Backpacks are the easiest, safest, and most convenient way to carry hunting gear. Whether you are packing into the mountains for elk, tackling a full day of hunting or planning a tree stand sit, carrying critical items is easiest with a backpack. Today’s modern packs are designed to reduce back sweat and ride with weight on your hips, so you’ll barely know it’s there. Most agree it’s a good idea, but what about the size?
Hunt Like a Turtle
The most successful back-country hunters I know bivouac for days at a time. Typically, they leave a base camp with a three-day food supply, a tent or tarp for protection, and a warm sleeping bag and pad. Although this may seem like a lot of weight and bulk, dehydrated food and a tiny camp stove allow hunters to keep packs between 30 and 40 pounds.
Usually, hunters leave at daybreak so they can hunt their way to an area where they establish a modest base camp in a good location and then hunt its perimeter. Since elk often bugle at night, “living with the elk” allows hunters to know where and when they are present. Even call-shy elk will bugle under the cover of darkness and reveal their location.
Mobility is the key to this type of hunting since herds often roam through the mountains and don’t stay in the same exact place day after day. If the herd moves to the next basin, you can move the base camp and be in hunting position at first light.
Hunt All Day
In September, I drew a muzzleloading elk tag in Colorado and an archery tag in Wyoming, giving me a chance to test these pack philosophies firsthand. Since I’m a senior hunter, I couldn’t physically handle the bivouac routine, yet could hunt in lower country from dawn to dusk.
Hunting seven days in Colorado above 9600 feet, I logged more than 40 miles according to my Fitbit device and got as high as 11,000 feet on one occasion. On both hunts, I used the Alps Traverse X pack, which allows a multi-purpose approach to all-day hunting. It’s unique because it is designed for carrying but not necessarily for containing. One might think that the perfect pack is one that has a giant bag that will hold lots of meat or gear. This pack has a modest inside pocket with multiple compartments, but has “wings” that will carry much more. The exterior of the pack opens like “French doors” that have easily accessible pockets for your most-used gear like knives, flashlights, rope, and the like. Instead of digging into a giant pile of stuff, you have it at your fingertips.
These “wings” buckle in three locations, allowing for the transport of heavy coats, insulating layers, bow, or rifle. When hunting a full day, you will experience dramatic shifts in temperature so that you can attach your heavy outer layer on the pack without the risk of losing items from your pockets. You can hike to your hunting grounds without getting sweaty and then insulate when it’s time to slow down and stalk or ambush.
Additionally, the exterior carrying capacity allows for meat transport without putting meat inside the pack. I carried about 40 pounds of elk meat comfortably for half a mile by using the exterior buckles.
Carry-Alls: These “box-in-a-bag” packs are perfect for treestand hunting and carrying everyday hunting gear. Usually, they have two side pockets for a water bottle or thermos, a large central compartment, and a smaller outer compartment for items that require quick access.
If you’ve never considered hunting with a pack, you may want to start here. These small packs allow you to carry your lunch, a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee and spare gear that won’t fill up your pockets. They have enough room for a down vest and binoculars, and they have straps to attach a heavy outer layer.
Alps packs feature a molded foam suspension that ventilates your back to prevent sweating, Lycra shoulder straps for added comfort, a drop-down pocket to carry your gun or bow, a rain cover to added protection, and a host of other benefits.
Sometimes a small piece of gear can salvage a hunt, and a backpack is the best way to ensure that you have room to carry it. Packs allow you to hunt longer, farther, and more comfortably. In the high mountains or up a tree, the longer you are afield, the better your chances.
For the full line of Alps packs, visit www.alpsOutdoorz.com.