Stone Glacier has a reputation for durable backpacks that can haul heavy loads for hunters. We tested the Stone Glacier Sky 5900 backpack through Colorado’s elk season for this review.
I’d just finished a 6-mile hike through rugged mountains and was taking the last steps up the trail to my campsite when the small herd of elk came into view. As it often goes while hunting, it was the last place I expected to see an elk. But even with a pegged heart rate from climbing a ravine, I made the 100-yard off-hand shot. The nice cow elk expired just 28 yards from my tent, less than 35 yards from the meat pole.
Yes, this is incredible luck, and having experienced some grueling haul-outs, I’ll take it. But still, the camp was about 3 miles from the trailhead where my truck was parked. There was plenty of work to do to haul out a couple hundred pounds of meat and camp gear.
I couldn’t foresee it at the time, but my buddy would add to the chore 2 days later, dropping another cow about a mile from the truck.
Long story short, I had my work cut out for me. Fortunately, my backpack — the Stone Glacier Sky 5900 — was up to the job.
In short: The Stone Glacier Sky 5900 did an incredible job of hauling a heavy load with its Xcurve frame. The pack is rugged and should last for decades of hunting. It is, however, somewhat heavy at about 5.5 pounds, and expensive, starting at $659 without some critical components.
Stone Glacier Sky Backpack Overview
Stone Glacier is a Montana brand that builds all its products in the United States. And if you look at customer reviews on its website, the brand is clearly popular. Few of the products have anything less than five-star reviews.
So when the brand approached me to check out a pack for an upcoming hunt, I was stoked. I needed a large pack, one that could haul in all my equipment for a 5-day backpack hunt, and also haul out any meat that we harvested during the hunt.
I’d been gimping along with an Osprey hiking backpack for a couple years (which did a darned good job given it’s not designed for hunting at all!) and was ready for something more appropriate.
Like some other hunting brands, Stone Glacier sells packs with modular components. You can get the Sky with one of two frames in various sizes. The Sky pack is interchangeable on the frame system and sells without a lid. And you can add various components, from small organizational bags to rifle-carry systems.
The Sky 5900 has a large main pack body (5,400-cubic-inch main bag), a big back pocket that fits large spotting scopes, and two side pockets. The optional lid, which I think is pretty much a mandatory add-on, adds $42 to the price and 500 nicely organized cubic inches to the pack.
My test pack was fully decked out with a lid, a small hip belt (I have a 30-inch waist), and internal storage pockets. Time to get hauling.
Stone Glacier Sky 5900 Backpack Review
I overloaded the pack at the trailhead. Thanks to cold weather and a fairly long-duration hunt, I was just barely able to get all my gear inside (and strapped to the outside) for the 3-mile hike to camp.
So my first thought — the 5900, including a top lid (which is an add-on) is just barely big enough for cold weather, multiday elk hunts. When it comes to hauling food, clothes, camping gear, and hunting gear, this size gets it done, but with every nook and cranny packed to the brim.
But it’s worth noting I didn’t use the expandable meat shelf for the hike to camp. With more experience, I now realize this would have helped a lot, as it boosts the pack size to about 8,000 cubic inches. More on this later.
So with the pack around 60 pounds including a rifle strapped to the back, I hit the trail, ready to climb about 1,500 feet over 3 miles.
The only thing I don’t really love about the backpack is the lid. Due to the expandable nature of the pack (which is awesome), it has to attach with long straps and be fairly loose. It’s pretty floppy when open, and I found myself adjusting it a lot and having to reset it in the proper position regularly.
It’s nitpicky for sure, but to me, the lid is a critical element to a pack and where I store my most important pieces of kit, so I did find it a little annoying.
Great Elk Hunting Backpack: Heavy Hauler to Daypack
Over the course of the week, I became familiar with the pack’s ability to haul big loads. On that hike to camp (and hikes carrying subsequent loads), I kid you not, I was surprisingly comfortable with my estimated 110 pounds of two elk quarters and gear.
Yes, my legs screamed with every step of carrying most of my own body weight out of the woods. But my back didn’t exactly hurt. And yes, my shoulders begged for mercy. But it was mostly from the sheer weight, not the discomfort of the pack.
So yes, this pack can haul a lot more than you probably want to. But where it really gets interesting is as a daypack.
Most hunters know that you spend the majority of your time hiking with a light pack with stuff like a water bottle, lunch snacks, game bags, and ammo in it. It’s just a few pounds of gear, plus maybe an extra jacket or layers. This is how you’ll spend most of your hunt.
And for this, Stone Glacier created what it calls “bivvy mode.” Simply put, the pack contracts way down through a bunch of straps and folds in the material. With it snugged into “bivvy mode,” the pack is a fairly compact 4,000 cubic inches. While still a good-size pack, it’s small enough to carry while slipping quietly through the woods.
Sky 5900 Meat Shelf
But after you pull the trigger, it takes just a few minutes of re-adjusting straps to turn the Sky into a load-hauling beast.
Detach the bag from the frame, lay it aside, and a very robust, nice meat shelf is revealed. You can drop your elk quarters onto this shelf with the confidence they won’t go anywhere once you cinch down the compression straps of the main pack around the quarters.
It’s worth noting that this is where I could have expanded my pack size for the hike in as well. Next year, I’ll be putting some of my bulky gear, like extra clothing, into a bag to load in this expanded area for hikes into camp.
You could also use the meat shelf to carry other large, heavy objects. I could see things like, well, a chainsaw, sliding right in there if you needed to haul one for trail maintenance.
Stone Glacier Sky 5900: Who Should Buy It
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably in the market for a big hunting backpack. If so, this pack is definitely for you.
It’s certainly a big investment for a backpack. If you get the add-ons like a gun carrier (which I don’t like as much as the Gun Bearer from Kifaru), lid, or organizational pocket, you’ll be looking at $700 or more. However, I think it would be a worthwhile investment for many hunters.
The Sky 5900 carries like a dream with heavy weight. It will easily transition to a backpacking pack for non-hunting use (although it’s on the heavy side). And given its super-duty build, should last for decades of use.
If this sounds like you, check out the Sky 5900 here. Stone Glacier is renowned for customer service, so take some time to learn about the product line and give the brand a call. The purchase price might sting, but not as much as a bad backpack while hauling quarters.
Stone Glacier Sky 5900 Specs
- Weight: 5 lbs. 7.1 oz. on Medium Xcurve; bag only weighs 2 lbs. 7.1 oz.
- Storage capacity: 5,400-cubic-inch main bag; 4,300-cubic-inch bivy mode; 2,500-plus-cubic-inch expandable load shelf
- Load rating: 150-plus lbs.
- Full-panel zip for access to the main bag
- Front zipped pocket
- YKK #10 zipper
- CORDURA 500 and Xpac fabric
- 1″ Duraflex military-approved buckles and webbing
- Made in the USA