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Huntaway pack review

16/08/18 2:41 PM

by Per a. Jacobsen


 huntaway pack


The guys from Cactus heard that I’m known for being a bit rough on gear. If it’s breakable, I’ll break it! So they threw a Huntaway pack on my shoulder with instructions to give it a real good thrashing out in the hills, and asked for some feedback on the pack.

Building a pack that works for New Zealand hunters who get stuck in is not easy. I have had my fair share of broken promises when it comes to packs. So, like many other hunters, I have become very fussy when it comes to settling on a pack that not only suits my needs, but also can withstand everything that the New Zealand backcountry and weather can throw at it. Well, I can give you one word to help you decide on your next pack: Cactus!


Pros

The pack is actually very waterproof – an absolute must for hunting and tramping in the New Zealand outdoors. Cactus gear is known for being heavy duty, but the Huntaway is surprisingly lightweight. Canvas is a fantastic fabric, but canvas packs have had a tendency in the past to be pretty heavy. Weighing in at a mere 1.6kg, the Huntaway allows you to focus on stuffing vital gear into it, rather than carrying around a heavier pack with less room for the gear you need.

Hold on a minute mate! Who at Cactus deserves a pay rise for designing these side buckles?! Sometimes we come past some new innovative ideas in various bits of hunting gear that just somehow make sense. The metal buckles on the Huntaway are one of those ideas. Firstly, they are far superior than any plastic buckles you’re used to finding on the side of a pack. They are super easy to undo, even with a heavy-duty glove on, and they’re even easier to do up. I’m one of those chaps that start getting numb hands the minute they’re exposed to cold weather, so being able to handle the pack with your gloves on is just awesome. Sure, the buckles have scratched my scope a little bit (until I put a scope-cover on) but I didn’t buy the scope for it to look pretty.

The pack offers access to the main compartment from the top, and that’s it! Cactus did not want areas where this pack might fail in the waterproofing, nor were they trying to construct a heavy pack. The simplicity in the design is a great feature, brought to life by clever decision-making.

The side pockets offer a generous space for both my tripod and my spotting scope. They also have two side strops with the metal buckles on each side to trim the pack in general, and to hold the tripod (or a fishing rod) in place.

An extra compartment can be found behind the back support – perfect for a water system or for storing laminated maps and the likes. The compartment even has a little neoprene mat, which I worked out can be removed and actually be sat on whilst enjoying a steaming hot cuppa!

The hip belt is a very strong design. It’s fully adjustable in two places so that it allows the pack to fit snug around the user, and makes carrying heavy loads so much easier and comfortable.

The extendable top hood pocket is a subtle but great feature that, simply put, enables you to carry heavier loads on your way home from the hunting grounds.

I’m a sucker for punishment and love to climb into alpine environments, so I need to carry an ice axe. Cactus put an ice axe attachment right in the centre of the front – just awesome!

Other reviewers have labelled the Huntaway’s price tag as a minus. I couldn’t disagree more. Price often follows quality, and if this pack were cheap, I’d be raising my eyebrows at it. The fact that this pack is made in New Zealand, by real people, not machines, is enough reason for me to be paying good money for good quality.


Cons

I miss having a small opening for my bladder system. The Huntaway has a bladder compartment, but no separate access. The only access is through the main compartment lid at the top. It would be great to stuff my bladder hose out along the side.

My previous pack offered three external zip pockets, two on the front of the pack, and one on the top lid. I guess I have become accustomed to that feature, so I am missing the extra pockets. However, I understand the compromise in order to keep weight down, and to make a more durable and waterproof pack.


The Verdict

We are out there to hunt, harvest, and survive. The Huntaway pack is designed with just that in mind. It is strong, durable, lightweight, and waterproof. With its innovative features, comfortable hip and shoulder straps, I was loving this pack even before I put weight into it! And with Cactus’s comprehensive warranties, sidled with equal dedication to ensuring the quality of everything that leaves their Christchurch manufacturing line, I can see this pack being a popular choice amongst hunters, trampers, and adventurers. 

Just like settling on a rifle style, brand, and calibre, you need to identify what exactly you need from your backpack. I suppose this is best carried out by analysing where you hunt and for what, and most importantly how you hunt.

Your backpack will aid you in your quest, but there are numerous options out there so choose wisely. Things like capacity, waterproofness, detachable pockets, integrated water systems, frames vs frameless, and weight are just some of the factors you will need to consider. On www.cactusoutdoor.co.nz you can browse through their range of backpacks, and will likely find one that suits your needs.


Specs 

  • Volume: 45 + 10 litres
  • Weight: 1.6kg
  • Dimensions: 61cm high, 30cm wide
  • Fabrics: Ultra C-Canvas with a C-1000D cordura base
  • Colour: Black or Olive
  • Storage: Single compartment with an extendable 3D hood pocket. Two side pockets. Internal bladder pocket. Elastic bungy on front of pack.
  • Back support: Air-mesh, internal foam, plus removable foam panel
  • Chest strap
  • YKK zips throughout
  • Double and triple stitched throughout
  • Warranty: 5yr Pack Guarantee as well as the Cactus tough Lifetime Warranty
  • RRP: $469
  • Proudly made in Christchurch, New Zealand

Huntaway Pack

huntaway pack

Check out the Huntaway pack here.

Huntaway Pack

Comments | Posted By Kester Brown

By Florence Hinder


 

On 29 May this year, I traveled to Manantenina, Madagascar with the intention of working with a community of 1300 people to develop a water source for their village. I am a graduate water engineer from the University of Canterbury and I was working alongside others from Duke University.

 

Flo Hinder Madagascar Cactus Miklat

 

The Village

Madagascar is a beautiful place at first glance—it’s full of lush rainforests, rivers, and many scattered rice fields. But there is far more to Madagascar than these beautiful vistas. I stayed in the SAVA region, which is a relatively wealthy area of the country. However, the people there still lack basic necessities. You would think such a tropical climate would produce an abundance of clean water, but because of intensive rice farming and free roaming zebu (cows), it’s hard to find clean water sources.

Manantenina gets all its water from a heavily polluted river, which is also used by Mandena, a village situated 2km upstream, for drinking, cooking, washing, grazing cattle and as the village toilet. Clean drinking water taps had been installed in neighbouring villages, which encouraged the people of Manantenina to reach out for help in installing a clean water source of their own.

 

Manantenina


Above Rice fields surrounding Manantenina village.


Manantenina village, Madagascar.


Above Manantenina village.

Outcome

All in all the project was a success, and my Cactus gear really held its own. We ended up working very closely with the peoples of Manantenina as well as Mandena, so instead of just working with a population of 1300 people, we ended up working with 4300 people, who we helped in establishing a board of elders tasked with overseeing the upkeep of the project.

It was great to listen to, and work with, both communities to better understand their lives and cultures. We listened to all their suggestions for a good water source and explored options for each suggestion. We picked the most appropriate solution with the help of the village water boards. We also designed an internal tap layout with the water boards in both communities, with particular input from the women’s groups. The women are the ones who fetch the water, so they were the ones we listened to most carefully.

In addition, we have organised for educational training in water, sanitation and hygiene for all water board members from both villages, through the local NGO ‘Save the Children.’ We have also been creating plans and contingency plans for each situation, and students involved in our project will be going back again next year to solely work on more community consultation and further development of the water board.

 

Madagascar


Above In the Manantenina river.

 

While in Madagascar, Florence carted piles of stuff around in a Cactus Miklat pack, and fended off mud, dirt, bugs, gravel rash and rapid dogs in a pair of Women's Workfit Supertrousers. 

 


 

 

Miklat

Women's Workfit Supertrousers

Comments | Posted By Kester Brown

Makara Peak Supporters

20/06/18 2:37 PM

By Bex Houston


 

Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park is situated in Karori, Wellington. It has a trail network of over 50kms of trails situated in over 250ha of regenerating bush on Wellington City Council land. The park overlooks Wellington Harbour and the Tararua Ranges to the north, and to the south you get spectacular views of the West Wind wind farm, Cook Strait, and the Kaikoura ranges.

The Makara Peak Supporters was established in 1998—the objective of this group is to develop a trail network for local mountain bikers and walkers, and to help restore native forest to the southern end of Karori. Conservation in the park is focused on planting native species, controlling pest plants and trapping pest species such as stoats, possums, rats and mice. MPS philosophy is to plant one native plant for every metre of trail constructed in the park. Last year’s planting season alone saw 2500 saplings planted in the park on a range of trails.

It is the 20th anniversary of the establishment of MPS this year, and there are many examples of the hard work that the volunteers have put in over this time.

 

makara peak

Above: Looking south from Makara Saddle. The zig-zag trail going up this exposed face is an uphill trail called Varleys. This photo was taken in 1999.

Below: Zoom forward to the present day Varleys, below. Photo taken in 2014.

makara peak

 

The Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park forms part of a large green belt along with Wrights Hill Reserve and Zealandia (formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary). Zealandia is a 225ha area enclosed in a pest-proof fence where forest is also being restored and many native fauna are finding a safe home—among them are several species that have been reintroduced—the endangered kākā and takahē, tuatara and giant weta. We were extremely lucky to have kākā nesting in the Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park this summer. Many park users have been thrilled to ride around on their bikes and witness these birds performing their aerobatics.

Historically, the majority of trails in the park have been hand builds by volunteers, but in recent years there has been a big shift to contractor-built trails. As the demand for trails of a range of difficulty levels outstrips supply, the creation of the ‘Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park Master Plan’ and an increase in funding has led to a large increase in new trails being built each year.

 

makara peak

Above: Exit from Lazy Fern and SWIGG/Starfish trail (adjacent main car park) circa 1998.

Below: The same area as above, in 2018.

makara peak

 

Cactus Outdoor gear has been hugely popular with trail builders and conservation crews for use in the park over the years. Thomas Lindup is the main trail building contractor in the park. Thomas works on the trails on a daily basis. The last time I saw Thomas he was working at the top of Makara Peak (412m). An Antarctic southerly graced us with its presence. The temperature for the day was forecast to hit the lofty heights of 9°C—with a chill factor of much lower thrown in there for good measure! Thomas was wearing Lifties pants and a Mountain Jacket to protect him from all that the Wellington weather could throw at him.

Ricky Pincott and myself are on the Makara Peak Supporters committee. We both use our Cactus gear regularly. Ricky spent two and a half years working on Nelson’s Wairoa Gorge trails. While in the gorge, Ricky cut down trees, chipped out countless tonnes of solid rock, moved dirt and helped create a mountain bike thrill seekers’ paradise. Ricky wore his Supertrousers almost every day he was in the, and has now put them into in his work at the Makara park.

Sarah Bramwell is a Makara Peak Supporters legend. Formerly a member of the Makara Peak Supporters Committee, she now works tirelessly in the park. Sarah is one of the main drivers of a planting programme that runs seasonally on the hill. Sarah has planted thousands of saplings on various trails. Sarah maintains bait lines/traps that she checks and clears and has an awesome success rate. In her spare time Sarah is also keen mountain biker. Sarah loves her  Supertrousers and Huntaway pack, saying they’re “vital when working in the park”!

My fave piece of Cactus kit is my Lightweight Supershorts, which I wear not only wear in the park, but also for my work as a Survey Technician and on the rural property we live on.

For more info on the Makara Peak Supporters, the mountain bike park, and the conservation work we do, check out www.makarapeak.org.

 

makara peak

Above: The "Wild at Heart" swing bridge which was opened in March 2017.  The bridge is a 70m long landmark structure - the first of its kind in an urban mountain bike park in New Zealand.  Funding for this project was provided by the Wellington Airport and a huge Give a Little campaign supported by the riders of Wellington and beyond.

Comments | Posted By Kester Brown

Or: 'When marketing overcomes all authenticity.'

 


OPINION


 

–by Ben Kepes 

 

There's been a lot of recent media attention given to a New Zealand fashion brand that has been selling, for a number of years, t-shirts made in Bangladeshi sweat shops factories that have swingtags on them proudly stating “Fabrique en Nouvelle-Zelande" (Made in New Zealand).

 

Apparently, the owner of the brand justifies the statement, saying that since the swingtags themselves are made in New Zealand, there is nothing factually incorrect about the statement. The owner is (how ironically) a vociferous defender of New Zealand manufacturing, and has regularly chastised those who don’t meet her purported standards.

 

Welcome to the post-truth era.

 

Actually, it is a little complex. I'm a shareholder in Cactus Outdoor, a 25-year old company that manufactures backpacks and apparel here in New Zealand and sells it all around the world. All of our products are lovingly sewn in our own factory, and other independently owned third-party factories, here in New Zealand. We are proudly New Zealand owned and operated, and are proud that we keep many skilled people gainfully employed. Our customers love the fact that our products do what we say they will, and are happy to pay what are, to be fair, quite high prices, in order to receive a product that will give them many, many years of dependable service. 'Fast fashion' we certainly ain’t.

 

Alas, over the last couple of decades, the apparel industry in New Zealand has been decimated and, whereas in the past there used to be textile mills in every decent-sized town, today there are almost no fabrics made here in New Zealand (other than some merino ones, like Nuyarn, which Cactus uses). Cactus has no options, therefore, but to source some fabrics from overseas. The same goes for buckles and zips etc. So, yes, many of our raw materials come from outside of New Zealand.

 

But I reiterate, our products are made in New Zealand. We don’t import sewn t-shirts, sew a patch on them locally and call that NZ-made. We don’t try and get away with bunging a locally printed swingtag on the t-shirts that says "Made in New Zealand" on it, and hoping no one notices the "Made in Bangladesh" tag surreptitiously sewn into the hem. From our perspective, if you’re an apparel company and your product is sewn in New Zealand – you’re New Zealand made.

 

The example World has set is unscrupulous. L’estrange Corbet, World’s founder, has for years waxed poetic about New Zealand manufacturing, and harshly criticised others for moving offshore. All the while she has been duplicitously leading her customers astray.

 

Claiming a swingtag that is printed in New Zealand justifies an NZ-Made moniker is offensive to her customers, her competitors and the entire local business community. It is also, I believe, a very real breach of the Fair Trading Act and undoubtedly constitutes misleading and deceptive conduct.

 

While I totally disagree with L’estrange Corbet’s claim that World simply couldn’t make t-shirts in New Zealand (for the record, Cactus does without any problems), my biggest issue is with the lack of truth in what she tells her customers. Apparently, L’estrange Corbet thinks of her customers in the way McDonald’s thinks of theirs – as mere waiting mouths, to fill with products that satisfy a short-term whim, but leave no sense of being sated. Apparently, she has no respect for her customers or their belief about what her product is.

 

It’s a massive shame, and a sad reflection on this modern, post-truth era.

 

Luckily there are still brands that are prepared to be up-front and honest, and who are authentic to their ideals.

 


 

Comments | Posted By Kester Brown

Riding from the Sheets

9/05/18 3:26 PM

In need of a break from boss-duties at Cactus, Daryl recently took some time out to complete a multi-day bikepacking trip in the Central Otago backcountry.

 


 

Bikepacking Central Otago


You know how sometimes life just stacks up on you? Worksheets, spreadsheets, timesheets, all getting to you … then you crack and just need to blow it all off. I got to that point a few weeks ago, so headed to a place far away from any calculations. And beyond how far we could go in a day. It was also a good excuse to give the Cactus bikepacking gear a workout.

 

John and I manufactured a small window of oportunity, and headed to the remote hills south of Omarama for a 'big spaces' refresher. We set out with very lofty ambitions of riding a bunch of skylines, sleeping rough, and riding until we couldn't ride anymore. In the end, new snow and cold winds moderated our plans, but we still got a long, long way from the week before … on multiple levels. 


We met some characters, experienced some fascinating history, rode and pushed our bikes up to some pretty high places, and felt very isolated. And it was good. 


I love my bike and the amazing places it can take me.

 

bikepacking lake benmore

 

bikepacking central otago

 

bikepacking central otago surly

 

bikepacking central otago 

Relive 'Morning Activity'

Relive 'Morning Activity'

Comments | Posted By Kester Brown

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