Brian Finch

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Today we are reviewing the Kulkea Micro Pack, an item that is seriously overbuilt! Overbuilt in a fantastic way, kind of like the Dana Design packs of the mid-90s, the stuff that your kids will pass down to their kids. Now the whole family has bags from Kulkea, and before you go ahead and say, "Yeah I know what their bags are like," this is on a different level entirely. The bag is a super low profile, lightweight backpack designed specifically for action sports. It is made out of water-resistant polyurethane-coated 420D ripstop polyester and 330D ripstop polyester. The stuff is just bomber. The pack size is 17.5 in. tall and just shy of 9 in. wide, but it feels much smaller on your back.

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My favorite part of the pack is the straps. They’re very beefy but supportively padded, and they contour perfectly against the chest wall and torso -- so much that while running or skinning or even dry tool ice climbing, the pack just fits perfectly against your torso and does nothing to restrict body motion. Kulkea really nailed the design to allow the scapula full range of motion. You will certainly notice this when you’re using it. If you’ve ever suffered from the dreaded “strap attack” or had excruciating chafing from a bag, the Micro Pack lets you experience a whole new level of motion.

Other killer features include the security pocket and key clip, innovative helmet loops that allow you to attach your favorite lid, “Tuck-Away“ waist belt, lip balm holder, emergency whistle, and daisy chain. It has a hydration holder for storing two water bottles, a big primary pocket that fits your extra gloves hats and lunch inside, some stash pockets, and "Vision Swap" for storing glasses and extra lenses. The big overlapping “Shed-a-Layer” closure allows you to very nicely compact an overlayer or down jacket to the pack.

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Fully loaded for a day adventure.


I took the pack out today for a 10-mi run followed by some climbing up trees. No pressure points, no soreness, just a superb feel. Skinning was equally pleasurable when I tested the pack earlier out on the hill. One of the really nice features is that there’s some drainage to the lower pocket and also some compression closures. This allows you to toss your skins in without having to worry that they will get gunked up in the middle of your pack. The drainage is also key as your skins likely have some moisture on them. Skiing down was really surprising because the pack just disappears after the second or third turn; you don’t really notice it at all. It’s also skinny enough that if you need to ride the chairlift, it doesn’t push you forward or put your cervical spine in an awkward position. These are really well-thought-out design features.

So, if you want to boot up in the parking lot and ski opening bell to last chair, or if you are a fan of carrying all the items needed (or not, for that matter), this is a very streamlined option. If you are an instructor or coach and have to be on the hill all day, you will not find a better pack. I did play around with skiing with the pack both over and under my jacket, and unless it’s totally full, wearing the pack under the jacket works just fine. For myself, I found that I did not need the waist belt most of the time.

The greatest aspect of this bag is that you can literally beat the absolute snot out of it 100 days a year on the chairlift and never have to worry about durability. I was able to strap helmets, extra jackets, gloves, skins, ice tools, and even skis with a little ingenuity, and it did absolutely nothing to the texture of the material.
  • Who it is not for? If you are a weight weenie, wear spandex proudly in public, use the term "rando," or have skis that disappear underneath your boots because they’re so skinny -- this is not your pack. Yes, you can spend the same amount of money on a bag that will last you half a day and weigh as much as a plastic grocery bag from Walmart. If this is you, please stop reading, your time is much better spent monitoring your body fat composition and hydration level after you’ve eaten three almonds for dinner.
  • Who is it for? Well, everyone else. Do you like to ski all day and not go in? This is your bag. Do you like to not feel like you buy the same crap every year because it falls apart? This is your bag. Do you have children who need wipes, candy, extra gloves, and juice boxes with favorite cartoon characters on them? Yes, this is your bag.
  • Insider tip 1: Get yourself one or two of those 18-in. plastic telemark ski straps to use on the daisy chain. This is the boogie-on-down-to-the-disco method of getting your skis and poles on the pack so you can make the bus.
  • Insider tip 2: Put a bicycle light flasher on the daisy chain and just leave it there; you’ll always be ready for the commute on that bike.
  • Insider tip 3: The Micro Pack also will strap onto Kulkea's traditional boot bags, which is pretty clutch if you carry a lot of gear or have children. Or attach it to the outside of your larger backpack and use it once you’re at base camp; it makes a great summit bag.
  • Final insider tip: There’s a lot of stuff out there on the market, but not much that is built or thought out this well. Kulkea is also a Pugski sponsor, and if you’re concerned about sourcing merchants of sound ethical practice and consider socially responsible purchases, it’s an easy purchase!
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Actual weight, 522 g

 

Philpug

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I have been extremely impressed with the build quality of the Kulkea product. I have about 100 days with my Heated Trekker, and in all fairness I have not been easy on the back and it is holding up better than any other bag I have had. As @Brian Finch said, these are way over built.
 

neonorchid

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Good review, I like the part about ergonomic harness straps.
I'd like to see Kulkea incorperate built-in ski carry straps. It's probably not wide enough for A-frame, but diagonal ski carry should do it for this compact'ish class of packs.
 
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Philpug

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Good review, I like the part about ergonomic harness straps.
I'd like to see Kulkea incorperate built-in ski carry straps. It's probably not wide enough for A-frame, but diagonal ski carry should do it for this compact'ish class of packs.
@KULKEA listens, I will make sure they see this.
 

James

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So, is it missing straps to carry skis? I thought that was the whole point to a pack, carrying skis.
 

KULKEA

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So, is it missing straps to carry skis? I thought that was the whole point to a pack, carrying skis.
Its meant to be a low profile, lightweight pack for essential items. Strapping skis to the pack wasn't quite part of its initial intention, however with helpful feedback like this, we'll certainly look closer at opportunities to accommodate. We do listen and greatly value feedback so as to improve and progress!
 

James

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Its meant to be a low profile, lightweight pack for essential items. Strapping skis to the pack wasn't quite part of its initial intention, however with helpful feedback like this, we'll certainly look closer at opportunities to accommodate. We do listen and greatly value feedback so as to improve and progress!
I get it. Hopefully you'll make a ski version as the basics sound good. As this is a ski site, the eval has to be skewed towards skiing and then everything else. In that vein it's a little absurd to ski with a pack that can't carry skis at least. Then there's a shovel.
This is just a web strap that Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol sells to carry skis. It would be a little ridiculous to use the pack to carry the strap that carries the skis. And then the pack would be in the way.
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KULKEA

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I get it. Hopefully you'll make a ski version as the basics sound good. As this is a ski site, the eval has to be skewed towards skiing and then everything else. In that vein it's a little absurd to ski with a pack that can't carry skis at least. Then there's a shovel.
This is just a web strap that Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol sells to carry skis. It would be a little ridiculous to use the pack to carry the strap that carries the skis. And then the pack would be in the way.
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If you wear a pack specifically to carry skis, I suppose it would be absurd to wear a pack that is not designed to carry skis. If you wear a pack in order to carry essentials, this is a great lightweight solution. Attaching huge tires to a Datsun does not make it a monster truck. Would be cool though.
 

James

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You can justify all you want, but the pack is pretty ridiculous for skiing if it can't carry skis. Sure, 90% of the time one might not need to carry them. But then for that 10% one needs a different pack. Might as well just get a different one to start with. Or, if you ski somewhere that you're often making short hikes, you're carrying dead weight that doesn't function when you need it.
Really, this isn't complicated. Nor does it have anything to do with huge tires on a Datsun. It's a ski car that can only drive on dry roads if you must have a car analogy.
 
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Brian Finch

Brian Finch

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I would hesitate to call any pack ridiculous. Above is the 90 gram Salomon Sense running pack en route to summiting Hood. :) It has no ski features.

It’s pretty easy to carry skis.
 

Philpug

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You can justify all you want, but the pack is pretty ridiculous for skiing if it can't carry skis. Sure, 90% of the time one might not need to carry them. But then for that 10% one needs a different pack. Might as well just get a different one to start with. Or, if you ski somewhere that you're often making short hikes, you're carrying dead weight that doesn't function when you need it.
Really, this isn't complicated. Nor does it have anything to do with huge tires on a Datsun. It's a ski car that can only drive on dry roads if you must have a car analogy.
This is not a ski pack, this is why we are reviewing it in the summer. I do think with this feedback, Kulkea could see there is a market for such a pack option.
 

Tricia

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You can justify all you want, but the pack is pretty ridiculous for skiing if it can't carry skis.
If someone is going to do a "hike to ski" then they will probably buy a comprehensive pack for this purpose.
This review is for Kulkea's Micro Pack, emphasis on Micro. Its intended purpose is for the person who wants to participate in an activity while carrying a few essentials.

I've skied with a mom who owns the Micro Pack. It makes her ski day a lot easier because she can keep a few essentials for her kids. A bigger pack that is potentially set up to carry skis would probably be too cumbersome.

If you want a pack that carries skis, there are tons of bigger packs on the market to choose from. Kulkea has filled a space with this Micro Pack that was missing and I think they did a great job with it.

With the theme that Kulkea has been following, if they build a pack that can carry skis, it will probably be extremely well thought out and durable like all their other packs.
 

James

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Nice!
Just let us know when the non huge tire Datsun version comes out.
 

neonorchid

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If someone is going to do a "hike to ski" then they will probably buy a comprehensive pack for this purpose.
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True and I do already have a low profile Dakine Heli Pro 20 / diagonal ski carry as well as a more full-featured but still small low profile Haglofs SKRA 26 / both A-frame and diagonal ski carry plus an option for back panel (padded side which goes against your back), access. However, and while Heli Pro 20 fits the bill for for inbounds walk to access like Aspen Highland Bowl etc., something even more compact along the lines of the Kulkea micro pack if updated (or not as Brian illustrated), with concealed when not in use ski carry straps (I don't like straps hanging all over the place), could be rather useful too as I never pack a shovel or avi probe for such (not necessarily a bad idea, I just don't).
Again I really like what @Brian Finch said about the micro pack harness comfort, an issue which was the deal breaker with a Black Diamond ski pack I had ordered and returned.
 

Tricia

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I have had a few Dakine packs, and now a few Kulkea. Kulkea's features and durability slay nearly any other bag I've had.
 
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neonorchid

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Fishbowl

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I purchased one of these bags right at the end of last season, so only got to use it for a few days. I don't want to duplicate the previous reviews, but did want to add a few points.

For a lift served day skier like myself who avoids the lodge, this really is the perfect bag. It is especially useful for the daily changes in temperature we get at AZ Snowbowl that require layer shedding. The lined pocket at the top is perfect for the extra goggles I carry, and the multiple pockets are just right for snacks, water, keys, sunscreen, etc. A particularly nice feature is the breakaway shoulder strap that allows you access your bag on the lift without having to pull the bag over your head; very cool. The lip balm pocket is a nice touch as well. The bag loads and rides high, making it easy to wear on the lift. I have never had the desire or need to carry my skis, so no issue there for me. In fact making the bag larger, as has been suggested, would devalue it's usefulness for me. It really does "disappear" when you ski with it.

I find that a small backpack is invaluable for inbounds skiing, and have tried many over the years. My experience with this bag is limited, but so far it is far superior in practicality than any previous bag I have used. It will be my go to ski pack for next season, so I will report back as I get more use.
 

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