Finding the perfect, yet affordable, backpack for hunting has proven to be a quite a difficult task for all hunters, but more specifically women. I have owned several hunting packs in my life, all of which have been used and abused to the point they could no longer be repaired. I consider my backpack to be, with the exception of my weapon, the most important piece of equipment that I take hunting.
A good pack provides, most importantly, the capacity to haul everything you need, be easy to use, and be free of unnecessary gadgets that get in the way of your comfort. A GREAT pack provides all of that plus, the perfect fit to your body, lighter weight material (we all know that every ounce counts when you’re backpacking), and the versatility to function for many types of adventures. In my quest for the ideal pack, I had a list of “must haves” that had to be met before I would surrender my credit card to make the purchase.
The main feature I look for is minimum of 3500 cu.in capacity, with a frame that can fit my petite torso. The second feature I consider to be imperative, is the material of the backpack. It must be constructed of durable fabric that can withstand the elements, protruding tree limbs, and careless baggage handlers at the airport. It must also be strong enough to haul extra weight when packing meat out, or all the gear of a fellow hunter that pooped out (we all know one of them), without ripping out at the seams. The third is easy to use compartments that make sense. I don't like a bunch of unnecessary gadgets that add extra weight and cause irritation and discomfort in the back country, and it absolutely must have a strong and sturdy compartment for my bow.
I found that perfect pack! After months of research and trying on an endless number of packs, I settled on the Blacks Creek, Canadian model backpack. This pack is a bit heavier than I wanted to carry at 8 lbs 4 oz, but all the other amazing features outweighed the single attribute I disliked. The pack is made of 3 layer Tricot fabric construction, which is extremely durable, but adds to the weight. I recently returned from a month long adventure that took my new pack from one side of the globe to the other. It began with a brown bear hunt in a remote area of the Alaskan peninsula, and ended with a plains game hunt in Africa. I was impressed with my Blacks Creek pack from the moment I began packing. By the end of the trip, I was completely in love with it, and my husband realized he had to have one as well.
My very favorite feature of this pack is the adjustable frame with breathable mesh back. It has the ability to accommodate anyone from a small woman like me, to an extremely large guy like my dad. Once the frame is adjusted, the shoulder straps and chest strap can be conformed for the perfect fit. The waist belt is wide, padded, and adjustable to conform perfectly right around any sized waist. I was very excited about this because my main issue with all the other brands of packs I’ve tried is, that the large capacity packs don't adjust down small enough for a woman's frame. Once fitted and packed, I began my adventure by taking the Canadian pack as my carry-on at the airport. After checking my luggage on, the lady said my pack was too big to use as a carry-on. I simply zipped off the detachable day pack and called it my laptop bag, and I now had two perfect sized carry-ons. I showed her!
When we finally got to bear camp and started hunting, my appreciation for the pack grew from “love at first sight” to a full on “love affair”. I had more than ample space to pack everything I needed to head out hunting. Compressed, that pack is 2200 cubic inches, but it expands to 3850 cubic inches. I REALLY knew that this was the perfect pack when I knelt down to strap on my rifle and my bow. Both the rifle and bow compartments are zipped in and tucked away until you need them. I was so pleased to see that the bow pouch was big enough to support any type of compound bow, and adjustable for any size bow. The rifle pouch was the designed just as well, and both pouches had adjustable top straps in the perfect position to keep the either the bow or rifle from swaying or moving around. It has an inside waterproof compartment for my spotting scope, as well as a separate sleeve for my 3 liter water bladder. There are 24 total zipped pockets in which I could stow my licenses, knives, headlamp, goodies, and any other essential item that a hunter needs. Plus the front pouch zips entirely off to become a second backpack with straps. Perfect if you just need a few things to go spotting for a couple hours before dark, or a laptop bag at the airport.
Springtime in Alaska is wet, wet, and more wet. That was not a problem for my Blacks Creek pack because all I had to do to protect my gear, was take out the rain cover that is velcroed in a small pocket at the bottom of the pack. The rain fly fit nicely right over the pack and could be tightened so it wouldn't come off. The true test however, came after I shot my bear. We were well over five miles from camp and we had to pack that big bear back. No problem! All I had to do was unzip a compressed compartment at the back of the pack, and I was able fit the entire bear hide right inside. It is a completely separate and lined pocket, so the wet, bloody hide couldn't get on any of my other gear. With the hide and all my gear, the pack weighed close to my own body weight. I’m not going to lie, I was exhausted when we got back to camp at midnight, but the pack held up without a single tear and carried all my gear so I didn't have to make two trips. Now thats a pack!
I have been so irritated for so long that no one has yet to make a WOMEN's pack specifically for extreme hunting. But the Blacks Creek, Canadian backpack is competitively designed for any sized person. Yet it's big, strong and adjustable enough, for everything from a 10 day bear hunt on the Alaskan penninsula, to throwing some light gear in it and taking it out after African plains game for the day.