Green backpacker

Red84

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I am looking at planning a backpack rifle elk hunting trip in 2020. Not 100% sure on the details as of yet, but I am betting around 5 days in. I do like to have "stuff" but am not a person that has to have every gadget. I am of the mindset "better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it". To narrow my search, what size pack should I be looking at? Also, the way I think, I feel that I could get a high quality backpack, maybe not a "hunting backpack", for half the cost of a quality "hunting backpack". Is it just me or does it seem fine to load out meat in a hiking pack as long as the max weigh capacity is not exceeded? I am truly green and would appreciate all advice. No, I don't have $500 or more to spend on a pack. Most of my hunting gear would probably be considered "multi-use" to make the most of the funds I do have. My wife has been backpacking and has an Osprey pack and loves it. I would really like to backpack with her, so the pack I would be looking for would most likely be a dual purpose pack. Thanks everyone.
 

wllm1313

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Might want to start with a mule deer if you are going solo.

As an inexperienced backpacker starting with low end gear your are going to max out the volume and weight of your pack with just your camping gear, you said rifle elk, so it will be cold and you will much heavier gear than Aug-Sept archery hunts. Then once you get down an elk, you will have around 220lbs of boned out meat + 20lbs head + your 50lbs of gear so 290 total. Let's say you go to the max rating of your Osprey 60lbs... so that's 5 loads to get out. If you are 4 miles in that's 4 miles and 4 miles back to the kill site, 36 miles total. Breaking down/ boning out an elk solo can talk 4 hours or more. You are looking at at least 2 full days of work to get your bull out. If you get a quality pack, you can reasonably do 100lb loads and get your bull out in 3 trips or 20 miles so one long day.

Another option would be to get an Osprey pack and a meat hauler frame, that said osprey bags will carry 100lbs, it just sucks a lot and you will have blood all over your bag and gear.

To answer the question, there is a massive difference between a SG/Kifaru/Exo pack and an Osprey pack. I was an adult onset hunter, who started off with backpacking/mountaineering gear. You can skip the camo/hunting clothes and get 90% of your gear at REI, but a quality pack with a meat shelf makes a huge difference when packing massive loads.
 
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Red84

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That makes good sense to me. I would definitely NOT be going solo. But all three of us would have the same experience level. I am planning this now so hopefully I can gradually build my supply of decent gear and get some time under my pack. Then will build my gear pile around that. Having a separate frame seems like an great idea, especially since I will need to get back to the truck at some point, which would allow me to swap packs. I appreciate your help and breakdown of what it might look like.
 

OhHeyThereBen

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I've been backpacking for years but haven't hauled much meat around while hunting. I can tell you that you'll be just fine with a pack from Kelty, Osprey, Gregory, etc. and will get it at a much lower price. However, they won't be quite as purpose built as a "hunting" pack. I personally own a Kelty Red Cloud 110. I can fit a whole bunch of crap in there and I had it through my college years of not being able to afford compact/light weight gear. Now that I can get a few pieces of nice stuff, I just have room to spare. I think you can get that pack for around $150 now on Amazon.
 

rideold

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I'd wait to buy a pack. Spend your time and money between now and when you want to go on the hunt gaining experience backpacking and fiddling with gear. Throw $20 a month into an envelope and buy your pack 6 moths before you plan to go on your hunt. Then you will have a better idea of what gear works for you and how much space you need.
 

Mason326

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What they said. My wife has an osprey, too. Nice pack, but I'd also max it out with just basic gear for her, so I'd be packmule hunting with her. If you want to do it, literally the two most important things you need to do right to not injure your body are:
1a. Good boots that are broken in
1b. A pack actually designed for this

I packed out a mule deer my first year with so-so boots and a Eberlestock pack based on an old ALICE frame. My back, hips, and knees were WRECKED for two weeks. Next year an upgrade to just a kelty cache hauler frame (has load lifters, properly placed load at/above shoulder blades) was a game changer. It was brutal but I got a big mulie out in one go wayyy back. Took all of one night to recover to go get camp out.

Save up, spend most of your time and money selecting gear that helps your body perform. Boots, pack, trekking poles, technical clothes. Not a new gun, greatest camo, etc. Used kifaru, mystery ranch, Stone Glacier, and other high end packs can be had on the classified here, on RokSl!de, EBay, etc. That's how I found my kifaru. All these backpack hunting packs are also excellent for backpacking, just overkill... kind of like driving a lifted 4x4 to work every day. It can do it, probably better than your camry, but is designed to do a heckuva lot more.
 

Frenchy

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I did a 3 day hunt with a Cabela's pack frame that I picked up off of craigslist for $50. Used bungee chords to to strap my gear to the frame. Worked Great. The year before that I used my 15 year old North Face backpack, and hauled out camp and a front shoulder with it before heading back in and packing out a hind quarter with it. That too worked great!

This year I went in with the MR metcalf, and the only upside was having the heavy hauling ability with me as a day pack. In the previous years I was only carrying a small cloth day pack.

My hunting partner bought a nice backpacking backpack, and carries that around as his day-pack. He has no complaints.

The nice dedicated hunting packs are nice, but they are not the only way to back-country hunt.
 

shaffe48

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I don't know anything about elk but from a few years backpacking , backpackhunting, and previous military I know at least a little bit about tromping around and sleeping outside. In my opinion, your specific gear matters less than how you use it.

That said, as you tromp around and sleep outside you will land on things that make your life easier. You will learn what is and isn't worth carrying. Just be safe and don't make any fatal mistakes in the process.

Have fun. You have plenty.if time to plan.
 

Frenchy

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I should have also mentioned that the MR Metcalf is listed at 4333 cu inches. And I would not go any smaller than that for a multi day back pack style hunt. For a 5-day hunt you may want one a little bigger. So start looking at the 70 liter and up size bags. or like i said pick up a cheap pack frame and start straping gear bags to it.

https://www.cabelas.com/product/CABELAS-OUTFITTER-FRAME-ONLY/2764782.uts?productVariantId=5705538&WT.tsrc=PPC&WT.mc_id=GoogleProductAds&WT.z_mc_id1=05072418&rid=20&ds_rl=1252079&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIorLe9IjI3QIVGKvsCh0nZQL2EAQYAiABEgI1KPD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
 

wllm1313

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How much backpack hunting do you think you will be doing? As much as I love my SG I realize that I pack 4-5 animals out a year, every year... if elk hunting is something you will do once every couple of years and get one 50% of them time a high end bag probably isn’t worth it...I can imagine packing 3 bulls out a year in a osprey but would totally do 1 every 4 or 5....
 

neffa3

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Huh, I've packed elk out with my osprey, kelty, and shoot an old military frame pack with a large dry sack strapped to it. They call carry 100+ lbs. I've tried a MR metcalf once, I couldn't tell the difference. It all sucks man, it's a packout. If it doesn't suck you're missing out on some quality type 2 fun. They only lasting pain I ever had was from the darn suspender buttons on my goodwill wool slacks I was wearing, they dug into the hit belt and caused some serious blood blisters but even they weren't that bad.

Just bring a construction garage sack to line you pack with and you get very little blood on it. If you do get blood just soak it in baking soda and water in the bathtub for a few days, slosh it back and forth and change the water every day. It'll be clean as new.

Watched the Firstlite video series on Tag's sheep hunt. The dude new nothing about backpacking, I guess I didn't realize that was even possible, to be outdoorsy and not go backpacking in the summer. Anyway, if you're in that boat definitely take a few trips prior to trying to backpack hunt. Backpack hunting is a lot harder than just backpacking, so you want to make sure you have the latter down pat before attempting the former.
 

Red84

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Thanks for the input everyone. I think I will look at high quality backpacking packs in at least the 70L variety, and then a load shelf pack to finish the job (thinking positively). I looked at my wife's Osprey last night and it is a 65L, and I know I will want more than that. I grew up with woods and game all around me in a farming community, so I didn't really ever have to go far to find what I needed. The older I get and the more I hunt I realize I just need to get OUT THERE. Not even sure where that is, but it's gotta be outside of SW Michigan. Hunting the UP each fall for birds kick started me on these ideas and now I just can't quit thinking about it. Hiking has always been her thing, and I have done plenty of long day hikes, but want to make backpacking a family thing now the kids are older. So I feel as though it dovetails pretty well into my hunting ideas. That being said I hope to backpack hunt each year at least once. I don't know what reality will be but I can about guarantee I will not be packing more than an animal or two a year, max. If the time comes where more is an option, I suppose at that point I will know, or not, what I need to change and what I am comfortable with.
 

Mason326

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Some of those cabela's packs have everything you need. Same with kelty (cache hauler is the bomb). Didn't mean to say you had to spend gobs of cash, but getting a real pack designed to carry some weight ergonomically can make or break the experience/your body.
 

shaffe48

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Some of those cabela's packs have everything you need. Same with kelty (cache hauler is the bomb). Didn't mean to say you had to spend gobs of cash, but getting a real pack designed to carry some weight ergonomically can make or break the experience/your body.
The thing that I didn't like about the Cabela's branded packs was that they weighed closer to 10 lbs or over. If you know any good ones closer to 5 lbs or under I would be happy to know myself as I am in the market for a pack as well.

As far as the surplus external frame alice packs described above, I would avoid them unless you were really on a budget (as in <$50). Sure, they have worked for many. But the one good thing to come out of the war on terror was a lot of gear upgrades. I know the Marines went straight from the alice to the ilbe to another I don't know what pack. So the ilbe is surplus now. They are heavy (10+ lbs) but if you break one it's your fault. They are also a reasonably comfortable, modern, internal frame pack that will carry more than you will want to carry (unless you are part pack llama).
 

JoMo

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Definitely echo using a pack that is capable of making the pack out less chitty - I mean fun. Last year I did kill a smaller mulie buck on a solo backpack rifle hunt about 5 miles from my four wheeler. I also used my trusty osprey backpack and it sucked. Maybe I suck at physics but I the shoulder strap stitching started coming apart by the end of the bigger load out. With camp the hike out took two trips. If you do end up using a non-hunting specific pack, definitely being plenty of straps to stabilize the load.
 

shaffe48

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Definitely echo using a pack that is capable of making the pack out less chitty - I mean fun. Last year I did kill a smaller mulie buck on a solo backpack rifle hunt about 5 miles from my four wheeler. I also used my trusty osprey backpack and it sucked. Maybe I suck at physics but I the shoulder strap stitching started coming apart by the end of the bigger load out. With camp the hike out took two trips. If you do end up using a non-hunting specific pack, definitely being plenty of straps to stabilize the load.
Which osprey? The most popular Atmos is supposedly for light loads. Personally, I'm looking at the osprey aether, Gregory baltoro, and REI traverse. Probably the latter. Since I'm a bear and maybe deer hunter I'm not worrying about meat packing as much. I can fit one in a single pack load.
 

shaffe48

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Which osprey? The most popular Atmos is supposedly for light loads. Personally, I'm looking at the osprey aether, Gregory baltoro, and REI traverse. Probably the latter. Since I'm a bear and maybe deer hunter I'm not worrying about meat packing as much. I can fit one in a single pack load.
Hi, so of value to those who decide to use a regular backpacking pack, I looked these three over today. Especially relevant for the deer size hunters that don't want to drop quite as much on a pack. These are each the top end, 'big load' (for a backpacking pack), internal frame pack for each manufacturer. They are each around 5 lbs and around $300. I just got back from REI with the REI traverse 85 (as expected) but these are my notes and ranking by category. Compared to my current pack (a REI Yoesemite 75) all three of these are far better. I will post if I notice anything when using the one I bought.

1. Frame, REI=Gregory>Osprey: The REI Traverse and Gregory Baltoro both have a solid rounded aluminum frame. The Osprey Aether has a more 'state of the art' 3.5mm light wire which probably has its benefits for some uses but it didn't convince me for carrying heavy stuff. But I might be mistaken.

2.Hip belt area, REI>Gregory>Osprey: The REI has a very nice, large and padded hip belt with a very large lumbar pad in the back to help keep the pack up. The Gregory has less padding and a smaller lumbar pad. The Osprey continues the mesh suspension into the hip belt which probably increases ventilation but no where near as convincing as the lumbar pad for weight to sit on.

3. Shoulder/load lifters, Osprey>Gregory>REI: Osprey has very padded straps and the load lifters are big thick straps which makes them look better but they still need the small straps to tighten them. Gregory has slightly less generous shoulder straps. REI is still very ample but noticeably less than the others.

4. Load adjustment straps, REI>Gregory=Osprey: The REI has a uplift system with straps that connect from the bottom to the top of the pack. The attachment points and buckles for the uplift are very sturdy. The Gregory and Osprey also have straps that connect from the bottom to 1/3 up the pack which can perform a similar function.

5. Ventilation, Osprey>REI>Gregory: The osprey has by far the most ventilation with mesh suspension from the very bottom of the lower back to the top even in the middle padded area where it looks like it doesn't. The REI has mesh suspension in the back but it is obviously of lower quality and seems to fall flat under weight. Gregory has some very nice looking cut outs in the back that appear better quality than the REI, but I don't think these cutouts even connect to the outside air.

6. Pockets, Osprey>Gregory=REI: All have good pockets and ways to access the main pack. Osprey has a lid that converts into a nice day pack. It also has a way to get into the main pack from the front. Gregory and REI has similar regular pockets. REI has a lid that converts to the day pack and Gregory has an internal hydration pack.
 

wllm1313

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As said before, high end hunting packs can be over-kill depending on your needs... but it's interesting to compare specs to see what you get for twice the $$$$, I started with a North Face pack and did one bear and a mule deer, switched to the SG and after 4 elk, a caribou, and bunch of other critters you couldn't pay me to go back.

Osprey Aether 85 (Size Large) ($330)
Frame: Plastic + aluminum stays (60lb. rated)
Bag Fabric: 210 D Nylon
Bag Volume: 5370 cubic inches
Bag Weight: 5.42lbs

SG Sky 5900 ($659)
Frame: Carbon composite + aerograde titanium stays (150lb.+ rated)
Bag Fabric: 500D Cordura
Bag Volume: 5,900 cubic inches + loadshelf ~2500 cubic inches (2 boned out elk hindquarters or an entire boned out caribou)
Bag Weight: 5.55lbs.


Denier (Unit of measure of the linear mass density of fibers, it is the mass in grams per 9000 meters of the fiber; so 210 grams per 9000 meters of fiber versus 500 grams, i.e. SG is 2.38 times denser than Osprey... Cordura is a brand name for a type of Nylon... like gore-tex)
 

shaffe48

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As said before, high end hunting packs can be over-kill depending on your needs... but it's interesting to compare specs to see what you get for twice the $$$$, I started with a North Face pack and did one bear and a mule deer, switched to the SG and after 4 elk, a caribou, and bunch of other critters you couldn't pay me to go back.

Osprey Aether 85 (Size Large) ($330)
Frame: Plastic + aluminum stays (60lb. rated)
Bag Fabric: 210 D Nylon
Bag Volume: 5370 cubic inches
Bag Weight: 5.42lbs

SG Sky 5900 ($659)
Frame: Carbon composite + aerograde titanium stays (150lb.+ rated)
Bag Fabric: 500D Cordura
Bag Volume: 5,900 cubic inches + loadshelf ~2500 cubic inches (2 boned out elk hindquarters or an entire boned out caribou)
Bag Weight: 5.55lbs.


Denier (Unit of measure of the linear mass density of fibers, it is the mass in grams per 9000 meters of the fiber; so 210 grams per 9000 meters of fiber versus 500 grams, i.e. SG is 2.38 times denser than Osprey... Cordura is a brand name for a type of Nylon... like gore-tex)
There's no doubt in my mind that some high end packs have favorable specs. For.the price, they had.better. But there is also something called diminishing returns to how much value incrementally more weight rating or heavier nylon is really worth. The difference between a 200 and 300 dollar pack is bigger than between a 300 and 400 dollar pack but the cost difference is the same. As I said above the Osprey Aether has a questionable frame for heavy weight. But for the traverse and baltoro 60 lbs is probably a conservative figure. And who wants to carry 150 lbs? I mean a moose hunter might have too...

I mean you say as much also. But it's definitely a subset.of hunters that will really enjoy 2x the benefits to justify 2x the cost. For beginning hunters who don't even know how long they will stick with it or what they really want or how they will use their gear this is even more true...unless you have a lot.of expendable income.
 

Red84

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Shaffe, I really like the comparison you gave as I was looking at those two of those three packs already. I also plan on getting a load shelf pack to do the heavy lifting. As I said earlier I recognize packing out an elk is not a one trip affair. As such, I can get that load shelf pack when I make a trek back. I think this would allow me to still use the pack for backpacking trips as well. As you stated above, I definitely do not have expendable income, hence me planning this purchase, among many others, 2 years in advance. Maybe one day I can aspire to a hunting backpack, but for now I will probably try this system out and see how it goes. At any rate, this is way more info than I expected. You guys have been real helpful!
 
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