Hunting Backpacks – Effective 6 Step Decision Guide

hunting backpacks

Hunting backpacks are usually the most neglected part of planning for a hunt. Most of us don’t put enough thought into them – until we need them, in the field, after a kill. And then it’s too late. Don’t get caught in the wild with the wrong gear. We will lay the features and purposes to look for in hunting backpacks. And then recommend some of the best on the market. 

6 Steps to Choosing Hunting Backpacks 

  1. Purpose – Is it necessary? 
  1. Size – How big? 
  1. Frame Type – Internal or External? 
  1. Fit – Comfort and Adjustability? 
  1. Care – Easy to Clean? 
  1. Features – What is essential? 
hunting backpacks

1. Purpose – Are Hunting Backpacks Necessary? 

The cost of hunting gear adds up quickly. The priority is you weapon. Next your ammo. Then the host of accessories. When it comes to hunting backpacks, it is tempting to skimp, save the money, and avoid getting one altogether. Many of us have tried to get by with any old backpack laying around. 

Occasionally, this works well enough. It is rare, but it does happen. If the weather is mild and the environment is forgiving, you could make just about any pack work. However, the normal backpack will let you down more often than not. They are not rugged enough and not functional enough for the challenges and unpredictability of hunting in the field. 

A normal backpack simple isn’t made to deal with the difficult terrain and conditions that you experience on most hunts. That is really what makes hunting backpacks a necessity. They are robust, strong, and built to stand up to the toughest wild conditions. They can take a beating from trees, rocks, water, wind, blood, guts, and weight. 

Hunting backpacks are also designed for the special needs of the hunter. They have strategic pockets, compartments, and holding devices other typical hunting gear – like rifles, pistols, scopes and more. 

Simply put – a hunting backpack is a necessity. They give the certainty and the confidence that they will perform when needed. This is so vital for any hunter, but especially for backpack hunters that must make long hikes into and out of the wild with their prey.  

2. Size – How big should it be? 

This is one of the toughest choices for hunting backpacks. There is a huge range of sizes – meaning holding capacity. Some models even come in multiple sizes. How do you choose the right size? 

The key is what type of hunting do you do – most of the time. There are 2 considerations: Length of your trips, Size of your prey animal. If you do short hunts of 1 to 3 days, you will only need a smaller bag. Look for a capacity range of 2100 to 2400 cubic inches of storage space. Longer hunting expeditions will require larger bags – up to 5000 cubic inches. Similarly, if you hunt small game, you won’t need as large a backpack as a big game hunter would. 

hunting backpacks

3. Frame Type – Internal or External? 

There are 2 types of structures for hunting backpacks: internal frame or external frame.  

The more common type is the external frame. The main advantage is greater storage capacity because the frame is on the outside, leaving more space on the inside of the pack. Another advantage is better weight distribution and overall balance – especially when the pack is fully loaded with gear and game. The main disadvantage is that the overall size dimensions are larger.  

Additional advantages include more storage and organizational options, generally speaking. They often have more pockets, straps, and ancillary functions.  

External Frame Hunting Backpacks generally have a lower price tag as well.  

The main advantage of internal frame models is that they are more compact. They take up less space and maintain a consistent shape easily. This means that they are great for rough, dense environments. You can more precisely through brush, foliage, and other rugged terrain. The main disadvantages are the higher cost and lower storage capacity. 

Most hunters, most of the time, are better served with an external frame model. 

4. Fit – Comfort and Adjustability 

Hiking with a full backpack can be much more challenging that it seems. This problem is made worse if the backpack doesn’t fit you well or does not have enough adjustments. It will slip down, ride off to the side, and make you miserable. 

Good hunting backpacks will have a number of adjustments to ensure a proper fit for most body types. Make sure your new pack has the follow: 

  • Hip Strap  
  • Shoulder Straps 
  • Chest Strap 
  • Stabilizer Straps 

The primary adjustment is the hip strap. Make sure your new pack has a secure waste strap that adjusts easily. This strap allows you to bear some of the load with your hips and relieves some of the pressure from your shoulders.  

The shoulder straps work in conjunction with the hip strap to ensure that the weight sits at the correct level on your back. If the center of gravity is too high, you are unstable and in danger of falling. If the center of gravity is too low, your movement will be limited and difficult – the bag will be hitting your legs all the time.  

The chest strap helps to limit lateral movement of the backpack. If the pack sways side to side, if will sap your energy quickly. 

The stabilizer straps hold the contents of the backpack together securely. This prevents a wobbly load that again will drain your energy quickly. 

5. Care – Is it easy to clean? 

Every hunting trip will soil your hunting backpacks – even you don’t bring home any game. If you do, you will need to clean up some blood and guts along with muck and mud. You want a backpack that is made to cleaned easily.  

Does the pack have removable, plastic game bags for meat storage? That is probably the most vital care question. If not, how can you clean out the residue from the meat? Some bags have plastic lining that is not removable but can be wiped clean. Others are machine washable. Be sure that you know how a particular model of hunting backpack can be cleaned. You will be doing it after every hunt. 

Be carefully of the scent transfer of different cleaning methods as well. If you use cleaners with strong odors, these odors may last longer than you can detect with your human nose. These can possibly be detected by your game and ruin your next hunt. Luckily there are some excellent hunting detergents on the market that eliminate this problem. 

The leading detergent is made by Dead Down Wind. Here is a 10 kit includes laundry detergent, personal soap, deodorant, odor killing field spray, lip balm, and more.  

hunting backpacks and accessories

6. Features – What are the essential parts? 

There are 4 essential features: 

  • Noise Free Fabric 
  • Weapon Stowage 
  • Water-Proof (or Rain Cover) 
  • Water Reservoir 

New features seem to be added with each new model. Many of those “bells and whistles” are nice to have, but these 4 are what we consider as essential for hunting backpacks. 

Nosie Free Fabric 

A noisy backpack can ruin your whole hunt. It may spook your game from ever coming near you or it may spook them as you grab something from your pack at the last second. Make sure that your backpack is made from whisper quiet fabrics. 

Weapon Stowage 

Choose a bag that has a stowage system for your weapon. This can be a built in boot or adjustable straps. This is useful when hiking into or moving around in your hunting zone, but it is absolutely necessary when hauling out your meat. This stowage should allow for both safe storage and easy access. 

Waterproof 

Almost all hunting backpacks are weather resistant, but not all are highly waterproof. Look for bags that boast of a high level of waterproof, gortex type protection. In addition, look for a backpack that comes with a customized rain cover. Even the best weatherproof bags may leak a little, so a rain cover is always a good added protection is the worst conditions. 

Water Reservoir  

Not everyone agrees on this point, but we think it’s an essential. Many bags come with a built in pouch to hold potable water. Sure, you can bring water in other containers as well. In fact, for most trips, you will have to. But this reserve is extremely convenient and can serve as your emergency stash.

ALPS OutdoorZ Commander + Pack Bag

hunting backpacks

Highlights: 

  • Weight: 7 lbs. 5 oz. 
  • Measurements: 41 x 16 x 13 inches 
  • Capacity – 5250 cubic inches 
  • Multiple adjustment straps 
  • Drinking Water Reservoir 
  • Rifle Stowage 
  • Whisper Quiet Fabric 

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

hunting backpacks

Highlights: 

  • Weight 5 lbs. 15 oz  
  • Measurements: 19 x 17 x 9 inches 
  • Capacity  2250 Cubic Inches  
  • Meat Shelf 
  • Variety of Color / Camo Patterns 
  • ThermoMold Suspension – Comfortable Snug Fit 
  • Excellent Weight Distribution 
  • Internal Frame 

REEBOW GEAR – Hunting Backpack – Large  

hunting backpacks

Highlights: 

  • Weight 6 lbs. 
  • Measurements: 20 x 13 x 11 inches 
  • Capacity  2500 Cubic Inches  
  • Weatherproof 
  • Quiet, Stealth Fabric 
  • Ventilated Padding 
  • Tactical Multiple Purpose 

Tenzing TC SP14 Hunters Backpack 

hunting backpacks 4

Highlights: 

  • Weight: 4 lbs. 
  • Measurements: 18.5 x 11 x 9 inches 
  • Capacity  1600 Cubic Inches  
  • Rifle / Crossbow Center Rest 
  • Quiet, Stealth Fabric 
  • Ventilated Padding 
  • Internal Frame 

AUMTISC Hunting Backpack Pack 

hunting backpacks

Highlights: 

  • Weight: 6 lbs. 1 oz. 
  • Measurements: 22 x 12.6 x 9 inches 
  • Capacity  2100 Cubic Inches  
  • Rifle / Crossbow Carry Straps 
  • Quiet, Stealth Fabric 
  • Ventilated Padding 
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