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Published Sep 5, 2022 10:36 AM

Imagine that it’s hunting season, and you’re three miles into the wilderness. With the waning last minutes of light, you arrowed your first elk. Despite the altitude and the stress of the moment, you executed a solid shot and recovered your prey. You notch your tag and take some pictures but the realization of it all hits, “How am I getting this back to the truck?” Thankfully, you did some research on bowhunting backpacks.

Bowhunting packs are constructed with quality materials, engineered for load bearing, and with plenty of compression straps. These attributes make carrying a heavy load so much more manageable. And, because quality backpacks are a significant investment but an investment that will last for years to come, we listed out the best bowhunting backpacks we could find. 

I’m a firm believer in the “buy once, cry once” concept when it comes to vital, no-fail pieces of gear. Therefore, in this article, we’ll navigate through multiple categories of the best options as well as the qualities you should seek to find what’s best for you.

Researching the best backpack for bowhunting is no easy task, and it is because we have so many incredible and innovative manufacturers right here in the United States that produce a premium and bombproof product. Exo Mountain Gear is an American company based in Boise, Idaho, whose only focus is creating the best backpacks. This company builds a robust and ultralight pack for hunters that’s designed and tested by hunters. With Exo Mountain Gear, you’re assured that its packs are purpose-built, durable, lightweight, simple, and efficient in design.

The Exo Mtn Gear 4800 is the premier example of this product philosophy. Last year, I had the opportunity to use one while hunting solo for a week in the Colorado wilderness. I can’t overstate how impressed I am by this pack. The overall bag design is streamlined and well-organized, giving the user options in how you pack and distribute your gear. Pack features are thoughtfully designed for simplicity and efficiency of use. The quick-access load shelf allows you to remove the bag from the frame to carry more gear, or hopefully to carry meat-filled game bags. The side stretch pockets can accommodate trekking poles, or even a rifle, but they are also perfect for quick access to your puffy jacket and rain gear. The roll-top design allows you to compress the bag when you aren’t utilizing its full volume capacity. The front compression straps work incredibly well for strapping your compound bow to the front of your pack as you navigate the backcountry.

The real heart and design genius of this pack system is the internal titanium frame and the suspension system. The frame and shoulder harness are micro-adjustable, giving the user the ability to maximize the pack’s fitment to your specific needs. Pack fitting is essential, and Exo Mountain Gear provides plenty of online tutorials. If that doesn’t quite get you there, the company’s top-tier customer service will assist you the rest of the way.

Another strength of this pack system is its multi-functionality. While designed for the backcountry hunter, it serves its purpose equally well for backpacking adventures and was also selected for fielding by instructors at a military mountain warfare school.

Product Specs
  • Intended use: Hunting, recreational, and tactical
  • Weight: 5 pounds 10 ounces
  • Capacity: 5205 cubic inches
  • Material: 500d Cordura fabric
Why It Made The Cut
  • Exo Mountain Gear didn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, but rather it merely made it better. The company commits to a design philosophy that embraces durability, simplicity, and efficiency.
PROS

Lightweight pack system that doesn’t compromise on durability

Micro-adjustable frame and suspension for the best fitment

Top-tier customer service experience

Excellent resource for backcountry nutrition, training, and fieldcraft

CONS

Direct-to-Consumer model makes access to packs limited

Bow hunting in the backcountry is a costly venture. Expeditionary-level gear probably isn’t necessary unless you’re in Alaska, Northwest Territories, or maybe chasing high-country mule deer. If you’re budget conscious and in need of a durable pack system, the Eberlestock Vapor 5000 with the F1 Mainframe punches that ticket.

The Vapor 5000 is marketed as a minimalist pack utilizing 500D ripstop nylon and 140D two-way stretch fabric in its construction. Exterior stretch pockets provide versatility while the interior sidewall pockets allow for organization in the main compartment. The bag is a roll-top design, allowing you to compress the bag when not utilizing its full capacity and is equipped with panel access on the front.

As with any pack, the story is in the frame and suspension. Eberlestock designed a robust tubular aluminum frame with MOLLE webbing. Attached are three compression straps for securing additional gear to the frame’s load shelf. The hip belt comes with a generous lumbar pad and the shoulder straps are fully adjustable, giving this frame the versatility you need in the field. Removing the pack from the frame is incredibly efficient and simple when loading up game bags or other gear.

Eberlestock’s Vapor 5000 and F1 frame, while appearing basic, does the basics extremely well. In fact, for the price point, this combination hits well above its weight in terms of durability and function. This pack’s basic weight is on the heavier side of the spectrum, but don’t let that deter you — it’s built for the backcountry.

Product Specs
  • Intended use: Hunting
  • Weight: 6 pounds 5 ounces
  • Capacity: 4675 cubic inches
  • Material: 500D ripstop nylon and 140D two-way stretch fabric
Why It Made The Cut
  • As rugged as the Frank Church Wilderness, the Vapor 5000 with the F1 Frame is a testament to the innovative and straightforward spirit this company stands for.
PROS

Rugged construction

One of the most user-friendly pack systems on the market

Modular frame design

Multiple solid and camouflage color options for bag and frame

CONS

Heavier base weight compared to similar systems

Stone Glacier is a heavy hitter in the hunting backpack industry. Headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, it prides itself on being an American company that sources and utilizes American textiles and hardware for its packs. Its design philosophy is to engineer and build the most resilient packs that balance both durability and ultralight qualities. This commitment is reflected in its product line. Initially launched as a backpack company, it has diversified its product line to incorporate shelters, sleep systems, apparel, and other gear essential to exploring the backcountry. In fact, as a self-described puffy jacket aficionado, Stone Glacier’s Grumman Down Jacket is without equal.

The Sky Archer 6400 was specifically designed for the backcountry bowhunter. This pack proved its durability when it may or may not have fallen 45 feet off the chair lift when I was field-testing it with loads of 45 and 60 pounds. Other than some dirt and grass that was brushed out, this pack is completely unscathed. The bag is constructed of 500d Cordura fabric with bombproof webbing and stitching. The internal compartment has an integrated spotting scope pocket, but I have found this to be more useful for a rain jacket and mid-layer. This bag is both top-loading and comes with a side zip panel access. Stone Glacier incorporates tri-slide buckles internally to accommodate ultralight camp pockets for additional organization. The bag easily detaches from the frame to accommodate up to 2,500 cubic inches of additional gear on the integrated load shelf. Compound bows can be attached to the front of the pack using the two compression straps.

As with any pack, the essence and grit of this product are the frame and suspension. The X-Curve frame is made of a titanium and carbon composite four-stay design. This provides excellent contouring to your back for stability and comfort. The suspension is fully micro-adjustable to provide the best fitment. The X-Curve frame also accommodates all current bag offerings by Stone Glacier. This modular approach opens the possibilities of having a frame that can be used for multi-day trips in the backcountry, day hiking, ice climbing, and full-day tree stand sits during the whitetail rut.

Stone Glacier also provides top-tier customer service. As hunters, it knows you’re making an investment and its limited lifetime warranty covers any product shortcomings on its part. Its website also provides multiple video tutorials on pack fitment, pack maintenance, and accessory installation.

Product Specs
  • Intended use: Hunting, recreational
  • Weight: 5 pounds 7 ounces
  • Capacity: 6,400 cubic inches
  • Material: 500d Cordura fabric
Why It Made The Cut
  • Stone Glacier’s mission of building gear that is both extremely durable and ultralight is embodied by the Sky Archer 6400. Whatever your adventure, this pack will take you there and back again.
PROS

Lightweight pack that doesn’t compromise on durability

Micro-adjustable suspension for best fitment

Top-tier customer service experience

X-Curve frame fits all Stone Glacier bags

CONS

Lacks any external stretch pockets

Last year, it was estimated that over a million female hunters took to the field in what is the fastest-growing population in the outdoor space. Unfortunately, most gear is tailored to male hunters, but companies are evolving their product line to facilitate this newly emerging consumer base. Kuiu has long been an industry leader in gear innovation. Designed and field-tested for female hunters by women who hunt in some of the harshest environments validates Kuiu’s commitment to providing quality gear for the women who love the wilderness.

The Women’s Pro LT Hunting Pack breaks from the pack of predominately unisex models by offering a truly engineered suspension system for women. The carbon fiber frame is the same frame found on the men’s model. The shoulder straps and waist belt are deliberately designed to accommodate the anatomical differences of women that enhances the fit and comfort of the overall pack system. This suspension system is fully customizable for the perfect fitment. Kuiu also offers the bag in three different sizes — 4,000-, 5,500-, and 7,000-cubic-inch models, ensuring you have an option to match your adventure.

Kuiu’s bags are made of 330D Cordura fabric, further reducing overall weight. The Load Sling Mode is like the load shelf concept of other manufacturers. It gives you the option of detaching the bag from the frame to carry additional gear or that prized lean-and-clean protein you harvested in the mountains. Kuiu also offers a limited lifetime warranty on its gear, as well as good customer service.

Product Specs
  • Intended use: Hunting
  • Weight: 4 pounds 4 ounces
  • Capacity: 5,500 cubic inches
  • Material: 330D Cordura fabric
Why It Made The Cut
  • This Kuiu bag has all the features and durability of the men’s model, but with the comfort and fit designed for female body types.
PROS

Ultralight pack constructed of 330D Cordura fabric

Fully customizable suspension for comfort and fit

Modular frame compatible with all Kuiu bags

CONS

Lacks sleeve for a hydration bladder, a common critique

Best Whitetail Pack

It’s no secret that the white-tailed deer is the most pursued game species in North America. Sitka has dedicated an entire product line to those who chase this remarkable animal. Last year, I tested what I consider to be the ideal bowhunting pack for whitetail hunting. This pack accompanied me from opening day through the late season, carrying everything from climbing sticks, extra layers, and all the other small essentials you need in the whitetail woods.

The Tool Bucket is a lightweight day pack that is loaded with features. The fabric used on the exterior is extremely quiet. The bag’s bucket design and lid offer silent access, further eliminating unnecessary noise. Organizationally, you won’t find a better pack — there are 17 storage compartments and, thankfully, many of them are mesh, saving you from wondering where you packed those gummy bears. On either side are mesh stretch pockets that keep most drink containers secure. Compression straps on the front allow for easy transport of your bow or even a saddle platform. The shoulder straps and hip belt provide comfort and breathability for movement to and from the stand.

Sitka updated the Tool Bucket design to include a blaze orange panel that deploys to the front of the pack for added visibility during the season and a dedicated compartment on the top of the bag for a pull rope. Unfortunately, part of this redesign removed the stand-carrying capability of the predecessor model and migrated that to the new model, the Cargo Box. Because of this, the Tool Bucket caters to the saddle hunter or the hunter using already-established stands. Overall, this bag has all the utility you need from those all-day sits during the rut to those last-chance sits in the late season.

Product Specs
  • Intended use: Hunting
  • Weight: 3 pounds 4 ounces
  • Capacity: 1,800 cubic inches
Why It Made The Cut
  • Sitka continues to innovate and build quality gear specific to whitetail hunting. The Tool Bucket provides unparalleled versatility in a lightweight day pack for all seasons, regardless of weapon.
PROS

Unmatched versatility

Silent construction for stealth in the field

Comfortable shoulder straps and hipbelt

CONS

Inability to carry mobile tree stands

Only available in Optifade Elevated II

Internal frame needs added rigidity

Best Tree Stand Pack

Mobile hunting isn’t a new strategy in the whitetail woods, but it’s become more accessible with the proliferation of high-quality saddle equipment, hang-on stands, and climbing sticks. As a mobile hunter myself, I have struggled to find the ideal pack system for my hunting platform. Finding a pack that balances efficiency, simplicity, and stealth was no easy task. Eberlestock provides a solution with its X2 Pack.

The X2 is an 1,800-cubic-inch daypack that is built with five storage compartments and a generous main compartment. The front of the pack contains robust vertical and horizontal compression straps for securing either your saddle platform or hang-on stand to the front of the pack. Supporting this weight is an internal aluminum tubular frame providing both stability and comfort. The shoulder straps and hip belt are comfortable and provide incredible weight distribution. Located on either side of the hip belt are two functional pockets that can conveniently store items like keys, a headlamp, and a wind indicator.

This pack comes in a variety of camouflage and solid color options. A rain cover can be purchased for an additional charge. While the price of the pack may appear steep, this pack goes a long way in giving you a product that can bring your full mobile kit to bear. On top of this, you get great customer service from a veteran-owned company. For these reasons, the X2 is our pick for the best tree stand pack.

Product Specs
  • Intended use: Hunting
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Capacity: 1,800 cubic inches
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Eberlestock X2 is designed with the mobile hunter in mind. Sure, there are other packs out there, but the X2 is the total package in terms of functionality and simplicity.
PROS

Robust compression strap system

Efficient and simple design

Multiple color options

Rigid aluminum frame provides stability and comfort

CONS

Pack base weight is heavy

Expensive price point

Things to consider before buying a bow hunting backpack

Day versus multi-day packs

There is some overlap between daypacks and multi-day packs, but they are not one and the same. A daypack typically has less than 2,000 cubic inches of space, while a multi-day pack has more. In general, you’ll want 1,000 cubic inches of space for each day in the field. 

In this buyer’s guide, packs range from 5,000 to 6,400 cubic inches, so if you do the math, they should hold enough gear for approximately five to seven field days. However, you can do less with more. Some inexperienced hunters tend to “pack their fears” and use up or require more volume. But, as you gain experience, you will find that your gear becomes more dialed-in and takes up less space. 

Fit

Not all packs fit the same. Therefore, you should find one that fits your body type. A pack’s performance is primarily based on the frame and suspension. The suspension consists of shoulder straps, hip belts, and load lifters. The hip belt should hug your hip bone or the iliac crest because this is where most of the pack’s weight will rest. The hip belt also shouldn’t impede your ability to move either. The load lifters connect your frame to your shoulder straps. Proper adjustment will provide stability, alleviate shoulder pressure, and transfer pack weight to the hips. You should look for a suspension that is micro-adjustable, which ensures the best fit.

Durability and features

The pack’s durability is another important consideration. The industry-standard fabric is 500D Cordura, but durability is determined by more than just the fabric it’s weaved from. It’s enhanced by quality features like high-end YKK zippers, advanced stitching techniques, welded seams for waterproofing, and other niceties. 

Besides durability, another key feature to consider is how you carry a load. Hunting packs are equipped with either a load cell or a load shelf to carry animal remains (aka meat). A load cell is a compartment inside the pack, while a load shelf fits between the pack and the frame. 

If you ask me, I prefer a load shelf because it keeps the raw meat and blood separate from the rest of your gear. However, good quality load cells are constructed from ultralight non-absorbent fabric, which will shield the rest of your gear. 

Customer service

Bowhunting backpacks require a significant financial investment, so it’s good to know that the manufacturer stands by its products and values you as a customer. However, good customer service involves more than making a good product. It also includes forgiving return policies, extended warranties, over-the-phone accessibility, and online support, especially regarding fitting. 

FAQs about bow hunting packs

Q: How heavy should a hunting backpack be?

A: A pack’s frame shouldn’t be too light where it mitigates its load-bearing capability. Too heavy, and the pack is carrying the weight that serves no purpose. A quality pack’s base weight will probably weigh around five to six pounds. Some packs will weigh less and others more, but at some point, it’s a diminishing return either way. 

Q: Are all bow hunting backpacks weather-resistant?

A: Many bow hunting backpacks are weather-resistant. Depending on your environment, many packs will fare well with inconsistent precipitation, but every fabric reaches a saturation point. If this is a concern, consider packing your gear in dry bags. Some companies offer a rain fly for their bags at an additional charge.

Q: How long should a bow hunting backpack last?

A: For most of us, a backpack will last many years and for many adventures. Product maintenance is key to ensuring the longevity of your purchase. Each company recommends its own process, but cleaning your pack thoroughly after each season is one sure way to prepare for next season’s exploits.

Final thoughts

The Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800 pack system is a premium and bombproof pack. The other packs listed are every bit as capable and durable. Don’t let the price point on these packs shock you. They are absolutely worth the cost upfront, and it’s a purchase that will see you through many seasons chasing memories in the mountains or in the whitetail woods.

Methodology 

Finding the best bowhunting backpacks required extensive research on multiple forums, contacting subject matter experts, and reaching out to manufacturers directly. While I relied on my own experience, I utilized Rokslide, an incredible resource for all things hunting and the backcountry. I interviewed Emory from the By Land Podcast and visited the GoHunt headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada, whose hospitality left a lasting impression as they welcomed me literally off the street and let me get additional hands-on gear experience while answering all of my questions. I contacted an old army friend, Mike Willey, a former instructor at a military mountain warfare school for his expertise. With these additional perspectives, I was able to narrow down a list of backpacks that will help you find success this archery season. 

For simplicity, I broke this guide into two categories. Day-hunting is often associated with whitetail hunting, and multi-day hunts are associated with western pursuits. Primarily, I was looking for packs that could offer five to seven days of carrying capacity, a load shelf capability, compression straps for carrying a bow, and durability for the rigors of the backcountry. The day packs were geared for the whitetail woods with an emphasis on mobile hunting. Customer service factored in heavily since most of these packs are high-dollar items and there is little value in a product that isn’t backed by the very manufacturer who produces it.