Western hunting often demands long hikes, especially when day hunting. For hunts where leaving camp well before light and arriving back after the sun has set, you may want to look for a backpack that could work as a daypack, carrying essential,s plus enough to stay overnight if need be, and also had the capability to carry a first load of meat if an animal is harvested. You’ll want a pack that is lightweight, small, and has the ability to carry heavy loads.
There are many great backpack companies who cater specifically to hunters. I found specifically what I was looking for in three packs, all from different manufacturers. I would consider the three packs listed below to be the best in their price range for their ability to carry heavy loads without being over-sized for day to day hunts:
The badlands 2200 is a do it all pack. At around 2200 cubic inches, it fits the bill of being a large day pack with the ability to pack heavy loads. I’ve had the opportunity to harvest several mule deer with this pack in tow. One of which was in a nasty timber basin. I was grateful to have a pack that could take out a load on the first hike back to camp. Between two of us, we boned out the buck, threw the meat in the packs along with all of our gear and had the whole deer packed home in one relatively easy trip. I’ve done this on several occasions since.
The Badlands 2200 has a fold out wing design, which is nice and makes the pack quite expandable. Badlands shoulder straps have always been very comfortable, and one feature that I really like about this particular pack is a zipper on the back of the pack (rests against your back) allowing you to get into your gear by either swinging the pack around while still wearing the waist belt, or accessing items in your pack when you have a load strapped on the other side. The 2200 also has the capability to be carry a rifle or a bow.
The Badlands 2200 was re-designed in 2014 and is the most expensive of the listed packs (the new price is actually more than $250). The 2200 is a very popular pack among western hunters and has been reliable with a great warranty.
For more information about the Badlands 2200 CLICK HERE
The Eberlestock X2 is one of my favorites because it’s compact size. It is the smallest of the packs featured on this article, coming in at 1800 cubic inches. Don’t let the size fool you, this pack is solid. The only reason I would hesitate to throw a elk quarter in this pack and hike for miles, is because I’d wear out long before the pack ever did. It’s compactness is what really sets it apart from it’s counterparts. It has a lightweight aluminum frame, with great organization pockets for your spotting scope, water, calls, and other items you might need quick access to. Most Eberlestock packs are compatible with a rifle scabbard, and the X2 is no exception. Or, if you’re an archery hunter who likes carrying your bow on your pack, it has the ability to do that as well with the added “ButtBucket.”
As far as size, design, and functionality goes, this pack is one of my favorite and is high on my personal wish list.
For more information about the Eberlestock X2 CLICK HERE
Horn Hunter Main Beam
I’ve personally been using the Main Beam as my day pack for the past 3 or 4 seasons. While I’d love to have all of these packs and truly believe any of them would fit the bill perfectly — I chose the Horn Hunter for a couple of reasons. First, cost was a bit lower than the other two, and I was on a budget when choosing this pack. Second, I liked the design of this pack a lot. It has a wing type design, (smaller wings than the 2200) which allows me to access my spotter, tripod, bugle or any somewhat larger item quickly, without a zipper — while still protecting it from getting beat up as I hike. The Main Beam also has over 20 different storage pockets, so I can keep all of my gear organized. It has a fold out orange meat carrier that tucks away in a pocket on the bottom of the bag which is great for packing out a cape and antlers or stuffing your extra clothing, sleeping bag, or whatever else you may be carrying.
The Main beam is listed at 2800 cubic inches, but when carrying it alongside the badlands 2200, it actually seems a bit smaller. It has more straps for compressing loads than either of the other packs listed in this article, which may be why. Regardless, the pack feels much smaller than the advertised size.
I’ve used my Main beam to pack out a lot of critters over the past few years and have been able to depend on this pack in every situation I’ve been in. I never really weigh my packs when loaded, but it has carried everything I could ever fit in it and has been a great pack for my needs.
For more information about the Horn Hunter “Main Beam,” CLICK HERE
Links for Purchase: (View these links as prices change often)
Horn Hunter “Main Beam” @ Amazon.com: $147 – $179 (price varies)
If you’re looking for the best packs for the DIY hunter for under $250 and are wanting the ability to hunt light and still be able to carry out a heavy load, then take a closer look at the Badlands “2200,” the Eberlestock “X2”, and the Horn Hunter “Main beam.” I highly recommend all of them – each company has fantastic warranties, and they are all durable, dependable, and made especially for hunters.
A few packs to check out that cost more than $250: NEW Eberlestock War Hammer, Horn Hunter Full Curl System, Horn Hunter Curl Combo, Badlands Sacrifice, Eberlestock Just One (J34), Mystery Ranch Crew Cab, NEW Mystery Ranch Metcalf.