Shoulder it in the Best Hunting Backpack

Have you recently noticed your hunting equipment hoard seems to be getting ever larger? Whereas it used to be just a bow and some arrows or a rifle, it now includes spotting scopes, a GPS device, a hunting saw, licence, your phone and all the other bits you can’t live without.

A good quality hunting backpack will give you the chance to take even more of these essentials and still have space for that haul of meat on the journey home. 

If you are looking for the best hunting backpack for your next expedition, we have you covered. We have chosen some of our favorite backpacks and looked at the features you should be considering when you pick a new one.

A good pack (and boots) are essential bits of kit

Our Top Backpack Picks

Backpacks, Daypacks and Rucksacks

When choosing the best backpack, the different terms used by retailers can often be confusing. Backpack, daypack or rucksack, what exactly is the difference, you may be wondering?

Backpacks and Rucksacks

Backpack is merely a generic term for a bag which is carried on your back. Both a rucksack and daypack can be classified as types of backpacks. The word rucksack comes from the German for back, rucken, and the word sack meaning a bag–hence back bag or pack.

Historically, rucksacks were made from a tough canvas material with one large center compartment and smaller pockets on the outside. They were fastened at the top with drawstrings or buckle straps and had a cover flap. The shoulder straps were made of leather or canvas to attach the users back and a metal support frame was attached.

The traditional style of the rucksack has not changed so much over the years. Although, nowadays, you will find many different styles, some aimed at specific sports, such as hunting.

Backpacks and rucksacks are interchangeable and both can generally accommodate larger capacities. Camping stores and the military tend to refer to backpacks as a rucksack. Although, here in the States, backpack is a more common term.

Daypacks

Again, a daypack is another term for a backpack, just a smaller and more compact one. For one-day trips or if kids are accompanying you on your hunting trip, a daypack is an ideal option. They are still worn on your back, but can also take the form of fanny packs to be worn around your waist.

Daypacks also have exterior pockets for carrying smaller weapons, and may have a water bottle carrier built in. You can even get some daypacks which have a Camelbak style hydration pack for hands-free use. Being more compact, they are not really suitable for overnight use or hauling larger kills.

Backpack Sizing

The size of hunting backpack you need will depend on how long you plan to be away on a trip. There’s no limit to how long you can stay out on a hunt for, the size of your backpack can be the main deciding factor. A larger backpack will also be handy for bringing home those hauls of meat, hopefully!

If you are planning just a short trek through the wilderness, a simple daypack with a capacity around 1800 cubic inches should offer enough space for a change of clothes, some hunting gear and maybe some food.

For longer trips, you will need a significantly larger backpack, with many featuring over 5000 cubic inches of capacity. Don’t choose a pack which is larger than you need. Remember, the amount of equipment you carry may go down as the trip progresses.  You can always strap gear to the outer of the pack and move them into the bag as foods go down.

The following YouTube video looks at some basic gear you are going to need on a backpack hunt.

Internal vs External Frames

External frames were, traditionally, the main choice for hunting backpacks, as they tended to offer more durability and a greater capacity. As technology has progressed, backpacks designed for all purposes have moved toward the internal frames.

An internal frame normally offers better support to the pack, with pre-bent aluminum poles that stay in place longer. Aluminum or alloy sheets can offer even better support and be useful on longer trips. The internal form factor reduces the chances of getting your frame caught on tree branches or other environmental hazards you may encounter.

External frames will still be able to carry heavier loads, however, but give you the option of carrying more gear, or game. They are ideal for when trekking through open spaces, compared to hunts in dense forests with more obstructions. However, external frame backpacks can be a cheaper alternative when considering extended trips, due to the greater load capabilities.

An external frame will also be more suitable for use in hotter conditions as they will provide better ventilation for your back. Lots of pockets on these backpacks make organizing your gear simple, and you can also secure gear to the frame. An external frame is normally more adjustable, and can be used by people of varying sizes.

What to Look for When Choosing a Hunting Backpack

There are a number of different features that you need to consider when selecting a hunting backpack. Here is some further information on each of these.

Hanging Strap

This useful accessory allows you to hang your backpack on a branch or the trunk of a tree. It makes things much more convenient when you are in a tree stand, and it also reduces the amount of movement and noise you make.

Camouflage

It’s always wise to consider the environment you are going to be hunting in. Many hunting packs come with a choice of camouflage. Although deer are unable to see many colors, they can be sensitive to differences in shading. If your pack isn’t blended in with your surroundings, you will lose that power of concealment.

Waterproofing

Most hunting packs are not actually fully waterproof. Not only would it be difficult to do with so many compartments and zippers, but it could also be overkill. There are not normally too many circumstances when a hunter would find his gear fully submerged in water.

A certain amount of water resistance is vital for when you get caught out in bad weather conditions. A good pack should be able to keep your gear dry and weapons functional, even in extended storms. While the pack may have some water resistance, you will normally find waterproofing comes from a pull-out cover zipped away at the bottom.

Silent

Silence is one of the most important factors as you hunt. A simple scuffle of a leaf can be enough to send your prey running. Backpacks are available made from fabrics like Mutex, which have been developed to remain soft and not make a noise when rubbing against other materials.

Fastenings on backpacks should use dampened zips and never feature Velcro or press-studs. You don’t need to be reaching for that extra arrow, just to alert the whole forest of your whereabouts.

Weight

The weight of the backpack can affect how comfortable it is to wear. A belt strap on your backpack will also help to support the extra weight.

Many backpacks will now include their own internal frames that are lightweight yet strong and made from either aluminum or plastic. Check the weight of a pack on the manufacturer’s specifications, and bear in mind how heavy it will be when loaded up.

Bow or Rifle Harness

An important part of hunting is keeping your hands free, especially if climbing, A good weapon-carrying system should secure the weapon, yet allow quick access when needed without too much resistance.

Most good hunting packs will feature a separate strap for your weapon, and a fold-out pocket for the ammo, both of which need to be reachable at a moment’s notice.

Water Bladder

Water bladders are a useful and practical way of carrying water, as they are more lightweight than a water bottle. They also allow you to drink water, hands-free, which is useful when you are on the move or sitting on a stand in a tree.

Weight Capacity

Hunting backpacks with external frames are able to carry more weight. This is especially useful if you’re planning on dragging your meat, so look for a product with a high weight capacity for this use.

Our Top Picks In Detail

OutdoorZ Pathfinder

ALPS OutdoorZ Pathfinder Hunting Pack

The ALPS OutdoorZ Pathfinder is probably the best hunting fanny pack available today. Not only that but it can also be extended to a 44-liter daypack too.

With the generous 44-liter capacity and an extra 1100 cubic inches of room, the daypack allows you to carry additional gear, like decoys and weather protection. You also have the option of using the daypack in hauling mode or bow-carrying mode. Extra straps and fabric can be used to carry your meat or extra gear.

The bow pocket is suitable for a wide range of compound bows, and the lash straps keep your weapon secure so you can hike hands-free. There is also a drop-down pocket to hold a gun.

It may feel large when used as a fanny pack, but an over-the-chest strap offers more comfort for heavier loads. The unique design allows you to take more weight on your shoulders rather than your hips or back. Extension straps can be utilized for larger loads, and the waist belt is padded with a water pocket and port.

The pack is lightweight but offers plenty of space. Compatible with extra accessory pockets from ALP OutdoorZ, you can keep more equipment secured to the front straps.

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What we liked:
  • Versatile and convenient fanny pack or daypack
  • Cost effective option
  • Durable, comfortable and well padded
  • Extensive storage space
  • Quiet
Downsides:
  • More interior pockets would be useful

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OutdoorZ Ranger Day Pack

ALPS OutdoorZ Ranger Day Pack

When you are looking for a smaller daypack, the OutdoorZ Ranger pack will accommodate all your essential gear for shorter trips. At just a pound in weight, it still has a reasonable capacity of 1450 cubic inches or 23 liters.

The daypack features a spacious main compartment for larger items. A front pocket allows you to keep smaller items and accessories within reach for quick access. Padded shoulder straps make wearing this pack extra comfortable.

The webbing handle is bartacked, to offer numerous attachment points at the front of the pack. It’s comfortable and convenient to carry, and extra equipment can be lashed onto the outside. It’s also available in a range of camouflage prints.

Some users may find this daypack too small for their hunting needs. However, it is a durable, quiet and inexpensive product, which is suitable for many different uses.

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What we liked:
  • Available in a variety of camo prints
  • Durable, soft and quiet fabric
  • Inexpensive product
  • Perfectly sized for a day hunt

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OutdoorZ Traverse EPS

ALPS OutdoorZ Traverse EPS Hunting Pack

Weighing under seven pounds, the OutdoorZ Traverse EPS has an impressive 4500 cubic inches of internal capacity. There is also an expandable 1200 cubic inches of space, which can be used for transporting larger loads or extra weapons.

This product features a padded shoulder harness and multi-layer foam waist belt. Combined with the unique H-frame design, you are able to carry loads comfortably, no matter how heavy they are. The H-frame is internal and made from lightweight and sturdy aluminum.

This pack also features an adjustable torso range and a solid suspension system. This provides extra comfort for when you’re carrying heavy equipment or hauling out meat.

Pocket configuration is varied and extensive. The backpack features a main compartment with an internal pocket, two easy access pockets, a drop-down pocket, two front wing pockets, plus a side pocket. A padded pocket is specifically designed for transporting and protecting a spotting scope and a tripod sleeve holder.

Extension lashing straps and side compression straps provide the option of attaching extra gear to the pack if needed. A water pocket and a rain cover is included with the pack, and it comes in Mossy Oak Mountain Country print camo.

All of these features make the OutdoorZ Traverse EPS from ALPS one of the most innovative internal frame products available.

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What we liked:
  • Comfortable pack
  • Extra straps are very useful when carrying larger amounts
  • Suitable for long hunting trips
  • Easy to adjust to fit all sizes
  • Large main compartment
  • Sturdy frame
Downsides:
  • Material around the frame can tear with regular use
  • Does not hold weapons well

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Badlands 2200

Badlands 2200 Camouflage Hunting Pack and Meat Hauler - Bow, Rifle, and Pistol Compatible

The Badlands 2200 has its own unique style and really stands out among hunting packs. Weighing less than six pounds, it has a capacity of 2250 cubic inches, putting it firmly in the middle of daypack and backpack territory.

Eight pockets on this pack include a zippered rear access to the main compartment for reaching items in a hurry.  A built-in meat shelf can be quite handy and something you don’t see too often in smaller packs. A spotting scope pocket is another great feature of this well thought-out design.

The fabric is DWR treated, to ensure suppression of scent, and resistance to dirt, blood and moisture. The ergonomic foam padding on the straps molds well to the shape of your body. This results in a very comfortable backpack to wear, regardless of how heavy the load is.

The internal frame is made from T-6 aircraft aluminum, and the load lifter straps successfully transfer the weight from your shoulders to your hips.

The camouflage print on this backpack is a darker color palette, which adapts well to different environments and lighting conditions. It is designed for use in the Midwest and East, as well as the West in the late season.

The Badlands 2200 contains built-in pistol holders on the hip belt and an integrated rifle boot. Compression straps provide many options for attaching extra gear, and the backpack is compatible with the Badlands Bow Boot and 2-liter hydration devices.

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What we liked:
  • Extensive storage space
  • Useful built-in meat shelf
  • Fits very snugly and comfortably
  • Very durable product
  • Product comes with a lifetime warranty
  • Quiet zippers and fabric used in construction
Downsides:
  • More pockets could be useful for different pieces of equipment
  • Fit is better suited to men than women

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In Sights Realtree Xtra Multi-Weapon

In Sights Realtree Xtra Multi Weapon Pack

The In Sights Realtree Xtra Multi-Weapon is a revolutionary archery hunting pack, which is great for bowhunters. It features patented storage for several weapons and a comfortable, ergonomic design.

A single enclosure, for your main weapon, is designed to fit and protect a variety of weapons. The map anchors the weapon to your back in a safe and effective manner. This leaves you free to move without restriction over all kinds of terrain.

This product actually makes your weapons feel lighter when you are carrying them. It also has a strong and durable construction, even without an internal metal frame.

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What we liked:
  • Durable product, solid construction.
  • Can tie meat to the external straps.
  • Doesn’t restrict movement while carrying.
  • Large capacity is able to store a lot of gear.
Downsides:
  • Product lacks an internal frame which may cause back and shoulder discomfort.

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Tenzing TZ 1250 Backpack

Tenzing TZ 1250 Backpack

It’s rare to find such a mix of space, organisation and comfort as found in this pack from Tenzing. I have never really been a fan of lumbar packs like this, but the Tenzing TZ 1250 is packed with so many features that I just had to take a look. What I really liked was the removable shoulder straps and its ability to carry a gun or a bow.

Weighing just under four pounds, the internal compartment of this pack is cavernous and holds up to 1250 cubic inches of gear. In total there are 16 storage compartments, including the dual-entry main compartment and five zip pockets for smaller items.

Even when fully loaded, this pack is comfortable to wear, with padded hip supports and a back pad which is air cooled. An included WeatherGuard cover keeps everything secure and protected from the elements.

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What we liked:
  • Good amount of versatile pockets for storing tools and equipment
  • Easy to adjust to fit, with extra long adjustable straps
  • Fits comfortably without restricting movement
  • Well made product can withstand a high level of use
  • Front pack is a good design for people with back issues
Downsides:
  • Uncomfortable shoulder harness for smaller users
  • Zippers are not the best quality

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Eberlestock X2 Hunting BagPack

Eberlestock X2 Hunting BagPack

The Eberlestock X2 Hunting BagPack from the X-project range is designed to be lightweight and allow you to move easily. The back panel is made from padded mesh, which allows air flow between your body and the back of the pack. Straps adjust to fit snugly and comfortably, without causing you to overheat.

This product features zippered hydration compartments, two tuck pockets inside the wings, and quick access pockets for essential items. It also has a sturdy IntEx™ metal frame, and oversized compression straps to use when transporting heavy loads.

The base of the pack contains the FlexChassis, which can be opened out and used to sit on. It can also support a large load when it is strapped to the front of the pack.

The Eberlestock X2 Hunting BagPack weighs just under five pounds and holds 1832 cubic inches. Additional side scabbards can hold a shotgun or rifle, with an ARCG ButtBucket also available for compound bows.

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What we liked:
  • Compartments provide space for a large amount of gear
  • Backpack can be cinched to a smaller size when in a tree stand
  • Capable of dragging a large amount of meat
  • Effective and ergonomic harness system
Downsides:
  • The hood does not cover the whole pack effectively
  • External pockets are not very spacious

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