Durston Kakwa 40 Review
Sep 7, 2022 at 5:13 pm #3759483Backpacking LightAdmin
@backpackinglightLocale: Rocky Mountains
Companion forum thread to: Durston Kakwa 40 Review
Gear Review: the Durston Kakwa 40 backpack utilizes an inverted U-shaped internal frame for stability and comfort at moderate loads. But how does it fare at heavier weights?Sep 8, 2022 at 5:14 am #3759505Niko Z.BPL Member
@niko-zLocale: SE Asia, Europe
I don’t know much about backpacks. The roll top bag that I use has side straps which enable me to cinch the roll top down and have a firm backpack across the range of volumes. I noticed that Kakwa has a different closure system with two buckles meeting at the top. What is the design thinking behind that decision? There must be an advantage to it that I am not seeing. Does it make it easier to strap a bear can on the top?Sep 8, 2022 at 5:37 am #3759509matthew kModerator
I think you are referring to the Y-shaped top strap.
If so, Y-shape straps are fairly common on UL packs these days. Mountain Laurel Designs, LiteAF, and Atom Packs all offer this type of design. The rational is that the provide more stability when attaching gear to the top of the pack. This could be a bear can, a tent, or a foam pad.
It sounds like your pack compresses vertically with side straps. ULA (and others) do this on many packs. It is an effective way to compress a pack too.
I prefer a top strap for vertical compression. I find it less cumbersome for opening and closing the pack.Sep 8, 2022 at 5:47 am #3759511Niko Z.BPL Member
@niko-zLocale: SE Asia, Europe
Gotcha, so the two buckles meeting at the top indeed provide greater stability as well as the added convenience when opening and closing. Yup, my roll-top bag compresses vertically with buckles attaching to side straps, but it has a Y-strap running over the top as well. It has never occurred to me that it’s cumbersome to open it, but then again I never had the backpack with buckles meeting at the top for comparison.Sep 8, 2022 at 3:38 pm #3759550Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
Yeah roll top packs can either close by clipping the two ends together (like a dry bag) or by clipping the ends down to the sides of the pack (e.g. HMG, ULA). There are merits to each, but I prefer the former because it’s simpler and lighter. When you have the roll top clip the sides, then you need extra straps on the sides of the pack (more weight, can interfere with the side pockets, dangle if you don’t use them) and closing the pack requires doing up two buckles instead of one.Sep 8, 2022 at 7:44 pm #3759570A DBPL Member
I tried this pack in medium, and did not feel that it could accommodate a Bearikade without barrelling the pack and digging into my upper back more than I could tolerate. Although it looks like they’re sold out, anyone know if the Large size has a little bit more circumference?Sep 9, 2022 at 10:43 am #3759619Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
Putting a large canister in the main compartment vertically is a tough one because it is a big round object that wants to protrude into the back and it makes packing other items difficult. I recommend putting canisters like this on the top. That will work as long as the main compartment isn’t entirely full. We don’t have the top straps so long that you could put a canister on top of a very full pack, because that makes for a very tall pack that we think it getting unwieldily. If the pack is less full, then the top of it is flatter and the bear canister sits more securely.
The large size has the same circumference (it is the same except taller) so it will still not fit a canister like this horizontally, but we do have a 55L version coming out in a few months that of course is larger and will hold many canisters horizontally.Sep 9, 2022 at 11:51 am #3759636Charlie BrennemanBPL Member
Awesome review. This is spot on to pretty much what I would say – positive and negative – after a couple trips with this pack. I was able to fit a ton in there, actually completely full, with a BV500 vertical and my storm clothes in the back pocket. It this pocket was bigger, that would be ok, but I personally tend to not to want to store too much outside the pack as it is. When I tried to stuff too much around the sides of the canister it would protrude into my back a bit so stacking stuff on top helped relieve that pressure. Even with the pack filled to the brim vertically I could still climb some pretty steeps pitches comfortably.
After our re-supply on the JMT my pack weighed ~26lbs without water. The pack carried the weight perfectly. I saw someone write about squeaking noises on the straps. I did experience that at times with various weights. I noticed that was when the shoulder straps were cinched too tight. When I loosened them the sound went away, thankfully.
The side pockets worked well and I had the same zipper concern but at the same time my pocket was full so I didn’t expect it to move up and down too easily. The hip belt pockets are small but I was still able to fit a lot of snacks in there. I used the shoulder pockets for my inreach and liquid IV/gels in one, and a flask in the other. This was probable my biggest frustration performance wise as the pocket is too thin for my UD soft flask and just too short for comfort for my Salomon one (w/ XA filter). It “fit” when the flask was totally full, or between empty to half full (I had to scrunch it up and stuff it in the pocket to keep it from falling out). I do wish the bottom was more reinforced because it’s got some pretty good damage for just about a week of use, especially where the frame ends hit the fabric.
Overall the pack is great especially at the price. Like I said, it carries weight well, it’s easy to open and close, it has pockets ready to go wherever you need them, and I like simplicity of the side cordage. It is useful without being overkill. Now I’m just debating what to do for the 55-60L range! Get the Kakwa at that size and a HMG 2400 for 40L, go HMG 3400 and keep my Kakwa 40, or both Kakwas? Might come down to color scheme ha.Sep 11, 2022 at 9:15 am #3759776Calvin MBPL Member
I have the DD40, Dan’s prior backpack released through MassDrop. I have ~50 days of use over 2 years with it. I received the Kakwa 40 last week, and haven’t taken it out backpacking, but I have filled it with gear and compared the two packs. The first big improvement noticed are the S-straps, which perfectly hug my torso. I’m 6’2″, 180 lbs, not too muscular, and have a large Kakwa, M/L of the DD40. The J-straps of the DD40 tilted so most weight would be on the inside along the length of the straps, with the outside half or third of the strap fully off my body. The new S-straps evenly apply weight across width of the strap and there is no point where it comes off my chest.
The other big improvement is the better layering at the seams at key weight-bearing areas. On the DD40, the orientation of the fabric layers at the bearcan strap lent itself to pulling apart and stretching of stitch holes. The seam was a symmetric sandwich style, what to my amateur understanding is called a flat-felled stitch. The Kakwa is stitched flat with the fabric that will bear the load, the bottom panel- what I understand to be a lapped seam. There is the same improvement at the connection of the yoke to the pack. This will hold up much better over time and manage heavier loads better.Sep 11, 2022 at 9:23 am #3759777Calvin MBPL Member
My girfriend also thinks the Kakwa looks better than the DD40, so there’s that.Sep 12, 2022 at 12:54 pm #3759857Frank SBPL Member
How does this pack handle low loads? My current setup is more SUL, but for an upcoming thru-hike I‘m looking for a kit that can handle long food and water carries comfortably. Besides a moderate increase in weight and a hip belt, is there any major downside to using the Kakwa 40 compared to say a Palante V2 with a base weight of around 6 pounds when the food and water are gone? I haven‘t used a framed pack for a while.Sep 12, 2022 at 1:08 pm #3759858Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
is there any major downside to using the Kakwa 40 compared to say a Palante V2 with a base weight of around 6 pounds
None at all. It handles under-volume loads very well because of the frame design.Sep 17, 2022 at 1:34 pm #3760168John W TBPL Member
It would be great to see a discussion on the relationship between pack length and shoulder strap length. The bear spray looks to sit high on Ryan which makes me wonder what it’s like with the Titanium bottles.
It brings up another discussion. What are the pros/cons of fixed pockets vs. pockets than can be changed for the use and adjusted per user.Sep 18, 2022 at 11:18 am #3760209George WBPL Member
I haven’t worn mine enough to make a firm decision, but I think not having fixed shoulder strap pockets is probably a better option.
After this next couple of weeks I’ll know whether I’m going to cut them off and go with ones I really like.Sep 21, 2022 at 10:07 pm #3760539Victor JorgensenBPL Member
@dblhmmckLocale: Northern California
I just returned from a 5 day trip using the Kakwa. It was a Sierra trip, requiring a bear canister. I packed a hammock kit which included a top quilt and a full length under quilt rated at 20 degrees with over-fill. Those plus my down pants, Torrid jacket, and EE hoodlum filled about 2/3 of the main compartment. My clothes in a packing cube, and my hammock and rainfly were the only other things in the main compartment.
My 12″ Bearikade was heavy starting out. Close to 15 lbs. which included 2 1/2 liters luxury beverages. After about 9 miles, I had the canister slip out from under the Y-strap. I figured my main compartment was too squishy and had settled over time. I placed my folded sit pad inside the main compartment to form a “lip” above the front pocket, with the intention of creating more friction and articulation to hold the canister firmly in place. That solved the problem for me, but I also cranked that y-strap down pretty tightly.
My starting weight was around 31 lbs. And the pack carried the load more comfortably than any other pack that I have used; including external framed, name brand packs, internal framed packs, and DIY packs. When the canister weight dropped a bit, there was way less tendency for the canister to slip out. And the carrying experience was far better.
Inside the tall side pocket, I carried my canister stove. The Sterno Inferno with Flat Cat Gear HX plate and Fire Maple stove performed great. I really loved the functionality and small packing size of that stove system. I used the top half of the pocket for snacks, And in the side zippered compartment, I carried my map, wallet and keys. I found that I preferred to pack my side pockets before the main compartment. And would remove my quilts before removing the stove from the side pocket. Just a little easier to remove the stove without too much friction against the pack fabric.
I carry a large I Phone. And although it does fit in the hip packet, it wasn’t real convenient to remove and replace it. I was able to attach a third party water bottle pocket (ZimmerBuilt), which I already owned. The ladder locks were accessible to attach it. And I was able to use the provided shoulder pocket with a Buff and a bandana, while the water bottle pocket rode on top. It worked perfectly without any jostling around when the cinch cord was tightened. And it was easily accessible for photos.
The overall volume was plenty adequate for a hammock system rated to 20 degrees with 5 days of food. I know I could easily use it for an 8 day trip, with some changes to the menu.
I imagine only a minority of people will use this pack with a canister. But since I do, I may replace the buckle of the Y-strap with something more robust that I read about here on the forums recently, so I can synch the Y-strap down really firmly. But just wanted to mention the technique of using something like a Z-rest style sit pad inside the main compartment to help nestle a heavy bear canister, in cases where the main compartment contains partly compressed, fluffy insulation. Because it seemed to make a difference for me. I am very happy with the Kakwa.
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