Kifaru International is known for for their heavy-hauling hunting and military type packs. They are constantly discussed and recommended for excursions into the backcountry where a comfortable, durable and reliable load carriage solution is required. They have built a solid, well deserved reputation amongst such users.

Over the past few years, their designs have become more modernized, sleek and streamlined. Despite their focus on backcountry and other large packs, they have always had a few packs in their line-up that were useful for less intensive activities, such as day-hikes, EDC or travel. At 33.5 litres, the Shape Charge is an ideal size for such users.

Tech Specs

MetricImperial
Height49.5cm19.5 in
Width27.9cm11 in
Depth15cm6 in
Volume33.5l2050 cu. in.
Weight 1.6 kg3.6 lbs

Specifications provided by Kifaru International

How I Tested

  • On 3-4 mile hikes, belted, carrying approx. 20lbs
  • On 3-4 different car trips ranging from 3-7 days as a suitcase
  • As an EDC bag carrying a light load of supplies and lunch for days at school

Quality and Comfort

Kifaru has a reputation for solid, well built, American made packs. The Shape Charge is no exception, with 500d Cordura, burly #10 YKK zippers and mil-spec webbing used throughout. The stretch material, back panel and non-skid lumbar pad all have a premium, quality feel as well. Construction is fantastic. As far as Kifaru goes, the Shape Charge is exactly the quality you’d expect.

Comfort of the Shape Charge is quite high. At 19.5″ tall, it is a great height for a larger daypack. With shoulder only carry, the bag rides very well on the Omni Suspension. Belted, the pack has no problem transferring the weight to the hips, though the shoulder straps must be let out some to allow the bag to ride a little lower. I did not experience any trouble or hot spots carrying the bag in either manner.

Organization

The front of the pack features a PALS field to accept pouches or other add-ons. This is a good angle to see the center buckle compression straps, as well the upper and lower grab handles. The main zipper runs all the way down to the bottom of the face and includes 4 zipper pulls to allow access to any part of the bag required.

The sides of the pack feature lower stretch water bottle pockets that easily swallow a 1 litre bottle and even corral a 1.5 litre bottle without issue. The compression straps attach at the top, while the lower strap connects under the bottle pocket. Both use the K-clip for attachment and are fully removable. There is also an upper attachment point for other accessories and a lower ladder lock buckle for the optional belt.

The bottom of the bag features two webbing lash points, and a bottom grab handle as well.

Atop the pack is a flat detail pocket with a key tether inside. There is a split, low profile grab handle as well. The top rear of the bag is lacking a traditional grab handle, though there are two tabs that can be seen here (more on these below).

Under the detail pocket is a larger accessory pocket. This opens to reveal three slot pockets made from stretch material. This pocket has quite a bit of volume built into it, so it handles things like rain gear or binoculars well.

Opening the main zipper down to the upper compression straps results in access as seen above. There is the signature Chamber pocket at the rear sitting over a PALS field, a hanger loop for a hydration bladder (though no port for the hose) and a mesh pocket on the front panel. Given the orientation of the zipper, Kifaru must intend the pocket to be accessed with the panel folded out as seen here.

Opening the pack completely reveals one more lower open top mesh pocket. Here I have flipped up the Chamber pocket to better reveal the rear panel.

Kifaru does not include their Chamber Slider with the Shape Charge, but as an add-on, it brings a lot of capability to the bag. If you need laptop protection and more spots for office items, this is a great way to increase the bag’s usefulness.

What’s Perfect:

  • This pack is extremely well thought out. I never found myself asking why a pocket was included or wishing for one that was not there. Really, this bag just makes sense in use and is a joy to pack and use. Honestly, it is rare to see a bag so well pocketed.
  • Carry comfort is great. This thing will handle any reasonable load that you’d want to stuff into a 33 liter bag, whether it be for travel or trail.
  • Some modular packs seem to be modular just for the sake of trying to sell more bags, needlessly adding bits here and there. In contrast to these busy bags, I found the modest amount of PALS and side attachment points to be a great asset to the Shape Charge. It was easy to increase the usability of the bag, but the modularity never got in the way of using the bag..
  • Did you look at this bag? It looks freaking amazing! Those curves and lines. . .
  • Access is great. I really like the full panel and appreciate the 4 zipper pulls.
  • The bottle pockets are really good. They are huge and yet low-profile; a rare mix. Well done here, Kifaru, well done.
  • This pack comes in at $358 with the belt or $300 without. For a US built, high end bag, I believe this is a good price point and represents a very good value.
One of my favorite things about the Shape Charge is how it can be added to. This Cache from OV Innovations is an easy way to mount a beavertail for overflow.

What’s Not:

  • Did you see those huge, ugly K-clips above? They really are not the most aesthetically pleasing. Kifaru holds that these are much sturdier and stronger than other comparable options, but I don’t like them on an otherwise really slick bag.
  • No traditional rear carry handle. Really? I tried to get used to the front one, but just couldn’t. It’s in a weird place and feels odd every time I grab it, as the bag just doesn’t balance right. I asked Kifaru about this and they explained that this area of the bag simply had too much going on to include one and that they intend the user to add 550 cord to those rear mounting tabs if they really want one. Sorry, but that seems a lame solution on a $350 bag that is intended to see some time in the EDC and travel world. Now, to be fair, this means Kifaru prioritized the ability to mount this bag on one of their larger frames over a carry handle, but I don’t find this ideal.
  • Some will miss the hydration ports. I don’t, because it’s easy to run the hose through the zipper, but some will.
  • The top of the pack is a little busy. What I mean is that it is very easy to grab the wrong set of zipper pulls and open the wrong compartment. It’d be nice to see Kifaru include different colors or styles of zipper pulls to help differentiate the compartments. I’m clumsy, I know, and this is an easy DIY fix otherwise.
  • Kifaru does not offer black. Or Multicam Black. Or really dark charcoal.

Wrap Up

Despite my nit-picky gripes, I think Kifaru hit a home run with this one. It’s so well thought out and never slows the user down. Everything is where it should be and it all makes sense. It carries like a dream and looks fantastic. Accessories only make it better. My only real complaint is that they have not already scaled this pack down to about 18 and 25 liters, or up to carry-on size. It would be killer in those size ranges. And black, we need black. . .

But as it stands, the Shape Charge is an outstanding travel, hiking and heavy EDC bag. You’d be hard pressed to find another pack that does so many things so well.

The Shape Charge was purchased from Kifaru at a discounted rate, for use in this review. The content of this review was not shared with Kifaru International prior to publication. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.