Ultralight Mountain Hunting Brand Kuiu Stalking Outdoor Market
Kuiu is an “extreme” hunting brand aimed at objectives that place users in the most inhospitable environments, from 110-degree deserts to the arctic tundra. The brand is the brainchild of Jason Hairston, who also launched the popular backpack hunting brand Sitka.
Sitka was on all counts a successful business, but the retail model and related design constraints based on pricing had Hairston yearning for more. The sale of Sitka to Gore created the opportunity for Hairston to spread his wings, allowing function-based design, using the best of technical materials and overcoming the pricing gap by selling direct to the customer.
Kuiu turned five this year, and from conception to execution of each product, the company and Hairston have been impressively transparent. The story of launching Kuiu is well documented from a personal perspective via blog posts and social media platforms by Hairston and that open philosophy has been a constant, even to the point of driving new product features via online design software that allows customers to aid in product development decisions.
Kuiu at its core remains an ultralight mountain hunting brand but they have organically made inroads in the outdoor markets. The same designs that protect and provide comfort to the sheep hunter in the greater Alaskan ranges serves the outdoor adventurer equally well and the benefits of minimal gear weight are universal.
Photos courtesy of Kuiu and the author
Kuiu’s range of products that crossover into the outdoor arenas include all layers of clothing, sleeping bags, backpacks, tents, footwear and glove systems. Kuiu generously contributed the 30 degree Super Down sleeping bag, the Ultra 3000 backpack, the Chugach NX rain jacket, the Attack pant and the Tiburon Short as a sampling of their lineup.
I utilized this gear over the last three months in conditions ranging from the extreme summer heat of central Texas, alpine deserts of Oregon and stormy mountain ranges of Colorado. All pieces proved their function and durability and firmly embedded Kuiu as a serious contender in my quiver of gear and clothing for adventures in demanding conditions.
30-degree Super Down Bag: Kuiu’s Super Down bags utilize Toray’s nanotech Quixdown treatment to maintain loft when wet, eliminating down’s only inherent weakness as an insulation. Kuiu goes the extra step in independently certifying their bags for the EN lower limit rating, the 850+ fill power and the 95/5 down to feather ratio. The 12d Toray Stunner Stretch shell provided welcome elasticity while the vertical baffles with flow gates prevent cold spots due to down shifting. The 1lb, 7.5oz claimed weight indeed fits Kuiu’s ultralight credo. This 30-degree Super Down bag kept this tester warm down to its rating in the alpine deserts of Oregon. MSRP: $449.95 regular, $469.99 long.
Attack Pant/Tiburon Short: The Attack pant incorporates Toray’s Primeflex fabric which provides stretch via spiraled yarns, eliminating the need for water absorbing and heavy elastics. Zippered hip vents dump heat, 4 zippered cargo pockets provide ample storage and Toray’s Kudos XR DWR prevents wet out. A brushed lining and two standard hip pockets complete the package. This is Kuiu’s best-selling pant and has proven durable, emerging unscathed from rock climbing sessions in central Texas. MSRP: $129.99. The short is constructed of Toray’s Dot Air fabric, originally developed to help manage heat for Japan’s Olympic athletes. The two-way stretch, Kudos XR DWR coated fabric has an array of micro dot openings throughout, providing channels of extreme air permeability. The Tiburon’s anatomical cut and gusseted crotch allow unimpeded movement during athletic pursuits while the conservative styling permits day to day wear. Hip pockets and zippered rear and thigh cargo pockets keep essentials on board. MSRP: $89.99.
Chugach NX Rain Jacket: This jacket utilizes Toray’s Dermizax NX waterproof/breathable laminate, boasting ratings of 20k mm and 40k g/m2/24hr water column and moisture vapor transfer rate, the latter a much higher MVTR compared to other commonly used membranes. The athletically fitted shell has four-way stretch, pit zips to dump heat, a two-way adjustable hood and three pockets with waterproof zippers. With a claimed weight of 18.9 oz., the Chugach NX Rain Jacket is a desirable blend of durability, packing ability and overall weight. This jacket proved waterproof and surprisingly breathable through thunderstorms in the humid central Texas Hill Country and rainy weeks in the Colorado high mountains. MSRP: $269.99.
Ultra 3000 Pack: Kuiu’s patented carbon fiber frame, constructed of Toray’s Spread Tow fibers, gives this 3 lb., 3000 cubic inch pack and unprecedented ability to carry heavy loads. All Cordura construction and modular design guarantee durability and flexibility within Kuiu’s pack offerings. This tester has vast experience with backpacks and has never used a frame system with the raw weight carrying capacity of the Kuiu carbon fiber frame. MSRP: $369.98.
Detail of Tiburon Short: This detail shot of the Tiburon short displays the micro dot openings for airflow of the Toray Air Dot fabric.