Easy there, pal; before you go and buy all that fancy new hunting gear, you’ll need somewhere to put it all. That’s why we created this top-to-bottom list of the best hunting backpacks in 2023.
I’ve been wandering around the mountains searching for deer and elk since I was a child. I’ve spent countless time picking fellow hunters’ brains about their favorite gear. I’ve hunched over my computer for hours on end, gathering research-backed insight into the top brands in the industry. As a result, I’ve created this extensive list of well-reviewed packs from Sitka, KUIU, Mystery Ranch, Eberlestock, and more.
Are you an ultralight archery hunter that covers serious miles? Are you a veteran rifle hunter with bad knees who hangs out in the stand all day? Are you a beginner whitetail hunter overwhelmed by the countless packs to choose from?
Whoever you are and whatever your scenario, I’ve got you covered.
From compact and convenient camo daypacks to rough-and-tumble high-capacity options that haul a week’s worth of supplies, the bags here run the gamut. I’m here to help match you with the perfect pack for your specific style.
I’m sure you want your pack to be just like you: strong, capable, and tough as nails. So, before you throw on that camo and lace up those boots, let’s find you one of the most comfortable, rugged, and functional hunting backpacks 2023 has to offer.
Some of us hunt small game in the Appalachia, while others are after prized bull elk in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. Whatever type of hunter you are, you’ll need a comfortable and practical bag to hold your gear for these hunts.
But we don’t all need the same size packs. We each need the exact bag that makes sense for our unique scenario.
To put it simply, find a pack designed to hold the amount of gear you’ll need for the duration of your trip and then some extra space if you plan on hauling out your harvest.
Best Overall Hunting Pack System
KUIU Pro Hunting Pack Kit
Capacity: 2,300 – 7,800 cu in
Frame: Carbon fiber
Pros: Customizable for any body type, next level load stabilization, easy to access compartments, lumbar support, fantastic warranty
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the KUIU brand and seen it out in the field on your hunting trips. Though they’re a relatively newer name, KUIU is more than just a fad. They bring the heat with all of their products, and their pack systems are as good as it gets.
KUIU makes their pack systems extremely customizable, meaning they allow the user to pick each of the components of their pack individually. Doing so enables us hunters to build a tailor-made system around our unique hunting styles. The Pro Hunting Pack Kit isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation (and that’s a good thing).
The hip belts on these bad boys are fully adjustable to each user, which helps eliminate pinch points and allows for effortless load stabilization over rugged terrain. Backpacks this comfortable and customizable can be a godsend for those of us who push ourselves to the max on each trip.
We also love KUIU’s innovative load sling adjustable slot that allows you to haul your meat between the bag and the ultralight carbon frame. This feature forces the weight close against the frame and your body, making for a comfortable carry with minimal shifting.
Best Hunting Backpack for Deer, Elk & Big Game
Mystery Ranch Metcalf
Capacity: 4,333 cu in
Weight: 5.7 lb
Frame: Adjustable Guide Light MT Frame with overload feature
Pros: 500D fabric is strong and durable, able to hold more weight than you can carry, compatible with bows, rifles, and hydration bladders
Cons: A little bulky and heavy, some say it lacks enough padding in the lumbar and hips
The indestructible Mystery Ranch Metcalf is loved by backcountry hunters far and wide. Designed with the Rocky Mountains in mind, this pack will stand up to all the scrapes, drops, and snags your hunting trip can throw at it. It’s feature-rich, comfortable, ultra-rugged, and available in men’s and women’s models.
Mystery Ranch’s clever patented overload feature lets users effortlessly load their meat or game bags between the frame and the bag itself. Doing so enables the harvest to rest extra snug against the user, making for a much more stable and safe pack out.
If you’ve ever fallen victim to poorly secured loads in unstable mountain terrain, you can probably imagine how useful this feature is. Slippage and shifting weights above 100 pounds can not only be a huge hassle, but it can also lead to falls, broken ankles, or worse. If you plan on carrying considerable weight, pick a load-hauling pack that’s up to the task.
The Mystery Ranch Metcalf is the perfect size for up to a week in the field but can also compress smaller for shorter journeys. Its versatility, comfort, and load-hauling abilities make it one of my favorite packs on the market for deer, elk, and big game hunting in 2023.
Hunter’s Favorite High-End Pack
Sitka Mountain Hauler
Capacity: 3,700 cu in + 800 expandable
Weight: 5.8 lb
Frame: T-6 6061 aircraft grade aluminum
Pros: Super strong frame, lots of pockets, doesn’t make noise, easily accessible front pockets even when fully loaded
Cons: A bit heavy, could use more padding around the shoulders and hips
I was completely torn between the Mountain Hauler and the Mystery Ranch Metcalf, so I included both on this list. Sitka is a top brand among elk and deer hunters and will continue to be for years to come. They pay close attention to detail with each product they release, from their clever camo patterns to their quiet zippers to their cutting-edge materials.
Sitka believes that the journey of big game hunting is just as important as the harvest, and they design their gear with that ideal in mind. The Mountain Hauler sits high on the hips, allowing for even weight distribution while under load. Its internal aircraft aluminum frame will allow you to carry more than 150 pounds efficiently, making it one of the most robust packs on this list.
If you plan on hauling heavy harvests and own matching Sitka apparel, this is the pack for you. It was engineered with rough and tumble backcountry big game hunting in mind, no doubt.
While their Mountain Hauler pack isn’t necessarily a “runner-up” to the Metcalf bag above, I prefer the Mystery Ranch’s camo pattern, as it matches my clothing and my hunting destinations better. That’s why I listed it first.
Best Hunting Backpack for Women
Mystery Ranch Pintler
Capacity: 2,355 cu in
Weight: 5.7 lb
Frame: Guide Light MT
Pros: Lots of support, neat the hips/lumbar, good load distribution, durable and tough
Cons: A little heavy for its carrying capacity
Some of the most demanding meat haulers on the mountain are women. For them, not any old hunting men’s pack will get the job done. The ladies need a bag with a harness system specifically made to fit a woman’s body. Enter the Mystery Ranch Pintler.
This sturdy medium-sized pack is an excellent option for medium-length trips. It specializes in load distribution over the hips and is large enough to carry several days’ worth of food and supplies. Contrast this design to some of the men’s choices on this list, and you’ll quickly understand that this bag is tailor-made for the lady hunters among us.
The Pintler is available in three different camo designs: Coyote, Foliage, and Optifade Subalpine, allowing you to match your bag with whichever pattern you’re running. And, as with all Mystery Ranch bags, the innovative overload design feature comes standard and will help you haul serious weight when the time comes.
Thanks to its bow-and-rifle-compatible accessory straps, safely carrying your weapon should be a breeze. Like the Metcalf pack above, the Pintler has cleverly placed pockets and quiet zippers that’ll make accessing your smaller gear a breeze. If you’re a lady hunter and want a tough-as-nails pack that can haul a harvest, the Pintler was made for you.
Best Mid-Range Pack
ALPS OutdoorZ Matrix
Capacity: 2,700 cu in
Weight: 4.1 lb
Frame: No frame
Pros: Holds weapon of choice securely, lots of pockets, quiet, budget-friendly, comfortable padded back and hip belt
Cons: Not the best option for meat hauling, a little bulky for its carrying capacity
If you’re looking for a no-fuss pack for deer and elk hunting on a budget, check out the ALPS OutdoorZ Matrix. It’s the perfect size pack for an overnighter and will also work well as a gear hauling daypack. It’s multi-weapon compatible and available in Mossy Oak and Realtree camo patterns.
Though this pack is a fraction of the cost of some others on this list, it isn’t lacking in quality or utility. I used an ALPS pack for a couple of years in my 20s, so I can attest to the usefulness of their products. My pack (I forget the model name) was ultra quiet when I moved about the backcountry.
I always pay close attention to my bag’s “swish” factor. Does it make a swishing noise when my jacket is rubbing against it? Does the zipper sound like a roaring lion in an otherwise silent forest? Worry not; this sturdy backpack should pass the “swish” test with flying colors.
For hauling, the ALPZ OutdoorZ Matrix features a lashing system that’ll allow you to carry extra loads or pack out meat. But, while I’m sure you can haul out a quarter with this pack, it’s not my favorite option for large loads because it has no frame to distribute your pack’s weight.
Budget Camo Day Pack Under $75
Capacity: 2,200 cu in
Weight: 3.7 lb
Pros: Easy organization, quality, and quiet fabrics, a weapon harness system, affordable
Cons: No frame, some questions on hauling capabilities
I spend a lot of time researching gear, which can get mind-numbing. I’m constantly chumming the waters of Amazon, looking for solid options for my readers on a budget.
After all, it’s easy to promote bags made by KUIU, Sitka, and the like. Gear from these well-known brands is always top-notch and has a very low probability of letting your down. That’s why I’d feel horrible for plugging a cheap Amazon alternative, which later lets my readers down in a make-or-break moment.
But this pesky little pack from TIDEWE kept popping up time and time again while I was scouring through hunting forums, groups, and reviews. It boasts a 4.8 rating on Amazon with over 1,200 reviews. Those are some pretty impressive stats for a daypack that’ll only set you back about $70.
The TIDEWE shares many of the same features as its counterparts on this list at a fraction of the cost. I particularly like the bat-wing-style flaps that help keep your weapon securely stashed on your pack. Ready to save some money?
PRO TIP: Buy this pack direct from TIDEWE to get the best price possible!
Top-Notch Bow Hunting Backpack
ALPS OutdoorZ Traverse EPS
Capacity: 4,500 cu in
Weight: 6.8 lb
Frame: Tubular aluminum
Pros: Easy to use, lots of pockets, comfortable, expandable for meat hauling, keeps your bow cams safe, affordable.
Cons: You have to remove the pack to release your bow, a little heavy and bulky
I’ve had my eyes on the Traverse EPS pack from ALPS OutdoorZ for a few seasons, and this may finally be the year I pull the trigger. Not only does this bag have everything I’m looking for in terms of size, durability, and pocket organization, but it rings in at a very reasonable price.
If I’m running and gunning, I’ll already have my bow dismounted from my pack, but if I’m traveling long distances while packing into a spike camp, I like to secure my bow on the back of my bag. Doing so allows me to focus on getting from point A to point B quickly and efficiently.
Thankfully, the Traverse EPS is a medium-carry bow hunting backpack that works excellent for both endeavors. It can function as a multi-day backcountry bag and is also designed to pack out large hauls of meat, making it versatile and specific to my hunting style.
While I believe this pack would work best for bows, it could also work well during rifle season. It comes with a blaze orange rain cover which will come in handy when packing out meat or during rifle hunts in inclement weather.
Ultralight Pack for Deer & Elk
Capacity: 5,000 cu in
Weight: 2.0 lb
Frame: Not included (can be purchased separately)
Pros: Lightweight, huge main compartment, great for minimalists
Cons: Not a ton of pockets and room for extras on the outside, front pocket hard to access when under full load
If you’re a hunter who constantly pushes yourself to go harder, farther, and deeper into the wilderness than others, you already know that keeping your pack weight down is vital. If you’re searching for a high-volume ultralight pack that’ll trim not ounces but pounds from your kit, look no further than the Eberlestock Vapor.
The inside of this behemoth is cavernous and can stash everything you could need on a multi-day hunt. Water is no issue with this bag either, as it sports dual hydration bladder hangers to haul liters of that precious life source through the woods.
If you want to pop a frame on this pack — here’s the one we recommend — you’ll need to purchase it separately. Adding a frame will give you loads of real estate for hauling out bull elk and elevate your comfort levels as you lug your harvest through the forest. Sure, the frame’s weight takes away from the ultralight approach, but it could be a smart move if you hike deep into the backcountry as you pursue big game.
Weighing in at a meager two pounds, the Eberlestock Vapor is as minimalist of a hunting bag as you’ll find. If you take 25,000+ steps a day through the wilderness as I do, you know that every ounce on your back matters. Not only will this pack lighten the load for your other hunting essentials, but it’s also affordably priced at $250.
Gigantic Pack for Hauling Deer & Elk Meat
Eberlestock V90 Battleship
Capacity: 6,050 cu in
Weight: 8.8 lb
Frame: Adjustable internal frame
Pros: Big enough for any animal, great for extended multi-day trips, durable and reliable
Cons: Too big for shorter hunts and smaller framed people, a bit heavy
Would you look at that?! Eberlestock is not messin’ around! This absolute unit high-capacity camo backpack is large enough to camp out for a week or more without resupply and will still have room to haul meat out once you’ve quartered your kill. It goes by the name “Battleship,” which is 100% fitting.
My buddy Caleb, an experienced Colorado elk hunting guide, runs exclusively with this pack for his backcountry spike camp trips. He makes his living lugging massive loads of gear and meat up and down the mountain several times a season. This monster from Eberlestock checks all his boxes.
He particularly loves that he can load gear from the top or the front of his pack. Doing so is especially helpful when he needs to quickly access something towards the bottom of his bag without unloading the rest of his gear.
It features a rock-solid adjustable internal frame capable of supporting weights up to 1,000 pounds. The Eberlestock V90 Battleship can carry more than any other pack on this list, making it the best meat hauling backpack for big game in 2023.
Lightweight Multi-Day Hunting Pack
Badlands Sacrifice LS
Capacity: 3,800 cu in
Weight: 4 lb
Frame: Badlands Hypervent suspension and ultralight frame
Pros: Lightweight, strong, technologically advanced, reliable, quiet
Cons: If there are any downsides to this pack, I can’t find them
Welcome to the Badlands, Sonny Jim. Way out here, the conditions are less than desirable. The pack-ins are long and arduous, and the nearest resupply is miles away. But I know you wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’re a hunter with the gumption and grit to face any challenge thrown at you, the Badlands Sacrifice LS was built for you. This pack will match up perfectly with those of us who trek deep into the unforgiving wilderness and love every moment of it.
Why? Because the Sacrifice LS is engineered explicitly for multi-day backcountry deer and elk hunts. It’s tough as they come and has all the bells and whistles you’ll need to get the job done. It has a pistol holder and rifle boot but also works well with any bow hunting setup.
It features a comfortable internal frame and a bladder reservoir compatible to hold up to three liters of water. And, if you want to haul out racks or sheds that you find your next hunt, it has several sturdy lash points to get the job done. I’ve always been a big fan of Badlands products and would recommend their gear to anybody.
Day Pack with Load Hauling Pop Up Frame
Mystery Ranch Pop Up
Capacity: 1,770 cu in
Weight: 4.9 lb
Frame: Pop up
Pros: Smaller and less cumbersome, can cover more ground quickly, very durable, has fast access to bag contents
Cons: Not the best bag for anything more than an overnighter or a day hunt
Surprise, surprise, yet another pack from Mystery Ranch. I couldn’t help myself; this high-end brand knows what they’re doing when it comes to backcountry deer, elk, and big game packs.
This particular pack, the Pop Up 28, is the best overall daypack for all types of hunters in 2023. It’s compact, quiet, and can still haul out significant loads thanks to its innovative frame. I’m a minimalist hunter and like to have everything I need (and nothing more) on my back while hunting. This pack fits the bill.
What exactly is a pop up frame, you ask? In short, it’s a system that can extend to create space between the frame and the pack to stash a game bag full of your precious harvest. At only 1,770 cubic inches, it’s on the smaller side, but it still does very well at stabilizing larger loads over the hips comfortably.
The Pop Up 28 can act as a small daypack and expand for meat hauling, making it a no-brainer buy for any day hunter who consistently hauls out meat. I’ve rocked a Badlands daypack for the last couple of years, but I may just retire it for this bad boy before the upcoming season.
Rock-Solid Day Pack for Hunting
Allen Gear Pursuit Bruiser Whitetail
Capacity: 2,350 cu in
Weight: 4.7 lb
Pros: Small, Lightweight, Lots of pockets and features, quiet as can be, hydration bladder compatible, includes reversible blaze orange rain fly
Cons: It may not be great for hauling out elk or large mule deer
This slick little Allen Pursuit daypack is one of my favorite small-to-medium-sized bags on this list. My hunting buddy Leon just got one of these for the upcoming season, and I’m excited to see how it works out for him. From what I can gather, this is one of the best hunting packs around at its price point.
Plenty of hunters can’t drop $300 on a new pack this year, and that’s okay. I’ve hunted for several years on an extreme budget and had some of the most successful seasons of my life. Allen understands hunters like us and has made quality gear that we can afford for the last 50 years.
This bag had loads of different little compartments to help you stay organized, including a drop-down workstation that allows you to access items quickly during your hunt. This bag’s functionality makes it shine.
If you couldn’t tell by its name, this bag was specifically designed for whitetail deer hunters. But don’t expect to have much room for a large elk quarter or a monster muley; I’d go for something bigger. You could still manage with this bag for anything larger than a whitetail, but you might want a more hefty solution back at camp to haul out its hindquarters.
There are hundreds of camo bags on the market today. I’m not going to blow smoke up your arse and tell you you’ll fail if you don’t buy a KUIU or a Mystery Ranch. There are plenty of the bags that’ll work to varying degrees of success. But you’re the hunter that leaves little to chance and prepares for everything. That’s why you’re here, after all.
You want a backpack that’ll hold up to the rigors of hunting season, year after year, and will never put you in a tight spot.
That’s why we carefully considered the following eight factors when compiling this list of backpacks. Because if you want a product that’ll excel, you’d better hold it to some rigid standards.
Second-rate materials ain’t going to cut it, bucko. We paid close attention to what makes up the fabrics and frames in the packs on this list and searched for products with rip-resistant fabric and top-quality aluminum or carbon frames. Above all else, the packs on this list should be made from materials that can stand up to the absolute beating they’ll take in the field.
The ideal volume inside a hunting pack will be different for every hunter.
At a bare minimum, you’ll need a pack that can carry all the essential gear, food, and tools you need for your hunt. If you’re a day hunter, this may just be your kill kit, your game bags, lunch, and a few random accessories. If you’re a hike-in backcountry hunter, your bag could be cavernous enough to hold a week of food (or more) and supplies.
If you’re the type of hunter who takes 20,000 steps a day up and down mountain trails, you’ll want something as lightweight as possible but robust enough to hold up to the weight you plan to haul. Ideal hunting bags are durable, lightweight, and comfortable under heavy loads.
If you’re a hunter who doesn’t stray far from camp or hangs out in a stand all day, the weight of your bag won’t mean too much.
Generally, the lighter and more advanced the materials are, the more expensive the bag will be.
If I listed all the ways I’ve broken hunting gear, we’d be here for a while. I’m exceptionally gifted when it comes to absolutely beating up my bag. To that end, I now invest in durable, dummy-proof pieces of gear that’ll stand up to the abuse I’ve been known to deliver. The packs you’ll find on this post are all tough as nails.
As you probably know, hunting rarely takes place in perfect conditions. Weather, especially in the late seasons, can be completely unpredictable. Backpacks from this list offer varying degrees of weather protection based on their materials. We did our best to include bags that utilize highly water-resistant materials or sport a built-in rain fly.
Frame vs. Frameless
Do you plan on hauling out large portions of meat while in the field? If this is the case, buy a pack with a sturdy frame that evenly distributes weight and makes for a more comfortable carry.
Frameless bags aren’t meant to carry significant amounts of weight and might cause you to take more trips than needed. Your pack’s frame, or lack thereof, could play a huge factor in getting your meat back to camp before it spoils.
Meat Hauling Capabilities
I like to carry a small but sturdy daypack big enough to make my first trip back to camp with a hind-quarter. I’ll then grab a more substantial pack or cart and head back to the kill to gather the rest of the harvest. This is my personal preference, but it may not work best for you.
Take into account how far away from camp you anticipate searching for prey, and bring along the backpack that makes the most sense for meat hauling.
We carefully considered each pack’s meat hauling capabilities before adding them to this list.
Not all hunters can afford a high-end pack, and that’s okay. That’s why we did our best to recommend affordable products across many price ranges. From sub-$100 packs to top-notch $500 bags, we’ve got you covered.
True value can be found when buying gear from a company that offers a quality warranty to back up its products. Keep a product’s warranty (or guarantee) in mind before investing your hard-earned dough into it.
It’s cliche to say, but you get what you pay for when it comes to hunting gear. You can either pay up for a quality pack now or pay later when you need to replace a second-rate bag.
I hope you’re getting as excited as I am for hunting season. As I write this, I’m just about 90 days out from the start of archery season for elk in Colorado. Anticipation is growing by the minute, and I’m dialing in my setup more and more with each passing day. I’ve learned that the time to fuss about your gear is now, not when you’re out in the thick of it.
Whether you’re saddle hunting, toting your rifle in a tree stand, or chasing big game for miles with your bow on your back, you need to find the pack that’ll work best for you. None of the bags on this list are a one-size-fits-all solution. Because of this, l recommend purchasing two or three bags, seeing what feels right at home, and returning what you don’t need later.
To help you make a confident purchase, we recommend bags from trusted brands like KUIU, Sitka, Mystery Ranch, and ALPS OutdoorZ. Sure, we also included a couple of budget options from brands you may not have heard of, but we wanted to offer you a little variety when making your choice.
The time is now. Grab a sturdy, weather-resistant bag or two from this list and get out there to fill that 2023 deer, elk, or big game tag. No matter which bag you decide on, we think you’ll be sitting pretty this fall and winter.
Hopefully, we were able to help you find a quality option from our list of 2023’s best-hunting backpacks. If you can’t find a bag on this post that suits your hunting style, drop us a line below, and we’ll do our best to steer you in the right direction.
Now get out there and find some meat to haul.
Last Updated on August 26, 2023