Kifaru Antero Backpack – Overview and Review

I couldn’t find many detailed and exhaustive overviews/reviews of the Kifaru Antero Backpack. I hope this post can be of some use to those of you out there also interested in this backpack.

Before the Antero, I carried the Goruck GR1 as my everyday, do everything backpack since 2011. This past summer I also purchased a Goruck GR10 bullet to use for day trips and light hiking. I also have a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 which I’ve used for travel. My hope with the Antero was to replace all three bags. I couldn’t find much in the way of detailed reviews of the Antero, so I thought I would add mine to the mix.

Kifaru Antero Overview

Antero Kifaru wide shot

The Antero is Kifaru’s entry into the world of EDC/Urban bags like the Goruck GR1, Tom Bihn Synapse 25, and Triple Aught Design Fastpack Litespeed. These packs are all in the 20-30L size range, over-built with 1000d Cordura and built in the USA (I think the TAD is the exception).

Kifaru makes their bags in Colorado. The Antero is a 1500CI, 24.5  liter backpack that costs $300 without any extras.

Straps and Frame

The Antero uses Kifaru’s X-ray shoulder straps and includes a sternum strap. The padded back panel uses a wicking Dri-Lex material and has a non-slip pad for the lumbar area. The lumbar pad actually has a pass through that is secured with velcro – this allows for the additional installation of the Omni-Belt, which is sold separately.

The back panel has an HDPE framesheet and attaches behind a velcro enclosure in the main compartment.

Bag layout

The Antero has one large zippered compartment that opens completely for flat packing. Kifaru put the zipper towards the top of the pack, much like a traditional roller bag, instead of halfway between two open panels.

Kifaru added 2 extra zipper pulls to the compartment so you can access things near the bottom of your pack without completely opening the pack. An example of a well-thought out pack: these bottom pulls have small tabs which secure them when not in use.

Inside the main compartment, there is a single mesh zipped pocket on the outer material, and a removable Chamber pocket that hangs near the top of the bag.

The interior also sports a generous bladder sleeve that can also be used to contain your laptop. Note that this sleeve is unpadded, so you’ll want to have your laptop in a protective sleeve.

On top of the pack, between the grab handle and shoulder straps is another zipped pocket. Kifaru intended this pocket to carry sunglasses, and it does work well for that purpose, but I’ve also found it is an ideal place for me to store my smartphone, or other small items I want close to my person.

The top also has two hydration ports near the shoulder straps, so you can run a hydration hose out either side.

On the outer bottom of the pack is a second external zipped pocket. The pocket runs to the bottom of the pack and has a small clip for attaching keys. The backpanel also has four rows of Molle webbing, which can be used to attach any molle compatible pouches or to lash large items to the pack. There is also a bottom grab handle that would be useful when pulling the back out from overhead bins.

The pack integrates two water bottle pockets, one on each size of the main compartment. These side pockets are deep and easily swallow a wide Nalgene without issue. The Compression straps add another handing feature here, creating the ability for to lash taller items like hiking poles or tripods into the side water pockets.

Finally, the bottom of the pack has 2 buckled straps that can expand to carry a rolled up coat, or to lash large items to the pack. These straps are sewn in to the bag and not removable. This is one of the few downsides to this pack. I would love the ability to remove these straps when I don’t need them.

Antero Extras

I purchased a few extras for the Antero:

Omni-Belt – ($55)

The Omni-belt slips through the back panel of the backpack and attaches with velcro. There are also two side buckles on the Antero that help with stabilization and load bearing. The main buckle is adjustable on both sides and is covered in Molle for attaching extra accessories.

Medium Belt Pouch ($34 each – I bought 2)

I added 2 medium pouches, one to each side of the Omni belt, where they fit perfectly. These pouches are surprisingly big: one pouch could hold 2 Nalgene bottles if need be.

500d Organizer – ($55.00)

The 500d organizer, in tactical parlance, is an Admin pouch. It is designed to organize all of the little stuff. Unlike many others in its class, the 500d organizer doesn’t have Molle webbing on the back, but four of Kifaru’s Lock and Load mount-points, which allow for quick install and removal of the pouch. The main zipper goes down about 3/4 of the length of the pouch, keeping the pocket from opening completely and dumping everything on the ground. Inside there are 2 medium sized pockets for smartphones, or notebooks, plenty of loops for EDC gear, a large zippered mesh pocket and a back divided pocket. Finally on the outside of the Organizer there is a single zipped pocket.

The 500d organizer fits perfectly on the exterior Molle of the Antero, or can be hung inside where the chamber pocket currently resides.

Grab-it II – ($42)

Kifaru only seems to sell the Grab-it II right now, so maybe the Grab-it I was a previous generation? Anyway, the Grab-it mates with loops at the bottom of the pack and buckles get installed on two side loops. This creates a large, adjustable back panel that covers the bottom half of the pack. The straps are very long and could easily expand to carry large boxes, or things like bows, and yoga mats. The Grab-it also has shock-cord installed at the top for extra compression. The Grab-it also came with a lash kit which would attach across the stop of the backpack. This lash-kit would work well if you were trying to carry something very long or awkwardly shaped in the Grab-it.

Review

Antero Main Bag

Likes

Aesthetics:

I really like the clean lines and minimal straps. Many of the packs I considered were way too military/Tacticool for me. I really like how unassuming the Antero is, especially in Wolf-grey. While the pack does have some Molle, I find the water bottle pockets really distract from the military vibe – bottle pockets are very much associated with civilian packs. Kifaru also tapered the side pocket for the entire length of the bag, which makes the bottle pockets blend into the pack design much better than the mesh pockets of most backpacks.

Straps:

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to backpack straps: Group one goes with heavily padded foam, while group two opts for thin and wide. I’ve worn both and I must say I prefer the latter. Both Hill People Gear and Kifaru use a wider strap that disperses weight more evenly. The heavy foam of the GR1 worked well under load, but was overkill with an empty pack.
While we’re talking straps: the adjustment buckles on the Kifaru are smooth as butter. For whatever reason, my GR1’s buckles were stiff and noisy to adjust. I could never go back.

Size:

The bag’s size finds a sweet spot. It can hold a lot, but isn’t floppy when empty. The pack is designed to ride close to the body. It doesn’t stick when compared to the GR1. Even when full, the Antero has plenty of external carry space. The two water bottle pockets are substantial and could easily carry a rolled up jacket, a zipped pouch, or even a water bottle (imagine that!). Then there are the bottom two straps which could hold a huge dry-bag of stuff if needed. Technically the GR1 had 2 more liters of capacity (26L vs 24L), but I’ve come to realize how arbitrary bag label size is. In my experience, the Kifaru holds the same amount as the GR1.

Carry:

This bag carries like a dream. The GR1, when empty, felt like overkill, too stiff and rigid for the load. When full, I found that it pulled away from shoulders too much and was too heavy for comfort. I find the Antero carries better in both instances – It doesn’t feel out of place when nearly empty and hugs my back when full.

Back panel: Most backpacks have airmesh back panels. Airmesh sucks, soaks up sweat, and doesn’t really add any breathability. Goruck uses the same 1000d cordura on its back panel that it uses on the rest of the pack. I found that cordura wasn’t that comfortable, destroyed clothing and made me sweat like crazy. The dri-lex on the Antero is much more comfortable and gentler to clothing. While nothing will really breathe that well (its a pack against your back), I have been impressed by how quickly the Dri-lex dries: I wore it all day in 90-degree heat at the Climate Change Rally two weeks ago. When I took it off at the end of the day I was amazed by how dry the back panel was, even when my cotton t-shirt was completely soaked with sweat.

Dislikes:

Sternum strap – This sternum strap has way too much extra webbing. Its insane. You’d have to have a hulk-sized chest for this much webbing to make sense. I’ll have to cut it down to size.

Bottom Straps – I wish these were removable. I don’t use them often and probably would remove them for daily use if I could.

Grab-it II

Likes:

Adding the Grab-it allowed for a huge expandable beaver-tail option, which effectively doubles the capacity of the bag and allows for carrying large and unwieldy objects. This thing can swallow a ton of extra stuff.

Dislikes:

The straps are designed for large loads, so most of the time they are way too long for my needs. I’ll need to add web-dominators or something to contain them.

Its a little fiddly. Since most of the straps are just adjustment buckles, its not going to be as simple or easy as elastic shock cord would be. The price you pay for its durability and load capabilities.

500d Organizer

Likes:

Layout – Admin pockets are really hit or miss. Some have way too much organization. Others don’t have enough. I used to have a GR1 Field pocket and it only had few pockets so I ended up digging around for my stuff. The 500d organizer is a good balance, giving me a few loops for smaller stuff, but big enough pockets for my phone charger, notebook and handkerchief.

Design – I really like how the organizer opens to 3/4 of the way and then stops. This design keeps all of my stuff from dumping out, yet I can open the pocket fairly wide to see inside and access what I need. It fits the back Molle panel of the Antero perfectly, creating a quick access location for all the small stuff I carry on a daily basis. I can also attach the organizer inside the bag at the top, which is nice when I’m going to be navigating through large crowds and want to keep my things secure.

Dislikes:

The 500d organizer is made from a lighter fabric than the 1000d Antero bag. This isn’t a functional issue, as 500d is plenty strong, but the color is ever so slightly different and may bother some people. I find it hardly noticeable, but I could see some OCD types caring about this.

Omni-Belt

Likes:

Load bearing – Many packs in this class advertise waist-belts that don’t actually transfer the weight to your hips. The Omni-belt is different. This thing carries a load. It feels and operates like a real backpacking waist-belt.

Molle – allows for customizing what you carry day in and day out. I carry two medium betl pouches, but could see water bottle holsters and multitool holsters working as well.

Dislikes –

None really. It is very wide and may be pretty hot to wear in the summer.

Loadouts

One-bag Travel

One-bag travel set up w/o Omni belt

The Antero, at 24 liters, is plenty big for one-bag travel on its own. If I’m not looking to pack light, I will attach the Grab-it and fill an Ultra-light Pull-out with my extra gear. Omni-belt comes or stays depending on whether or not I will need the load bearing at my destination (Hiking? Bring it. Urban walking and transit-hopping? Leave it)

Day-pack Travel

When I arrive at my destination, I simply need to drop any clothes/gear I don’t need for the day and I have a workable daypack. In crowded, theft-prone areas, attach the organizer inside the bag for a stripped-down, secure daypack. Attach the Grab-it if the extra space is needed. Add Omni-belt only if hiking or carrying heavy loads for long distances.

EDC & Commute

Attach the organizer to the outside for quick access. Leave the Omni-belt and Grab-it at home.

Day-hike & Overnight backpacking

Attach organizer inside, Attach Grab-it to outside, attach Omni-belt and 2 medium pouches. Lash sleeping pad or Hammock to the bottom of the pack. the pockets are also deep enough that they resemble the side pockets on Ultralight Backpacks. I can store my tarp or tent rolled up in one, or both of the side pockets.

Overall

My setup doesn’t come cheap. My total cost, including all extras was $577. I realize that, to many, the price tag is nuts. However, I am replacing:  GR1 ($395), GR1 Padded Field Pocket ($55), GR Bullet 10L ($150), and Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 ($285). Add ’em up and I come out $310 ahead. I’m also confident in the durability of the Antero, that it will last me a long, long time.

I really like this bag. The versatility of this pack is pretty amazing, especially with the add-ons. I recognize that the pack + add-ons isn’t cheap, but for me, the simplicity of having one bag that can handle multiple tasks well is worth the cost. Not to mention the durability of Cordura and supporting a business that makes all of their gear in the US. I need more time to fully try out each of my use cases in detail, but so far I am really liking this bag.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or want more detail about a specific aspect of the Kifaru Antero.