This question is probably the second most asked question to me by people new to hunting (the first being which bow should I use?). Finding the right hunting pack for your needs can be overwhelming and downright frustrating at times.
When a friend who was new to hunting asked me about which pack they should purchase, I began going through my packs. Yes, that’s plural. After digging through my hunting gear, I realized that I have a total of seven packs in different sizes, shapes and colors. As my hunting progressed, so did my expectations in a pack. If I’m on a 5-day trip in Colorado, my needs will be different than a day spot and stalk in Eastern Oregon.
I’ll admit, in some cases, I gave into the marketing hype and spent a lot of money on the hype. I don’t have all the answers but here are some considerations that I use when purchasing a pack for my hunting needs.
- Comfort (Yes, I intended to list it twice).
- Correct capacity for your needs.
- Light weight.
These are just the basics because with each one of these listed items, there are about 5 additional sub-lists.
Comfort for me has to do with the frame and how stiff it is. On a long pack-in, pack-out, it is important for me to have a tall, vertical frame. This allows the shoulder harness to be raised and transfer the weight from my shoulders to the belt. Speaking of the belt, I want to make sure that the hip belt does not slip, bruise, or chafe me while I am wearing it.
It’s a good idea to go to a store that sells hiking/hunting equipment and talk to someone about sizing a backpack for you.
Organization and What’s in Your Pack
I lay out everything I think I’m going to need for whatever excursion I’m going on. This helps me not forget items and also gauge what size pack I need for the given situation. A lot of novice backpackers tend to overpack.
When you are going on a long haul, it is essential to count every ounce. “What you carry in pounds, you pay for in pain.” In higher elevations, that little extra thing you thought you needed becomes more of a burden than an advantage.
Organization and Pockets
As I mentioned before, lay everything out. This is where I start evaluating how I will organize my pack and what pockets; adjustments and straps are advantageous to me and my hunting style.
Other Things to Consider
- Fabrics and materials.
- Adjustability of the frame.
- Does one frame fit multiple bags?
- Bow or rifle carrying ability.
At the end of the day, we each have our specific preferences. This guide is just to assist with considerations if you’re going to be making a purchase of a new backpack. In the last few years, many manufacturers are making pack systems that allow you to use one frame on multiple packs. I appreciate this and have one of these systems and have never looked back. However, I did go to a large recreational company specializing in backpacking to assist with sizing and educating me on backpacks.