View Full Version : History of Kifaru Ultralights

12-15-2010, 05:29 PM
Hey guys, thought I would post this up for those that may have missed it on the Ultralight home page. This is an essay by Patrick explaining the history of the Kifaru Ultralights. Here ya go:

Eleven years. That's how long our Ultralight Packs have been in development.

Why such a long incubation? There are a couple of reasons. We had other projects needing doing. And... I wanted this project to be right. I wanted the same comfort and function as our standard weight packs, and tough enough durability. In 1999 I built the first Prototype. It was essentially one of our LongHunters crafted from our Tipi fabric. Double layers, which exponentially increased strength and durabilty. That pack has been on a great many exteme backcountry rambles and hunts all over: Alaska, British Columbia, and all over the West. Many very heavy loads of elk, carribou, moose, goat, sheep and deer have been carried through hellish country in and on it.

I was impressed from the very beginning with the toughness of our proprietary Tipi fabric--from the initial ParaTipi and onward as we found it stood up to anything nature threw at it in larger and larger Tipis.
This ultra high tenacity mil-spec American fabric is truly the best in the world of it's type. So I chose it to start the program with, and that has proved a very good choice. Part of the reason for the long incubation has been to make certain the material I chose to start with would stand the test of hard use in my backcountry life over time...a lot of time. It has.

That LongHunter has evolved into the three models you see today. These models have been refined, honed, to be as light as possible consistent with being just as comfortable as our regular packs, first of all, while carrying the same weights, and to accept the same kinds of Accessorizing as their standard brothers. I started with aluminum frame stays, the point being to test the fabric component first. When the cloth fully proved to hold up I started experimenting with more exotic, and much lighter, stay materials. I tried many, many iterations of stays built of carbon fiber, as the very lightest, but still strong, option. It worked beautifully with lighter loads. But whenever really heavy loads were at hand--such as our other packs are expected to handle with comfort--straight carbon fiber finally proved too flexible. Heavy weight distorted the stay causing it to "collapse" --the result being a loss of proper contour in the lumbar region which allowed the pack to slip downward which in turn resulted in weight on the shoulders--a severe no-go in my design philosophy!

So the search began for stays that were still very nearly the weight of carbon fiber alone, yet that were as rigid as our aluminum stays. The final solution is a laminate of carbon fiber and exotic lightweight wood. This combination has exactly the same stiffness as our targeted aluminum stays--which have proved perfect for maintaining their comfort contour no matter what. And the weight is very close to our original pure carbon fiber prototypes. It is markedly less than our aluminum versions. So much so that we have decided to offer these stays as optional upgrades on new Kifaru packs, as well as retrofits for all older Kiafru packs. I suspect a lot of folks will like the idea of saving ten ounces of total weight in their LongHunter or EMR. I know I would.

A few words about "light as possible pack design" need to be said. I've been backpacking for fifty four years so I can speak with a great deal of confidence about this. A serious frame and waisbelt combination that puts the weight on your hips instead of your shoulders trumps a light-as-possible "potato sack" pack every time. Period. Try carrying even ten pounds from your shoulders all day, then try a real backpack--you'll realize instantly that SOME weight to attend to proper real pack function is dramatically worth it! Very nearly the same dramatic difference will be found with a little more weight in comparing so-called UL "frames" that consist of "flexible" elements like various Delrin rods and so forth. "Flexible" is touted as if it were desireable. It is not. It is simply lightweight. "Flex" means collapse, and collapse means the weight is headed for the top of your shoulders, instead of transfered to your hip shelf where it belongs. So the KU packs are not as light as I can possibly make them; they are as light as I can make them do what Kifaru packs are supposed to do--which is carry your load in utmost comfort for utmost efficiency in the backcountry. Yet they are still very much in the hunt at being among the very lightest packs in the UL category; certainly they are THE lightest packs to carry like they do---like real Kifaru packs. Exactly the same comfort as our standards. That was my goal all these years, and it has been achieved.

The Kifaru Ultralight (KU) Packs are a breakthrough-- Kifaru comfort, even with heavy loads, and full Kifaru Accessory adaptations at dramatically reduced weight (for the Accessories too, by the way). I have my personal packs now, and I'm not going back. With this Introduction I can at last appear in public with these packs (without having to swear very close friends and associates to secrecy) instead of exclusively going solo in
the deep outback. They are in the field at last!

--Our 3-String Compression Stuff Sacks (https://kifaru.net/stuffsack.html) proved very useful when testing the
smaller KU Packs. They were superb at compressing all sorts of
paraphenalia so that it would slip into the pack. Ultralight packers will
find them quite useful at extending the range of their KU pack.

--Our KU Pouches, PODS, Grab-it and so forth provided the same enhancement
in range very efficiently and at very little weight penalty. They work to perfection!

--All standard Hunting Division waistbelt-mounted accessories (GunBearers
and Possibles Pouches) will work on the KU packs.