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.