Help understanding and picking backpack

Bmoore

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Oct 20, 2019
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New to the site. Sorry in advance for the long post but I really looking forward to some good dialogue. I’m an eastern whitetail hunter with no experience with backpacking of any kind. I was lucky enough to be invited to do my first western elk hunt next October. I’m very excited to try this out.

I’ve been told that the plan is to set up a base camp next to the trucks and then hike to the elk and if successful, haul all the meat back to camp on our backs. So I’m in the market for my first pack. Something that I can pack with some rain gear and insulating layer and also pack out some elk meat.

I have been starting to get ideas from forums on this site and elsewhere and know that good packs are worth the money but I have a hard 300 dollar cap for this purchase. There’s just no way I can spend anymore and still make the trip next year. That all being said, in looking over packs I’ve found all the information to be mostly confusing. First, packs come in a wide variety of different sizes. How big a pack would I need to pack some outerwear in on the way up the mountain and an elk quarter on the way down? With no experience the cubic foot ratings associated with packs don’t really mean anything to me. I just don’t have anything experience to know what 2000 or 6000 cubic feet really is.

Also, theres external frames and internal frames. What is best for this style of hunt? I’ve seen some with a meat shelf and others with no external frame at all.

Thirdly, I have been looking at used as an option but so many have different sizes waist bands and such. How would I know what size waist band I would need? How can I tell that the pack will fit me?

Mostly, with the wide range of options and so many different opinions on what to do I’ve gotten more confused than I was when I didn’t know anything about packs. I’m looking for some solid information that can help get me into the backcountry hunting world. Any and all advice is appreciated. Like I said, this is all very outside my usual hunting and the overwhelming amount of options has really got me confused.

Thanks for any help you guys can give. I hope this first trip will not be my last out west, but for now, I just need to piece together some gear to get the first one under my belt.
 

Farmingdale's Finest

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Dec 30, 2017
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I was in the same boat as you last year gearing up from myself and my sons first archery elk hunt in Colorado this September.

Because I was gearing up for two I had to make some compromises while still having quality gear that will hold up to carrying larger than average backpacking loads. After much research I ended up buying the both of us Mystery Ranch Glacier Backpacks. They are in MR’s backpacking line but unlike most backpacking packs they were rated to 90lb loads and after training with 75 pounds I am confident that they could easily exceed 100lbs. What they give up to the hunting specific packs is some weight carrying capacity and a load shelf. I added a Kifaru grab it Incase we got and elk this would allow us to essentially have he load shelf in reverse. We would pack the elk in the main bag and put the equipment in the main compartment in a stuff sack and cinch it with the grab it to the pack. By doing this I am getting most of the features of the hunting specific packs at a fraction of the cost.

I bought mine at Moosejaw.com on sale 20% off and they had 30% back in points towards future purchases as well as signing up for cash back through activejunky.com which is usually 10% cash back. With the accumulated points and the cash back I was able to get my big Agnes sleeping bag and Nemo air pad for free.




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Farmingdale's Finest

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Here’s a picture of my son at a creek crossing. The pack is roughly the same size as the MR Metcalf with IMO better organization and the only thing really given up is the load shelf but I am ok with that since I paid $250 for it and was able to get other equipment free.



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OP
Bmoore

Bmoore

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Oct 20, 2019
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Very cool. Thanks for the input! Question though, I’m a bit confused. If you ended up packing meat, where would the meat go in this pack? It’s just one cavity in the pack. So would an elk quarter fit inside this pack? And would you just throw it on top of your gear already in the bag? Just curious how this would all work. Is this where you would use the grab it to hold something to the bag? Just a bit confused how you would make that work.
 

Farmingdale's Finest

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Very cool. Thanks for the input! Question though, I’m a bit confused. If you ended up packing meat, where would the meat go in this pack? It’s just one cavity in the pack. So would an elk quarter fit inside this pack? And would you just throw it on top of your gear already in the bag? Just curious how this would all work. Is this where you would use the grab it to hold something to the bag? Just a bit confused how you would make that work.
I would put the elk quarter in a game bag and then inside a contractors bag to keep the pack bag clean inside. Then if need be I would put the clothes in it into a stuff bag and cinch it with the Grabit to the pack. Or keep it stuffed around the quarter in the main bag.


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Luckyrxc

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May 13, 2017
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There are lots of good options out there for packs. I would not hesitate to buy a used one from the classified section on this site. I have a Kifaru Duplex, medium belt, Nomad, in fantastic shape I would part with. Message me if you are interested.
 
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Bmoore

Bmoore

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There are lots of good options out there for packs. I would not hesitate to buy a used one from the classified section on this site. I have a Kifaru Duplex, medium belt, Nomad, in fantastic shape I would part with. Message me if you are interested.
The waist belt seems small for me. I’m 6’1” 220 lbs with about 36” waist. I don’t wear anything in a medium so I’d assume I would need a large waist belt. But that is for the offer!
 

willfrye027

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Dec 4, 2018
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For your strict budget, I would try to find a used Kuiu pack system. Supposedly there are “better” packs for packing really heavy (elk quarter) loads. But they are a lot more and the Kuiu gets it done just fine I think. I have been perfectly satisfied with mine, just did 98lbs for 10 miles with icon pro and ultra bag setup.

For waist belt/suspension you can look at their size chart. I think you are a L/XL (there are only two sizes here).

Then you need a frame. You are at least a L, maybe an XL. Do not get a regular frame it will be too small and not fit right.

For the bag, this is some personal preference. I think around 4000cu is about right for what you’re describing. You could get by with less but their bags do compress down nicely if your pack isn’t full. 4000 is what I have been using for mule deer day hunts.

Another benefit of this route is when you get back to the whitetail woods, you can put the frame and belt on your hang on/climber for the ultimate deep spot setup. I’ve packed out more than a few quartered whitetails from miles deep with my Kuiu/xop climber system.
 

Pigdog

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Sep 20, 2019
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Oregon
For the style of hunting you are going to be doing I'd maybe look into one of the mystery ranch pop-up packs. You could use it for your elk hunt and still have a nice pack for whitetail hunting. My buddy uses a pop-up 28 and really likes it for day hunting and hauling out a first load of meat. Most of our hunting is like you described, camping at the trucks and going out for the day. For our backpack hunts we use bigger packs.
 

2ski

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Bozeman
Don't be afraid to call these pack companies and tell them straight up what's going on. That you're looking to buy used because you can't afford one at this time, but that you have some questions about sizes. Kifaru, I'm sure, would be more than happy talking to you, even knowing that you won't be buying through them. Aron Snyder gives his # out so people can call and ask him stuff. He's a straight shooter.
 

87TT

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The waist belt seems small for me. I’m 6’1” 220 lbs with about 36” waist. I don’t wear anything in a medium so I’d assume I would need a large waist belt. But that is for the offer!
I am 6 0 and weigh 220. I use an EXO K2 3500 with a medium belt. I thought I would need a large belt too but not true. Different packs have different size ratings. Really do your homework before committing. It is best to try one on with weight. As for putting elk quarters in the main bag? I wouldn't. Having packed elk, I don't want to have that weigh able to shift around. Especially in country elk like to die in.(steep and rugged) Start collecting cans or get a paper route, yard sale, anything to make a little more money and buy a "good" meat hauling back pack. And some collapsible trekking poles.
 

hikenhunt

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The benefits of getting a hunting specific backpack are they are rated for heavy loads and most are able to load meat between the frame and bag which allows you to run around with a smaller pack until you get something and it keeps the heavy meat close to your back.

You could wait for a KUIU sale and pick up the Ultra 4000 kit for right about your price limit. They have a few sales per year and it sounds like you have some time before you need it. You could also watch the classifieds for a used Mystery Ranch, Kifaru, Stone Glacier or other quality pack that you can find people talking about on this site.
 
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Bmoore

Bmoore

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Oct 20, 2019
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The benefits of getting a hunting specific backpack are they are rated for heavy loads and most are able to load meat between the frame and bag which allows you to run around with a smaller pack until you get something and it keeps the heavy meat close to your back.

You could wait for a KUIU sale and pick up the Ultra 4000 kit for right about your price limit. They have a few sales per year and it sounds like you have some time before you need it. You could also watch the classifieds for a used Mystery Ranch, Kifaru, Stone Glacier or other quality pack that you can find people talking about on this site.
Thanks for the input. I do have time which is why I wanna get some info now. Then I have the option to do what you suggest and wait for sale or a used item to pop up on the classified.
 

dmm08300

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Dec 15, 2016
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VA
The waist belt seems small for me. I’m 6’1” 220 lbs with about 36” waist. I don’t wear anything in a medium so I’d assume I would need a large waist belt. But that is for the offer!
Their Medium Belt fits 33-38" waist, may be a good option to look into. If it's too small could always sell the belt and buy a new belt, a new belt runs ~$80
 

IDWapiti

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Jun 11, 2013
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MAKE SURE: whatever pack you decide on, make sure it can be adjusted to elevate your load. You'll only feel it while carrying out meat, but without this functionality, heavy loads will sag below your beltline (or lower). The trick to packing 75-100lbs is to get it elevated with a load panel (or bag itself) that can attach to frame 6-8" above your waist (IMO).
 
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Luckyrxc

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May 13, 2017
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The waist belt seems small for me. I’m 6’1” 220 lbs with about 36” waist. I don’t wear anything in a medium so I’d assume I would need a large waist belt. But that is for the offer!
I think you may be right. I move between 34” - 36“ jeans and the medium is fine...but probably borderline when I’m on the 36” end of the spectrum with winter clothes.
 

Krieg Hetzen

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Nov 19, 2018
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Wasilla, Alaska
I would recommend a pack in the 4000cu in range. It gives you room to run extra layers, kill kit, bug dope, spotting scope, tarp, tripod, etc while still retaining enough room to shed almost all your layers for the pack out. If possible find a pack where the meat will go between the frame and the pack, not strapped to the outside of the pack. When it’s on the outside of a pack full of gear it gets very unwieldy and throws you all over the place. I have an Eberlestock Dragonfly that worked good this year but I did just get my SG Sky Guide in today and it is a much better pack for hunting than the dragonfly. I can’t wait till this spring to test it out on black bear.
 

JeremiahH

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Apr 14, 2013
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For entry into it and figuring things out for future hunts.
There is a Barneys set up on the classifieds right now that is one of the best deals I think I've seen in a while. It's just under your budget.
If I wasn't already set I would grab it.

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North

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May 6, 2018
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Fairchild, WI
The guys I hunt with carry day packs and return to the truck to get their frames when there’s an elk on the ground. I don’t love this method, and I choose to wear a daypack capable of carrying a quarter, but it does allow you to use whatever cheap day pack you want and a big cheap external frame pack for your pack out. I guess when you consider the low odds of killing an elk, having to run back to the truck and grab the frame packs is a good problem to have.

As you get into purpose built packs which are designed to be compact enough to wear day hunting and sturdy enough to carry 100 pounds, they get expensive. Even used, I don’t know if you’ll find a Kifaru or Stone Glacier setup in your sub $300 price range. You can pick up an Alpz external frame hauler for cheap and then take your pick of small day packs for under $200 total, but it’ll cost you a trip back to the truck. Or you can wear the thing the whole time. I got my dad an Alpz frame pack to use last year on a Montana elk hunt and he had no problems wearing it all day and packing an elk with it. It’s overkill for day hunting unless you’re going really far from the truck, but he had no complaints.

This forum has a lot of users of high end expensive packs, and I’m a believer in “buy once, cry once,” but don’t get caught up in the hype thinking you can’t have an enjoyable first elk hunt without spending $1,000 on a pack. The guy I know who’s killed the most elk hunts with an old maroon backpacking pack and a cheap load hauling frame back at the truck.
 
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Bmoore

Bmoore

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Oct 20, 2019
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Thanks for all the input. This is giving me a lot of great things to think about making me feel a lot better about my options. I guess since I have some time to look around, I’ll keep my eyes on the classified and sales from the bigger companies to see if I can get a decent Kuiu or Exo pack in the 4000cu in range for a good deal. If not, in a few months I can go reasses my situation and what options are available then.

Thanks again for all the feedback and keep the information coming from if you have it. I feel much better about what I’m looking for now!
 
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