Selecting a Hunting Pack
It’s mid-August, the time of year that I start thinking about all of the hunting coming up, starting next month and all the way through February. Next month will be my muzzle loader elk hunt, and then possibly an October deer hunt if I decide to, October turkey hunting, and then pheasants, quail, ducks and geese. Before I know it all of those seasons will be over, and I will be gearing up for a spring turkey hunt. I always use my time during August making sure all of my gear is in order and practicing shooting, and as I was getting some things together tonight I thought I would write about hunting packs.
If you hunt, you already know the value of a good hunting pack; it carries all of your fundamental gear for whatever situation might come up when you are out in the wild. Your hunting pack is essentially your life line to survive in some situations, in others merely a means to carry your lunch. Many rifle hunters also use their packs as a rifle rest when taking aim on an animal, in fact I saw a pack on a hunting show that had a built-in rifle rest, and it was pretty cool! Regardless of how it gets used from one day to another, your hunting pack is one of the most important pieces of gear you will ever use.
Just as with anything, the hunting pack you need is dependent upon the type of hunting you will be doing, and there are as many to choose from as there are crank baits in a Bass Pro Shops catalog, with an equally broad range of prices. The single most important aspect of a good hunting pack, regardless of the type, is the quality of workmanship in the product. If you do your homework and find a good, quality pack, it will last you a very long time. One of my favorite hunting packs is the Bianchi day pack (which is no longer made). I have used that pack for over 25 years, and I will be using it again next month, and it cost me less than $50 when I bought it.
I mentioned that the type of hunting you do will dictate the type of pack that you need. For example, next month I will be hunting out of a spike camp which I will travel to on horseback, so there is no need for me to bring a big, frame pack to carry all of my food, cooking gear, sleeping gear, and clothes like I did when I was younger. In this situation, my smaller Bianchi pack will be used to carry only what I will need with me each day when I am out hunting (I will elaborate on this later). If I get an elk I will not have to pack it out on my back, so I don’t need a pack with that capability. What a pack like the Bianchi or the Field & Stream pack offer is the ability to carry what I need in an organized manner without a lot of weight and bulk.
Each of these packs has multiple storage pockets of different sizes, which is important; I don’t like to be fumbling through one large pocket in a pack for something small or that I need in a hurry, like a flashlight or binoculars. Each pack also has medium-padded, adjustable shoulder and waist straps, which is ideal for a day pack; you don’t need the heavy padding of the other packs I will describe, but enough to make it comfortable to wear for 14 hours. The second most important characteristic of a good pack is how you can adjust it to your body. No two bodies are identical, and the weight of your load will vary, so you need to be able to adjust the pack to your shoulders, back, and waist.
The other two packs I talk about here are the Badlands Sacrifice and the Blacks Creek Answer packs. These packs are somewhat in between a day pack and a big frame back pack, and they are built specifically for hunting and hauling big loads of game. What I like about these packs is that they have enough storage capacity to take gear for a night or two in the woods if needed, but are not so big that they can’t be used as a day pack. I used both of these last fall as a day pack with the possibility of hauling out meat, which didn’t happen, but I was ready to if needed.
These packs have built-in internal frames, with heavier padding on the shoulders and waist, much more elaborate adjustment functionality, smaller gear pockets in addition to the large main pocket, and with good compression strap designs for hauling your harvest. The Badlands Sacrifice weighs 4 pounds with a capacity of 3,450 cubic inches, and the Blacks Creek Answer weighs 7 pounds with a capacity of 2,000 cubic inches. The unique thing about the Answer though is that the pack detaches from the frame allowing you to strap on an elk quarter, and then reattach your pack on top of the meat. Both of these packs are great for wilderness hunts without horses, or a white tail hunt where you may venture a few miles from your vehicle.
Whichever type of pack meets your needs, here is a list of the minimum things I carry each day in my pack when I am hunting elk:
- Map, GPS, and Compass
- Knives and Game Saw
- Game Bags
- Para Cord
- Waterproof Matches and Tender
- Flint and Steel
- 2 Emergency Blankets
- Water Purification Tablets
- Signal Mirror
- First Aid Kit
- Emergency Food (Beef Jerky, Power Bars, Candy Bars)
- Rain Gear (Coat and Pants)
- Wool Shirt
- Lunch and Snacks
- Hunting License and Pen
Just writing that list gets me excited about elk hunting next month, which I am sure I will be writing more about in the coming weeks. While the condition of my back is still not where I hoped it would be at this time, it will be a successful hunt, whether I bring home an elk or not, and my faithful Bianchi will be on my back every day