If you’re heading out west to pursue bugling bulls, a hunting pack is one of your most important pieces of gear.
Elk hunting is physically demanding. It requires a lot of leg work, often in the form of scaling rough terrain at high altitudes. The best elk hunting pack is one that allows you to carry your weapon and your gear wherever you need to go without breaking your back.
We’ve gathered a few of our favorite models to help you find just the right backpack for your style of elk hunting. Whether you’re planning your first or your forty-first elk hunt, there’s something on this list for you.
- What to Look for in an Elk Hunting Pack
- Best Elk Hunting Pack on the Market Reviews
- Final Thoughts
What to Look for in an Elk Hunting Pack
The type of pack you need mostly depends on how and where you plan to hunt. If you’re heading into the backcountry for a multi-day hunt, you’ll need a very different pack than someone chasing bulls close to home or base camp.
Here are a few important things to consider when you’re shopping for your next hunting pack.
Whether you’re hunting close to home or hiking out into the wilderness, any elk hunting pack needs to be large enough to carry all of your essentials. The general rule of thumb is that you’ll need about 1000 cubic inches of pack space for every day you’ll be in the field. That means you’ll need a pack with approximately 3,000 cubic inches for a three-day hunt.
There’s also a high probability that you’ll need to use your pack to haul out your meat after a successful hunt. Many packs feature meat shelves or special air-flow compartments designed specifically for packing out your elk.
A quality hunting pack distributes weight across the shoulders, back, and waist. The waist should hold the majority of the weight, which means a pack with a sturdy waist belt is a must. If the pack is missing or has a sub-par waist belt, more weight is burdened by the shoulder straps, which makes the whole pack feel heavier.
Elk hunters often have to carry a variety of gear and supplies in their hunting pack. While it’s possible to dump everything in one large compartment, it makes accessing gear in the field problematic.
A pack with multiple pockets will help organize your gear so it is easy to find when you need it. Specialized compartments, such as weatherproof ID pouches, spotting scope sleeves, and hydration reservoirs are also handy features.
Best Elk Hunting Pack on the Market Reviews
Here are a few of our favorite packs for pursuing one of North America’s most popular big game animals.
The Eberlestock Just One Pack is one of the most versatile hunting packs on the market. The company even claims, “If you’re going to own just one hunting pack, own a Just One.”
Designed for longer three-day hunts, the Just One Pack starts as a compact 2300-cubic-inch pack that expands to a massive 4600 cubic inches using a built-in Cam Expansion System.
This rugged pack has a streamlined shape, waterproof zippers, and a high-visibility interior compartment. The torso length can be adjusted vertically to match your body type for custom-fitted comfort. The pack also features deep “3D” ventilated padding.
Weight: 7 lbs. 9 oz.
Our favorite feature: the built-in hunting rifle-sized Backscabbard. This feature makes toting your hunting rifle an easy, hands-free affair.
The ALPZ OutdoorZ Traverse is a great daypack option for elk hunters who don’t want to drop a ton of cash on a backpack.
The whole design of the pack is built around a rugged, yet ultra-lightweight aluminum H-frame. The tubular frame allows the weight of your load to balance between your hips, back, and shoulders to prevent fatigue. With plenty of padding on the shoulder and waist straps, the Traverse is surprisingly comfortable even when you have to carry hefty weight on a long trip. The torso length can also be adjusted to provide a comfortable custom fit.
With 3300 cubic inches of space in the main compartment, the Traverse has enough room for several days’ worth of supplies. The pack also provides a side pocket, two front wing pockets, and two easy-access pockets on the waist straps for extra storage. It even has an internal sleeve to protect your spotting scope.
Other notable features include a blaze orange rain cover, extension lashing straps, a clip-style holster compatible waist belt, water port, and a drop down pocket for your bow or rifle.
Weight: 6 lbs. 14 oz.
Our favorite feature: the Expandable Pack Section (EPS). This compartment is located at the back of the pack and offers an extra 1200 cubic inches of storage space. The EPS is a mesh pocket, which allows for air to circulate to prevent meat spoilage, making it a smart option for hauling out game.
All Kifaru bags are made with military-grade materials. The 22 MAG Gen 2 is an expensive bag. However, if you’re headed into the backcountry for a multi-day elk hunt, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Made from 500D DWR Coated Cordura, this ultra-lightweight pack features a full-zip clamshell opening which allows full access to all of your gear. The outside of the bag has multiple rows of PALS webbing, so you can totally customize your loadout.
There are also two Nalgene pockets on the pack’s exterior that are ideal for tripods and spotting scopes. The pack also features bottom compression straps to secure your sleeping bag or pad.
Weight: 2.7 lbs.
Our favorite feature: the Kifaru 22 MAG Gen 2 is carry-on compliant. If you need to fly to your elk hunting destination, you can tuck this pack in the overhead compartments of most major airlines.
This daypack from Sitka Gear is designed for hard-working elk hunters, offering stream-lined functional organization for hunting dark to dark. It supports loads up to 45 pounds and features tons of internal storage options, including a zippered security pocket for your tags, wallet, or cellphone. The pack also has two vertical exterior pockets that are perfect for rain gear, spotting scopes, tripods, or a flash shelter. As a bonus, this daypack has an internal hydration sleeve that accommodates a three-liter bladder.
The Mountain 2700 has a triple-density foam waist belt for extra comfort. The belt also has conveniently-placed Velcro to hold your bear spray or other accessories.
Weight: 5.75 lbs.
Our favorite feature: OptiFade camo. Exclusive to Sitka Gear, OptiFade is a high-tech digital pattern designed using animal vision science, camouflage science, and advanced computer technology. Rather than using a camo pattern that matches the environment’s plants and terrain, OptiFade was developed to make it difficult for ungulates to focus on the hunter’s shape.
Built for comfortable hiking, the Badland’s 2200 Hunting Backpack is made with a lightweight, durable T-6 aircraft-grade aluminum frame. The frame is designed to transfer the weight of your load evenly between your hips and upper body using molded foam suspension. This prevents spinal stress and reduces fatigue.
This pack is made with Badlands’ KXO-32 waterproof fabric, one of the toughest pack materials on the face of the planet. The fabric features the Approach camo pattern. Using a neutral color palette and a multi-layered pattern design, Approach camo confuses the eye, making the hunter disappear in almost any environment or lighting condition.
The Badlands 2200 also has a detachable rifle/bow boot with batwing straps to securely hold your weapon while leaving your hands free.
With a price tag under $350, the Badlands 2200 may be the best way to pack out elk without doing major damage to your bank account.
Weight: 5 lbs. 15 oz.
Our favorite feature: the built-in meat shelf. This feature makes the Badlands 2200 perfect for packing out meat after a successful hunt.
Made from 500D Cordura rip-stop fabric, this pack kit is tough enough for any rugged, gear-intensive three-day hunting adventure. The fabric is treated with KUIU’s proprietary K-DWR water-repellant. This treatment allows water to bead up and roll off the fabric without soaking in. It also preserves the fabric’s breathability, allowing sweat to quickly evaporate off the surface. K-DWR allows the wet fabric to dry faster and helps protect the pack’s non-waterproof surfaces from dew and light rain.
The KUIU PRO also features robust #10 YKK zippers and storage space for days. It also has external straps to lash on even more gear.
KUIU systems are custom-sized to fit individual users. This provides the most comfortable fit possible for all body types. If you are extra tall, super short, or lie somewhere in between, the KUIU PRO Kit is guaranteed to fit your body like it was made for it. Because it was.
This is the ultimate lightweight frame pack for elk hunting remote areas.
Weight: 4 lbs. 8 oz.
Our favorite feature: KUIU PRO packs are interchangeable, which means you can attach any of the duffels in the line to the lightweight carbon fiber frame.
The Slumberjack Bounty 2.0 was engineered specifically for high-elevation big game hunting. This large capacity bag is jam-packed with features for elk hunters venturing into remote locations.
The Bounty 2.0 features an expandable load-carry system that allows you to carry meat closer to your body for improved load support. You can also completely detach the main bag from the frame so you can use it as an independent hauler. If you need to pack out heavy hindquarters, this is the perfect way to do it.
The pack also features large pockets that are ideal for spotting scopes, bipods, elk bugles, and other essentials.
The Bounty 2.0 includes a built-in rifle shooting platform. Use this feature to stabilize your rifle for making those difficult long-range shots.
Weight: 6 lbs. 15 oz.
Our favorite feature: the detachable field pack. With multiple pockets, this feature provides a lightweight option for quick trips away from camp.
If you’re an elk hunter on a shoestring budget, the TENZING Rambler has an awful lot to offer for the money. Although this model comes in at well under $150, it performs like a much more expensive pack.
The Rambler combines the storage capacity of a large pack and the accessibility of a small daypack to provide “just-right” performance for elk hunting. The main, top-load compartment holds most of your gear, while the top lid compartment, front shove-it compartment, and two side mesh pockets keep all your accessories organized.
This pack also features an ergonomic padded shoulder harness with an adjustable sternum strap. The design enhances comfort, even when you’re carrying a super heavy load.
Weight: 3 lbs.
Our favorite feature: the high air-flow trampoline suspension. This unique feature allows air to freely circulate between your body and the pack to prevent excessive sweating, especially in warmer environments.
If you hunt elk, a quality backpack is an essential piece of hunting gear. While the best elk hunting pack is largely a matter of personal choice, whatever you choose needs to be strong enough for toting heavy hindquarters back to base camp, yet comfortable enough not to break your back while you’re doing it.
All of the backpacks on our list are tried-and-true options from dependable companies that understand the unique needs of serious elk hunters. Most are a bit on the expensive side, but you shouldn’t trust your back, your gear, or your backstraps to a cheap, flimsy backpack.