I’m a lifelong archery hunter from the Pacific Northwest and if you know anything about hunting West of the Cascades then you know that every fir bough you walk past contains what seems to be a gallon of water and every draw you cross has a sneaky mud pit just waiting to suck you in boots first. With such soggy terrain and the constant drizzle, I’ve learned to always be prepared by properly packing for every hunt, even a quick day trip. For me, other than killer rain gear and a fresh pair of socks, the most important thing to have is the right pack for my hunt so I always have the space for my extra gear and the comfort to maneuver through tricky terrain.
Consider all of the gadgets you carry around with you on a simple day hunt: your rangefinder, binos, GPS, radio, compass, water, knives - this only skims the surface of what you need for one day. Now consider everything else you need on top of that for a multiday hunt. A sleeping bag, clothes, food, cooking gear, the list goes on and on. Knowing what you intend to carry in your pack will help you determine the size and volume you’re going to need, but there are many other things to take into consideration. Are you hunting big game in the backcountry? Then you better make sure you have a pack with a sturdy frame so you can pack out your animal with ease (okay, maybe not with ease but you get my point.) Are you a fair weather hunter or do you plow through ice, rain, and snow like me? Better make sure that pack is waterproof! My motto is that everything about your hunt is relevant when picking a pack--even the comfort and fit matter.
Us ladies are the fastest growing demographic in the hunting industry. We have big companies like Tenzing and Eberlestock competing to design the best female-specific hunting pack for our needs. Being a woman, you tend to have narrow shoulders and wider waists than men. A female-specific pack takes your curves into consideration and offers a wider belt to sit more comfortably on your hips and narrower shoulder straps to properly distribute the weight of your pack. These elements are crucial when packing your game out. Take advantage of the latest female-specific pack designs when considering what hunting pack you need in order to get the best fit for your body type.
There is nothing worse than being on a day hunt with a bulky multi daypack when all you really need is a lightweight daypack with a compact frame and a simple amount of storage space. Trust me, I’ve used the wrong pack for a day hunt and it can really put a damper on what would normally be a fun, fast paced hunt. Last year my daypack, a Badlands Ultra Day, was in need of a decent cleaning before use, so I opted to throw all my gear into my multi daypack, a Badlands 2200. Almost immediately I regretted my decision. It was a quiet morning after a night of rain and my plan was to push a stand of timber with my hunting partner. Before we knew it, we jumped a herd of 20 elk, which then made a beeline for the neighboring patch of reprod. Normally, moving through the dense mess of reprod wouldn’t be an option, but we were on elk and we didn’t want to give up. So instead, we jumped in. Huge mistake. Vines and undergrowth snagged at the excess bulk of my larger pack, and the metal frame jutting up behind my head made it impossible to turn my head away from stray branches. It took me twice as long to move through the reprod then it normally would have with my daypack.
The 2200 is a unisex pack designed to carry loads and pack out meat so the added torso length and general size became an unnecessary and uncomfortable distraction on my day hunt. Now, even though my Ultra Day is a unisex pack, it’s light enough so that I don’t notice the wider waist belt and shoulder straps. Let’s be honest, toting around 30 lbs. in a daypack isn’t too big a deal for most women regardless of whether the pack is a unisex or female-specific, but when you’re carrying out 60+ lbs., a pack designed for your frame is more important than anything else on your hunt. A daypacks capacity can range from 30-50 liters while a multi daypack capacity can range anywhere from 60-80 litres so your hunt will dictate which volume of pack to purchase.
If you intend to hunt big game a significant distance from your truck or camp then you’ll need a pack with a frame for packing out your meat. That pack will also need a place for horns or your weapon to be strapped on during the trek out. Consider something along the lines of the Eberlestock Just One or Blue Widow pack. Both offer the proper capacity and storage ability you will need on a big game hunt. There are situations when it would be wise to take your bigger pack on a typical day hunt, most importantly when it is early season or during the warmer months. The benefit of having a larger pack with a sturdy frame is that you’ll be able to pack out your meat sooner and avoid spoiling the meat rather than taking the time to go back to your rig for pack boards.
If you find yourself going on short day hunts that stay within a 2-3 mile radius of your rig then you really have no need for a larger pack with a frame, but instead you can consider purchasing a day pack that has the proper capacity. If you hunt in fair weather then a smaller daypack will be a great option for you; you’re not carrying around excess weight and you only need the bare essentials when it comes to your gear. If you find that the weather generally is pretty miserable where you hunt then I suggest buying a daypack with a larger capacity, like the Badlands Superday Pack, so you can have room for extra gear but avoid the unnecessary frame.
After considering what you need out of a hunting pack, from the type of hunts you’ll go on to the amount of gear you’ll end up carrying, you should be able to identify the volume and size you’ll need - daypack or multi daypack - as well as the specific fit for your body type. Keep in mind, plenty of hunters have multiple packs in order to meet all of their hunting needs so you don’t necessarily need to narrow it down to one pack, but you do need to find the ones that fit you comfortably. The advances in female-specific hunting packs have the womans’ shape in mind so next time you’re out looking for gear, take the time to try the female designs and decide what feels best and if it meets all of your hunting needs.