Heading into the woods this fall, you will likely be bringing some things with you. Some hunters only bring a bottle of water and their firearm, but most of us carry some extra gear in which can help us stay comfortable during all-day sits. The pack you choose to bring in with you will likely depend on what you carry with you. I’m going to discuss some of the different pack options for hunting.
The Day Pack
Day packs can be a great option for deer hunting. They are the size of a simple bookbag and typically feature shoulder straps. There are some fanny pack and sling-style options as well which can be a good choice if you travel light. You’re not going to get advanced features like stand hauling and meat shelves, but they can easily hold your lunch, a small medkit, and rain gear. They are typically inexpensive coming in at around $100 and lightweight. However, they do not balance a heavy load well and are usually a one size fits all option. At $150, the Badlands Timber is a nice smaller daypack that also features some nice extras for hunters.
Whitetail Midsize Packs
While daypacks are a great option if you are hiking back to your hunting spot with only a small amount of gear, many deer hunters prefer to practice a run and gun type of hunting. This mobile hunting style offers many advantages, however, you do have to carry in your stand and climbing method. Using a day pack is generally impractical when you need to haul in a hang-on treestand weighing between 7 and 12 pounds, and 4 climbing sticks weighing from 8-10 pounds. 20 pounds doesn’t seem like a lot, but hiking back through thick timber and brush with an extra 20 pounds can quickly become cumbersome. Add to that the bulk when mobile hunting and you may need a pack that is better designed to carry a stand.
Many companies now make whitetail specific packs. Some of them also feature stand hauling capabilities such as extra straps and a spot to attach your tree stand to the packs frame. Other great features of these packs can include a strap to hang your pack from the tree, quiet closures instead of noisy zippers, and a main compartment that stays open while the pack is hung from a tree. This makes it easy to access your calls and gear or quickly throw something in the pack you are done using. The Mystery Ranch Treehouse is a great option for a pack with a good main pocket that remains open. If you want something that is made to attach a treestand to, the Sitka tool bucket is also a great option. Whitetail specific packs will typically cost more than a standard daypack at $2-300, but the additional features designed by and for hunters are often worth it.
Frame Hunting Packs
Frame packs are typically the largest option for a pack and also the best-built option. The construction benefits do come at a higher price tag. A quality frame pack will cost anywhere from $300-$600. Typically featuring an external aluminum frame they are designed to balance weight well and haul a decent amount of gear. These packs are made for backpacking while hunting. While possibly overkill for deer hunting, the large open main compartment allows you to stash any gear you need. The front, sides, and bottom of the packs contain straps that can be used to attach a bow, treestand, climbing sticks, or a heavy winter coat. Hunting specific packs also generally feature a meat shelf of some sort. The Mystery Ranch Metcalf is one such pack. The pack can detach from the frame creating a shelf between the straps and pack. You can stash anything from camera gear to a deer quarter on this shelf.
These packs are designed for carrying 100 pounds of meat off a mountain. The straps and weight distribution system allows you to get most of the weight onto your hips instead of your shoulders. Backpacking packs also come in different frame sizes allowing you to pick one that fits you well. Finally, the frames can typically be adjusted to ensure that you have the best possible fit.
While often overlooked, the benefits of having the proper pack can play an important role in the comfort and enjoyment of your hunt. Having the ability to bring a variety of gear for different potential situations ensures that you will be prepared and less likely to cut your hunt short. The longer you stay in the woods, the better the chances of getting that buck you are chasing. Carefully chose a pack that supports that mission.