As a new turkey hunter trying to gear up with the basics this year, I’ve been blown away by the differing opinions on using a backpack versus a turkey vest.
At least for this spring, I chose to run and gun with the Pnuma Chisos backpack. Having several days in the field with this hunting backpack, here is my honest to Mom review.
As I write this, I am sitting under a shady pine tree on closing day hoping a gobbler wanders in front of me so I can have one last chance at bagging my first longbeard. Turns out it can carry a laptop too.
The Pnuma Chisos backpack is good for scouting, deer, and turkey hunting. It could work for bigger game, so long as you have another way to pack out your meat. It’s rather heavy for its volume of only 36L, but the build quality, weather resistance, and lifetime warranty make it a solid choice.
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Pnuma sent me this backpack to review, but this is not a sponsored post and nobody told me what to write. The opinions written here are my own based on my personal hands-on experience with the backpack over a few months.
What It Was Like Hunting with the Pnuma Chisos Backpack
To decide whether or not I liked this backpack and why, I simply used it for its intended purpose. In preparation for spring turkey season, I wore it out scouting a couple of days, and then I hunted at least 6 full days in season.
Since I’m still figuring out how and where to even find shootable birds on public land, I probably hiked or biked 50 miles with this pack.
The things I pay attention to about hunting backpacks are:
- Functionality (storage, external straps, capacity, features)
- Durability (build quality, wear and tear, water resistance)
- Versatility (multi-purpose vs. one-trick pony)
- Comfort (all day use, load vs. no load)
Pnuma is an up and coming technical hunting apparel brand that competes for our hard-earned dollars with the likes of Sitka, Kuiu, and First Lite. So I expected that I was getting a premium product, not a typical big box store camo backpack.
It turns out it’s pretty good stuff!
The Pnuma Chisos is more than capable as a hunting day pack. Despite the constant internal battle to take more “just in case,” I try to pack minimal gear, and this backpack’s size and form factor compel you to take what is needed for a day out and not all of your 47 turkey calls.
For turkey, I was able to put the essentials inside the pack including extra water, a few emergency supplies, a collapsible foam decoy, binoculars, rangefinder, snacks, a knife, a Thermacell, and some extra stuff.
I usually had a small camera tripod and a water bottle in the side pockets (also hydration pack compatible) and my gloves and neck gator in the small (and deep) front pocket.
The annoying part about this was it was hard to reach what was in the side pockets and impossible to reach what’s in the front pocket without taking the pack off.
So when I sat against a tree and wanted to hurry and set up to call in a gobbler, I’d have to take the pack off to get my stuff. This took time and made noise and, ultimately, I missed a few opportunities trying to get situated.
When I got warm, I would strap my jacket to the straps on the bottom where I also clipped a basic seating pad. Then I stuck a few things in the hip pockets on the waist belt.
The little pouch from the inside attached decently well to the chest strap, where I wore it most of the time. I kept a box call, a slate call, and a few locator and mouth calls in it. This was fine but not ideal for the following reasons:
- The snaps on the pouch came undone a fair amount so it would often dangle by one strap.
- It was a pain to take the pack off and have the pouch fall off or spill out.
- It takes up the real estate for a bino pouch, or in my case, got in the way of my bino harness.
- The zippers aren’t quiet, which doesn’t help when you’re trying not to bump a bird when fumbling for your calls. Too bad it’s not a magnetic enclosure.
The full-zip main compartment is nice, especially for organizing your gear or accessing big optics like a spotting scope.
This setup worked out just fine for me and I really don’t need or want a bigger pack for turkey hunting. However, it’ll get tight if you’re going to pack a bigger molded decoy, more than one decoy, or some heavier layers for cold weather.
This is definitely on the small side for a hunting pack, but I like that. It makes for less bulk and weight. This makes it easier to hike, duck under branches, move through brush, and still hunt.
I’ll use it for whitetail when I’m hunting from my rig, but I wouldn’t use it for anything backcountry or where you need to pack meat out.
The thing I found the least functional on this pack was the elastic strappy thingy on the front. It uses robust aluminum clips with multiple sewn slots on tough webbing and it even has lockable clips to adjust tension. These are all pretty high-end feeling.
But then the elastic band itself is super thin and cheap, the kind you know will overstretch after a couple times and become useless.
I packed out a single elk shed with this strap and it was sagging and bouncing like crazy. I managed to get it out without breaking the elastic band, but I don’t plan on hooking anything even moderately heavy to this. It’s best for a rain jacket or something light. This is the one underbuilt part of this pack.
After scraping this through thick pine branches, numerous drops to the ground, a few rainstorms, and a lot of dirt, the Chisos backpack is still holding up just fine. Other than the slight dirt patina, there is no real wear and tear to speak of.
When it did rain, water beaded up nicely on the Cordura fabric and rolled off. The zippers to the main compartments are well-protected from water and smooth to open and close.
I wouldn’t count on it to keep the inside dry in a torrential downpour, but it was just fine in the typical spring mountain showers I went through.
The frame, straps, and padding are all still like new, and no seams show any sign of ripping.
If something does go wrong, Pnuma offers a Vortex Optics-like lifetime warranty. If something like this Chisos backpack rips or a zipper breaks, they will repair or replace it for free. That’s impressive for a manufacturer of textile goods!
This is not a Swiss Army Knife backpack that will work well for every hunt you imagine. But I could see it fitting in a two-pack portfolio where this is your daypack and you have a larger pack for shed hunting, packing meat, and backcountry or more intense trips.
Based on my own experience, I think it is a capable and functional turkey hunting pack for those anti-vest types. I’ve still got to fine-tune my system for a quicker setup, but I think that will come together. It’ll probably involve a different chest pouch. One that can hold my binos and calls and that is quiet to open and close.
The detachable waist belt combines with the molle pouch for a basic fanny pack which could be nice on quick scouting hikes. Though I never really used this feature.
Besides turkey hunting, I think this will work well for deer hunting, scouting for anything, and hiking. It’s just not made for heavy loads or big volumes.
Having hiked up and down copious amounts of wooded hills and ridden my hunting ebike 16 miles with this pack on my back, I can say it is comfortable to wear for long periods.
I love the gap the frame creates between your back and the pack itself. There must be about two inches of daylight in between there, so the airflow is real! My back didn’t get nearly as hot and sweaty as it usually does when hiking.
That frame also contributed to a comfortable sit leaning back against a tree when watching for game.
The shoulder straps grip well to your shoulders and don’t move around easily, even with a gun sling over top. I could even walk hands-free, which is awesome!
The padding of both the shoulder straps and the waist belt is very cushy, no bruises from straps digging into my hips.
There are plenty of straps for adjustment, and they are long. There was plenty of belt to go around my 36” waist. With as much strap as there was still dangling, I would guess this will work well even on big dudes.
Room for Improvement
If I could have my way, I’d improve the Pnuma Chisos backpack’s design in three ways.
1. Make it carry a rifle.
There is currently no good way to carry a rifle, shotgun, or bow on this pack. So my gun was always in a sling over my shoulder or in my hands. You could maybe stick it out of the main pouch or outside pocket, but not without a hassle. It would be really nice to stick it in my day pack on that long walk back to camp.
2. Upgrade the elastic cord feature on the front.
As previously discussed, the elastic strap on the front is weak. It would be great to upgrade this to match the toughness of its attached parts and perhaps make it easier to manipulate. Maybe it could even be made to hold a gun?
None of these nice-to-haves is a dealbreaker, though. This is an extremely well-built pack.
Should You Buy the Pnuma Chisos Backpack?
That, my friend, only you can answer.
What I can say is that I think the Chisos has nearly everything I would want in a hunting day pack, except for the couple items I listed above. It has excellent build quality and durability, it’s super comfortable, and it even looks really cool.
If you need to carry a lot of gear, pack out meat, strap on a bunch of sheds, or want to go ultralight, this pack won’t satisfy you.
On the other hand, if you are good at taking only what you need, mostly hunt from a vehicle, and don’t need to use it for overnight trips, the Pnuma Chisos hunting backpack would be an excellent pick for you.