Experienced hunters who feel ready for the multi-day hunts need the best gear for excellent results. You can spend hours and days searching high and low for the best hunting backpack, or you can have the sure road by simply buying one of the best options within the category. ALPS OutdoorZ Commander is one of the backpacks where popularity speaks volumes and description becomes almost unnecessary. For all the hunters who still need the information, our review is right down below.
The ALPS OutdoorZ Commander in a nutshell
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander is an external frame backpack that will help you complete your multi-day hunts without worrying you don’t have the space for storing any of your gear. You will be able to stow everything you need for at least three days of hunting without worrying that you’re not going to be comfortable.
The backpack has all the features and build for a comfortable carry, and will last you for many years. You may want to pair it up with a day pack such as the ALPS OutdoorZ Dark Timber or the Pursuit pack.
The Commander’s Features in Detail
This is a light external frame backpack with lots of storage space. It has 5250 cu. in., it’s pretty big. It weighs 2 lb. 3 oz., which is a low amount of weight. It has:
- Rifle holder
- Top loader
- 2 pouches on a side
- One big pouch on the other side
- 2 big pouches on the front
- It has a hood open frame design
- Has #10 zippers
- Lower door access
- Middle horizontal divider. That’s a membrane in the main compartment that divides the upper space from the bottom area. You can still reach all the way down from the top, but you also have access from the bottom, through the front pouch.
On the top lid, opening up with a sturdy zipper, is a big front pouch, great for storing whatever you want to throw in it. One thing I liked right away were the zippers. They are solid, with no apparent intention to give way when you pull at them. They are also waterproof. One thing I don’t quite enjoy however is the flaps on the zippers tend to get in the way of the zip’s sliding and cause it to get stuck half-way. So you got to pay some attention when you do zipping and unzipping to keep those flaps out of the way. But apart from that, the zips flow pretty easily, and even though they feel a bit stiff in the beginning, they loosen up after a few runs.
Also on the top lid there are four attachment points for straps if you want to attach a sleeping bag or a tent.
The top loading area – one thing to make clear right away here is, there’s a metal frame that goes through the front side of the opening, that’s not immediately noticeable from product images, and that some people may find limiting because it creates a rectangular opening, and everything you put into storage will have to be sized to fit through this space. But I can see a reason behind the metal frame, in that it holds the pack in shape and prevents it from getting too bulky and unbalanced.
On the back of the Commander there’s the external frame. It has a good solid handle clipped to the top bar together with the shoulder straps. There are more holes on the bar to the left and right, so you can move the clips and the shoulder straps farther or closer together, to fit the width of your shoulders. The shoulder straps are also vertically adjustable, and there’s a sternum strap in-between them, that’s also adjustable. All in all, there’s a good amount of adjustability in the back of this pack.
The shoulder straps have good thick padding. The padding is even thicker on the belt around the waist, with a nice generous cushion in the lumbar area. A cool (literally) feature is the mesh back that keeps the backpack suspended at a distance from your back, allowing it to breathe and stay dry. You will appreciate that feature when hauling game out of the woods.
The top front pouch is large enough to fit a cooking pot. The bottom pouch is rather
huge, and also has larger zippers and pulls. Inside this pouch there’s a way to reach with your hand inside the bottom area of the main compartment. The pouch itself is big and can fit a lot of your stuff.
At the very bottom you have the shelf that pulls up and down. It can hold a sleeping bag or a tent, but also a sack of meat. You’ll have to strap it in to keep it in place, but that’s a spot specifically made for carrying extra loads.
A strong selling point for the Commander, besides its large size, is the rifle carrying system. You push down the rifle from the top, and behind the two side pockets on the right hand side of the pack. The butt of the gun fits and straps in a pull-down bucket or boot that you can put away if you’re not using it. Having this gun holding system is a great feature for me, because when I’m out there hunting, I find it a big deal to be free from carrying the gun on my shoulder the whole time. If I can leave it in my backpack and don’t have to hold it, that’s awesome for me.
On the left hand side, there’s a big vertical pocket. This can fit a number of tall things like a tripod, or a trekking pole, or a machete. These objects can stick out from the pocket at the top, that’s no problem. It is a significantly decent size pocket, very helpful with the long objects.
The Pros and Cons
The Commander brings so many great things to the table:
- It’s great for multi-day hunts
- The pack is detachable for versatility
- It comes with freighter shelf
- It’s tough, yet lightweight and easy to carry when fully loaded
- It provides effective storage space to your essentials
- It comes with spin-drift collar top, several exterior pockets and lashing loops
- If features drop down rifle holder
- It comes with spotting scope pocket
- The shoulder straps and sternum straps are padded and easy to adjust
- The hip belt is adjustable, padded, and allows more attachment options
- It’s hydration compatible
- It’s great value
Bells and whistles aside, the backpack comes with minor flaws:
- The suspension could be better
- It’s not very quiet
- The buckles could be more rugged
Overall, I find the Commander to be a good quality backpack, with features designed to be actually useful and not so much fancy, and with lots of storage space. The other good part about it is the price, which was around $140 when I ordered it, but may differ now. Current pricing is available here. There is also a new camo Commander model some of you may be interested in.