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Thread: Recommendations/Advice for first hunting pack

  1. #1
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    Default Recommendations/Advice for first hunting pack

    I am planning to buy what will be my first pack for hunting sometime in the next 4-6 weeks, and I'm looking for advice on different brands/types of packs from more experienced hunters.

    I expect to tag along as a non-hunter (or carry a SxS for grouse) on a Kenai Peninsula caribou hunt in the coming season. I want to be able to carry my gear plus help pack out meat, if possible. I do not know, as of yet how long we'll be out, but I suspect that three days will be the max.

    I have quite a bit of backpacking experience, but this will be my first pack specifically for hunting. I currently own a couple of internal frame packs, my primary pack being a Gregory Baltoro (75L/4500ci) but I'm not sure I want to turn that into a hunting pack, or if I even can turn it into a hunting pack. I'm actually looking at some of the higher end lumbar packs, which would be great for small game/birds, but probably won't work for this trip. =( (I much prefer a smaller lighter pack with less stuff, but I don't how well that style works with hunting.)

    A few features that I already know I am looking for are: Made in USA (this may not be possible, but I'm willing to pay a premium and/or make other trade-offs); rifle carrier-maybe (I carried a rifle for a few years in the Army so I don't HAVE to have it but it may be nice.) (On that note, some of you may recall the old TA-50 Medium Alice packs that had a pocket inside for the PRC77 radio (I always carried one of those, too) I'd like some feature/pocket that would let me strap in my ham radio and possibly carry a disassembled antenna & tripod.); lastly, hyrdation bladder compatible.

    What have you guys used that has worked well and helped make your hunts easier or more successful?

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    It really depends on the animals you plan to pursue and the loads you plan to haul. I have hauled a black bear out in a Gregory pack. I don't recall the model name but it was their largest pack in 2008 and it worked very well. I prefer internal frame packs and now carry a custom one designed for my purposes. For boned out loads or smaller animals (sheep, deer) it is great. For packing moose quarters it is less than ideal so I have a frame pack for that. For small game I just use an Eberlestock day pack with a built in scabbard that is handy when working through tight alders and climbing over deadfall.

    The pack is a pretty personal and subjective gear item!

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    LuJon, I'll bet you and I have the same pack; mine was their biggest pack in 2006. How do you use it for hunting though? One of my fears is putting bloody/smelly animal parts in it and then contaminating the pack and gear within with said smell which equals bear bait during sumer backpacking.

    For small game I like the Blacks Creek and Rocky Mountain lumbars, and I'm on the fence on those, but I doubt that they're up to the overall task of 3 days in the field AND carrying meat out.

  4. #4

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    Barney's Pinnacle (kevalar) pack.
    "The days a man spends fishing or spends hunting should not be deducted from the time he's on earth. " Theodore Roosevelt

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    As what was said if money is no object then I "guess" these Barneys packs are the big rave. But I am still a big fan of a freighter frame and moose bag. Cabella's sells them.

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    Member oakman's Avatar
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    I would suggest deciding very carefully. I was disappointed when I bought a cabela's pack when I got started. I sold it after one season. It weighed 12 lbs empty and I replaced it with a larger pack (Barney's pinnacle) that weighed less than 9 lbs empty.

    What I have always done is use a contractor trash bag (the really heavy duty trash bag) when hauling anything bloody. So I'll put my meat in game bags and then before it goes in the pack I put the contractor bag in the pack. This keeps the blood from getting on the pack. As soon as I get back to camp the meat comes out of the black bag so it doesn't spoil.

    It seems like more and more people are going to internal frame packs these days. After seeing a post by another member in the "Gear Forum", I'm considering a Kifaru KU5200. It only weighs 3 lbs empty...

    If you're in Anchorage, you should be able to check out quite a few of the packs at places like Barney's, the outdoors show, Mt. View Sports, and maybe even other members of the forum. It is a very personal decision, and I'd suggest getting as much information as you can and doing it right the first time.

    When it comes time to buy, don't forget to check craigslist, the swap & sell forum here, and ebay. I've had a bunch of luck recently on ebay.

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    Member mekaniks's Avatar
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    I recommend going to Barneys and talk to them, check out his packs before you make a decision. I bought my pack there and have not been dissapointed. Also bough a hilleberg tent while I was there but thats another thread...

  8. #8
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oakman View Post
    I would suggest deciding very carefully. I was disappointed when I bought a cabela's pack when I got started.
    But what Cabella's pack did you buy? As a guide, and on my own hunts, I have literally carried tons of meat over the years on that freighter frame. I really don't know how much mine ways empty, but I'm pretty sure mine isn't that heavy. Yes, I'm SURE the new fandangled packs are more comfortable and lightweight, but there is no way in hell that I would pay the kind of money they are asking for some of these packs. To each his own tho, that's why I said "if money is no object" as it seems that way to the op.

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    4merguide, how long ago did you buy that pack? I bought one of the Cabela's Alaskan Guide packs in 2006 and used it on 1 caribou hunt. It failed miserably! I strapped one load of meat (about 40 pounds) on the pack, and got about 100 yards before the meat shelf colapsed and broke. I had to strap the meat on with bungie cords and parachute cord, and adjust the load every 50 yards. On top of that the pack squeaked like crazy. I also didn't care much for the suspension. I would rate that pack a 1 out of 5. Maybe you got one before thier quality went down hill. But I would not reccommend any Cabela's pack to anybody based on my experience.

    If you are not looking to spend a lot of money check out the Jim Shockey Pack. I bought one at sportsmans for a little under $300. It has lots of room, and handled packing meat with no problems. The meat shelf is welded on so there was no problems. The only complaint I have against that pack was that it's a little narrow for me. I also liked that all the side pockets were removable and adjustable. The suspension was fully adjustable as well. If you don't want to spend the money on the Barney's pack I would recommend this one.

    In any case put some weight in your pack go on some long hikes so you can get everything adjusted before you go on your hunt. You will save yourself a lot of pain. Good Luck
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    Member oakman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    But what Cabella's pack did you buy?
    I had the "Extreme Alaskan Outfitter pack. They list it at much less, but when it was on the scale, it was a shade under 12 lbs. The guy I was hunting with that year had a Kelty (I think). It was amazing to see the weight difference between the two. Mine was more comfortable, and seemed sturdier, but the weight difference was "extreme". If I were to choose a cabela's pack, I'd go with one of the more basic models or perhaps just get the frame and strap a different bag do it.

  11. #11
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by duckslayer56 View Post
    4merguide, how long ago did you buy that pack? I bought one of the Cabela's Alaskan Guide packs in 2006 and used it on 1 caribou hunt. It failed miserably! I strapped one load of meat (about 40 pounds) on the pack, and got about 100 yards before the meat shelf colapsed and broke. I had to strap the meat on with bungie cords and parachute cord, and adjust the load every 50 yards. On top of that the pack squeaked like crazy. I also didn't care much for the suspension. I would rate that pack a 1 out of 5. Maybe you got one before thier quality went down hill. But I would not reccommend any Cabela's pack to anybody based on my experience.

    If you are not looking to spend a lot of money check out the Jim Shockey Pack. I bought one at sportsmans for a little under $300. It has lots of room, and handled packing meat with no problems. The meat shelf is welded on so there was no problems. The only complaint I have against that pack was that it's a little narrow for me. I also liked that all the side pockets were removable and adjustable. The suspension was fully adjustable as well. If you don't want to spend the money on the Barney's pack I would recommend this one.

    In any case put some weight in your pack go on some long hikes so you can get everything adjusted before you go on your hunt. You will save yourself a lot of pain. Good Luck
    Mine actually is a "Camptrails" pack that I bought used....like new, so many years ago I can't remember.....probably close to 20 or so. I said Cabella's because from what I read in their catalog theirs is/was a freighter frame w/ moose bag, and it looked pretty much exactly like mine....from what I could see in the catalog anyway. Maybe I "assumed" (you know what they say) that they were the same thing....maybe not? I'll have to look into this more because I was actually thinking about getting another one, through Cabella's, but not if they are as bad as you guys say they are for sure. Did the packs you guys bought say "freighter frame" ???

  12. #12
    Member duckslayer56's Avatar
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    I don't remember mine saying anything on it. I gave it away when I got home from that hunt so I can't check. You can look at the frame on the website. I doubt it's the same one you have, it sounds like you had one from when things weren't built to be thrown away after 2 seasons.
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
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    Member pacific-23's Avatar
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    Camp trails is the manufacturer, freighter frame the model. These were sold through cabelas at one time. I looked on their site recently and they don't appear to carry them any more. they are still available through different retailers. (For what its worth tony used one per his gear list in "the book")

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    Thanks for the feedback, folks. Ummm, money is ALWAYS an object, for everyone, even the super rich. IN my case, I checked out the Kifaru website, and I know I can't spend $500, event though their packs are USA made and some people rate them very high. I'm hoping to get this done for around $300; I guess I should have stated that in the beginning.

    I know that a heavier pack will carry heavier loads, but 12lbs empty seems abusive.

    Camptrails is a Eureka/Johnson Outdoors brand. I've seen their backpacking models and wasn't impressed. However, I didn't know that the Cabela's brand stuff was all Camptrails.

    What do you guys know about the Coleman Peak 1 frame? I've seen it used as the frame for some hunting packs, but Coleman scares me in terms of quality.

    Speaking of frames, is it absolutely necessary to go with an external frame? Are there any glaring advantages/disadvantages? I ask because I had an external frame break in two on a 12 mile road march, and it dug a hole in my back that took a month to heal. (That was 20 yrs ago and I still remember it.)

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    I have had good luck with my cabelas pack... It is a little heavy, but will handle a good load... I typically just have it in the raft and use it to pack back to the raft works great for that, maybe not the best option for a walk in sheep hunt or something like that, weighs in around eleven pounds... but I cant justify spending the money for a barneys pack to hunt ten days every two years when I come to alaska, I am intrigued by the Dana Design packs like the K2 Longbed would love to find one to buy or try out... Good luck

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    Member pacific-23's Avatar
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    Umm, didn't mean to suggest that cabelas stuff was all camp trails - Cabelas used to carry camp trails thats all...

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    I used to use my dad's ancient camp trails (I think that is what it was) that he had when I was just a little shaver. He used it for several sheep hunts and a moose or two. I used it for a couple of deer while I was in college. When I moved back up here, I saved enough scratch for a Barney's pack and never looked back. Sure it is heavier, but you can carry a lot more weight with it and be comfortable.



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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FL2AK-Old Town View Post

    (this may not be possible, but I'm willing to pay a premium and/or make other trade-offs)
    This is why I said what I did about "money being no object". I guess I was wrong.

    And OK....I guess if weren't impressed with Camptrails and what I did with mine, then I have no business advising you that's for sure......

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by spoiled one View Post
    I used to use my dad's ancient camp trails (I think that is what it was) that he had when I was just a little shaver. He used it for several sheep hunts and a moose or two. I used it for a couple of deer while I was in college. When I moved back up here, I saved enough scratch for a Barney's pack and never looked back. Sure it is heavier, but you can carry a lot more weight with it and be comfortable.
    That first pic is a great shot guy!!!

    I really feel that so much depends on how a pack fits a guy. I think if a pack fits well and is sturdy, even if it's not a high dollar pack a guy can still be comfortable packing out heavy loads. When I was guiding, more than a few times I had my hunters come over to my pack, lift it and say..."I don't know how you do it". If it was that bad of a pack then I don't know how I could of.

    BTW....even tho that pack is battered and worn, it is still usable today.

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