann/Michaels and the 2 or 3 hours investment of time you spent in front of the sewing machine?”

          If you can make something remotely comparable to this pack for $42 and a few hours of your own labor you’re going to be a very, very rich person.

  3. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Good write up Strych9. And your right, you get what you pay for. I have the 3500 and it just went through it’s second year of abuse. Not as many miles as yours but 27-30 last week chasing elk.

  4. avatar Dave says:

    Can someone explain how the retention system keeps the rifle from slipping out the bottom of the pack.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      The frame has two straps that you can tighten independently (Photos two and three). These two straps keep the rifle from sliding around much after it’s been sandwiched between the pack and the frame.

      The “weapon carrier” is a boot with straps on it (photo #9, upper right). You set the length you want based on how high you want to carry the rifle and slide the boot over the stock. Now the rifle cannot slide vertically and drop off the pack. When the whole thing is put together you end up with the last photo. The stock is in the boot and the two straps are holding the rifle to the frame.

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