August 19, 2014
By Dwight Schuh
Back when I started hunting the mountains of Oregon, backcountry bowhunters carried a motley array of packs from heavy army surplus packs to flimsy nylon rucksacks, and many hunters jerry-rigged their own packs because they couldn't find anything suitable in the stores. Packs have evolved until now it's rare to see a backcountry hunter without a specialized mountain pack.
Here are some of the latest and best that will keep you hunting, no matter how tough the conditions.
Alps Outdoorz Traverse
In a pack weighing 6 lbs. 14 oz., the main compartment of the Traverse
provides 3,300 CI and the expanding meat section adds another 1,200 CI. A tubular aluminum 'H ' frame forms the foundation, and a well-padded hip belt and shoulder straps support a load comfortably. The shoulder harness adjusts to fit torso lengths from 16" — 21".
A padded 16" scope pocket on one side and mesh stuff pocket with two compression straps on the other handle long items. On the front, two 14" wing pockets hold numerous items, and when folded out they will contain a tent, mattress, or other large gear. The included extension straps go around really bulky loads. The zip-open expanding section will hold meat, camp gear, decoys, or whatever.
Also check out ALPS' new Crossfire
, a smaller, lighter daypack at 2,325 CI and weight of 3 lbs. 11 oz.
179.99 (Traverse); $
Tenzing TZ CF Legend
Consider the TZ CF Legend
three packs in one. The foundation is an all-new 4 lb. 8 oz., 24" carbon frame that will carry as much weight as you can strap on it. A Dyneema game shelf with six compression straps will support heavy gear or meat loads, giving you a true, stand-alone freighter frame.
The second component is the popular TZ 2220, a 2 lb. 6 oz., 2,228 CI daypack. The main compartment will hold most items needed for a day's hunt. Several pockets and compression straps provide many storage options. Separate pockets hold a bow/rifle boot, rain cover, and hydration bladder (not included). The 2220 has its own contoured shoulder straps and hip belt, contoured airflow back panel, and an aluminum stay for internal support.
To complete the Legend system, simply attach the 2220 onto the Legend frame to build a 6 lb. 14 oz. frame pack with virtually unlimited load capacity. If the 2220 bag alone won't hold all your gear, you can load the frame, supporting gear on the Dyneema back panel, and then strap the 2220 bag over that.
If you prefer a conventional pack, check out the TZ 4000
, and 6000
series of packs. One unique feature common to all is the expanding mesh meat compartment. Simply unzip the sides of the pack to open up a space about 5" deep — large enough to carry lots of gear or the front shoulder or boned-out ham of an elk.
899.99 (TZ CF Legend); $
199.99 (TZ 2220); $
349.99 (TZ 4000); $
389.99 (TZ 5000); $
399.99 (TZ 6000)
Blacks Creek Remedy 7
The core of Blacks Creek's Remedy 7 (R7)
pack is the 'Grip ' Frame. Built of 1,000D Cordura on four stays, this 4.5-lb. frame will handle abuse. The frame's full-length meat shelf and compression wings grip meat or gear like a vise. The torso length adjusts for a custom fit.
The frame accepts three bags — the 4,800 CI Solution, 3,000 CI Alternative, and 2,000 CI Answer. The Alternative is a good size for day and short-term bivvy hunting. If the bag won't hold enough gear, zip off the bag, compress large items onto the 'Grip ' Frame, and buckle the bag over the gear.
The 7-lb. Alternative has nine pockets for organization. The main compartment is top-load with a separate lid, but long zippers give access from either side. The detachable lid has a large, zippered map pocket. An adjustable boot supports a bow cam or rifle butt. Rainfly and waist-belt pockets are sold separately. Colors are 1,000D Coyote Brown, and brushed tricot in Realtree Max-1 and Mathews Lost Camo.
250 (Grip Frame); $
250 (4,800 CI Solution); $
225 (3,000 CI Alternative); $
200 (2,000 CI Answer)
The newly redesigned Badlands 2200
gives you 2,250 CI in a 5 lb. 4 oz. pack. The batwings fold over the front to hold bulky gear. Numerous pockets hold a spotting scope, tripod, and other gear. To access the main compartment from the rear, you just unzip the molded foam back panel.
The suspension system includes two aluminum frame stays, durable molded foam hip belt, and contoured shoulder straps. The improved waist belt sizing will fit a larger range of waist sizes than did the original. The quiet, short-nap fleece shell comes in Realtree Xtra or Max-1.
For a lighter daypack, check out the 4-lb. Sacrifice
. A mesh back panel ensures sweat-free hiking and a rugged ripstop shell accounts for the light weight. Two zippered pockets in the lid, tube and mesh stuff pockets on the sides, and big hip-belt pockets provide ample storage in this 3,450 CI pack.
269.95 (2200); $
Sitka Gear Bivy 30
At 3,000 CI and 5.43 lbs., the Bivy 30
serves as a roomy daypack or short-term bivvy pack. Seven pockets on the front and hip belt provide plenty of storage, but side pockets have been eliminated to maintain a sleek profile. Well-placed compression straps will secure a bow, tent, mattress, or clothing.
Top-load with a lid, the main bag has side-zipper access. Inside is a lightweight sleeping pad in its own sleeve, plus a hydration pouch (reservoir not included). A rainfly comes with the pack, and a separate Bino Bivy attaches directly to the Bivy 30's shoulder straps. Solid foam waist belt with power-pull buckles and contoured, Aero mesh shoulder straps support the pack comfortably.
Also, check out the new Alpine Ruck
. This pack has an outer shell of 190D Mini-Ripstop Nylon in solid tan and sage colors to keep this 2,800 CI pack down to 3 lbs. A top-load lid has two zippered pockets, one fully waterproof for hunting licenses and other sensitive items. With a molded foam back panel, foam hip belt, and contoured Aero mesh shoulder straps, the Ruck easily handles moderate loads.
349 (Bivy 30); $
249 (Alpine Ruck)
Easton Pickup 3000
At 4.7 lbs. and 3,000 CI, the Pickup 3000
makes a good daypack that can handle enough gear for overnight stays on the mountain. Lightweight 600D brushed poly camo in the outer shell makes it quiet; a ballistics cloth bottom adds durability.
The aluminum/carbon framework will handle plenty of weight, and fully adjustable torso support ensures a custom fit. Molded foam back panels promote airflow, and mono-mesh shoulder straps conform well to the chest.
A daisy chain on the haul flap holds compression straps in place, and the haul flap stows in its own pocket. Large zippered pockets on each side will hold a Jet Boil stove or scope. Two compression straps across the face will secure a bow or other gear. Other small pockets aid organization, a sewn-in pouch holds a water bladder (not included), and hip-belt pockets hold small items at the fingertips.
Easton's new Bow Hunter
is a lightweight, 2,500 CI pack with a hydration sleeve, stretchy side pockets, bow panel, molded back panels, and other bowhunter-friendly features. The 3,000 CI Full Draw Fred Eichler Signature Pack
also offers features bowhunters want in a hunting pack.
189.99 (Pickup 3000); $
159.99 (Bow Hunter); $
199.99 (Full Draw Fred Eichler Signature Pack)
GamePlan Gear CameraMan
Growing interest in video has exploded demand for a specific camera/video pack, and GamePlan Gear
fills the need. Essentially, the CameraMan
combines the features of a quality camera case with those of a comfortable backpack.
A padded interior with moveable dividers can be customized to protect any size and shape of equipment. A fold-down front flap features a series of pockets for organizing small equipment and a large pocket on the outside holds batteries, earphones, and other larger items.
On the side, PackStrap rubber retainers will hold a tripod and tree arm securely, and a sling on the bottom will hold a sleeping bag or clothing. Quality shoulder straps and hip belt make this a comfortable hunting pack — with a camera.
KUIU Ultra Series
In the new Ultra Series
, one 9-oz. carbon frame accepts three pack sizes — 1800 (2 lbs. 13.5 oz.), 3000 (3 lbs.), and 6000 (3 lbs. 9 oz.). All bags fit onto the frame the same way. To achieve these light weights, KUIU has made the carbon frame narrower but thicker for greater strength.
The result is an amazing frame that will pack 150 lbs. or more. The bag is made with a unique 150D Ripstop Cordura shell that weighs next to nothing, but a special 4-PU coating on the fabric increases strength and water repellency. Finally, they have reduced the number of pockets and have replaced standard clip buckles with lighter quick-release buckles.
The newly designed foam shoulder pads can be moved up and down and side to side for a perfect fit, and the canted waist belt nests firmly on the hips. To expand load capacity, all Ultra packs convert to load-sling mode, adding 2,500 CI of packable space. A separate boot supports a bow or rifle.
299.98 (1800); $
319.98 (3000); $
Eberlestock Team Elk
The all-new Team Elk
was designed for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and part of the profits from each pack go to the RMEF. At 3,100 CI and 6 lbs. 8 oz., this is a dual-purpose day/bivvy pack. The aluminum frame with built-in meat shelf will handle heavy loads, and the modular design allows you to zip-on a dry bag and other duffels to increase volume.
The large, top-load main compartment also has a horseshoe zipper for front access. Full-length scope and hydration pockets, stuff pockets, lid pockets, and zippered waist-belt pockets add much storage. The built-in bow carrier and rifle scabbard both have 'zip-and-flip ' covers so they can be used as pockets when not carrying a weapon. Padded back panel and comfortable waist belt and shoulder straps make for an easy carry. A separate binocular case can be attached directly to the pack's shoulder straps.
With an aluminum frame, mesh back panel, excellent hip belt, and 1,830 CI capacity, Eberlestock's X2
makes a great daypack. I've used this pack on trail runs, a testament to its comfort.
299.99 (Team Elk); $