Hunting is a gear intensive sport. You have to carry a lot of stuff, especially on a multiday hunt into the backcountry. To do that and carry out a dead animal you’ll need a serious hunting pack. The market has dozens of manufacturers and tons of different models that can be hard to judge and choose the best hunting packs that is going to serve you well.
This is a few offerings from the market that is loved by the masses and used for heavy gear hauling while chasing animals in the backcountry.
A hunting pack is an intensely personal item and next to your weapon will likely be one of the most expensive item you buy to go hunting. If you think you might be in the market for a new one, you’re in luck.
The technologies being applied in fabrics, stitching and design is incredible and I’ll blow away the uninformed just how great packs have gotten in just a few short years. Companies like Kelty, Badlands and Alps make excellent packs that will serve you well and it’s hard to get a lemon or a bad design these days.
Top 5 Best Hunting Backpacks - Comparison Table
2200 cu in.
5250 cu in.
2300 or 4600 cu in.
3000 cu in.
3000 cu in.
What Makes a Pack a Pack?
For the sake of this line up were making a pack a backpack made for carrying a load at least 6+ hours in the back country that has a hip belt, shoulder straps, and a waist belt. These are the packs hunters will rely on in the backcountry and will make the bulk of the market.
Specialty packs like lumbar bags and “book bag” style packs made for short jaunts to the deer stand can be had for extremely cheap and all the same thing. However, when you begin to deal with equipment that is designed to hold 60+ lbs. you’re getting into territory where small differences add up in the field.
Internal vs. External
This is a debate that’ll never end but the differences between internal and external packs are getting smaller and smaller. An internal hunting frame pack will feel better with lighter loads but will flex more and won’t breathe as well as an external hunting frame pack. They are however, much more comfortable with lighter loads.
If you’re going to elk country and will be carrying out 250+ lbs. of boned out meat an external frame pack will be your workhorse because they’re stiffer and handle heavy loads better. When in doubt, try both designs on and focus more on packs as individual products because manufacturers are putting out really cool designs lately and you can’t really divide up packs like you could with the old designs.
Our Top 5 Best Hunting Packs Review
#1. ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Freighter Frame + Pack Bag
If there’s a best all-around or best buy pack on the market this is it. This is an excellent example of what a manufacturer can do with modern external pack design. It has pockets galore, a place to stow your rifle, hydration sleeve, large pockets on the exterior for any gear like scope or trekking poles and place for your handgun in a holster.
The pack is a traditional top loading design that is a massive 5250cu inches but is designed well and feels much smaller and more compact when it on your back. You don’t need to worry about running out of room either because the storm guard of the top loading opening is expandable to stuff the pack with extra gear.
It is a little heavy at 7.3lbs due to the large frame and double thickness fabric but it’s super durable and carries well. The basic weight of the pack isn’t a problem in the field.
This is one of the most featured hunting bags and extremely popular with western hunters because it delivers all these features while still being cheap enough for just about anyone to afford. If you’re not sure which pack to buy, get this one!
#2. Badlands 2200 Camouflage Hunting Backpack
Badlands is the Gucci of hunting backpacks. The biggest reason for this is that they charge a premium price for a premium product. Triple stitching, extremely high quality materials, field proven designs, Badlands is a very cool company. They’re recommended by more guides out west than any other brand and this is one of their most common packs for a very good reason.
It’s small, perfect for working out a spike camp or going from base camp but large enough to haul out meat and carry supplies for an overnight back country jaunt. You’d be hard pressed to find a better designed pack, one huge panel loading main pocket and seven other external pockets help organize gear, surrounded by a stiff frame sheet and compression straps that secure the load.
This Badlands 2200 pack includes a few very innovative designs like a build in blaze orange skirt that can be deployed to carry meat while providing safety in the field, a built-in pistol holster and purpose shaped spotting scope pouch.
If you want a premium pack this is it, it weighs in at a hair under 6lbs and comes in three camouflage pattern including a new, and sort of odd, approach camo that is a series of dots reminiscent of Kryptek Highlander. Another feature for this awesome pack that is unique to Badlands.
#3. Eberlestock J34 Just One Pack
Eberlestock is one of the best pack companies on the planet. Born in the military it supplies several government agencies around the world and makes over a dozen different packs for hunting as well. Their owner is an avid elk hunter and makes gear he tests himself that is excellent, excellent gear. Be prepared to pay for it.
This best hunting backpack for elk hunt is billed as an active hunting pack that is engulfed by your shoulder so that you won’t be caught up on brush or rocks while sneaking around the timber line in the field. This pack is designed for you to haul into the field expanded to over 4600cu inches of space and then ditch the interior duffel, not included but you should definitely purchase separately, fold in the wings and secure the pack down.
Need to haul out meat? Swing out the wings and strap down the meat and haul away! The best feature of this pack by far however is the durability. You could probably fill this pack with wet cement, let it cure, and then carry it away. In other words, this best hunting pack for hauling meat is stronger than you are. Other things like the proprietary camo patterns and excellent customer service is just icing on the cake, if you have the budget this is your pack!
#4. Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack
Not quite a hunting pack this is such an excellent backpack it can be pressed into just about everything. If you want a backpack and you’re going to use it for traveling, camping, hiking, and hunting this is an awesome, awesome pack. This is my favorite backpack on the planet. It combines heavy duty fabric with minimal features and is the perfect size for 99% of what you’re going to use it for.
The Redwing is both a top loader and panel loader. It has four pockets with pass through sleeves behind it that can hold a rifle by putting the stock into the water bottle pocket. The hip belt has awesome small pockets that’ll hold plenty.
There’s no reason this pack can’t be used for hunting, the coyote color will serve you better but this is really an excellent pack that, speaking from experience, will comfortably transport over 80lbs if you can cram it into the 50L of space you have to work with.
#5. Tenzing TZ 3000 Hunting Backpack
Tenzing is one of the boutique companies making gear for hunter but they do it differently than most. They make gear that is lighter, and with more technology than it’s competitors. They sue traditional designs with new pocket shapes and new manufacturing technologies.
This pack is one of the best on the market for a multi-day western hunt where ounces mean everything but you still need a lot of room. The aluminum stays feel great on your back but are hollowed out to save weight. The entire pack is wrapped with a compression strap that is a great place to secure wet rain shells or extra layers for quick access.
This is one of their packs that uses that new technology and one where it really came together. Having personally used this pack, the two things that’s really stand out as benefits is the hip belt pockets, the attached rain cover, and the light feeling of the fabric. This entire pack feels high tech and space age, if you can appreciate new fabrics, designs and manufacturing concepts this is your pack.
Buying Tips for Choosing the Best Hunting Backpacks
Get it Big Enough
Don’t Make the mistake of buying a pack that is too small because it fits your needs now. Remember that in winter you’ll need a bigger sleeping bag, bulkier clothing and carrying out meat from the backcountry will take room as well. Buy a pack that is big enough for the trip out, not the trip in.
Don’t Over Buy
Just as you need a pack big enough it can be tempting to buy a pack too big and then try and fill it completely up. This is a recipe for disaster because it’ll get so heavy you won’t be able to carry up the mountain. Buy a pack about 10L bigger than you think you need and leave those 10L empty!
Simpler is Better
There’s acks on the market with so many pockets and zippers it’s easy to lose gear. Simple is better for so many reasons it’s hard to list them from being cheaper, lighter, and easier to use. Get a pack with the minimum number of bells and whistles you can get.
Light is Right
Many people will obsess about leaving an extra base layer, or spotting scope or batteries behind to save weight. Why not start with the heavy weight items to begin with. Some backpacks for hunting on the market can weigh as much as 7lbs. Get a light weight model under 3lbs so it won’t hinder your performance in the field.
Planning ahead means you bought the pack with the right camo pattern. It can mean buying a pack with a built in rain cover so you don’t have to buy one later on. Make sure you plan out your purchase and make sure all you gear works together easily.
Camo isn’t King
Camouflage can help in the field but if your dream pack comes in a natural solid like a subdued tan or olive drab don’t fret. You don’t absolutely need camouflage on your pack, it helps but a camo hunting backpack just may kill your hunt.
Small Details Matter
Little things like a storm flap, double stitching, or the inclusion of a pack cover makes all the difference in the woods. Look for designs that pay attention to the little things and the whole pack will be better as a result.
If you’re heading into the field, you’re going to need good gear. Hunting is hard on equipment and your best backcountry hunting packs is going to be an important part of your gear system that allows you to stay out longer and be successful.
The market has tons of options and it’s hard to get a bad pack if you stick to the major brands. You can severely limit yourself by your choice however. Any of the packs listed here will be one of the best hunting packs on the market and serve you well.