Finding the right pack for you.
If you want to get the most out of your hunting opportunities this fall, and you’re still rocking that old JanSport, it may be time to consider upgrading to a modern hunting pack. Experienced western hunters, especially backcountry enthusiasts, understand that a backpack can make or break a trip. Whether you’re a new hunter or an accomplished sportsman, a quality-built and purposefully-designed backpack can improve your experience afield this season. Here’s how.
Today’s hunting packs have significantly evolved from the old-style rucks, frames, and lightweight packs of earlier generations. Just a decade ago, hunters taking to the backcountry had to sacrifice weight savings and cargo space for meat-hauling capability, or vice versa. Fortunately, a lot has changed within the past 10 years. The best pack systems on the market today incorporate ultralight fabrics, metals, and plastics into a focused design, built with modern manufacturing processes. Top hunting-pack companies construct daytrip and expedition-grade packs that are altogether lighter, more comfortable, more durable, and more capable than previous options. Hunters can expect these packs to weigh less than six pounds. They are built to last (most come with a lifetime guarantee) and equipped to carry massive loads—well over 150 pounds if need be.
Ultralight options have become the standard. In addition to weight savings, modern packs include ergonomic hip belts and cushioned shoulder straps with adjustable suspension and frame options. These features enable a pack to handle extreme loads with relative ease and utmost comfort. Companies also offer specific-sized hip belts, customizable torso lengths, and varying frame options, so hunters can select packs catered to their unique physical statures and hunting styles.
Progress in textile, closure, and design over the past decade enables manufacturers to combine the best attributes of spacious, lightweight hiking packs with the load-hauling capabilities of a burly pack frame. Almost all premier packs these days feature an intuitive access and storage system to ensure quick, adequate stowage and removal of gear. They also incorporate a “load shelf” on the back of a pack frame, between the frame and bag itself, to secure and move game meat from the field to the freezer as efficiently as possible.
Everything that goes into the construction of a top-of-the-line hunting pack—fabrics, buckles, zippers, webbing, stitching, you name it——is engineered to handle the abuse of hunting in rugged conditions. Reputable backpack manufacturers understand the extreme demands hunters place on their gear, so they build to suit those needs. That said, accidents happen and therefore most companies offer a reasonable lifetime warranty and timely repair options.
Where to Purchase
Not all packs are created equal. Listed below are a few reputable companies to consider if you are in the market for an upgrade. Thankfully, two of the top manufacturers in the industry are located right here in the Gallatin Valley and would be glad to assist in your search. Upgrading your pack is an investment. While it may cost a pretty penny up front, improved performance and the support of a reputable company can ensure that you make the most of your time afield this season, and for years to come.
Mystery Ranch - Bozeman, MT 833-548-1999
Stone Glacier - Bozeman, MT 406-404-0641
Exo Mountain Gear - Boise, ID 208-995-4688
Paul Peterson is a freelance writer, former outdoor-industry professional, and fishing and big-game hunting guide. He calls Bozeman home, but spends much of his time afield or on the road with his trusty Labrador, Boone.