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View Full Version : Initial Review of Navigator, E&E, Stuff Sack, Woobie



AJBello
09-22-2009, 12:30 PM
I initially posted this on another forum, but thought that I should put it here and maybe get some more informed opinions on my Navigator fit / carrying thoughts. The "review" has some explanatory language on each item which is probably not needed on this forum, but I'll just post it as it was originally written as I don't feel like editing :D.
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After reading many rave reviews about Kifaru gear, I placed an order in June for a Navigator pack, E&E, medium stuff sack, medium pod, and a Woobie (all G2 and Foliage where applicable). The goods were delivered mid August.

My initial impression of the gear was very good. Everything definitely appeared to be “bomb-proof” and extremely well made. The foliage color for me is a good compromise between full on camo or a brighter color common in most civilian style packs. Foliage blends well enough around here to be useful, but not really stand out as a “military” color, IMO. Coyote was another consideration, but as I will use this pack occasionally while hunting, I did not want the deer-like shade of coyote covering my back while walking through the woods.

Piece by piece, my experiences with the gear have been:

“Pod, Medium, Foliage”: I haven't actually used the pod yet, minus filling it with a bulky sleeping bag and strapping it onto the Navigator to see how it worked and test it. Nonetheless, it's about as straight forward as it gets, and I don't think any real-world use would reveal anything more about it. It seems to me to be a great way to expand your load carrying capability for a trip just a little longer than normal. It provides more than adequate protection for gear, but is easily accessed by unclipping a couple fastex buckles and loosening the draw string. Dimensions for the medium pod are 15”x9”x10”, which should equal 1350 in^3.

“Stuff Sack, Medium”: I'm extremely impressed with this stuff sack, and was admittedly skeptical when I ordered. Instead of compressing items into a ball shape like conventional sacks, Kifaru's compresses them into a long tube of sorts, which is much more efficient when packed horizontally inside a pack. This shape also lends itself to being lashed on the outside of the pack more than the traditional ball shape. The stuff sacks are a one color only affair, which appears to me to be a shade of OD (although Kifaru's website says coyote brown). The amount of compression with this sack was great, and effortless in achieving. The sack easily swallows my REI 20 degree down bag plus the Kifaru G2 Woobie. Alternatively, it was easy to fit the bivy + patrol bag from the MSS, or the MSS bivy + Woobie.

“G2 Woobie”: I've had lots of time with the military issued poncho liner, an item that I consider pretty much mandatory for it's usefulness. The Woobie takes a great piece of gear to a whole new level. It compresses smaller, is warmer, but yet still lighter than a standard poncho liner, despite being a little longer (which is nice). The paracord loops around the outside are a nice touch for utility. However, the cut and singed ends of the paracord can be quite annoying on bare skin whilst snuggling up with said Woobie. On an otherwise smooth-silky blanket, they've rubbed me the wrong way several times. No biggie, and I'd rather have them for the utility, but the annoyance is worth noting. Another item of note on the Woobie is the integral stuff sack. The sack is sewn into one end and doesn't compress the Woobie all that much, but does contain it to a nice manageable packing size if it's going into the main part of your pack. I've read many users say that the sack always ends up in their face and they eventually cut it off. Like the paracord loops, the utility of it outweighs the possible annoyance (for me)... mine stays for now.

“G2 E&E, Foliage”: Kick ass little pack / pouch! Although I am impressed with all of the items, this one has seen the most use. The E&E accompanies me on most outings when a larger pack just isn't needed. Typical contents include my jetboil, a couple Mountain House meals, a first aid kit, extra G19 magazine for my G26, and misc small items like notepad, pen, matches, etc, etc. At 1000 in^3, it's large enough to carry the essentials, but small enough to not be a hindrance. It has been a “Get Home Bag – Lite” of sorts. When the Navigator is along, the E&E docks to the front of the pack. While in this mode I put my most commonly accessed items in the E&E (snacks, jetboil, a MH meal or two, sunglasses, etc). Longer term sustainment items go in the Navigator (Shelter, clothes, extra MH meals, etc). The E&E is a panel loader which opens fully, which makes for easy access to anything in there. Simple webbing shoulder straps tuck into the back panel when not needed. Simply awesome!

“G2 Navigator, Foliage”: This main pack was the reason for my order. For backpacking I had been using a Mountainsmith Terra 4500. It's a great pack, and extremely comfortable, I just prefer panel loaders. I was also looking for a pack with MOLLE as I like having some flexibility in external pouch configuartion. The Navigator fit the bill. It's 4000 in^3 and comes in at 6 lbs 5 oz... not a lightweight. It's covered in MOLLE, inside and out, allowing user flexibility in internal and external organization. The Navigator's waistbelt is also covered in MOLLE, which was another must on my list. On the left I added a Paraclete small GP pouch for camera / GPS. On the right I added Tactical Tailor's excellent “Lunar Concealed Carry Pouch”. I prefer carrying while in the woods... the Lunar allows for that yet still keeps from scaring the sheeple in the yuppy / hippy laden forests of the PAC-NW. On a practical note it also protects the pistol and keeps it clean. The Navigator by itself is 4000 in^3, but quickly grows 6350 in^3 with the addition of the medium pod and E&E. The versatility of the system really appeals to me. I also like the fact that I can hike in to a location, set up camp, and then don the E&E with the essentials for day-hikes / short scrambles in the area.

I recently went for an overnight backpacking trip into one of my favorite destinations, the Mt Jefferson Wilderness Area. Just to the north of Mt Jefferson is a basin with several small lakes at 6000'. The mountain shoots up from this basin, creating a picturesque wonderland. All of the mentioned items went along on the trip, minus the medium pod, as the extra capacity wasn't required. The hike was about 6 miles each way, with a total elevation gain of around 1900'. I was thrilled overall with the performance of the Kifaru gear. I will say that I was a little disappointed in the carrying characteristics of the Navigator. I felt like I had way too much weight on my shoulders, no matter how I tried to adjust the straps. I'm not sure if this was due to just not finding that happy place with the adjustments, or possibly too much weight in the E&E too far from my back, creating a backwards “pull”. Either way, I was a little let down by it. My Mountainsmith pack (which a buddy was borrowing for the trip) was way more comfortable on such trips. Admittedly, I had years to figure out that happy spot in the adjustments with that pack. Since the trip I've messed with the adjustments some more, and I think I'm getting warm to that sweet spot. Although I really won't know for sure until I get some more trail time with it. Bottom line, I am pleased with the pack. It has all of the features I was looking for. I think the carrying comfort will come around with some more experimenting.

On a general note regarding Kifaru stuff: Great gear that is extremely well made here in the USA. It is relatively expensive, and there's a 6-8 week wait, but in my case it was worth it. I intend to look at Kifaru again for future needs. Although I will say that Mystery Ranch has also caught my eye!

Some pictures of the Kifaru setup on mentioned trip:

Kifaru Navigator with E&E docked and stuff sack lashed to outside bottom:
http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d99/OR_05Taco/DSC03494.jpg

http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d99/OR_05Taco/DSC03534.jpg

On the trail:
http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d99/OR_05Taco/SeattleandJefferson027.jpg

http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d99/OR_05Taco/SeattleandJefferson124.jpg

Camp set up. Pack in lower right with Woobie laid out in MSR "Hubba Hubba" tent:
http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d99/OR_05Taco/DSC03461.jpg

Pic of the scenery, just 'cause:
http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d99/OR_05Taco/DSC03510.jpg
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I will add that since the trip I've gone back and fit the Navigator as the supplied guide says to. I don't think I changed all that much, but I did end up tightening the load lifter straps a bit more. That seemed to help some. At this point I'm wondering if docking the E&E in that manner, with any amount of weight in it, will ruin the carrying characteristics of the Navigator by making it pull back more than it otherwise would. Thoughts?

rt014
09-22-2009, 12:56 PM
Nice review...thanks for taking the time to post it.

scothill
09-22-2009, 01:15 PM
Having spent a lot of time messing with a back mounted pocket I would be willing to bet that is 90% of the weight on the shoulder issue. Move the E&E to the top of the pack if you can and that should let you test things out. Also make sure you are wearing the waistbelt on top of the hips and not around them.

After working with a back pocket for the last couple of years Evan and I both have decided they just don't work with any amount of weight in them. Especially, on smaller packs.

cpti
09-22-2009, 02:05 PM
You said Kifaru is relatively expensive, but that's only true if you're counting by cubic inches with no regard for quality of materials, craftmanship, and warranty. Once you take those aspects of value into account, you're definitely getting your money's worth with Kifaru.

AJBello
09-22-2009, 02:26 PM
You said Kifaru is relatively expensive, but that's only true if you're counting by cubic inches with no regard for quality of materials, craftmanship, and warranty. Once you take those aspects of value into account, you're definitely getting your money's worth with Kifaru.

Absolutely you're getting your money's worth. Much more time / material goes into a pack like the Navigator with all of the MOLLE attached. That alone would seem to take quite a bit more time. However, at $543 for the 4000 in^3 pack alone, it is expensive. Justified indeed, but a lot of $$$ nonetheless. For the options and quality of construction it is worth it IMO.

cpti
09-22-2009, 02:47 PM
Yea, I wasn't trying to mince words. I always get a kick when people who aren't "in the know" inquire as to the cost of a particular setup, be it packs, guns, etc.

My civilian buddies almost sh!t when I told them my ACOG was nearly $1k and it was sitting on a $1700 rifle. They'd freak out over a "backpack" that cost half a grand.

Funny thing is, his girlfriend just dropped $1200 on a coach bag. Talk about a waste.

Back on topic, it took me a long time to get the adjustment right on a Mollex. I ended up having to bend the stays a bit before it finally fit like a glove.

KDOG
09-22-2009, 03:47 PM
Nice review and awesome scenery! I definetly want to visit someplace like that before I die..... I have a foliage E&E w/optional shoulder straps and a foliage malice claymore with optional shoulder strap on the way, they said if should go out this week and I can't wait to get my grubby paws on it!

evanhill
09-22-2009, 04:59 PM
I think you can get away with the E&E, not too heavily loaded, on the back of the Navigator. The Navigator slopes inwards (towards the body) as it goes up which helps a lot. When I look at your pack, I see two things I'd change for a more comfortable carry. Put your stuff sack on the top of the pack. That bottom back position is just about the worst there is to put additional weight. Also, clip in your nalgenes so they hang closer to your back (and center of gravity). You can fabricate bungy cord or p-cord and cordlock tethers for the bottle bottoms to keep them hanging in exactly the correct spot, and also to keep them from swinging around.

As Scot said - but it bears repeating - a Kifaru hipbelt wears higher than just about any hipbelt you've ever worn. Wearing the hipbelt too low is a common mistake.

wolfmen
09-23-2009, 06:41 AM
About the pack problem, you sure the waist belt located on the right place. K pack's wasit belt is a little different from other packs. check kifaru's youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/Kifarutube#play/uploads/7/hKdekYhysmE or ask Patrick and Mel.

I am sure they will solove your problem.

And welcome to Kifaru world.

BuckarooMedic
09-23-2009, 06:58 AM
AJ,

Great review! Thanx for sharing. Beautiful country, gonna have to check it out.

The Hill brothers and wolfmen have pretty much hit the nail on the head, I would say the biggest problem with your load-out is the two Nalgenes hanging off the top of your pack. Can you get them onto your waist belt? That would really help with your fit issues. Check out Kifaru's youtube site. Patrick Smith actually shows how to adjust the Navigator/Siwash on the video. Learn from the inventor himself.

Also, check out MilitaryMoron's Kifaru fit page on his web site. There's a sticky at the beginning of this forum.

Good luck and welcome to the addiction!

AndyL
09-23-2009, 09:44 AM
For holding water bottles you can add a maxpedition mini rollypoly. Rolls up out of the way when not in use and you can stop it moving around at the bottom with a compression strap.