The concept of a backpack is simple; you can carry more in a bag than you can in your arms and by putting the bag on your back your hands are free to do anything else. We reviewed the best hunting backpacks...backpacks that have gone way beyond a simple bag strapped to your back.
The best elk hunting packs have large water resistant bays for holding gear so you don’t miss a single bugle in the high country. The best deer hunting backpacks have organization to hold calls, ammo, water and snacks to wait out the peak of the rut 20ft up a tree. The very best bow hunting backpacks have built in quivers and single straps to shoot comfortable and confidently. Even the best day packs of today have a way to carry rifles and bows all day hands free. Every backpack has pros and cons and deciding on one depends on what you plan to do with it.
We’ve tracked down the best of the best and brought to you in depth reviews on these top bow, elk, deer and day packs to review what is available to the modern hunter.
10 Top Hunting Backpacks
Top Loading & Hold-Open Frame
Multi-day Elk Hunts
Bat Wing expandable design
The pack for hoarders who bring the sink
Lightweight high speed Hunts
Internal frame Top/Panel loader
Probably the best hunting pack ever made
Single Sling with built in quiver and bow holder
Best Pack for Bow hunting hands down
Panel-loading / Front-loading
For the hunter who buys one pack
Traditional front loader Backpack
Deer and Pronghorn hunts
Ultralight front Loader
Ultralight hunting and Stalking
Panel/Top loader with expandable pockets
Specialized Western Big Game hunter
Traditional front loader Backpack
The Ultimate tree stand backpack
Best Hunting Backpack Brands
Buy once, cry once, ‘nuff said. The further you venture from roads and into our nation’s wild places the more you need gear you can bet your life on. A backpack is not just a bag, it’s a means to carry vital lifesaving equipment and a way to get your hard earned meat out of the backcountry and onto your table.
The better your backpack the less you have to worry about your load shifting, your strap breaking or your pack not making it through the next hunt. Outdoor gear has never been better with advancements in materials and construction technology... this may be the one of the places you should splurge and spoil yourself.
Strongly consider buying from premium brands such as:
- Alps Outdoorz
Buy from premium outdoor brands....If you're on a budget, you can't afford to buy it twice!
Guide to Picking the Best Hunting Backpack
Consider what you plan on doing with your pack. Obviously a dead quiet, ultra-comfortable, iron tough and nearly invisible pack is what we’re after. Look for a design that you can live out of. This means proper organization for the gear you plan to take with you.
All of the best hunting backpacks will have a means of carrying your chosen weapon via a fold out boot for your rifle stock or designated strap for your bow cam. The further you plan on carrying your weapon the more important this can become; especially post hunt carrying meat from the back country when both hands are needed. Don’t underestimate the convenience of this feature. Most hunters use it getting in and out of tree stands. By having only one load to hoist up after climbing in you won’t tangle or swing your pack and rifle or bow against branches, or worse, drop it!
Any good hunting pack ought to be camouflaged. The best of the best hunting packs will come in several different patterns of camo and be made of appropriate materials. Large haulers made for western hunting will naturally be made of different materials than an ultralight backpack for archery hunting or stalking.
One of the final things to consider is water repellency, the best materials will at least be water resistant and the best will be lined and almost fully water proof. Water repellency can be an important safety feature in the back country or during winter where keeping a sleeping bag or outer layer dry can be the difference of a successful trophy and a rescue off the mountain. Even if you live in an arid region think about plans of travel or if you drop the pack into a lake or stream while crossing.
Size & Pockets
What do you plan on doing with the pack? A load hauler for setting up a spike camp in elk country will need to be big and durable whereas a high speed low drag day pack for slipping in and out of a tree stand at the peak of the rut will need to be light and trim. A few pockets here and there can make all the difference. Small pockets on the waist belt are the unsung heroes of a pack because they replace your pants pockets while you’re wearing your pack.
To determine the size of pack you need find ALL of your other gear for the biggest trip you plan on going and measure how much space you need. Add in 15-20% for carrying meat, winter gear, equipment such as scopes or sights, etc and shop for that size. Many hunters spring for a huge 4,500-5,000cu. In. pack and fill it with heavy gear they don’t need.
Fit and Adjustability
Hunters come in all shapes and sizes; so do packs. Gender specific, plus size and mini packs are available. Just like boots, the fit of the pack to your body is extremely important. If the pack doesn’t fit, everything from chafing to premature frame wear can occur on the pack.
The best hunting pack will have adjustable shoulder straps and waist belt. Sternum straps that move up and down the pack usually come standard and are needed to account for clothing and seasonal changes. Comfortable padding and ventilation is needed to stay scent free and fresh all day. Old style packs that make you sweat and don’t contour your body are a thing of the past. The best hunting pack is one that combines thick comfort with breathability.
Opt for a pack that fits over a bigger pack. All the extra weight you cram into the extra space will just make you that more miserable with an ill-fitting load.
Design and Materials
There are three main designs when shopping for your hunting backpack:
- Much like your book bag from middle school; lightweight and simple
- Great for day trips and times when you don't need to haul a ton of gear
- The choice of large gear haulers and external frame packs rugger and water resistance
- Cavernous and can be made extremely lightweight or bombproof rugged
- Good for organization freaks and people gone for multi day trips
- Great for carrying and accessing a large amount of gear quickly
The design can also be broken into internal and external frame designs. While old school external frames are still around this design is quickly being eclipsed by internal frames with plastic frame sheets and aluminum stays.
Look for high quality materials in the lightest forms that will work for your application. Typically, the lighter you make something the weaker it becomes so be weary of loading 80lbs+ into an ultralight hunting backpack and going for it.
Quality & Warranty
Be an absolute scrooge when inspecting workmanship on your equipment. Turn the pack inside out and check for internal stitching. Shake the pack, put it on and jump up and down. Fill it completely to the brim with water and see how much and where the water seeps out. Quality is everything from the face of the fabric, to the choice of zipper, to how the manufacturer sewed in the shoulder straps. Look for care and pride in the product.
Finally, buy from a well-known vetted company. If you purchase a cheap, imported bag cobbled together by a fly by the night company with little to no reputation don’t expect a good customer service department. When you decide on a pack, research the company and only buy a product with a full warranty. The best packs in the industry come with lifetime unconditional warranties. These companies that stand by their products will be around forever. Be wary of the companies with no warranty, if the people who made the pack won’t stand by it why would you wear it?
Hunting Backpack Reviews
Panel loader this pack is great looks, great feeling and a great buy. Organization and durability is the hallmark of this brand and probably best illustrated by this pack. Ridiculously strong the warranty alone is alluring and the company is known for supporting it. This pack is actually a remake of the most popular pack among western game guides and boy did they deliver. It’s huge, at 5,400 cu. In. there’s room for anything. It’s comfortable the air track suspension system designed for this pack carries weight like a champion.
The pack is made from a 900denier rip-stop DWR nylon that’s hard to cut with shears much less from using the pack. The polycarbonate frame is where the weight savings come from, it’s new age technology like this that set the pack apart from its competitors. Comes with a means to carry your bow or rifle and is fitted to hold a hydration bladder for hands free drinking. The padding breaths extremely well and the belts, straps and stitching is very, very well attached to everything else. I’m not sure you could break this pack. This backpack is the best hunting backpack for pursuing big game hands down.
Its legendary pedigree comes from a mountaineering approach to hunting big game in faraway places means it’s designed to keep the weight centered, stable and able to hold anything two legs could carry. The multiple specialized pockets in the hip belt and the main body are appreciated on long multi day treks out west and the whole pack just screams well thought out testing by people who use gear in real life.
Eberlestock M5 Team Elk Pack
Weighing in at around 6lbs this pack isn’t an ultralight; but it’s ultralight for what you’re getting. You’re getting a bet your life bombproof backpack specifically designed to chase big animals in remote places. With an impressive 3100 cu. In. of space surrounded by rugged heavy duty nylon I’m not sure you can load this thing with too much gear.
The pack shape reflects the goal, purpose driven hunting. One of the most well thought pockets on this pack is the electronics pocket sized big enough for a range finder, cell phone or whatever else you don’t want in the elements. The pocket is easy to get into and get things out of while protecting your gear. The zippers throughout show commitment to keeping the pack in one piece and the stitching was done right by someone who knew what they were doing.
The pack reflects the heritage of tactical bet your life backpacks Eberlestock is known for with great modularity and its ability to carry weapons on board. In fact, that didn’t exist until Eberlestock made it for snipers in the military to conceal their rifles.
The pack is big enough for multiple days of early elk season but also is rare among packs this large by feels just as good on the hips was a small day packs. The half dozen compression straps on the pack keep the load from shifting and keeps it compressed.
The pattern on this pack is great, unique to Eberlestock and blends right into the brush breaking up the outline and keeping you hidden. By far the most impressive part of the pack is the adjustability of the suspension. It will fit just about any normal sized man or woman. The frame is stout but not obtrusive and the padding feels like an expensive mattress.
If bomb proof, pass it on one day, love it forever is what you want it’s very hard to go wrong with Eberlestock.
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander-Freighter Frame Pack
The B-52 of packs this thing carries like a Mac truck and feels like a lazy boy recliner. Very popular with elk hunting out west this might be the best elk hunting backpack for the money. The materials of the pack are well selected and the pack itself is well thought out. The stitching is good and there is amble evidence of pride and workmanship. The pack it’s self is good to go.
Not too expensive and not cheaply made this pack includes everything a guy could want: fold out gear shelf, huge inner and outer pockets, rifle or bow carrier, rugger aluminum frame and comfy but not overdone hip belt and shoulder pads. Boasting 5250 cu. In. of space means you can carry anything worth carrying. The fold out shelf serves an important role that many other packs forget; the very best place for a heavy load is low and close to the hips and back to keep you stable. This pack is a dream carrying on uneven terrain.
Being one of the very best external frame hunting backpacks means that they did what others fell short of. Adding real, meaningful ways of adjusting the frame to match torso length and strap size. Surprisingly the pack is very quiet as well, no adverse squeaks or noises like you would expect from an external frame pack. The inside of the pack offers several ways to organize your gear including a fold out shelf for adding division and multiple zippers on both ends that allow for easy access of your load out. The elastic on the bib is stout and isn’t too short but not too long and the plastic buckles are sturdy and clasp shut with authority.
Tenzing TZ 1140
Serious archers know that what makes the best archery hunting backpack is completely different from what makes the best rifle hunting backpack. Streamlined pockets straps and balance become extremely important when you make the switch to primitive gear.
Tenzing, a brand known for new age design and modern materials, has hit a home run with this pack. The one strap design is perfect for archery because it frees up your shooting arm. The strap is designed as a quiver to hold your arrows. The pack also has a means for carrying your bow to go completely hands free during a long stalk out west or towing up a tree stand. This design is unique and it is very well executed.
The pack material is lightweight rip stop nylon throughout with meaningful reinforcement and durable straps. The whole pack pocket centers around 1,140 cu. In. of storage and carries everything the traditional archer or modern bow hunter would need for an all-day sit waiting out that spooky buck.
Tenzing do a great job explaining the features of this pack in this video:
The pack really needs to be used to be understood how well the design is. It’s looks are deceiving but the quality and pride in the product can’t be missed once it’s on your back.
Choosing the Best Hunting Backpack for You
A backpack is just as important, and personal, as your hunting boots and your weapon. What you ultimately choose is up to you and is going to be compromise upon a long list of factors. Choosing one of the packs on this list is a wise step to ensuring you’ll never have to worry about making a great buy.
The best hunting backpack has come a long way from just a bag. The best packs were reviewed and re-done over and over to produce the modern packs we have. Choosing your backpack is a decision best made not rushed or uninformed. Ultimately buy the backpack you really want and use it for what it was intended.
Get outdoors and hunt!