What Size Pack do you need?
As the western hunting starts to wind down and we have time to assess our gear I thought it would be a great time to talk about backpacks. Our group uses several different sizes and configurations for different terrain, duration in the back country, and gear we carry. The Backpack, outside of arrow setup, is the piece of equipment that I am most asked about. Your pack choice is completely dictated by the intended use, so I will explain why we choose what we choose with the following categories. 1. Multi-day Hunts over three days 2. Weekend excursions 3. Day hunts. Of course uses and severity of adventure blur these lines, but this article will help you personalize your choice to your uses.
1. Multi-day Hunts over three days require a large pack 4000 cu or larger, and expandable. We have found the bulk of our gear is food for these back country extended trips.
Just 5 days worth of food would take up most of the space in a smaller pack. We also pack for weather during our elk season as we often get freezing weather at the elevations we hunt so the added bulk of extra insulation is always a big space taker. We also like to make sure our multi day packs are expandable. Expandable means that they are able to pack gear and or meat between the bag and frame.
The Commander X in meat Hauling Mode. The Commander X in meat Hauling Mode.
Our Multiday Pack "Expanded" with a comfortable camp ready for the Backcountry! (notice the extra bag in the meat shelf)
We often pack a comfortable base camp close to where we are going to hunt from so I want to make sure my pack can expand to make room for a larger shelter, ultra-lite camp chair, and pillow as those things are essential to keep my aging body in the back country game.
We also demand that our larger bags have a SOLID frame, there is nothing worse that a weak frame that shifts a heavy load with each step. Our opinion is a extra few pounds is less taxing on the body than a load that is always shifting. SOLID frame packs are a must for the loads and distance we carry with our multi day packs.
If the Multi-Day Pack your looking at doesn't have load levelers keep looking! Load levelers (the top straps that connect the shoulder strap to the frame) are essential to centering the load between the hips and back.
We use the Alps Commander X pack system as it meets all the Criteria mentioned above and comes with belt pockets, a bow/rifle sling, lid, and rain cover as standard equipment at amazingly economical price. You can read more below.
2. Weekend Excursion Packs are from 4000 cu in to 1800 cu in. You are going to need enough space to carry food plus the hunting essentials to take care of your game in the Backcountry.
We tend to teeter around the upper end of this spectrum. there are several considerations about this size of pack. One of the most important aspects of any hunting pack is how well will it handle a heavy meat load once you make a harvest. If all you hunt are deer you might not need a frame. If you hunt an animal that will require large meat loads, like elk, moose, and large deer you might want to consider a frame. We use both. We like the wing styled packs like Alps Traverse X for filming. Most of them fall into that weekend excursion range, yet they provide a bunch of access options for your delicate gear. We especially like the Traverse X because its "wing" pockets are padded and protect our valuable lenses and electronics. the only drawback to this style of pack is that they aren't as solid under super heavy loads like a elk quarter. Our Traverse X will get the meat out of the woods as it has a integrated meat shelf and 3 compression straps, but if your weekend adventure takes leaves you having to pack out elk quarters or a boned out mule deer, I would definitely look for a Framed Pack in this size.
Again, the frame has to be solid. I would definitely sacrifice a few pounds for a solid pack in this range as it is even less of a sacrifice for the weekend hunter as it is for the multi-day hunter. The weekend hunter will require much less gear than the one who is packing his week on his back. This frees you up to choose a super solid frame and meat shelf even if its a bit heaver. once you have a bull down, eight miles in, you'll be happy that your weekend pack will keep the meat where it should be. I've spent agonizing miles under a shifty load, it's a torture that no one should experience. For this style of weekend pack we use the Alps Hybrid X it seems to fill the gap well.
For more information on the weekend type packs we use you can go here.
3. We use our mid-sized packs as day packs. You'll find most western big game hunters do the same as we carry lunch, rain jackets (who can predict the wreathe out west) and game processing equipment. We use our mid-sized packs as day packs. You'll find most western big game hunters do the same as we carry lunch, rain jackets (who can predict the wreathe out west) and game processing equipment.
Elk Hunting requires a ton of miles, you don't want to get caught without a meat hauling pack even if you aren't out more than a day.
The biggest reason we like the larger bags is that they are capable of hauling meat. We range from 6 to 15 miles most days so it is imperative to be able to haul meat back to the pickup.
for those who don't need to worry about hauling meat long distances a good size day pack ranges from a lumbar pack to a around 1800 cu in. You'll want a pack that's light and fast.
Most people look for it to be capable to carry a water bladder. Although we hunt under our mid sized pack we have a bunch of friends who like the Alps Pursuit X. It seems to handle their gear and a water well yet it is light and the mesh keeps the sweat off their back. Although we don't have any experience with this pack our friends tell us its a keeper. you can see more about this pack below:
In conclusion any pack you choose will extend your effectiveness and make you a better hunter. Our rule of thumb is always go the next size up if your unsure as a empty pack won't hold you back, but one that cant carry all of your gear will. We always choose form over fashion and never let a few pounds steer us away from a solid frame.
If you would like to see more pictures of the gear we use in action follow us at out instagram account barebowhunters. You can also check out our youtube channel...
As always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our facebook group barebow hunters.
I hope this helped Nate Bailey