Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Canada

Importance of a Hunting Pack

Hunting the west solidifies the need to have a dedicated hunting pack. While some of the land I choose to hunt is private land, I rarely get the opportunity to drag a deer out whole. Often times, the mule deer we hunt live in deep coulees or expire in standing crops. If you have ever had to drag an animal out of canola or oats you will understand that it is far easier to take it out in pieces! Cue the hunting pack, and one that can handle a significant load efficiently. 

On top of the difficulties of dragging deer out of coulees and standing crop, here in Alberta we have very dry summers (usually) and due to fire risk most farmers do not allow vehicles to drive through fields, even after harvest. On the few sections that do allow us vehicle access, we prefer to hike in and leave the vehicles at gates or on roads. To us, it is a sign of respect for the land you have been given access to and the less of a mark we can leave the better. 

After I had dragged/carried out my first whitetail deer, we saw the need for a more dedicated hunting pack. We started researching the features of packs and reading as . many reviews as we could get our hands on.

The features that we felt most important were:

  • A load shelf – in my mind, this defines a hunting specific pack. The ability to have your quarters of meat close to your center of gravity, while isolating it from your extra gear and clothing, is very important.
  • A semi-custom system – some brands sell their bags and frames separately, which allows you to select the proper size frame, waist belt, and then choose the pack that best suits your needs.
  • Durability – I for one am not gentle on my gear, and if an item designed to have large amounts of weight cannot stand up to years of abuse, it would not be an option.
  • Load lifters – this is what allows the frame of the hunting pack to distribute the weight onto your hips instead of your upper back and shoulders.
  • Comfort – this is the hardest to find, especially with packs that have only one retail location, or are online purchase only.

Our Purchase

Living in Canada added a large road block to the search for a hunting pack, the big three manufacturers that you hear the most about on forums ( Stone Glacier, Exo, and Kifaru) are all online purchase with a single or very few retail locations. This makes “trying” each pack on for fit and comfort very difficult.

We relied on the masses, reading all the forums and speaking to as many people that we could about the comfort and fit of each pack. While this is a very personal thing, we are both average height and build so this was going to be the best solution short of going on a week long (or more) road trip just to try on packs.

We heard concerns of durability in regards to the Kuiu packs from a friend here in Alberta and on forum posts. This eliminated them from the race, along with the high cost charged at the time for duties and the packs are not made in the US.

We heard many people rave about the Kifaru packs, and we were familiar with them as Aron Snyder is a huge voice in the industry and provides free content and information. However, the pricing on these at the time seemed quite high to us.

Next up was the EXO mountain packs and at the time there wasn’t a ton of information available on these packs. Unable to try them on or talk to users of the packs regarding their fit, comfort, or durability meant that they were out.

Stone Glacier was the final pack company. While their costs are not far off of what Kifaru charges, we did like a few of the features a bit better. Both Kifaru and Stone Glacier allow you to choose a frame size and enter in specific details about your waist size in order to get the correct fit. Both companies have plenty of information on how to measure yourself on their websites. Stone Glacier had a more simplistic style to their packs with fewer pockets and seams, as well they were designed by an avid sheep hunter. If any terrain will test a packs durability, it is the high alpine. We felt quite confident in the durability of the packs. Finally, the big factor for us was weight, the Stone Glacier packs we were looking at were 5lbs 7oz, while the Kifaru bag was slightly heavier. At the end of our search, we had a close friend say that he had used Stone Glacier packs and had tried the others and was extremely happy. That close to home nod of confidence made our decision easy.

Our Results

We invested in the Stone Glacier Sky Archer 5900 hunting pack almost 4 years ago and have hauled quite a few animals with them since. They are light and they expand out large enough to carry out an entire deer. While it is still extremely heavy, it is manageable without pain.

The Sky Archer’s integrated load shelf supports the meat, preventing the load from sliding and shifting down while you carry your harvest out. It is made of waterproof material, which makes cleaning the bag quick and easy. There’s no need to turn the bag inside out, and your gear stays blood free as well.

While the cost of a high end hunting pack may seem rather unreasonable, we also use our hunting packs for most of hiking and backpacking trips. Year round use and the ability to carry your camp and a few elk antlers at the same time makes it worth it. A traditional hiking pack would not be able to support another 20-30lbs strapped to the pack with your 40 lbs of camping gear.

Hopefully this provided you with some good information to help you decide on a hunting pack for the next season. I would highly recommend getting the pack as early as you can so you can spend some time learning how to properly adjust the system to fit your body. As well, spend some time learning how to remove the pack from the frame, and how to engage the load lifters. We skipped this step and had to learn on the fly, in the dark, on our packs first packout. Oops.

If you have any questions reach out, I would love to hear from you and help any way I can.


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