July 07, 2011
By Skip Knowles
All outdoorsmen and women are total hopeless gear queers from birth, and it's half the reason to be in this magazine business. Hunting gear tests at Petersen's run the gamut, from mild runs up and down stairs for boot testing (our editor standing at the top with a PE coach's whistle) to throwing axes never built for flinging just to see if they can take the shock. We abuse it so you don't have to.
Schoby is a big strong guy for a writer type, and equally adept at both destroying things accidentally and also putting things back together, a real McGruber who can wreck a Landrover one day and then rebuild it using pieces from a wheelbarrow and an old lawn mower. Most importantly, he revived Meat On a Stick, but that's another story.
Me, I walk on my knuckles a lot, and that is harder on most gear than you can imagine. The result when he and I get competitive, which is pretty much always, is our gear tests quickly escalate into attempted Feats of Strength. For example, using multi tool pliers on oversized chunks of metal just to see how they hold up, if we can bend the handles, or straighten a gun barrel with them€¦Or sometimes we simply have to know just WHAT EXACTLY a crossbow can shoot through before the arrow explodes with a satisfying Pa-WHANG! Only after throwing our backs out from pulling out arrows too deeply buried in targets.
Sometimes, we get more creative in our various and sordid attempts at gear abuse. Lacking reasonable payload to test out the ultra big yet superlight Freighter Frame Pack by Frontier Gear of Alaska, we had to improvise. The pack is light and incredibly strong, obviously supersized for huge moose chunks or whole Dall sheep. It's spendy, at $619, but none of the editors had seen anything quite like it.
So I had the bright idea to throw WILDFOWL associate editor Angela Pham on the back and see how it handled a live human, since dead sheep were in short supply in our offices, and we'd eaten all the roadkill already. The pack has a cool fold down part on the lower frame for freakish large payloads, and happily that creates an unusually nice seat platform on the thing.
I trotted about with Pham on it for a while, so comfortably that my absent-minded thoughts soon turned, as always, to first food then coffee... and then forgetting she was there at all, I inadvertently wandered in the men's room.
Or was it? Soon after, while back at my desk, I heard loud clomping sounds and look up from my cold Top Ramen ("spork" testing in progress) to see none other than Mike Schoby, all 200+ pounds of him, perched precariously on the pack where Pham had been sitting, while our giant web content and video guy Brock Norman (6 foot 5, I don't care what he says) hauled him around at a near-run like a kid with a book pack late for the bus, Schoby bouncing like a kid who scored a free extra ride ticket at the dog and pony show, and as always, cracking the whip on his underlings.
The pack frame held up astonishingly well, despite Schoby's impression of a mechanical bull ride and prolonged abuse to those creaky metal joints. (the pack's, not Schoby's)
After that, I know just who I'll be calling next time I shoot some big animal far off the road. Brock "the Rock" Norman is not your normal web geek. Our geek could whip your geek's ass anytime.
And I'll bring that monster pack, too. Gear test conclusion: a pass and with flying colors.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.