We all love new things. We all love nice things. But none of us can afford to have the newest and nicest everything.
A reader left a comment of Facebook yesterday about the price of the Exo Mountain Gear backpack that I just reviewed. He said,
“Pretty pricey pack. I would like to hear from some others on what they are using for day trips from base camp that would still work for packing one out too.”
Very valid comment. At around $500, the Exo isn’t cheap. It is a good value when compared to it’s competitors, but I’ll get to that later. First, let me answer his question with a recommendation…
If you’re day-hunting from a base camp, use pretty much any generic pack that you want. If all you need to do is carry your snacks, emergency gear, and an extra clothing layer, then darn near anything will work. Go into the woods with a Jansport. Skip the “hunting” packs and just get a backpack.
If you want to go cheap and have something that’s capable for “packing one out”, then get a solid external frame pack. There are decent, affordable, solid frames available from Cabela’s, Kelty, Alps Outdoorz, and others.
If I truly had a maximum budget of a few hundred bucks (at the most), then that’s the route I would go for elk hunting. The combination of a cheap, generic backpack and a solid external frame will have you covered for day hunts and load hauling. It’s not ideal, but it is cheap and functional.
Now, when you get into the arena of “hunting backpacks” be very careful about claims that a lot of brands will make. Just because a pack is big or has high volume, doesn’t mean that it can carry weight effectively. I have tried a lot of backpacks from several of the big names in the hunting industry that run in the $250-$450 dollar range. I’ve tried them, and I’ve sold them. I would have saved a lot of time, money, and frustration by going with something better in the first place. If a few hundred dollars was all I had to spend on a backpack for elk hunting, I wouldn’t look at a “hunting pack” in that price range.
If you’re going to pack an elk out, you can’t afford to skimp on your backpack or boots. Go cheap with your tent, your bow, or a bunch of others things – but don’t be cheap when it comes to your pack or boots. I’m not being a gear snob. I’m not selling an Exo. I’m just telling you that I’ve been there, done that, and have learned a lesson along the way. Don’t waste the time and money that I have wasted.
The “do it all” hunting pack that only costs a few hundred dollars and works great as a daypack, a backpacking pack, and a meat hauler – it’s at the end of the rainbow on the back of a unicorn. It doesn’t exist.