For more than 20 years I’ve sweated under a traditional hunting pack. While lumbar packs have long been available, the ones I’ve tried in the past have left me unimpressed. Over the summer and so far this season, I’ve been wearing a prototype version of the Browning Billy 1500 Lumbar Pack, and I have to say, I’m sold on this one.
Previous lumbar packs have hung too low off my lower back, almost pulling me backwards when loaded down. This new model marketed by Browning is different; it has a unique harness system that attaches to the front of the pack bag, allowing the wearer to cinch the pack’s weight up above the lower back, where it’s more comfortable and closer to the body’s center of gravity. During elk season, I wore the Billy on several long hikes and almost didn’t know it was there. Most convincing, it didn’t aggravate a damaged scalene muscle that generally plagues me when carrying heavy, over-the-shoulder packs.
I like my packs to be well-organized too, and the Billy has mesh pockets in both the main compartment and the pod-style front compartment. That gives OCD-inflicted hunters like me plenty of reassurance that they’ll be able to find a knife or candy bar quickly. There are also a couple of zippered pockets, including a waist-belt pocket that has a quiet-slide zipper.
My early version is a bit different than those that made it to market. Where mine has a roll-top opening, the designers decided to go with a traditional zippered top on market-ready models. That also reduces the capacity. Still, the 1,500 cubic inches should be enough for a day’s worth of hunting gear. I loaded mine with field-processing equipment (including game bags and a small saw), lunch, compact camera, and all those other usual little gadgets. After all that, I still had probably an hundred or more inches of room to spare.
Weight: 2.5 lb.
Dimensions: 15″ x 12″ x 16″
Features: Bomshell fabric, water-resistant, hydration-ready
The cinch strap on the Billy makes it the most comfortable lumbar pack I’ve tried. Lots of smartly designed pockets and compartments.
The cinch strap does overlap the main-compartment zipper, which mean you have to move it out of the way to gain access. It would benefit from a clip.
The Bottom Line
If you like the idea of a lumbar pack but have found that they all hang too low, this is the answer. Plus, it’s a solid, sturdy, well-thought-out pack that should last for years.