For most beginner hunters, a good backpack is probably not the first piece of equipment that comes to mind when thinking about gearing up for the upcoming season. But as any seasoned hunter will tell you, your hunting backpack is actually one of the most important parts of the survivalist’s repertoire. Whether you’re using a composite bow or a long rifle, it’s important to remember that the hunt is only half of it.
The other half? Hiking out with as much meat as you can carry. One thing is for sure: you don’t want to wait until you are cleaning your kill to start thinking about how you are going to get it home. Considering that the average pack-pout weight of a field-dressed buck is about 102 pounds, it’s not something that you are going to want to take lightly.
The best daypacks for hunting not only give you a way to get all that delicious meat back home and into your freezer, but they also provide innovative and easy-to-use features that make the whole hunting experience more enjoyable. We’re counting down the 6 best lightweight daypacks for hunting, and then we’re going to dive head-first into a detailed guide on how to choose the best hunting backpack for you.
Best Lightweight Daypack for Hunting
ALPS OutdoorZ PURSUIT Hunting Pack
ACCOMODATES: BOW, RIFLE, HANDGUN
PATTERN(S): REALTREE, BRUSHED MOSSY OAK
WEIGHT: 4 LBS, 1 OZ
VOLUME: 30 LITERS
BEST FEATURE: FRONT SHELF POCKET
We can say this from the get go: you are not going to find more features in a hunting backpack that is under $100 than you will with the PURSUIT pack by OutdoorZ. While this wasn’t the largest, toughest, or most durable pack that we looked at, it certainly had the best balance of cost to functionality, and for those of us out there that don’t want to spend hundreds on a hunting pack, that’s a huge relief.
Speaking of features, let’s go down the list. The first think you will notice is the large front-zip shelf pocket, which opens up to reveal a plethora of pockets, both mesh & zip up, giving the user immediate access to a well-organized selection of gear. Everything from phones, keys, knives, snacks, & medical equipment, all ready to pull at a moment’s notice. It is especially helpful when hunting with a partner, who can access all this stuff without having to dig through the main pocket.
The main pocket itself is large enough for almost everything that you need for the hunt, however, it is not quite large enough to pack out any significant amount of meat. In fact, the PURSUIT pack simply isn’t really designed for pack-out of meat, as it also doesn’t have the external frame that is required of a good hunting pack in order to support that kind of weight (which can be over a hundred pounds, as anyone who has scored even a small buck can attest to.)
Big guys like me might be better off looking for a larger pack, as this one is just a bit small for people with bigger frames. Personally, I had to loosen the pack straps all the way in order to get the hip belt to sit at the right place on my hip. In fact, I eventually took the hip belt off altogether (it is fully removable, by the way) just to make the pack more comfortable.
You won’t have any problems carrying a bow or rifle with this pack, which utilizes a remarkably easy strap connection system that also works well for arrow quivers & antlers.
Best Daypack for Pistol Hunting
BADLANDS 2200 Camouflage Hunting Pack & Meat Hauler
ACCOMODATES: BOW, RIFLE, PISTOL (2x)
PATTERN(S): APPROACH, APPROACH FX, EARTH
WEIGHT: 5 LBS, 15 OZ
VOLUME: 36.9 L
WATERPROOF?: NO; RAIN COVER INCLUDED
BEST FEATURE: MOLDED FOAM SUSPENSION
For a lightweight hunting backpack that is designed to carry a little bit more weight than your average daypack, the BADLANDS 2200 is one of the most comfortable options on the market. This is no doubt thanks to the molded foam suspension system and backplate, which provide one of the most plush experiences while keeping strap suspension as tight as it needs to be.
Here’s something we loved about the 2200 that you don’t see every day: a large and yet strikingly discreet back-panel access pocket. Not only does this give you a completely different angle at which to approach you packed gear, but in those situations when you are better off not making any noise, you don’t have to be swinging your pack around in order to get access to the pockets.
The house camo here looks effective enough. It’s halfway between traditional tree print and the newer digital type patterns. They claim that it has been designed to perform well in a number of lighting conditions, which could be a big relief for anyone who has older camouflage patterns that are only designed to work well in low light.
Our biggest complaint about this pack is that the main pocket does not feature any organizational pockets. This makes sense for a pack that is designed to carry freshly cleaned meat and not much else, but having the option of individual storage compartments for clothes and gear is always a big plus in our opinion.
It also doesn’t seem to fit very well on women, although it is advertised by the manufacturer as a unisex pack. Perhaps this is because the molded style of the back panel is just a bit too rigid to conform to the contours of a smaller frame. All in all however, this is a pretty comfortable pack for people with average frames.
Best Daypack for Elk Hunting
Allen Remington TWIN MESA Hunting Daypack
ACCOMODATES: LONG RIFLE, PISTOL
PATTERN(S): MOSSY OAK
WEIGHT: 4 LBS, 1 OZ
VOLUME: 30.36 L
BEST FEATURE: FRONT SHELF POCKET
Considering that the TWIN MESA pack is made by the folks over at REMINGTON, it is perhaps no surprise that its primary function is to provide a secure and comfortable carry for your long rifle while you hike in and out of the wilderness. And it served this function well. Although it can take a bit of time to get everything setup properly and to familiarize yourself with all the different straps and components, once you get it setup properly, it provides a remarkably stable carry for even extra-long rifles. Unfortunately it is not particularly well-suited for anything else (bows, crossbows, pistols) though we have managed to secure a crossbow to the exterior without too much trouble. It’s just not what this pack is designed for.
For a budget-level pack (less than $100) the TWIN MESA delivers a surprising amount of comfort. The back panels are plush and the straps are all six-point adjustable. It certainly isn’t the most breathable pack on the market, but for short treks you aren’t going to have too much of an issue. And let’s face it … if you’re shopping for a new daypack for hunting, then chances are you are no stranger to sweat to begin with.
Organization is pretty good on the TWIN MESA. We count five exterior zip-up pockets, which works great for keeping all your smaller stuff in order. A few of them are big enough for raingear or a beanie as well, preventing you from having to access the main compartment, which is just a single pocket with not much internal organization to speak of.
While the rifle carry straps are effective, the system itself is not designed for quick rifle access. That is to say that it is not so much a “run-n-gun” system as it is a carrying system for longer hikes. If you find yourself close on the trail of your prey, you’ll just have to keep the rifle in your hands, as you should probably be doing anyway.
The subdued colors of this particular mossy oak-style camo means that this pack does well in bright light conditions, where some ‘glossier’ packs don’t perform quite as well.
Best Multipurpose Hunting Backpack
EBERLESTOCK X2 Pack
ACCOMODATES: PISTOL, SHOTGUN, RIFLE, BOW
PATTERN(S): MULTICAM, ROCK VEIL, WESTERN SLOPE
WEIGHT: 5.45 LBS
VOLUME: 29.98 LITERS
WATERPROOF?: WATER RESISTANT
BEST FEATURE: HIGHLY VERSATILE STRAP OPTIONS
We have to admit that this pack blew our minds a little. While it might be a little bit large to be technically considered a “daypack”, it is still lightweight enough to go head-to-head against any of the other packs on our list without skipping a beat.
Why were we so taken back?
Probably because of how versatile we found this pack to be. It has more organizational options and better weight distribution than almost any other pack that we looked at, all while offering compatibility for every kind of hunting you can think of (pistol, shotgun, rifle, long bow, crossbow, the list goes on.)
The biggest difference between the X2 and the other packs on our list is probably the weight capacity. This pack will have no problem with loads exceeding 100 pounds, and it has a rigid enough frame which means that it can handle it without putting undue stress on your back or waist.
The meat shelf is significantly larger than it is on the other packs, which is another indicator that this was meant for serious meat harvesting.
The overall capacity is about 30 liters, which isn’t significantly larger than its competitors. However the presence of all those straps and webbing makes it incredibly easy to lash all sorts of items to this pack, from tents to sleeping bags to guns. This means that the X2 is actually capable of serving as more than just a daypack. We imagine that it could handle 2 to 3 day hunting trips with style and grace, but still is light enough for smaller one-day outings.
Buyers should be conscious of the torso length when considering this pack. The torso length on the pack is not adjustable, which means a lot of taller hunters will not be able to get this thing to sit perfectly. Now if Eberlestock added an adjustable torso length to this pack, it would certainly become the best lightweight hunting daypack in its price range.
Best High Capacity Pack for Hunting
Pack Rabbit ELITE TURKEY HUNTER 3100 w/ “Run ‘n’ Gun” Setup
ACCOMODATES: BOW, RIFLE, HANDGUN
PATTERN(S): WETLAND KARMA, WOODLAND BLIND SPOT
WEIGHT: 6 LBS
VOLUME: 55.71 LITERS
BEST FEATURE: FRONT SHELF POCKET
The best thing about “Run n Gun” hunting packs is that they allow you to stay on the move for an extended period of time without having to remove the pack. This means that you can stash you rifle or bow while moving, as opposed to some other storage systems with more complicated carry straps. The other thing that a good run-n-gun pack will have is a hard external frame that doubles as a seat. Anyone who knows what it’s like to track whitetail across twenty miles of prairie will certainly appreciate having a hard-frame built-in seat for the occasional rest, or perhaps a duck and cover.
The construction of this pack is what we lovingly call “bucket style”, in which the primary storage compartment is a big open bucket-like container into which a significant amount of meat can be stored. And with a 130 LBS weight capacity rating (from the manufacturer) you likely won’t have to leave any choice cuts behind simply because you don’t have the space.
Pack Rabbit has developed a great strap system for their 2019 hunting packs, and the ETH 3100 is one of the first models to feature the complete overhaul. Not only does it utilize a 6-point compression system, but also features a highly-adjustable sternum strap allowing the user to achieve total comfort and performance-level fit on any adventure.
The only significant drawback to this pack is the price. It is significantly more expensive than the other packs on our list. However the experienced hunter who is looking to move up to the next level would do well with an ETH 3100 on their backs. It is perhaps one of the best load-ready hunting packs that we have had the pleasure of testing.
Best Day Pack for Bow Hunting
TENZING 2220 Daypack with Firearm Carry Boot & Rain Cover
ACCOMODATES: BOW, RIFLE, HANDGUN
PATTERN(S): REALTREE, MOSSY OAK, MAX 1, KRYPTEK HIGHLANDER
WEIGHT: 5.6 LBS
VOLUME: 39.32 LITERS
WATERPROOF?: NO; RAIN COVER INCLUDED
BEST FEATURE: FRONT SHELF POCKET
While we have a couple recommendations for TENZING that would make their 2220 model hunting daypack one of the best deals on the market, we can start by telling you exactly what we love about it. For on:, the simplicity. There aren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles on this pack, and that is actually a good thing. Overall it is just a very simple pack to figure out & operate, from the zipper pockets to the rifle sling and the bow straps. Some pack manufacturers tend to complicate things more then they need to. The 2220, on the other hand, operates with a grace and simplicity that you just don’t see anymore.
The carry volume is quite a bit bigger than other mid-level hunting backpacks, though you wouldn’t notice by looking at the thing. It has a tight and compressed design scheme that allows it to fit a lot in there without being too bulky or awkward.
While we had no problem strapping our composite bow to the back of this pack, that doesn’t seem to be what it is really designed for. A simple yet effective rifle sling on the bottom of the pack suggests a product that is more in line for rifle hunting, but don’t let that fool you. This pack has a tight and secure fit against the back that make it ideal for a hunter who is constantly on the move.
If we could ask TENZING for anything, it would be more pockets. There are only a few external pockets, and they are not even accessible while the pack is on. In addition, the pocket zippers don’t seem to be of the greatest quality; we can’t imagine them standing up to too much stress before failing, but only time will tell.
There’s nothing like field testing a brand new hunting daypack, especially in 2019 when so many manufacturers have seemingly found out how to create a product that is equal parts comfortable and functional. The best hunting daypacks of 2019 are all remarkably high-performing, and more comfortable than ever.
If what you’re looking for is an all-around great value lightweight hunting pack, then you should take a serious look at the ALPS OutdoorZ Hunting Pack. Not only is it a great price, but the fold-down hunting shelf provides some of the best in-the-field organization that you can get.
More experienced hunters might prefer something like the EBERLESTOCK X2. You are going to be paying a little bit more, but the added features, storage space, and weight capacity are more than worth it for the dedicated hunter.
Deep Dive: How to Choose a Daypack for Hunting
You can’t take just any old backpack if your goal is to have a hunting trip that is as comfortable as it is successful. So buying a new hunting daypack for yourself is probably a good idea, especially considering the innovations and extras that have hit the market in 2019.
Here is a guide on what to look for in a hunting pack.
Pockets, Storage, & Organization
One thing you will see in common between most of the hunting packs on the market is a plethora of pockets and storage compartments. These allow for a highly specialized level of organization that a good hunter requires.
External Pockets are ideal for the storage of things that might need to be accessed in a hurry. These items might include:
- First Aid
- Rain Gear
Internal Pockets are usually larger and less compartmentalized. This is because they are often designed to carry animal meat which doesn’t usually need to be accessed in a hurry. Internal pockets are also good for:
- Additional Layers
- Tents or sleeping bags
A Hydration Pouch is also available on most good hunting packs. This is a specially designed pocket that holds a 1-3 liter water pouch, like a Camelbak or other hydration pouch. Look for a hydration pouch that allows you to remove and replace the water pouch without disturbing the rest of your gear.
Gun & Bow Holders AKA Boot Holders
Any hunting pack worth its salt is going to have some method of carrying your firearm, whether it’s a long rifle, crossbow, or composite bow. Most feature straps and hooks designed to hold a gun’s boot or case. Other packs that are designed for rifle hunting feature a specially designed sling into which the rifle’s butt can rest, while the barrel points upward. This is one of the safest ways to carry an exposed (not in its case) rifle or gun.
Pistol Boots are often available on hunting packs near the hip area, providing quick access for pistol hunters.
Bows and Crossbows are quite easily attached to most hunting packs with the various straps that are sewn onto the exterior layer of the pack. Some long-bow focused daypacks have begun to hit the market recently, but unfortunately none of them are on this particular list.
Waist Belt / Hip Straps
The more weight you plan on carrying, the more you are going to want a good waist belt with your hunting pack. Waist belts take a considerable amount of stress off the back and shoulders, giving you a more comfortable carry, especially when you have a pack full of elk meat.
Removable hip belts are slowly becoming the standard in the world of hunting backpacks, because they allow you to get rid of the pesky straps for Run-n-Gun style hunting when they might be bothersome. Then, put them right back on when it’s time to pack out your winnings.
Because there are almost no completely waterproof hunting bags out there, you want to make absolutely sure that you have a good rain cover with you. These covers are cheap, lightweight, highly packable, and provide great waterproofing at a moment’s notice because of how easy they are to use and how quick they go on.
One cool thing about rain covers is that you can quite easily restore the waterproof rating by throwing them in the wash machine with one of several wash-in waterproofing agents.
Bonus Guide: What Gear to Bring on a Hunting Trip
Although the specific contents of your hunting pack will vary depending on a whole host of factors, there is a widely agreed-upon list of items that you should make sure to have with you every time in order to insure that you will have the safest, most comfortable, and most successful hunting trip possible. These items include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Water (& water purification system)
- Safety vest or safety harness
- Headlamp or Flashlight
- First aid kit
- Rain Gear (& Waterproof Pack Cover)
- Rubber Gloves (for animal field dressing)
- Survival blanket
- Game bags (or heavy-duty trash bags)
- Fire Starter
- Game Call
Safety Tip: remember, anything can happen out in the wilderness. Even if you are only planning on being out for a single day, it is a good idea to keep all the essential safety equipment in your pack in case you are forced to spend more time in the wild than you anticipated. First aid kit, emergency blanket, and a water purification system are all essential to any daypack.
Frequently Asked Questions
• Q: What should I bring on a deer hunting trip?
A: The inventory of your hunting backpack will vary significantly based on a few factors, including how long you are planning on being out and what kind of hunting you are looking to do.
For a more complete explanation on what exactly you should bring with you on your next deer hunting trip, check out the above Bonus Guide section on What Gear to Bring on a Hunting Trip.
• Q: How do you pack a daypack for hunting?
A: The best way to pack your hunting daypack is to keep in mind exactly where each item is, and exactly how and when it will be necessary to access that item. For instance, things like your rangefinder, survival knife, or GPS unit might need to be accessed quickly and easily, so store these items in easy-access pockets, perhaps the ones you can access while you are still wearing the pack.
Another thing to consider is how loud the pack might become if you are digging through it for an item while your target animal is close-by. For instance, digging for that rangefinder might cause enough noise to scare the animal off completely, so keep it where you can get to it.
When using a built-in rifle sling like the ones featured in many of the packs that we looked at, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with how the sling carry system works before taking it out into the field. They can be more complicated than they look, and it’s best to have it all figured out in the safety and light of your yard instead of a dark forest.
• Q: Are there waterproof day packs?
A: While there are some waterproof day packs on the market, it is not a super common thing to see. That’s generally because waterproof materials are not always the best ones to make weight-supporting backpacks out of. In addition, these kinds of materials are hard to sew things into without ruining the waterproofing, so things like external pockets and straps wouldn’t work as well.
To get around this, most hunters simply utilize a separate waterproof pack cover for bouts of inclement weather. They are small, lightweight, and can fit easily into an external pack pocket for quick access when the weather goes bad.
• Q: Are they good for travel?
A: Hunting packs are great for travel, whether you are taking a long drive across the country or flying to the other side of the world for an even bigger adventure. Because hunting packs are designed to have many pockets and high levels of organization, they are actually ideal for all kinds of travel.
But be advised: camouflage is not designed to work in airports or bus stations. In fact, it tends to have the opposite effect altogether.
• Q: Is hunting bad for nature / the environment?
A: It might be understandable why there are some people out there that are against hunting for environmental concerns, but the science behind the topic is actually quite revealing on how beneficiallicensed hunting can be for the environment. For instance, it is estimated the through licensing fees, sportsmen and sportswomen contribute nearly $8 million a day to national and local wildlife agencies, which pays for the large majority of conservation programs that are active today.