When I first hunted deer, choosing a pack was like picking a poison. External frames caught on tree limbs, and the only other choice was a schoolboy’s rucksack-less obtrusive but almost entirely lacking in support. Worse, canvas and Cordura nylon had such a hard finish that a deer could hear you coming the moment you stepped out of your car. Today’s hunter can choose among far more practical fabrics and designs. What you pick depends on what you carry and your style of hunting.
A roomy daypack is the solution for carrying climbing gear and coveralls to a tree stand, as well as survival gear, food, and extra clothing for when you leave the beaten trail. Daypacks come in two basic designs: the half pack, a low-profile design resembling two fanny packs stacked together with shoulder straps for greater support; and the taller backpack.
Generally, the more sedentary the style of hunting, the more room you need to haul heavy clothes. Soft packs are okay for light loads but tend to hinge in the middle. Packs with padded waist belts, sternum straps, and a built-in suspension system of metal, carbon, or plastic stays will hug body contours and better distribute the load if you carry more than 15 pounds of gear.
(A) PSE Archery Flex Foam Excursion Backpack
This large (2,632-cubic-inch) daypack is for serious backwoods hunters, with all the bells and whistles. $130; 800-477-7789; www.pse-archery.com
(B) Nimrod Spotter Daypack
The Spotter is a half pack with supporting shoulder straps and sternum strap. $198 for Polartec Wind Pro; $230 for wool; 800-646-7632; www.nimrodpacks.com
These are the simplest hunting packs, practical for back-forty still-hunters or trackers. If you day-hunt in the back-of-beyond and are secure in your survival skills, consider a large-capacity fanny such as the Badlands Monster, which has a suspension system that can handle bulkier loads. But regardless of design, step up to a daypack for more than 10 pounds of gear.
(C) Cabela’s Deluxe Whitetail Water-Bottle Fanny
It’s well designed, with a water-bottle pocket, roomy main compartment, comfortable waist belt, and lash straps for securing a jacket. $45; 800-237-4444; www.cabelas.com
(D) Badlands Monster
This extra-large (1,650-cubic-inch) fanny has a suspension bar that draws the load close to your back, where it rides most comfortably. It has shoulder straps and four accessory pockets. $119; 800-269-1875; www.badlandspacks.com