I personally like the Eberlestock's. The Just One is good if you will be packing meat out and the Gunslinger works well if you need to carry a fishing rod or tripod in addition to a rifle. They come with a lifetime guarantee and you couldn't deal with a nicer guy than Glen Eberle. Got a question, problem or suggestion with one of his packs all you have to do is give him a call. Check out: www.eberlestock.com
cabelas alaska packs are pretty cheap from $100-150 and i have used the hundred dollar one and then bought the ak guide pack for $150 a few years ago and have had no problem with them and they are pretty comfortable, they have carried out a lot of animals and are still in great shape exept for a few nicks a black bear took out of one on a goat hunt
IMHO, "best" is going to be an extremely subjective measure, and probably defined by how you will use the pack. Same with the internal/external question. What follows are my opinions, but remember, they're worth exactly what you paid for them (;
It's also hard to answer this question without knowing what your plans are for the pack.
First off, I'll state right out that I'm a pretty hard core internal frame lover, but that's just my background, and they fit the type of trips I find myself taking. I believe that they ride a little closer to the body and tend to 'stay with me' a little better when I'm scampering around on steep ground, loose shale, or wet rocks. I also like the narrower width most internal frame packs have relative to most externals. The downside to internals is that it's harder to load odd-shaped stuff (like moose quarters) in them and that the bag often dictates that an odd-shaped load doesn't ride balanced.
I also believe that the externals handle larger loads better than the internals, hands down. By larger, I mean anything bigger than about 100 lbs. It's also nice to be able to strap a quarter on and go, which you won't be able to do with an internal.
For me, 100 lbs+ is an extremely rare load (only a handful of times in my life so far), so I'll gladly trade the comfort on those rare days for performance carrying 40-80 lbs, which I find myself doing a lot more often.
Worth the price? I'd say that depends on what you plan on doing with it. Packs are one of those things that you pay the additional 50% of the price for the last 10% of the performance. So, if you tend to hunt only a few days a year within a relatively short distance from a road or 'wheeler trail, your needs will likely be very well met by a solidly built, middle price range, pack, either internal or external. There are lots of good ones out there and you can likely find a good, used one for around $100-150. If you are new to the backpack hunting game, I'd suggest looking for a used one to try for a trip or two before dropping the $400-500 on a real high-end model.
If your tastes run more toward 7- to 14-day completely self-supported backpack hunts, you'll probably appreciate the additional bells and whistles in the suspension system that the three or four high end brands offer. I've heard great things about Eberlestock, Kifaru, and Mystery Ranch. Arc'teryx is another good one, but be prepared to sell the right arm to own any of the above brands.
I've personally got an internal frame Mystery Ranch G-6000, and it's hands-down the best, most comfortable pack I've ever carried, and I've been carrying 60+ pound loads on long trips and backpack hunting since 1988. Used to have an Ar'teryx, too, and liked it pretty well. I know guys that own the Kifaru packs and love them, too, but have no experience either personal or second-hand with Eberlestock or the Barney's models.
I'll add another vote for the Eberlstock Just One pack. I took it out on my sheep hunt this year and it was hands down more comfortable than either the Cabelas or the Barney's I've used in past years. It shaved about 5 pounds off of my pack weight just by switching from the external frame pack I had used last year. I felt more comfortable with the internal close to my body while hiking on treacherous terrain.
Unfortunately, my partner and I passed on the three legal rams we saw because they weren't as big as the ones we've taken the last two years. I'm still waiting to see how it will handle a quarter on the pack out. But, I have to agree with Tom in that I'm hoping to keep my pack weights less than 100lbs (which I did one year) when packing out and I think the Just One will handle a medium-heavy load just fine. If I get a 'bou next weekend on the Haul Road I'll be sure to post how it did.
I also bought that pack for next years sheep hunt. I am glad you liked it. I have yet to put some serious weight in mine. I am considering getting the rain cover and liner. Did you get either of these?
I actually leave a Dana Designs external frame and a Lowe internal frame behind every year to take my dirt cheap Camp Trails Moose freighter. It is simple and light. I had to fiddle with the suspension to get it just where I wanted it, as well as relocating the drop down bar and removing the top bar. However, since getting it the way I like it I have been hunting hard with it for three years now. Eventually it will give out and at the price I paid I will just buy another one. Good luck Dave
I've been using Barney's packs for many years, as have most of the guides I know. They're tough, rugged, and will last your lifetime. There are obviously other packs out there, but I quit shopping when I found Barney's. I will likely never have to replace mine.
BTW, in case you didn't know, this discussion has been had NUMEROUS times in the old hunting forum archives. You might do a search there as well.
In my opinion there are 2 different types of hunting packs for Alaska, one that you will haul quartered meat with (ie: moose,caribou) and then there are mountaineering packs for things like sheep hunting. I just recently picked up a Badlands 4500 after using a Dana external for years and so far just playing with it loaded I love it. The Camp trails with the shelf are hard to beat for the money for packing quarters, that is unless you pack quarters regularly then you could spend the big bucks on a Narneys or Nice, Bullpak. Will report on how the Badlands performs, soon!
I switched to a Barney's and probably will be using it until someone can show me something better. I consistently pack anywhere from 90-150 pounds pack loads and this pack has handled it better than any that I have used.
I ordered a J105 package direct from Eberlstock and it came with a rain fly. The pack material is waterproof itself so I did not use it at all on my hunt. It rained every day I hunted and everything inside the pack was dry without using the fly. I think the rain fly is really only necessary if you're going to leave your pack outside over night.
Barney's hands down, for real hunting. That said, on two occasions they did not honor their warranty, for me. Still I figure mine with last me forever. Oh yeah, it is probably older than most of the participants on this forum.