How to Choose a Hunting Backpack – A Comprehensive Guide

Selecting a proper backpack for your hunting trips, especially when you’re a beginner, is challenging, tiring, and even overwhelming. You can’t take all the backpacks for a spin; plus, some aspects will reveal themselves only when you’re hunting.

You need to take a look at specific aspects of your backpack, as they count toward the overall value, functionality, or comfort. Sometimes, the best hunting backpack out there isn’t for you; and it could be because your torso is long and the pack doesn’t come with an adjustable torso length. Confused? Keep reading to eliminate all your concerns.

What to look for in a hunting backpack?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that factors such as durability or comfort are essential for a hunting backpack. But these are general aspects, as many features count for your level of comfort or durability. Plus, comfort is also personal, but some specific characteristics will make some backpacks more comfortable than others- on paper, at least.

Proper volume, organization, compression systems, and similar- we will look at all aspects that give value to a hunting backpack!

Comfort

Carrying 75lbs of meat on your back isn’t easy, and you don’t want to realize that the pack is uncomfortable after 10,000 feet.

A rigid and robust vertical frame will count for your comfort. The frame should transfer the weight to the belt as it raises the shoulder harness off the shoulders. Also, the hip belt shouldn’t cause chaffing, and it shouldn’t slip either.

Sadly, you won’t figure out if the pack is comfortable (or uncomfortable) until you go over the 80 lbs mark. Most backpacks will be uncomfortable through the hip belt slip.

Many adjustments on the straps, Padded shoulder straps, and breathable fabric in the back will also count for comfort. Simultaneously, you may handle discomfort better than your hunter friend; the two hunters may have different takes on the same backpack in terms of comfort.

Durability

Unlike comfort, durability is easier to notice on a hunting backpack. A backpack that has double or even triple stitches, tough buckles, and reinforcement in stress points will take a beat, for sure.

Don’t forget to check the zippers on your hunting backpack; not only that you want rugged zippers, but they should also be self-healing and robust.

Volume, weight & organization

Volume is something you will need; weight should come first; the organization also depends on you.

Volume

A hunting backpack should be as big or small as you need it to be. Generally speaking, you should buy a hunting backpack according to the length of your hunting trip:

  • 1-3 days: 3,000 to 4,000ci
  • 3-7 days: 4,000 to 5,000 ci
  • 7-10 days: 5,000 to 6,000 ci.

Again, your level of experience as a hunter will count for the size; many experienced hunters pack light and use smaller packs for day hunts. If you care more for comfort or carry bulky gear, you may want to go with a more oversized backpack, even for a day hunt.

Weight

When it comes to weight, the fabric doesn’t matter much. A 4,800ci backpack is only 2-3 oz lighter than a 6,000ci. Other features, such as frames, buckles, padding, or zippers and pockets, will add weight to the backpack. Edge binding, extra seams, or dual layers of fabric are excellent for comfort and durability, but they also render the pack heavier.

The rule of thumb is to use a large backpack that fits your gear and not a small pack;  you don’t want to cram all in on the way.

Always choose the lighter backpack as a heavy backpack will slow you down. You won’t gain elevation, cover the miles while searching for your game, and tire you too. Remember that you will carry the backpack while hunting nine times out of ten.

Organization

It all depends on the hunter how well the gear is organized inside and outside the backpack.

The more pockets the backpack, the better you will organize your gear; however, your pack will also become heavier. Too many compartments can get you confused, so it’s better to look for a backpack with just one or two security pockets; it will be easier to find your gear in the dark or cold.

Look for a backpack with a large storage area separated from the pack. Also, it’s not a bad idea to learn how to pack your hunting gear perfectly.

Pocket Styles

Pockets relate to the organization, and some hunters will be more organized than others, that’s for sure. Mesh face pockets are widely used, and so are the compartments for water bottles. When the pockets are not enough, there are always extensions, pouches and accessories that you can attach to your pack via webbing.

Fabrics and Materials

Water resistance, resistance to puncture, and abrasion, along with the noise level, are essential for the value of the backpack.

Cordura nylon, microfleece, or nylon packcloth are commonly used on hunting backpacks. Spectra X-Grid or X-Pac laminate is high-tech fabrics used on a lesser number of hunting packs.

Fleece fabrics

Fleece-faced fabrics are quiet but don’t resist puncturing or tearing very well; they lack water resistance and collect burrs. Hunting backpacks of these materials typically include a rain cover for protection on a rainy day.

Cordura & pack cloths

These are affordable and easy to sew materials with medium water resistance. They’re also relatively quiet and robust. Various treatments for water protection can be used on Cordura.

The weave of the fabric and denier will give the resistance to abrasion. Materials with the effective coating will even handle some mild rains, but you still have to use a rain cover.

High tech fabrics

Prestigious manufacturers use proprietary materials for the hunting backpacks, rending the bags strong and even waterproof. Badland uses KXO-32 or KXO-50 for its packs; the material is very tough and waterproof. Whatever the final choice, keep in mind that high-tech materials will be more expensive, so check your wallet before buying.

Adjustable Frame Height

If the frame of your backpack is too short, the pack will hurt after some time. The pack frame should be at a low ear level (or higher) for comfortable carry.

There are many disputes about frame length too. A tall frame will carry heavy loads more efficiently, but it will restrict the head movement and even snag branches that overhang. On the other hand, short frames are sleek and silent, but you will have to carry the weight on your shoulders and not on your hips.

Adjustable frame heights are the best next thing for hunting backpacks. You will only figure out which frame height works for you by trying different sizes. Your body type and height will affect the frame height that feels comfortable for you.

Hunters with torso length from 17 to 19″ will find a 24″ tall frame reliable for loads under 40lbs; a 28″ frame is better for loads over 80lbs.

Having the possibility to adjust the frame height is incredibly valuable, as you can have the best backpack at all times.

Compression System

The compression system of the hunting backpack should do three main things:

  • Compress the empty backpack while you day hunt or carry a small load
  • Securely keep all your gear in place.
  • Secure loads of meat without the meat coming out from the compression system.

Six-sided compression straps with two bottom straps and one over the top should do it in most situations. If some of the straps are removable, that’s even better; you win versatility. Look for hunting backpacks with lightweight adjustable compression systems that let you move the straps according to your needs.

Loading style

Have you ever been in the situation when you carried a top-loading backpack, and you needed an item right on the bottom? How much time (and mental energy) have you lost by trying to get to it?

There are two main styles of backpacks when it comes to loading:

Top loading

Most backpacks with internal frames are top-loading. The style will keep the equipment against your body, producing increased support; too many pockets will lead to weight pulling away from your body.

For long-distance backpacks, the top-down style is widely spread today.

Front Loading

A hunting backpack with front-loading provides effortless access to your gear, which explains the style’s popularity. These backpacks also come with several pockets and ensure the efficient organization of your equipment.

However, it would help if you avoided the front-loading backpack for long-distance hunting; it won’t stay comfortably on your hips, and the weight may lean back away from you.

Internal/external frame

When you look for a hunting backpack, remember that the pack’s frame should enhance your comfort and not become a burden.

Internal frame

The internal frameworks a secondary spine, helping you carry your load a lot more comfortably. Many day or 3-day backpacks come with an inner frame.

External frame

If your hunting trip spans over a couple of days, you should go with a backpack with an external frame. It will provide you enough space for your gear and offer hauling meat options after you get your game. Some backpacks have incredible versatility, allowing you to take away the pack from the frame for some short day hunts.

Load Shelves & Breakaway Carry

“Load shelf” refers to the possibility to separate the backpack from the suspension and carry meat between the two. Some use the expression “breakaway carry” too, and the features have many benefits:

  • It doesn’t get the pack covered in blood.
  • You may strip the backpack and turn the frame into a freighter for carrying a chainsaw, quarters.
  • The meat is heavy and dense, so it moves the center of gravity; the breakaway carry will place the load to the back, and you may even set the height for some ladder load shelves.

There are some downsides too for this kind of ability:

  • There will be more fabric and connection points, which adds weight to the backpack.
  • With more fabric being used and more points, the price will get higher too.

Weapon Carry

Again, it’s one of those features that relate to one’s personal preference. All hunters have a take on it, and none of them is right or wrong.

You may carry the bow in hand or strapped to the face/side of the backpack. A traditional bow is rather long and challenging to strap to your pack unless it’s a takedown model.

When it comes to rifles, you may carry them in many ways:

  • Strapped to the pack’s front
  • Slung over the pack frame
  • Slung over the shoulder with the keeper on pack
  • Butt in a side pocket/compressed
  • In hand and so on

Some hunting backpacks come with PALS loops on the belt, while some gatekeeper compression straps can compress a rifle to the pack’s side/face. It would help if you always hunted with your rifle/gun/bow/crossbow packed somehow and not carry it in your hands for safety reasons.

Type of hunting

You need to know which sort of hunter you are.

  • Do you like to move from stand to stand? If so, you should go for a small backpack that provides mobility while passing over rough terrain.
  • Do you hunt from a blind or stand? You can go with a large model when hunting from a blind because you don’t need to carry it up to the hunting position.

Price

The market is very generous today, so you can find dependable backpacks for hunting for $50 or less. Numerous aspects will count for the price and value of your backpack. Quality of material, features for comfort, type of zippers and frame (frameless are typically cheaper than packs with external frame), resistance to abrasion or water are some of the characteristics that explain why some backpacks go high as $500 and up.

You know how important hunting is to you and how much money you want to spend on it.

How to choose a hunting backpack with a frame

hunting backpack with frame

There two main types of hunting backpacks to choose from when it comes to frames: packs with internal frames and models with an external frame. If you don’t know which type will suit you, here are some differences between the two types- it will help you decide:

Variety

Most models with frames are backpacks with an internal frame. You will have numerous options for packs with an inner frame and fewer (by far) options with an external frame. If the innovation factor also counts for you, we should remind you that most innovative designs are internal frames.

Support

Backpacks with an external frame will transfer the load to the hips, enhancing your comfort while walking, but they will also affect your mobility if you want to move fast.

Backpacks with internal frames give stability, and the best models come with suspension systems that take the load to your hips too.

Weight

The thick frame of the external packs will make them heavier; only some are made with ultralight and strong frames. Needless to say, internal frames are lighter, and you may find light and ultralight options.

Fit

You won’t find many external frames with adjustable suspension systems, which is why you should try the backpack with an outer frame before you buy it.

Models with internal frames often come with adjustable suspension for best fit, so it’s easier to find one for your body shape and torso length.

Storage&organization

A 50-liter external frame pack will store the same gear inside like a 50-liter internal frame model. The difference is that you may also lash on the heavy and bulky items on the external frame pieces of the pack.

As for organization, the packs with external frames typically come with numerous outer pockets and have a top-loading design for the main compartments. Internal frame packs vary greatly, from ultralight models with few pockets to high-end models with multiple pockets. Top-loading but also zippers on the side are common styles for backpacks with internal frames.

Cooling

There’s a big gap between the frame and the backpack, which leads to efficient airflow across your back. Great internal frame models feature ventilation channels for better breathability too.

Aesthetics

There’s a retro feel on the backpacks with external frames, which many hunters and outdoor enthusiasts appreciate. Others go for the sleek and modern appearance of internal models- it’s a matter of personal choice.

Price

You may think that external backpacks are more expensive than internal counterparts; the prices are similar nowadays, though. If you can’t decide which type of style you want, price is rarely a good criterion- you will find incredible models for the same price. Instead, it’s the internal backpacks that rock the most innovative technologies, so you may find that it’s the internal frames that dominate the high-end category, after all.

How to choose a hunting backpack with a rifle holder

If you like to shoot a rifle to take your game or you’re a big fan of bowhunting, a good hunting backpack can make the difference.

The hunting backpack with a rifle holder allows you to keep the rifle most safely so that you may comfortably hunt and have free hands at all times. When you go hunting, you need a lot of gear and space for storing it and carry the meat after you get your shot.

Size & organization

A large-sized backpack is an ideal choice for a day or overnight hunting trip. It should come with a generous front pocket, the main compartment, and an organizational pocket on the front. A quiver to hold the rifle or bows on the side for effortless access is also preferable. A backpack of this sort is reliable for hunting all types of game, deer, elk, duck, and so on.

Style

A “raintree” camouflage design will be nice looking and functional, helping you blend into your surroundings. A backpack with an internal frame is the best choice. As for fabric, you want a material that takes the elements and tear and abrasion very well.

Look for backpacks with padded back and waist belts for superior comfort, stability, and effective weight distribution.

How to choose a hunting backpack with a bow holder

how to choose bow hunting backpack

If you’re a bowhunter, you need to use a backpack specially conceived for bow hunting because they provide a secure carry of the bows and arrows while you’re hunting. Best backpacks for bow hunting will also offer the proper storage space for your gear and even come with meat pockets.

Features

The backpack for bow hunting should firmly secure the bow in place with a fitting bow pocket placed on the inside or with the lashing straps on the backpack’s exterior. A good pack will also provide flexible adjustments and take all sorts of bows.

It’s also important that the backpack features a compartment to secure the arrows safely. The bow holder and the quiver storage compartments should always be easy to access. Never buy a bag that forces you to take it off to access the bow or the arrows.

Since you will carry a lot of weight inside, you should buy a backpack with a waist belt; it’s essential for comfort and weight distribution.

Materials

The backpack with a bow holder has to be made with long-lasting materials. Hypalon and Aramid are some of the most durable materials, helping the backpack handle massive loads of weight. The material for contrasting should have water resistance.

Meat pocket

No good hunter goes hunting thinking that he’s going to come back home empty-handed. Look for a backpack with enough space to haul your meat; meat pockets are ideal. These pockets ensure adequate ventilation so that the meat doesn’t spoil until you get home.

A reliable pack for bow hunting comes with fold-away pockets so that you may win space when unfolding them. 30-40liters packs are perfect for short hunting trips, and bigger than 40 liters will be suitable for trips longer than three days.

How to choose a hunting backpack with a water bladder

It’s a matter of personal choice if you want a backpack with a water bladder or one that has side pockets to hold your water bottles. A backpack with a water bladder makes sense when you know you will hunt in areas with drinkable water so that you can quickly fill the bladder when empty.

Best hunting backpacks are hydration compatible, even if they don’t come with water bladders. The water bladder is a specially created pocket holding a 1-3-liter water pouch, such as a hydration pouch or Camelbak.

When you want a hunting backpack with a water bladder, you should pay attention to all aspects of any other type of backpack. Durability, comfort, style, type of hunting, necessities are also essentials; all the various elements we’ve already covered.

The most crucial aspect to consider when selecting a backpack with a water bladder is to ensure that the hydration pouch lets you remove and replace the water pouch without disturbing the rest of your gear. You want to easily access the water bladder and the port without worrying about losing or getting your gear wet.

How to choose a small hunting backpack

What is a small hunting backpack? What’s considered the be a big hunting backpack? Is it the size or the capacity rending a hunting backpack to be small or big?

What is a small hunting backpack?

Cubic inches are the factor to check when it comes to your backpack’s size; look for small hunting backpacks for day hunts and get the bigger models for trips longer than three days.

A 2,000 cubic inches backpack is considered small; you can find bigger models that compress to a smaller size, providing superior versatility.

The rule of thumb for selecting your hunting backpack’s proper size is that 1,000 cubic inches per day. If you go for a 3-5-day hunting trip, a pack ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 cubic inches should be perfect.

How do you select a small hunting backpack?

Small hunting backpacks are conceived for short hunting trips, so they’re not typically made for carrying heavy loads. Most models will be lightweight or ultralight, made with breathable materials. They provide little storage options (a main compartment and pockets on the side) as you’re not traveling for many days.

The small backpack should fit your necessities and type of hunting. Get a waterproof model if you will go in wet areas, and pick one with features for attaching your gear if that’s what you need.

Just because a backpack is small doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be durable. Pay attention to the stitching, materials, zippers- the last thing you want is to have broken zippers or seams tearing in the middle of your hunt.

How to choose a silent/quiet hunting backpack

The most important aspect of making a hunting backpack silent or not is the fabric and materials it’s made of. Some materials are more silent than others, so you should check them before placing your order. Cordura nylon, fleece/microfleece, nylon ripstop, and high-tech fabrics (KXO-32, X-PAC, or Spectra X-Grid) make common materials for hunting backpacks.

Fleece-faced fabrics are very quiet, so get a backpack made with fleece if being quiet is fundamental for you. However, fleece has poor resistance to puncture and tear; water resistance is also flawed. You will need a rain cover, so you have to check how quiet the rain cover is as well.

If you’re looking for a moderate fabric on your backpack, Cordura and pack cloth is also a good choice. These fabrics are affordable and have pretty good water resistance; some are treated for increased resistance. Denier and weave of the material affect how resistant the fabrics are to abrasion and tear. You may have to use a rain cover.

High-tech fabrics stand out because they’re waterproof but may not be as quiet as you’d want.

The zippers on the backpack will also influence the level of noise of the pack. YKK zippers are both silent and brutal, and the zippers’ soft coverings will help with noise levels. Don’t forget to check the buckles too- strong, yet not noisy.

How to choose a deer hunting backpack

If you go for deer hunting, you expect to make a shoot; you will have to carry the meat back to the camp/home so that a strong backpack will be of great use. Here are some aspects to check when picking your pack for deer hunting.

Ability to haul heavy loads

Your hunting backpack should carry a hefty load, which is over 100 pounds. A big deer quarter and some gear will weigh that much. A pack with an external frame will be able to carry that kind of load most of the time.

Capacity & organization

The hunting backpack should also provide enough gear to sleep overnight. You should be able to pack a sleeping bag, cook gear, tent, and hunting gear too. The backpack should come with several pockets for efficient organization of items; easy access to your essentials (knives, water, or game bags) is also essential.

A backpack with a modular system that takes a small or large pack on a single frame is ideal.

Fit

Best hunting backpacks have adjustable torso lengths so that you can modify them according to your needs at a time. No hunting backpack is good if it doesn’t fit right or causes chafing and discomfort.

Daypack

When you go hunting for deer, you will spend a couple of days out there. You should also pack a small daypack, regardless if you use horses or ATV to move.

How to choose a duck hunting backpack

Even if the waterproof build is the most important feature on a backpack for ducks, some other aspects will also differ.

A good duck hunting pack will allow you to haul gear and decoys in the field. It should come with a detachable mesh decoy bag too.

Look for a backpack with numerous pockets and compartments for superior organization and storage. Comfortable carry shouldn’t miss; the pack has to come with padded shoulder straps, chest straps, and waist belts.

Ideally, a backpack for duck hunting comes with weatherproof bottom for the wet boat bottoms and muddy marsh. A dense EVA molded bottom will ensure a free-stand for the pack too.

Your hunting backpack should also come with detachable carrier loops and fast release metal hook. The plastic clips on the decoy bag have to be strong and able to take the weight.

You only need one main compartment for the pack to store your gear; outer pockets for holding calls, spare shells, extra decoy rig pieces, and similar are necessary.

No matter the features and waterproof build, a good hunting backpack for ducks should also fit comfortably, so check the fit too.

How to choose a dove hunting backpack

When you go hunting for doves, the camouflaging ability is essential. Your hunting backpack should be one with forest and nature, and most backpacks for dove hunting are black dark green, or camo.

A day pack with one main compartment and pockets for easy access to your gear and ammo is ideal; features for comfort (padded shoulder straps) and durability are also important. Light and ultralight models made with durable materials are dependable for dove hunting.

The material used on the dove hunting backpack is the main criteria to select a good bag. Prestigious brands use proprietary fabrics (KXO-50 is one) that present an approach camo. It’s a neutral color palette specially created to adjust to the surroundings and current lighting conditions. Even if the light changes, you will remain hidden from your small game, improving your chance for a shot.

How to choose a drake hunting backpack

If you’re going drake hunting, you want a tough and durable backpack, more than anything else.

Material & technology

Reputed manufacturers use proprietary technologies that provide excellent resistance against wet and harsh environments. A membrane working as a waterproof force against moisture is typical. Seam tape and an exterior water-repellent finish to the backpack is also essential.

Heavy-duty fibers and waterproof laminate will make your drake hunting backpack handle the toughest challenges in wet weather. Also, the tough fabric should be highly resilient yet easy to take care of.

Waterproof and breathable fabric in combination with highly breathable fleece is used in backpacks for drake hunting. Fleece is moisture-wicking and breathable and reduces the risk of moisture buildup, keeping your gear dry.

Fit & features

Your drake hunting backpack should also be easy to carry and have features for superior comfort. Waist and chest straps with EVA shoulder straps are good features.

The backpack for drake hunting should come with storage pockets (more than 10), zippered side pockets, and shell loops on the front (12 should do it).

How to choose an elk hunting backpack

Elk hunting is a challenging activity; you will have to scale rugged terrain, so you should be in your top physical condition. Elk hunts may span through several days, and you may have to carry more gear than when deer hunting.

Therefore, you will need a large yet lightweight backpack for elk hunting. Some models even come with built-in refrigeration meat compartments.

The backpack should also feature advanced load lifters and a proper balance for all the weight you carry for days. It would help if you never sacrificed comfort; ideally, you will bring even more weight after taking that shot.

Look for packs with good organization and even features like rifles or bow holders. It would help if you had your hands accessible as you’re climbing and walking.

An effective suspension system, durable material, and features for comfort are also important.

How to choose a pheasant hunting backpack

Silent and blending material is fundamental on your backpack when pheasant hunting; other aspects will matter as well.

A reliable model will have a low-profile sternum strap for comfortable snug, hip harness (with pockets!), and straps with tactical webbing. Tactical webbing is essential because you need to have the whistle, transmitter, and other small essentials very easy to reach. The backpack should also come with shell compartments (three is a good number) and hidden pockets for dog treats. Don’t forget about bellow pockets and zipper mesh pockets.

You want easy and fast access to your gear, so search backpacks with a magnet and squeeze closure. Hydration bladder compatible with tube routing is also a feature to have. Suitable packs also come with an inner “sock” for the longer items and a “stuff it” pocket for fast access to your jacket. Don’t forget to make sure that the backpack comes with side loading game bag.

Adjustability is life, so go with a backpack with adjustable torso length, comfortable shoulder straps, and perfect fit at any moment.

How to choose a coyote hunting backpack

When you go coyote hunting, a spacious backpack to store your gear is the best choice. It should also come with well-placed pockets so that you stay focus when putting gear back inside. Comfortable carry is always a must, so spend some time before placing your order.

Ability to carry heavy loads

A good backpack for coyote hunting will let you carry a big load without forcing your back or shoulders. Durable build and materials also matter, so look for bags with double/triple stitching, reinforcements in the high-stress points, and materials with resistance to puncture, water, and tear.

Padding on the shoulder straps and back panel will make the backpack more comfortable, whereas adjustability will ease out the effort for carrying the bag.

Sound and movement

It’s vital to stay as quiet as a mouse when you hunt coyotes; not all backpacks will help you remain silent. Some materials (scroll up for the section on soft materials) and features will make the backpack silent or not.

Organization

Two compartments will be enough for a good coyote hunting backpack, and exterior pockets with easy access to essentials are also valuable. Make sure that at least one, if not all, compartment of the pack is waterproof.