For backcountry hunters, a new generation of backpacks embraces the "go in light, come out heavy" ethos pioneered by Idaho pack maker Glen Eberle. These multi-day packs are designed to convert from compact rucksacks to full-size freighters capable of hauling out meat, rack and cape, plus your gear and gun or bow, in a single trip. We tested these packs by toting entire field-dressed whitetails during a late-season Montana doe hunt.
Eberlestock JP9 “Blue Widow” 31⁄2 stars The Blue Widow is so slim and compact, you can comfortably stalk and shoot with it on your back. Featuring an excellent bow-and- Overall Rating:
rifle transport system, the 4,700-cubic-inch pack has ingenious loop zipper pulls, a detachable fanny pack and an adjustable
suspension. ** (7 lb; $300; eberlestock.com) Report Card ** Comfort: **A+ ** Design/Features: **A+ ** Ease of Use: **B ** Price/Value: B
Blacks Creek Saskatchewan Day Pack 3 stars This 1,850-cubic-inch pack is slim enough to hunt in and stout enough to pack out a moose quarter, but might be too small to suit serious expedition hunters. Features include easy-open buckles, a rock-solid bow-and-rifle transport system and a detachable possibles bag. Overall Rating:
** (6 lb. 7 oz.; $189; blacks-creek.com) Report Card ** Comfort: **B+ ** Design/Features: **C+ ** Ease of Use: **C ** Price/Value: B
Crooked Horn High Country Extreme II 31⁄2 stars With the best bow scabbard in the test, a separate sleeping bag compartment and countless external lash points, this 4,200-cubic-inch pack was clearly designed by hunters. We loved the pillowy hip belt and adjustable suspension. The fabric was loud for stalking. Overall Rating:
** (7 lbs. 8 oz.; $249; crookedhorn.com) Report Card ** Comfort: **A ** Design/Features: **B ** Ease of Use: **C ** Price/Value: A+
Cabela’s Extreme Hunter 4000 31⁄2 stars It may be light, but the low weight of this 4,000-cubic-inch pack is due to fewer bells and whistles, with few lash points and a weak torsion system. We liked the raincover and its ability to tote a bow and rifle. The fit was excellent. Overall Rating: ** (5 lb. 8 oz.; $219; cabelas.com) Report Card ** Comfort: **A ** Design/Features: **B ** Ease of Use: A+ **
Horn Hunter Mainbeam XL 21⁄2 stars With 25 compartments and 3,000 cubic inches, this pack easily accommodates a rifle and spotting scope, and a cradle-and-sling system totes a bow and full quiver. Expect a break-in period for the stiff waist belt. Overall Rating: ** (7 lb. 11 oz.; $249; gohornhunter.com) Report Card ** Comfort: **B ** Design/Features: **C ** Ease of Use: **B ** Price/Value: B
Badlands Model 2200 3 stars This 2,310-cubic-inch workhorse has so many straps, you’ll need directions to map out lash points. The bat-wing design accommodates a ton of gear. The torsion system keeps loads from swinging, but the waist belt dug into our hips. Overall Rating: ** (6 lb. 7 oz., with bladder; $179; badlandspacks.com) Report Card ** Comfort: **B ** Design/Features: **B+ ** Ease of Use: **C ** Price/Value: A
Sitka 45 Bivy 4 stars This pack’s 4,500 cubic inches of space is achieved with a convertible meat shelf that tucks away when not in use. The detachable lid can be used as a day pack, and the bottom compartment separates gear from meat. The mesh back panel positions loads a little too far from the body, but the pack slims down into a comfortable, compact core. Overall Rating: ** (6 lb. 4 oz.; $349; sitkagear.com) Report Card ** Comfort: **A+ ** Design/Features: A+ ** **B **
**Ease of Use: Price/Value: B+
Part backpack, part utility trailer, these packs will help you get the load out.