Frost River “Isle Royal Jr.” Bushcraft Pack

I was ideally looking for a pack that would be a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, and I can’t remember the last time I deliberated and researched this much before buying a piece of gear. But that’s exactly what I did before making the leap and giving the folks at Frost River a call to order their “Isle Royal Jr.” Bushcraft Pack. I had explored a number of similar, ultimately less worthy, alternatives, before finally reaching the conclusion that nothing else so perfectly embodied what I was looking for. Thankfully, all this deliberation paid off, and my hunch about the excellent quality and usefulness of a Frost River pack was dead-on. In fact, if anything, I had underestimated.

Late season grouse chasing with my Frost River pack.

My FR pack has seen a fair bit of use in the past month – everything from hiking to ski touring to hunting to travel, and I can’t say enough about how well built this pack is. Every single attachment point, buckle and seam has been executed with a level of attention to detail that is very rare to find anymore. The pockets are well thought out and useful, while the overall pack remains purpose-built and uncomplicated.

A few details:

Side view showing lashing, side pocket and leather side strap. Great place to lash a machete, poles, folding saw, etc.

Top view with the pack open, showing the pocket under the top flap and the size of the external pockets – each pocket offering ample room to accommodate a water bottle.

In this view you can see the hatchet/axe sleeve between the two external pockets. Also, behind each of the external pockets, there is another deep pocket, each with a brass grommet drain hole in the bottom:

Sturdy leather lash points on the bottom of the pack.

The attachment points for the shoulder strap yoke has to be seen to be believed. I’m pretty confident that I will wear out long before they ever do. View from the outside the pack.

And the view of the shoulder yoke attachment from inside the pack.

Don’t be fooled by the “Jr.” in the name of this pack. There is ample room for a multi-day trip with this pack, depending on how much you carry. The “Jr” version of this pack does not have a waist strap, which personally I like in a pack this size, because it won’t interfere with things I might have on my belt, such as a knife. However, if you’d prefer one, I’m sure you could ask the folks at Frost River to put one on for you.

As I hope is evident from these pics, this is an absolutely tremendous piece of gear that embodies the whole reason why we first started this blog – gear that you will have to spend time wearing in, rather than wondering how soon it will wear out.

At $280, the Isle Royal Jr. is not a cheap pack. But frankly, if you want cheap, go buy any one of a number of vastly inferior packs from the Big Box Temple of Outsourced Crap of your choice and cross your fingers that you get a few seasons out of it before the stitching implodes or the zipper blows. Or, you can invest in something that you will likely have for the rest of your life – maybe even pass down to someone else. An item that is made in the USA, by people who truly care about the goods they produce. Top it off with an honest lifetime guarantee. In the long run, which approach will cost more?

As an aside, when I called Frost River to order this pack, I was told that it wasn’t in stock. After taking so long to make a decision, my heart sank as I imagined several months of waiting. “No problem,” I was told on the phone. “We’ll start building it today, and it should go out by early next week at the latest.” The pack was built, shipped, and in my hands, in less than two weeks. I am thoroughly impressed with every aspect of this great company.

Click here to learn more about Frost River and the excellent line of goods that they offer.

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19 comments on “Frost River “Isle Royal Jr.” Bushcraft Pack

  1. flynn1959 says:

    Thank You for bringing this locally made (USA) piece of equipment to larger attention. I search in earnest for items I can support, like this, among the the tsunami of foreign made stuff. Now I know where my next pack is coming from!

    Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays….Rick 😉

  2. It’s great pack. I had the privilege of working with Mark at Frost River on that pack’s design and some modifications that were suggested through the Bushcraft USA forums.

    It really is an excellent piece of gear and will absolutely last a life time.

  3. Smithhammer says:

    Thanks for your role in helping design such a great pack, AG. Can’t praise it enough, and I’m looking forward to growing old with it!

  4. Frank says:

    I think you just sold me a pack. (And, after scrolling a bit, a wool shirt or two….)

    Thanks!

  5. Mike says:

    I’ve only just found this site, but I feel as though I’ve been looking for it for a long time. Wonderful selections of gear here – I think my wallet’s already cringing. Thanks so much for finding such perfect, time-tested pieces.

    • Smithhammer says:

      Glad you found us, Mark. We’re always glad to have more kindred spirits, and if you know of any gear that would qualify for what we’re trying to do here – let us know!

  6. Chris says:

    Hi ,

    I have been deliberating on a decent pack for a long time ( about 18 months ) I use packs for Bushcraft ( the real deal ) not like the arm chair wannabes that seem to be all over You Tube .

    I looked at the Duluth packs and at Maxpedtion, as far as I can see none of the others in the market place , stack up like the Frost River packs , a Axe sleeve is a huge plus along with the waterproof nature of the material they use , I carry my Axe and Bahco folding saw everywhere I go out in the bush , here in Australia the Frost river packs for Bush crafting are ideal .

    Because of your write up I can rest easy knowing I have made a wise choice and investment.

    Regards

    Chris

  7. Chris says:

    By the way , I can thoroughly recomend the ” 180 ” stove put out by 180 tack LLC , for a real bushcrafter it’s a joy to use and leaves no footprint !

    Will be posting a review on You Tube when I get a chance soon , will post the link here if anyone is interested.

    Regards

    Chris ( down under )

  8. BillA says:

    Beautiful Pack. I also prefer heavy duty canvas packs made in the USA. I have one made by the ladies at Alder Stream Canvas, and it is also a first rate, US made pack. Keep your money home and trust in US made materials, design, and workmanship. I detest the China-made outdoor junk. You really DO get what you pay for.

  9. Joshua Evans says:

    Hey smithhammer, I have been looking at these packs, I want a good overnight hike pack that could work for a one night or a three night treck.
    Do you think the junior pack could handle that? Would the Sr. pack be to big.
    I will be hiking with my wife also.

    • Smithhammer says:

      Hey Joshua –

      Thanks for getting in touch. I think that the “Junior” would fine for an overnight, as long as you don’t take too much. But for a 3-night trip, you’d probably want to look at the full-size version. Hope that helps!

      • Joshua Evans says:

        It does help, do you think the full size pack would be too big for a one night hike? Or even a day trip? I really love the looks of the frost river stuff!

        • Smithhammer says:

          The full size pack is pretty big, particularly for use as a day pack. But of course, it all depends on how much you want to bring. If it’s intended to be more for day trips and the occasional overnighter, personally I’d stick with the Jr.
          : )

  10. Steve Ricci says:

    I love this pack and am ready to buy it, ne question though I am a big guy with broad shoulders. WIll the straps accomidate larger people. I backpack alot and use a X large straps on my Osprey packs.
    thanks

  11. Velid Aljic says:

    I just really need to know if this backpack is waterproof or water resistant, and if one or the other then to what degree is it waterproof or water resistant?

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