How to Turn an Old Backpack into a Stand and Gear Hauler

Early season tree stand hunting for whitetails brings many things to take care of, and being mobile while hunting is one of them. If you’re able to react fast to the always-changing travel patterns of the bucks, position of waterholes and hot food resources, your chance to get that shot increases significantly.

There are many things to try for improving your efficiency and mobility, but none of them is as efficient as carrying the whole gear arsenal (stand, backpack, bow, and climbing system) with you all the time. You will need a specialized pack for that kind of performance, one that may also hold the hang-on tree stand, a loaded backpack, four climbing sticks, and your bow. Finding a pack that does it all is difficult, especially when your money is tight.

If you’re the handy and DIY type of hunter, you will need some skills and patience to build a customized backpack that fits all your needs for tree stand hunting. Frankly, making such a backpack isn’t very complicated, and it’s definitely not expensive.

When it comes to public bow hunting, many things will be challenging to obtain. Often, success comes from paying attention to stand entrance and exit methods, which usually takes to more complex and longer routes. When you add a custom and versatile tree stand pack to your hunting equipment, you will be able to move faster and easier and obtain success sooner than in the past.

Without any further ado, here are the steps to take for making your “new” backpack/gear hauler:

1.      Look for an old backpack

For this sort of project, a backpack with an external aluminum frame makes the best choice. You should be able to find one for a bargain price at a garage sale or online sites if you don’t have an old one forgotten in the attic. Hunting style, freighter style backpacks are also perfect; it should be a backpack with a comfortable hip area and padded shoulder straps. You will carry heavy loads with it, so you shouldn’t skip on the comfort aspect.

2.      Strip the backpack down to the frame

You have to remove the bag if the old frame has one; you will only use the frame for your project. If the frame comes with some meat shelf, you should remove that too. If you plan to haul deer quarters with the new gear hauler, you could leave it.

3.      Gather your tools

For this project, you will also need 14 ft of 1-inch nylon webbing (don’t be cheap and buy the good kind), 26 aluminum rivets with 52 aluminum washers, six 1-inch quick release buckles. You will also need a butane lighter and a rivet tool. You should pay less than $35 for all of the supplies and tools.

4.      Prepare the straps

You may begin building by cutting the nylon webbing into seven 2-foot parts; use the lighter to burnish the ends so that they don’t fray.

5.      Make straps and buckles

You will have to attach the stand to the right and left side of the frame, but you will need buckles and two straps for that. You will also have to add straps and buckles for attaching climbing sticks. Continue installing a top-center strap with buckle to secure the loaded pack; add two straps close to midway down the frame, on both sides. These straps will help you stabilize the load horizontally.

You have to use two rivets for attaching the straps and rivets also for attaching the quick-release buckles.

The most challenging part of this phase is the pre-drilling, making the holes in the thick webbing; a heated bodkin will help you do a better job melting holes for the rivets.

6.      Make the rivet holes

While you’re making the rivets’ holes, you can use paper clips to stabilize the nylon webbing. Take your time because you will need to go with the bodkin tip through the lighter’s flame a couple of times until it’s hot enough to make a hole in the thick webbing.

You will also have to use the clips to keep the straps in place while you’re making holes to take the rivets later.

For a durable and robust bond, look for two aluminum washers (front and back) with the rivet. It will be tighter that way.

Truth be told, it’s rather tricky and time-consuming to make the holes with the heated bodkin, so if you have a wood-burning tool or a hobby welder, don’t hesitate to use it. You will work a lot faster because it burns holes through the nylon webbing very fast.

7.      You’re almost done

It would help if you didn’t hurry when burning the holes for the rivets. Take your time when attaching the webbing straps with rivets.

Keep in mind that the last set of straps should be connected close to the midway down of your frame; there should be a two-foot strap on every side, and a quick-release buckle for every connection.

8.      You’re done!

The new backpack/gear hauler will hold a stand, four climbing sticks, and a wholly loaded day pack. The only thing to do now is to put it on, grab your bow, and head on to your hunting spot.