Nothing brings a good hunt down like taking a deer and then realizing you have no way of taking the meat back to your camp.
A good hunting backpack will make or break your hunt, especially if you need to hike to your hunting location.
Sure, if you have a cabin and an ATV for getting around your hunting property, you may not need a hunting pack. But if you need to put your hunting boots to the ground, or if you hunt from a remote campsite, you need a good hunting backpack.
Not all hunting bags are made the same. Some are designed for camping gear. Others are made for hauling meat. The best can do both. Can your bag hold your rifle? Even better!
Whether you’re hunting deer, elk, goats, or moose, one of the following hunting backpacks will help you carry your next hunting trophy home.
The 8 Best Hunting Packs of 2019: Outdoor Empire Reviews
- Best backcountry: ALPS OutdoorZ Commander
- Best for hauling meat: Horn Hunter Full Curl Frame
- Best for elk: Eberlestock Team Elk Pack M5
- Best for deer: Badlands 2200
- Best with rifle holder: Timber Hawk Killshot
- Best waterproof: Badlands Diablo Dos
- Best lightweight: Badlands Pursuit
- Best budget: ALPS OutdoorZ Dark Timber Day Pack
|Category||Best backcountry||Best for hauling meat||Best for deer|
|Material||Nylon ripstop||Polyester||KXO-32 waterproof fabric|
|Capacity||5250 cubic inches||500–5000 cubic inches||2250 cubic inches|
|Number of Pockets||6||9+||8|
|Weight||7 lbs. 5 oz.||Up to 9.2 lbs.||5 lbs. 15 oz.|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Backcountry Hunting Pack: ALPS OutdoorZ Commander
- Material: Nylon ripstop
- Capacity: 5250 cubic inches
- Number of Pockets: 6
- Frame: External
- Weight: 7 lbs. 5 oz.
- Accessories: Tray, pistol holster, rifle holder, hydration port
The ALPS OutdoorZ Commander is an externally framed hunting backpack, though it’s not a good day pack.
The Commander has an external frame, a removable pack, and a bottom shelf. There’s a rifle holder and a place to attach a pistol holster with a clip.
The pack can hold up to 5,250 cubic inches of gear in all of the pockets, one of which is designed for a spotting scope. There’s also a pocket for a hydration bladder and a port through which you can route the tube.
This gives you enough room to carry all of your camping gear to a remote campsite. Then, once you’ve shot your deer, you can remove the bag and lash large amounts of meat to the frame. This is helped by the large shelf.
However, the Commander is not a good backpack for stalking game. It is very large, and the nylon ripstop isn’t quiet. The fabric also lacks water resistance.
It weighs 7 pounds and 5 ounces with the bag, 5 pounds and 2 ounces without the bag, putting this pack on the heavy end of the spectrum.
- Large capacity
- Surprisingly inexpensive
- You can remove the pack part for hauling meat
- Noisy design
The ALPS OutdoorZ Commander is a customizable external frame pack with enough capacity to carry everything you need into the backwoods. It’s great for hauling meat, but it’s lacking when taken out to the deer stand.
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander is also available at:
2. Best Backpack for Hauling Meat: Horn Hunter Full Curl Frame
- Material: Polyester
- Capacity: 500–5000 cubic inches
- Number of Pockets: 9+
- Frame: Internal
- Weight: Up to 9.2 lbs.
- Accessories: Load shelf, hydration pocket, compression panels
The Horn Hunter Full Curl hunting backpack is a full-on, gear-carrying system. You can choose from three versions: Frame, Combo, or System.
The frame itself has nine medium and small pockets and can carry 500 cubic inches of gear. There’s a collapsible load shelf, and for better meat-hauling capabilities, you can add on the Sportsman’s Outdoor Products Horn Hunter Full Curl Meat Pack Bag. It connects to the frame for easy carrying.
The Full Curl Combo version adds a lightweight day pack, good for short-range hunting. The Full Curl System adds on a large sack between the day pack and the frame, which expands the carrying capacity to 5,000 cubic inches.
A good compression system grabs the gear and brings the weight close into the frame, making 150 pounds feel like 50 pounds.
However, though this is a great hunting and meat-hauling pack, there is no rifle holder or pistol holster. You’ll have to carry your hunting weapon separately.
- Detachable day packs and large bags are available
- Horn Hunter Full Curl Meat Pack compatible
- Lacks a holster or rifle holder
The Full Curl Frame is an excellent and lightweight meat-hauling backpack. Toss on the System and you have a backpack you can use for day hunts or long-range hikes.
Horn Hunter Full Curl Frame is also available at:
3. Best Elk Hunting Pack: Eberlestock Team Elk Pack M5
- Material: NT7 water-resistant fabric
- Capacity: 3100 cubic inches
- Number of Pockets:
- Frame: Internal
- Weight: 6 lbs. 8 oz.
- Accessories: Bow carrier, rifle scabbard, hydration pockets
Eberlestock designed the Team Elk Pack M5 to be the perfect elk hunting backpack, a feat they’ve achieved.
An internal aluminum frame supports a 3,100 cubic inch pack, which is a good hybrid size for both single day and multi-day hunts. You can also haul meat with this bag, though not as efficiently as a dedicated meat hauler.
There is a rifle scabbard and a bow holster, so you don’t have to keep ahold of your hunting weapon until you’re ready to use it. There are two pockets which can hold either hydration bladders or spotting scopes. Rangefinders fit in the waist pockets.
The NT7 fabric is waterproof, and the whole thing is constructed to help keep water out of your gear. There are also compression straps to move the center of mass close to your body.
Finally, 10% of the sales from this backpack are donated by Eberlestock to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to ensure healthy elk populations for years to come.
- 10% of proceeds go to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- Good size for short- or medium-length hunts
- On the heavy side for a smaller pack
- Poor chest strap
The Eberlestock Team Elk Pack M5 is perfect for elk hunters because it’s great for both hunting and conservation.
Eberlestock Team Elk Pack M5 is also available at:
4. Best Deer Hunting Pack: Badlands 2200
- Material: KXO-32 waterproof fabric
- Capacity: 2250 cubic inches
- Number of Pockets: 8
- Frame: Internal
- Weight: 5 lbs. 15 oz.
- Accessories: Rifle boot, hip belt pistol holsters, meat shelf, hydration pocket
With 2,250 cubic inches of carrying capacity, the Badlands 2200 is an excellent heavy-duty day pack or lightweight deer hunting backpack.
It has an aluminum internal frame and weighs one ounce under 6 pounds. It has eight pockets and allows you to carry a bow, rifle, tripod, and more, hands-free. The molded foam compression system brings your pack’s weight to where your body can best carry it, reducing fatigue on long hunts.
A bat-wing design opens up when you need to carry dressed game, so this backpack can carry more than its size lets on. The meat shelf is blaze orange, so another hunter won’t mistake the deer hide you’re carrying for a living deer.
The KXO-32 fabric is waterproof while also being strong and quiet. Combined with how the Badlands 2200 doesn’t move around on your back, this makes for a stealthy backpack when you need to stalk a deer.
However, the designers seem to have been above average in stature. Hunters under 5’9″ tall may not be able to adjust the straps down enough to be completely comfortable.
- KXO-32 waterproof fabric
- ThermoMold compression system
- Unconditional warranty
- May not fit smaller hunters
The Badlands 2200 is an excellent backpack for day hunts and can carry a dressed dear out of the woods.
Badlands 2200 is also available at:
5. Best Hunting Backpack with Rifle Holder: Timber Hawk Killshot
- Material: Polyester-brushed tricot
- Capacity: 3429 cubic inches
- Number of Pockets: Many
- Frame: PVC Backing
- Weight: 7.6 lbs.
- Accessories: blaze orange rain cover, water bladder
The Timber Hawk Killshot does not have either an internal or external frame. Lightweight PVC backing helps keep the bag rigid without the weight
While most backpacks with a rifle holder have one place which can carry your gun, this has several. You can strap the included rifle scabbard where you need it to go for maximum comfort. It’s also capable of carrying bows.
The Killshot can carry 3,429 cubic inches of gear in its many, many pockets. The shoulder straps have pockets for a GPS, radios, and binoculars. There’s a hydration pocket with a 2-liter water reservoir included. Even the pockets have pockets.
This is the backpack for someone who loves pockets.
If you want additional storage, there are lashing points to add on even more gear.
The external brushed fabric is quiet, and so is the twill lining. Though the pack is not waterproof, it comes with a blaze orange rain cover to protect it from the rain.
The hip belt and shoulder straps are highly customizable, so this backpack can fit a wide variety of body types. There are even quick-detach points, so you can drop the bag in a hurry!
- Highly customizable
- Multiple weapon strap locations
- Heavy for its size
The Timber Hawk Killshot is a very customizable hunting backpack which can carry your rifle in a variety of ways, but its on the heavy side.
6. Best Waterproof Backpack: Diablo Dos
- Material: KXO-32 waterproof fabric
- Capacity: 2100 cubic inches
- Number of Pockets: 7
- Frame: Internal
- Weight: 4 lbs. 4 oz.
- Accessories: Hypervent suspension, rifle boot
The Badlands Diablo Dios is well-protected against moisture, both from the air and your back. We’ve all sweated into our backpacks—don’t try to deny it.
But the Diablo Dios has a Hypervent suspension system that allows a lot of air to pass around your back, keeping you cool and allowing sweat to dissipate instead of drenching your clothes.
The KXO-32 fabric protects against rain because it’s inherently waterproof. But that’s not good enough for Badlands. They treated the Diablo Dios with Dupont’s DWR to further resist moisture so your pack stays dry and clean. It’s even blood resistant!
The Diablo Dios weighs 4 pounds 4 ounces and can carry 2,100 cubic inches of gear, making it both strong and lightweight.
The chest and shoulder straps are weak points. The shoulder straps can come off the cushioning, and the chest straps can slide around. Both of these issues can be fixed with a little sewing or Velcro, though.
To add to the water theme, the Diablo Dios can carry a 3-liter water bladder. That’s half again larger than the average hunting pack capacity of 2 liters.
- Good weight-to-strength ratio
- Unconditional warranty
- Waterproof and blood-resistant
- Mediocre straps
The Badlands Diablo Dios is a great pack when you want to keep your gear—and your back—dry.
Badlands Diablo Dos is also available at:
7. Best Lightweight Backpack: Badlands Pursuit
- Material: KXO-32 waterproof fabric
- Capacity: 1500 cubic inches
- Number of Pockets: 5
- Frame: None
- Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
- Accessories: AirTrack Suspension
The Badlands Pursuit is a frameless daypack, though it maintains the rigidity you need for a comfortable carrying experience.
Badlands managed to get both good rigidity and good suspension while cutting out a lot of weight by using their AirTrack Suspension system. This is a breathable mesh combined with air-filled foam that allows air to get to your back while stiffly backing the bag.
The results are impressive: the Badlands Pursuit weighs under 2 pounds unloaded!
Though, it is only a day pack. The Pursuit can carry up to 1,500 cubic inches inside the main compartment and pockets. There are two mesh pockets for water bottles or other gear. Two bedroll straps can be used for additional gear, like a bow, but probably not a rifle.
You can strap a rifle to the compression straps but there’s no included holster or scabbard.
Triple-stitched Aramid thread is used to reinforce the seams, so you know this backpack can stand up to harsh hiking conditions.
- AirTrack Suspension
- Extremely lightweight
- Unconditional warranty
- Small capacity
The Badlands Pursuit is an ultralight hunting day pack that can get you and your gear through the woods, but it can’t carry enough equipment for multi-day hunts.
Badlands Pursuit is also available at:
8. Best Budget Backpack: ALPS OutdoorZ Dark Timber Day Pack
- Material: Brushed fabric
- Capacity: 2285 cubic inches
- Number of Pockets: 6
- Frame: None
- Weight: 2 lbs. 1 oz.
- Accessories: Lashing straps, hydration port and pocket
The ALPS OutdoorZ Dark Timber Day Pack is on the large size for day packs because it can carry 2,285 cubic inches of gear. It has 6 pockets, if you count the side mesh pockets, and has lashing straps to hold additional gear.
The mesh back helps keep your back cool, and a hydration pocket keeps you from being thirsty. The shoulder straps, hip belt, and compression straps help keep the pack from moving, though it lacks an external or internal frame.
You’ll be able to carry enough gear for a day hunt but won’t be able to easily haul meat with just the Dark Timber. There are also no weapon holders unless you want to lash your rifle to the bar-tacked webbing.
Basically, this bag lacks the advanced features of other hunting backpacks. It’s a step above normal backpacks, but not by much. It’s also not as weather resistant or quite as durable as most other hunting backpacks.
- Lacks features
- Not as good build-quality
The ALPS OutdoorZ Dark Timber is a lightweight yet durable daypack capable of holding plenty of gear, but it lacks the features of more expensive hunting packs.
Why It’s Important to Choose the Right Hunting Backpack
Most hunters I know put serious thought into their hunting equipment.
They’ll spend days looking at gear and talking with other hunters before deciding what to buy. This is a good thing because you don’t want to miss your chance at a deer because of bad equipment.
Oddly enough, most of my hunting friends seem to gloss over backpacks. They’ll toss their hunting gear into a normal hiking backpack, or even their old school bag, and then venture into the woods and have an uncomfortable time. They might even spook the buck they were hoping to shoot.
A little forethought and a little more money would have saved their back and allowed them to take that deer.
That’s because hunting backpacks aren’t just camo-colored hiking backpacks. They’re made for a different purpose, one that requires stealth and weaponry skills.
Hiking backpacks are good for comfort and storage but don’t mesh well with rifles and sneakiness. Military packs come close but still don’t quite hit the mark.
I used to hunt with an old ALICE pack. It worked, but it wasn’t until I tried a friend’s Badlands backpack until I realized I needed to upgrade. Once you’ve slipped off a hunting backpack to take aim without alerting a deer, you’ll know you made a good choice by getting a hunting-specific pack.
How to Choose a Quality Hunting Backpack
While I believe any hunter should have a hunting backpack, not all hunters should wear the same packs.
Bringing a backcountry backpack is overkill for a short day hunt, while a daypack won’t allow you to haul out an elk quarter. So, it’s smart to choose the pack that will work best for your hunt.
Purpose and Carrying Capacity
The most important factor to consider is how much stuff you want to carry. In other words, what is the backpack’s purpose?
If you need to carry not only hunting gear but also camping supplies, such as a tent and bedroll, then you want a larger backpack such as the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander. You may need upwards of 5,000 cubic inches to carry all your equipment.
However, if you’re hunting out of a cabin or your truck, then you can get by with a much smaller daypack, and 2,000 cubic inches or less may be more than enough. A huge pack will slow you down and make your trek more awkward than it needs to be.
Also, how will you carry the meat once you’ve shot your target?
Small game, such as goat and deer, can often be dressed and carried out of the woods without needing a huge, externally framed backpack.
This holds especially true if you’re hunting with a partner and can split up the meat-hauling duties.
However, if you’re hunting larger game such as elk, you’ll need a meat-hauling pack. Though some smaller bags do have meat shelves, for those big animals you will need a larger bag.
Backpacks come in three styles:
- External frame
- Internal frame
- No frame
External frames are the big boys and are best for carrying as much gear as possible. They are generally the most adaptable because you can take off the sack and lash the game bag directly to the frame.
This makes external frames great for longer hunts.
Internal frames hold the weight closer to your body than external frames and are almost always lighter. However, they are typically less suited for meat-hauling because you can’t take the pack off the frame.
Backpacks without frames are the lightest duty but are also the cheapest. They’re best for day hunts and rarely have the capability for carrying lots of meat.
Fit and Weight
The physical features of the bag can be more important than the backpack’s carrying capacity. What good is a backpack that doesn’t fit you?
Most backpacks are adjustable enough to fit most people, though some, such as the Badlands 2200, won’t fit smaller hunters.
I’ve found that hunting backpack manufacturers err toward fitting larger people.
The bag’s weight is also important to consider because you’ll be walking a long way with your backpack. Thankfully, properly fitted backpacks feel much lighter than they actually are. Still, unless you need the features of a heavier backpack, it’s often a good idea to shave off weight.
Hunters are often caught in the rain. You can’t just pop indoors to avoid a rain shower if you’re on a tree stand three miles from the nearest road!
Unless you like having waterlogged gear, it’s a good idea to get a backpack with some measure of water resistance. Zippers are weak points, so even waterproof fabric doesn’t mean the bag itself will be waterproof.
Some backpacks come with a built-in rainfly to best protect from the rain. If they don’t, well, a garbage bag is a cheap and simple way to protect your backpack from the rain.
Hiking through rugged terrain can be extra difficult and even dangerous when you’re holding a rifle. Many people, myself included, recommend keeping your bow or rifle stowed until you’re at your hunting spot.
Many hunting backpacks come with holsters, scabbards, or other types of rifle holders. Some also have ways to carry bows. A few even have places to attach handgun holsters.
These will allow you to carry a weapon hands-free.
Why not use a sling instead?
Well, you can’t sling your rifle on your back when also wearing a backpack. It’ll have to bounce around in front of you, which gets old quickly.
Attaching your weapon to your backpack keeps it from sliding around.
Top Backpack Brands
Established in 2007, ALPS OutdoorZ focuses on producing hunting gear. Their aim is to combine affordability with performance, so hunters can enjoy their hunt without spending all of their money. ALPS OutdoorZ’s employees don’t just develop and sell their gear. They use it, too.
They produce more than just hunting backpacks. ALPS OutdoorZ sells gun cases, sleeping bags, hunting blinds, and even camouflaged camp furniture.
Their passion for hunting doesn’t end at outfitting hunters, though. ALPS OutdoorZ has teamed up with multiple charities and conservation groups to ensure safe habitats for wildlife.
ALPS OutdoorZ works with Delta Wildfowl, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Whitetails Unlimited.
This also sponsors a mentorship program to aid experienced hunters in teaching others about our sport and to spread a safe and healthy hunting culture.
ALPS OutdoorZ company’s products may not be the flashiest in the world, but they are reliable without draining your credit card. Their backpacks may not be the best, but you’ll pay three times the price for only a little more quality.
One of the premium hunting backpack manufacturers, Badlands is well known for producing high-quality, albeit expensive, hunting gear.
They are most known for their backpacks, which are some of the best you can buy. That’s why three of them appeared in this list. However, Badlands hasn’t limited themselves to hunting bags.
They also have gloves, scope covers, binocular holders, sleeping bags, and more. Their hunting clothing is also excellent.
Badlands has their own camouflage, which they call Approach. Approach camo has a neutral color palette that’s designed to adapt to most natural surroundings and lighting conditions. It also has more visual layers than, say, military camo, which helps to break up your outline.
Approach camo has been tested in the field across the world. It’s not some committee-designed camo that doesn’t actually perform in the real world. Take that, UCP.
Badlands also has an unconditional lifetime warranty. If you own a Badlands backpack that fails for any reason, no matter how you bought it, Badlands will repair it.
Their warranty page asks you to abuse their backpacks so they can make the next generation even better. However, the backpack does have to be repairable. I wouldn’t recommend testing the backpack’s resistance to Tannerite.
All of this quality does come at a price. Badlands is one of the more expensive hunting backpack manufacturers. However, they are worth every penny, and you can use them year after year.
And if you accidentally catch the backpack on fire, well, they’ll take care of you.
Can’t I just use a regular backpack?
If you’re hunting close to a cabin or vehicle, then sure, a normal backpack will be able to carry all the gear you need.
However, your average city backpack isn’t designed for long-term wild use. And hiking backpacks lack certain features specific to hunting packs, such as a meat shelf or rifle holder.
Or stealth. Most backpacks have noisy fabric. Hunting backpacks are designed to be quiet.
Wearing a hunting backpack will make your trip much easier if you plan on traveling more than a short distance into the wild and can help you avoid spooking your game.
What should I pack in my hunting backpack?
Packing a hunting backpack is a lot like packing a hiking backpack, except you need to add hunting-specific items.
Here’s a list of example items:
- Weapon and gear, such as ammo or arrows
- Binoculars and perhaps a rangefinder
- Blaze orange gear
- Game calls and scents
- First aid kit
- Field dressing gear, such as skinning knife, rubber gloves, game meat bag, etc.
- Rain gear
- Warm/cold weather clothes
- Extra socks
If you’re outfitting yourself for more than just a day hunt, then you need to add standard camping equipment as well. This will include items such as toiletries, cooking equipment, a sleeping bag, a trash bag, and other overnight gear.
How do I clean and wash my hunting backpack?
Backpacks can get quite messy when exposed to the wilderness. They can get covered in mud and contaminated with animal blood, so it’s good to know how to clean your backpack.
Though you can machine wash backpacks, I’d recommend against it. Washers and dryers are hard on this type of heavy gear and can cause them to wear much faster than handwashing.
Here’s how to handwash your hunting backpack:
- Empty the backpack of all gear.
- Remove the bag from the frame, if possible.
- Separate all detachable bags, if any.
- Wipe off surface dirt with a brush.
- Wipe down the whole bag with a damp cloth.
- Use non-bleach stain remover on any stains.
- Put some gentle, dye-free, fragrance-free detergent into a large tub of room temperature water, preferably a hunting detergent, such as Scent Killer Clothing Wash.
- Put the backpack into the water and scrub with a soft brush or rag until it’s clean.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Hang to dry, preferably upside down.
Read your backpack’s care label before following these directions. While they work for most backpacks, they won’t work for all.
You can machine wash some backpacks if you want, but make sure to set the washer to its gentlest cycle. And never machine dry a backpack unless you like throwing money away!
How do I adjust my hunting backpack?
You’re going to wear your backpack for hours, even days, so it’s important that your pack fits comfortably.
It’s unlikely for you to be able to adjust the backpack once and be comfortable for the rest of your life. Different load weights and the settling of contents can change how the backpack rides, so you may need to adjust in the field.
That’s okay. But, you can use the following tips to get started:
- Wear the hip belt in line with the tops of your hip bones, not down around your hips.
- Tighten your shoulder straps until they’re firm but not too tight; you should be able to put a finger between the straps and your shoulder.
- Pull stabilizer straps and load-lifter straps to bring the pack’s weight closer to your body, increasing your leverage.
- Fasten the chest strap and tighten it. You should feel the weight pull off your shoulders a bit. If you can vertically position this strap, it should be an inch or less below your collarbones.
- Go over every strap again to make sure it’s comfortable. You can do this in the field, too.
Two-thirds of the weight should rest on your hips and the remaining third on your shoulders. This will let you carry the weight of all your gear plus a bunch of meat without any extra fatigue!