We’re notching the days on the calendar down to archery season, and now is the time to start dialing in and wearing your pack ahead of your first hunt. There are a few considerations when picking the best bowhunting pack, and the sooner you start to hone a pack for your hunt, the happier you’re going to be when you get in the field.
I typically revolve my pack choice and configuration around the species I’m hunting. Antelope is our first archery season here in Montana, and like a lot of guys, I go with a light-and-fast, run-and-gun setup for goats. The Evo 40/56 is perfect for this style of hunting. I run it in bivy mode since I don’t carry much gear on antelope hunts. I’ll pack my tags, a headlamp, an extra release, and food for the day in easily accessible Swing Out Pockets and then carry a small kill kit, water, and a medical kit loose in the bag. I also like to pack a Helio Hoody, a compressed Grumman Down Jacket, and even an M5 Jacket if the weather’s dicey. I mainly throw those pieces in to take up space in the pack so my bow rides better, and the extra couple pounds are virtually unnoticeable on a day hunt. Sudden wind and rain squalls are not uncommon on the high plains in the late summer/early fall, and it’s nice to have a little buffer in inclimate weather or layers to throw on if I am going to glass for extended stints in cooler conditions.
My spotter is always in my pack on antelope hunts, and the Evo 40/56 provides a dedicated spotting scope pocket for safe storage and quick access. It’s important to let your spotter do as much walking for you as possible when chasing North America’s fastest land mammal. Like all of our packs, the Evo 40/56 also allows you to quickly strap your bow straight to the pack when covering ground between stalks and it includes a load shelf that can easily pack out an entire antelope.
For elk and high-country mule deer hunts, I’m living out of my pack in the backcountry. I need about 6,000 cubic inches of space, which is enough to haul all of my apparel, camp gear, food, and a full kill kit for up to 10 days. September and October temps can dip below freezing at night and then climb to 80 degrees in the afternoon, so it’s important to be able to carry enough layers to see you through these dynamic conditions.
The Sky Archer 6400 and Sky 5900 are great options for backcountry archery packs. Both packs are capable of carrying a large amount of gear, but they also compress down into Bivy Mode so you can hunt with a low-profile pack once you establish camp. When all my backcountry gear is in the pack, I like to place my camp, gear and food at the bottom and opposite side of the pack from the zipper. Then I balance the load by keeping water, rain gear, insulation layers, and a spotter close to the zipper for easy access.
Both of these packs will perform really well on backcountry big game hunts, and each have subtle differences that often come down to hunter preferences. I love the larger beavertail pocket on the R3 5900, which provides quick access to the outside pocket for gear you need at your fingertips and also gives you access to the main bag. The 5900 does not have a dedicated spotter pocket, but I find that packing a spotting scope right behind the beavertail pocket in the main bag works really well. I usually stuff an insulation layer and rain gear in the beavertail pocket, which helps to separate your wet gear from dry gear in the main bag. A bugle tube and trekking poles also carry nicely on the side of the pack.
Like the 40/56, the Sky Archer 6400 has several tie-in points for Swing Out Pockets. These are sweet for storing snacks, extra diaphragms, wind checks, a headlamp, and an extra release. I also like to carry a few empty Platypus bottles and a water filter in one of the Swing Outs so I can filter water as I cross it throughout the day. I often camp where there’s limited water, and it’s smart to easily collect water when you can instead of making extra trips from camp.
On late-season archery hunts when you’re packing more cubic inches of apparel for cold conditions, putting a lid on the 6400 and 5900 will allow you to carry even more easily accessible gear. I usually throw gloves, down mittens, a beanie, and snacks in the lid. Again, if you’re at a backcountry camp, you can easily detach the lid and put these packs into Bivy Mode for hunting.
I run all of my packs on a Krux EVO frame. The Evo 40/56 comes on a Krux EVO frame, but the Sky 5900 and Sky Archer 6400 both come on an Xcurve frame. This is also just a preference choice. I like the lighter weight of the Krux EVO frame and it fits my body better. All Stone Glacier packs and frames are interchangeable, with the exception of the Terminus. I recommend finding which frame works best for you and sticking with that frame on all of your packs. Our customer service team is always happy to help walk you through our frame options and best practices on how to fit your pack.
The Evo 40/56, R3 5900, and Sky Archer 6400 will all easily carry a bow on the front of the pack using the front compression straps. I like to swap out the two male buckles on these straps for our auto-lock male buckles. This ensures the buckles will not slip when I’m packing my bow. Once archery season is over, I’ll swap back in the traditional buckles because they are simpler to use and have fewer potential failure points than an auto-lock. Check out the video below to see how to properly secure a bow to your Stone Glacier pack.
Lastly, even though it’s super simple to carry a weapon on our packs, remember to only carry your bow on your pack when you’re hiking in the dark. If you have a bow on your pack during legal shooting hours in elk and muley habitat, I can almost guarantee you’ll encounter your prey within range and without a chance of letting one fly.
As always, give us a shout here at SG Headquarters if you have any questions.