Whitetail bowhunters can debate favorite hunting tactics for days on end. But when it comes to carrying bowhunting backpacks, most of us tend to fall into just one of two camps: Minimalists or Gadget Guys. Whichever way you lean, make sure your pack meshes with your style.
Minimalists are to be respected for their ability to carry only the bare-bones, basic gear needed to get the job done. Gadget Guys—I call them Gadgeteers—are challenged by a need to be prepared for almost any situation amidst an ever-expanding sea of new gear, while keeping their pack at a manageable size and weight. Whichever way you lean, make sure your pack meshes with your style.
Many of us began as Minimalists, graduating to Gadgeteers as our bowhunting skills and bank accounts grew. It’s a natural progression when you think about how gear needs expand with hunting skills and increasing knowledge of what’s needed in the woods. The longer we hunt, the more we realize we need gear for those “what-if” moments.
As long as your gear choices make sense for what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s hard to argue against them. How can you be a Minimalist when your preferred tactic is peak-rut, dark-to-dark treestand vigils for several days running, in sub-freezing temps? The food, water, and extra clothing to accomplish this feat requires a larger, roomier bowhunting backpack.
On the other hand, there’s something very liberating about heading out for a mild-weather, early-season bowhunt toting just a svelte, ultralight fanny pack.
Still undecided on your pack? Do what I do; make sure your gear closet holds one of each.
Assuming you will wear your safety harness and a binocular on the way to your stand, and carry a cell phone for photos and emergency communication in a coat pocket, here are two approaches for housing the rest of your gear.
Many Minimalists choose a fanny pack for mobility and adequate capacity. A great example is the well-regarded Monster Fanny from Badlands ($139; badlandspacks.com). Introduced back in 1996, this pack has undergone five design updates over the years, and includes a rigid frame for support and shoulder straps for toting heavy loads. Although its name seems contradictory to a Minimalist’s mission, the spacious, versatile Monster (1,000 cubic inches, one large main compartment with five smaller pockets; 2 pounds 14 ounces) is lighter and much more streamlined than most day packs.
—The close-riding, hip-carry design allows stalking bowhunters to maneuver around limbs and other obstacles.
—Its lumbar ride doesn’t restrict arms, so it’s the best design for accurate bowshooting.
—Remove the shoulder straps to carry the unweighted pack without sag, or add the straps to comfortably carry heavy loads.
—The compact design forces you to consider each item’s true worth.
—Extra layers and gear strapped to the outside are exposed to the elements.
—Contents are more difficult to access than that of most day packs when strapped to a tree.
—A fanny pack falls short when you’re attempting occasional (but common enough) big jobs, such as toting multiple trail cams, lifelines for treestands, and multiple heavy clothing layers.
• 25-foot bow tow rope
• Field-dressing knife
• Laser rangefinder
• Folding handsaw
• Packable rainjacket
• Grunt call
• Screw-in, fold-out bow hanger
• Small screw-in pack hanger
• Allen wrench set
Nothing suits a gadget-happy bowhunter like a roomy, well-built day pack. A great one is Tenzing’s TC 1500 ($190; tenzingoutdoors.com), a scaled-down version of the company’s larger, best-selling TZ 2220 pack. Designed to be the ultimate stand pack, the TC 1500 weighs 3 pounds 8 ounces, and features 1,500 cubic inches of gear-hauling capacity in 12 total compartments and pockets that include a rear-mounted bow/gun carrier. Nice touches include a built-in raincover, and new models feature a stretch waistband that quickly adjusts for a true custom fit.
—If you’ve got a heavy load, this pack can carry it, and smartly designed external straps help with the job. When you don’t need it, the strap system battens down empty spaces nicely.
—Multiple, well-thought-out pockets help with organization. The top-loading main compartment is a convenient place to stow your quiver when the pack is strapped to a tree.
—Overpacking alert: We tend to use every bit of space a roomy day pack provides.
—Although not much of an issue for treestanders, shooting a bow while wearing a fully loaded day pack and heavy jacket can diminish accuracy.
—This model actually might not have enough space. Serious Gadgeteers—late-season bowhunters who carry extra layers and public-land hunters who regularly “go deep”—will benefit from a larger pack.
Gadgeteer Gear (includes all the Minimalist gear, plus):
• Ratchet pruner
• Extra bow release
• Wind-checker powder
• Extra headlamp/flashlight
• Bleat call
• Rattle system
• Trail reflectors
• Chemical handwarmers
• Deer scent/wicks