GEAR REVIEW: Initial Ascent IA4K Backpack

By Johnny Mack

When it comes to hunting gear, people often talk about a good pair of boots and a comfortable backpack as being the most essential gear to make or break a hunt (besides your weapon of course). After spending several seasons hunting and packing out animals, I was always left with a excruciating pain between my shoulder blades that would eventually beat me down and made me despise the pack I was wearing.

With every step, I would cringe and second guess the fit of my backpack. Every time ending up at the same conclusion. My pack “fit” me but wasn’t a good pack for me. Like most things in life, just because a pair of boots is a good fit for another person doesn’t mean it will be a good fit for you.

When I was at the Western Hunt Expo in Salt Lake City in 2020, I became familiar with Initial Ascent and definitely wanted to try one of their packs. Being someone who has lived out of a backpack on different adventures since I was 7 years old, as well as selling backpacks at REI, I am no stranger to the fit and feel of a good pack.

After reaching out to Initial Ascent to get them on an episode of The Soulful Hunter Podcast (listen HERE), I was sold and knew I needed to try one out. Thankfully, I was able to be apart of a special opportunity called the Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack. The Brotherhood allowed me to use their IA4K on a backcountry hunt and then pass it on to a new recipient. During my time with the pack, I was able to shoot a beautiful black bear which provided me the opportunity to get a complete feel and understanding of the pack system.

Washington Fall Black Bear
Full Camp with a load of black bear meat in between the frame and pack

About the Company

Initial Ascent hit the market in 2018 and is based out of Middleton, Idaho. It was created out of the need and idea that hunting packs could be made and be better than what was offered on the market at the time. It started with their carbon fiber frame and went from there.

One of the cool things about the company is that they are a solid group of guys dedicated to making a high quality product. And when it comes time to getting in contact with them, you get a quick and timely response.

ABOUT THE backpack

The pack is built off of their carbon fiber Integrous frame (larger size) and their smaller Invictus frame. They also developed their bags to have a “V” shape structure, creating heavy loads to be centered across the back. One cool feature of the frame is that the upper shoulder tabs that stick out can be used to hook a gun sling on or hang game bags from when packing out. Their frame also supports the different size bags that they offer (2K, 4K, or 6K) which is a very nice feature.

During my time using the pack, I really fell in love with the features noted above,d as I had the opportunity to pack out an elk, bear and whitetail buck using the IA4K system. The pinching pain I mentioned earlier was never an issue and for the first time, I wasn’t beat down from the pain of a heavy pack.

PROS

  • The comfort and grip of the lumbar pad is one of my favorites and does not slip down your backside. The lumbar pad also helps keep the pack riding high like it should for a comfortable ride.
  • Half sleeve and full sleeve pockets for easy access to tripod & spotter.
  • Easy removal of bag and load carrying pannier for cleaning and adjustments.
  • The “ears” of the frame are awesome to hook your rifle sling on as you are on the move.
  • The bag does not feel like it is going to bust at the seams when stuffed to max capacity.
  • The same frame will fit all of the different pack sizes they offer.
  • 100% Made in America
  • Lifetime Guarantee
The Lumbar pad: My favorite part of the pack

CONS

  • Takes time to get familiar with how the pack and pannier load carrier attaches to the frame.
  • Price – It is not cheap, and rightly so for a phenomenal backpack.
Note the half pocket for the spotting scope

SPECIFICATIONS

Model – IA4K with Pannier Load Carrier

MSRP – $679.95

Material – 500D Cordura

Frame Weight – 19 oz.

Pack Weight with Pannier Load Carrier- 5.95 lbs.

Frame – Triaxial Carbon Fiber

Carrying Capacity – 4500 cubic inches expandable to 6500 cu. in. using the Pannier Load Carrier

All Initial Ascent frames and packs are proudly made in America.

A fun hunt with a full pack

YOUR NEXT BACKPACK

If you are in the market for a new pack, I highly recommend the Initial Ascent pack system. The features, quality and build are amazing and being able use the same frame with multiple size bags is a huge bonus.

If you want to know more about the Initial Ascent IA4K and my experience with it, feel free to ask by clicking HERE.  In the meantime make sure to go subscribe to the Washington Backcountry YouTube channel, check out The Soulful Hunter Podcast and follow us on social media.  Knowledge is power and MENTORSHIP IS CONSERVATION.

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