When heading out for a hunt, there are some absolute essentials you should bring along. And while you may have been hunting for years and never worried about some of these items, you just never know when a situation will arise and you need something you hadn’t packed. So, before listing out some suggested backpacks, it is important to start with the items you need to take along.
This is a basic list of what a hunter should consider taking with them:
- Compass or GPS and a fully-charged cellular phone
- Map of the area
- Water & thermos or canteen
- First aid kit
- Lighter & matches
- Flashlight & spare batteries
- Toilet paper or tissues
- Scent killer
- Flagging tape
- Folding saw
- Water purification tablets
- Cooking stove
- Cooking pot with lid
- Game bag
- Sleeping bag for cold weather
- Waterproof matches
- Tinder material
- Insect repellent
- Trash Bags
- Hand/dish soap
- Bright tape to mark trails
- Cooler for the ride home
And of course, with all of those items, you need a place to put them. But hunting backpacks are like footwear. You wouldn’t wear basketball sneakers to wade through knee-deep swamps any more than you would wear rubber boots to run a marathon. And, even with a backpack, it’s best to select the backpack that makes sense for the type of hunting.
When shopping for the best backpack for you, make sure to look for these things:
- Size – as the list above shows, it’s important to carry several emergency and convenience related items when hunting. So, make sure your pack can fit all of these items, and allows extra room for the unexpected.
- Zippers – make sure you select a bag with a high-quality zipper. You’ll likely be opening and closing your pack with gloved hands or when in a hurry, so make sure that zipper is designed to withstand some abuse.
- Fit – make sure the pack fits well and has adjustable shoulder and sternum straps.
Best hunting backpack materials
Each of these materials has different weight ratings. Denier is a metric used to describe what is essentially thickness or density. The higher the “D” weight rating, the more durable and heavier the fabric is. Keep in mind that the “D” rating not only provides more durability but also will add to the price and weight of the bag. 600D is very popular for most bags, however, some bags may feature various weights of fabric strategically placed for comfort and durability.
This list below is meant to educate you on the various materials in backpacks so you can better select the bag that is right for you.
Cordura – Cordura is known for its durability and resistance to tears, scuffs, and other abrasions. It is heavier and more rugged than nylon and is often used at the base of a backpack to help protect pack contents from the outside elements.
Cotton canvas – Cotton canvas is an affordable material that can be stretched without concern for damaging the material. This material is coated with a layer of waterproof wax, and when treated correctly, the canvas can last for a long time.
Nylon – Nylon is a popular material because it is flame retardant, and is often waterproofed. This is why you see nylon used for raincoats, windbreakers, ski and snowmobile suits, and swim suits. Nylon packs are now made with a PVC or polyurethane coating, or are treated with silicone. The treated material makes the backpack stronger and is what makes it water resistant. A waterproof pack will protect the content of your backpack on a wet day. However, a con to nylon is that if the bag gets wet inside, it will need to be properly dried out as nylon packs are more subject to mildewing.
Rip-stop nylon – Rip-stop nylon is manufactured with a grid pattern of durable threads sewn closely together. The woven pattern of the threads allow the fabric to stop a tear from growing. Light weight nylon is more likely to wear than pack cloth or Cordura. but with anti-rip fabric the nylon is still the more popular choice.
Polyester pack cloth – Polyester is not as strong as nylon nor rip-stop nylon material, but has a high resistance to ultra-violet degradation. Continuous exposure can cause cracking or disintegration of the material, so the UV resistance adds extra protection to the backpack.
Things to consider regarding material:
- Higher weight fabric is stronger
- Nylon is stronger than polyester
- 1050D Cordura is slightly weaker than normal 1050D nylon
- Canvas is not as strong against tearing and 400D nylon out-performs 12oz canvas
- Backing material makes a huge difference and the 600D that comes with PVC backing which is about 2.4 times stronger than the 600D fabric with PU backing.
Basic hunting backpacks under $100
These backpacks will look much like the backpack used for school. They traditionally feature adjustable shoulder and sternum straps, have one or two main compartments, are made out of varying weight materials, and come in a camouflage pattern. These packs are designed to hold basic gear and are easy to carry, leaving your hands free to navigate the terrain with your compass or GPS, or to hold your flashlight or firearm.
These field favorites range in price from $20-$60.
- The Horn Hunter Forky Daypack is a light-weight pack that is durable and comfortable with plenty of storage, and is available for less than $50. This pack is a great option for carrying a few items out into your favorite deer stand for that day’s hunt. Recommended for deer hunting.
- The Drake Waterfowl Daypack has EVA shoulder and sternum straps plus a waist strap, with padding in the back for a more comfortable fit. The pack has a hydration pouch, hydration tube pocket, two side mesh pockets, and space for two water bottles. With this pack you will easily be able to carry your daily supply of ammunition, snacks, water, and the recommended backpack essentials for your day of duck-hunting in the blind. Recommended for duck hunting.
- The Allen Remington Camo Hunting Daypack – Twin Mesa 1,853 cu retails for around $60 and is a great value. Perfect for elk hunting from spike camp to spike camp, it has 1,853 cubic inch capacity, five outside and mesh interior pockets, along with an integrated long gun transport system. Do not let this low price scare you off; it is built to carry for the long haul. It features a cool mesh lining to manage back-sweat along with thickly padded hip and shoulder straps. Recommended for elk hunting.
Advanced hunting backpacks – and for those with a bigger budget
For those looking for a more advanced bag, you will want to consider the amount of time spent on your feet. If you are stalking elk in the mountains, you will want something large enough to hold the supplies to get you through the day, but also sleek and sturdy enough not to be burdensome. Further, advanced bags will offer additional storage for larger items such as your spotting scopes, sleeping bags, hiking poles, and firearms. These bags may also have internal or external frames enabling you to carry large loads easily as you traverse various terrains. A key benefit of the frames on a pack is the ability to hike your trophy out from the kill spot.
These advanced bags often cost between $75 to several hundred dollars are favorites in the Best Hunting Backpacks Under 100. But for those on a budget, these price out at $100 (almost) or less.
- The Alps OutdoorZ Big Bear Pack is really two packs in one. The system features a waist belt pack and converts into a full-sized backpack. The waist belt comes in handy when leaving camp for the day to stalk your prey and when you only need to bring along a few necessities. Then, when you are ready to move camp or just need more room for your day gear, you can simply convert the pack for an incremental 1,900 cu. in. of space. The pack provides plenty of attachment points for loose items such as camera pocket, binoculars pocket, and turkey-call pocket clip to the harness for convenience and quick access. Additionally, this pack has a padded removable waistbelt with easy-access pocket comfortably distributes weight off your shoulders.
- The SOP G2 Day Pack retails for around $85 and offers 17 different compartments to store all of your necessities. Complete with gear grippers to secure your box or firearm, and gear straps with a drop-down shelf for added storage, this bag even includes a tree-stand strap making it very convenient for deer hunters. The back and shoulder straps are made from molded-foam to provide added comfort.
- At less than $90, the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Lite Hunting Pack Frame is a bare bones but versatile option. It gives the best value for an entry-level hunter looking for an advanced hunting backpack that can double as a hiking bag with expandability. If you are looking for a lightweight, comfortable hauling solution, the ALPS OutdoorZ has you covered with their Commander Lite Hunting Pack. It has a lightweight aluminum frame, but is extremely strong with an added padded waist belt and shoulder straps to ensures the pack stays level when traversing various terrains with heavy loads. The narrow profile allows for easier movement in tight spaces. The numerous lashing points allow for easy securing of bulky items and the mesh back panel allows for better ventilation
- The Fieldline Pro Timberhawk Big Basin Daypack, Realtree Xtra Camp is an economically priced back made out of polyester. The main compartment is spacious and offers four accessory pockets. Though the bag doesn’t include a reservoir, it is hydration compatible. This pack also features High-density breathable foam-padded back and shoulder straps for added comfort. Recommended for deer hunting.
- The ALPS OutdoorZ Pathfinder Hunting Pack is a hybrid pack, and provides the hunter with a great deer or day hunting pack, while loaded with additional features enabling you, the hunter, to go further in pursuit of your trophy. You can use this bag like a fanny pack to carry essential hunting items like calls and field dressing equipment. It is convertible, and can provide an additional 1,100 cubic inches of storage space. This pack is great for a firearm or archery hunter. The main features fit a wide variety of compound bows, and a lashing system to facilitate packing out your trophy. Total capacity is 2,700 cubic inches. Recommended for deer or elk hunting.
- The ALPS OutdoorZ Delta Waterfowl Backpack Blind Bag retails for just over $100, but it needed to make the list. This backpack comes in a camo pattern and has a self-standing bottom to keep the bag from toppling over. With this bag, you can carry all of your gear with the drop-down firearm boot, a hard sunglass case, shell loops, choke tube holders, and a water bottle pocket. Also, this bag is fully equipped with a stow-away game tote, removable LED light, and padded shoulder straps and waist belts. Recommended for duck hunting.