Scouting for big game in Alaska and the Yukon

ALPS OutdoorZ Crossfire X Backpack Review: Versatility for Lighter Loads

I went looking for the ultimate scouting/daypack, and I came close with the ALPS OutdoorZ Crossfire X.

Close is about as much as I can expect, though, as much of my use of the hunting pack was atypical. This small, 2,325-cubic-inch (38L) pack is designed as a turkey or deer stalking daypack that allows you to bring along the essentials and not much more. What the ALPS OutdoorZ Crossfire X does well, it does very well, but there are some issues when you try to expand its horizons.

Breaking Down the Crossfire X

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I used the Crossfire X as a whitetail hunting pack in my home woods in Wisconsin. And I used it primarily as a scouting pack on a recent trip to the Yukon, northern British Columbia, and Alaska in search of sheep and caribou. I already knew the pack would be at home in the dark timber looking for elk, too.

The most impressive feature of the $180 Crossfire X is the suspension and comfort of the design. Nicely padded shoulder straps and a wide EVA foam belt with built-in pockets are comfortable and quite adjustable for varying body types and outerwear options. The arched frame combined with the vented back panel is sturdy and exceptional at removing perspiration during a hard trek.

The pack has two compartments: a large main space for rain gear and a smaller compartment with webbed and zippered pockets inside for the little things like headlamps, keys, and licenses. The main compartment also has a water bladder sleeve and a hose port at the top. Mesh side pockets are the right size for a quart Nalgene bottle, and there are side compression straps and attachment points on the pack, too.

The movable mini pack, which can be attached to the back of the bag or to the front shoulder straps, or even used standalone, is also a good idea. It’s a great spot to stash turkey or deer calls, maps, and other light items. Additionally, the belt is comfortable, and the attached zippered pockets are the perfect size for smartphone-sized gear.

And critically for my trip to British Columbia and the Yukon, there was space next to the pockets to attach a bear spray holster and a GPS. Where I was, bears were ubiquitous. Bear spray was not a luxury I could do without.

The Crossfire X in the Field

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As both a hunter and a photographer, I’m always lugging firearms and heavy glass with me into the hills and valleys; it’s just part of the job description. I knew when I ordered the Crossfire X that it was going to be a bit small for my purposes. But I wanted a pack that was slim and compact for slipping between trees in the elk woods and scrambling between boulders on the mountain — just as the brand intended for the pack.

If you try to load the pack with gear and then strap a gun, bow, or spotting scope to the outside, be prepared for a bad day. That large venting area behind your back has the inevitable consequence of moving the load away from your body. And the built-in rifle/bow carrier is a great idea in theory. But adding the weight of a gun or even a tripod changes the dynamic of how the pack rides.

With heavy loads, you want the mass tight to your back, or things get tippy quickly. That’s what happens with the Crossfire X: A heavier load stands well off your back and becomes unstable. This isn’t a huge issue when I’m hunting whitetails in my relatively flat home state of Wisconsin, but it’s a bigger deal when you have to climb or descend steep terrain. Of course, if you don’t mind slinging your rifle or carrying your bow or scope in hand, then it’s not such a big issue.

Not Your Load-Hauling Pack

To be completely fair to ALPS OutdoorZ, the pack is not designed for carrying heavy loads. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll fill every nook and cranny with something you just might need in the field. Resist that temptation. Additionally, resist the temptation to put your binos in the mini pack. That didn’t pan out for me when I gave it a whirl.

If you use the Crossfire X as a daypack with a few essentials in it, it’s comfortable and versatile. That unique venting frame makes a huge difference in how hot and sweaty you don’t get. It works just as advertised, especially when the weather is warm.

The construction is first-rate. I’ve been using mine for about six months now, and it’s holding up fine. Even the bottom panel shows no fraying from using it in rocky terrain. There is an attached rain cover along with the previously mentioned drop-down pocket for a bow or a rifle, and both can be securely tucked away in a hidden pocket. The zippers haven’t jammed, the bag material remains quiet and flexible in all temperatures, and the rain cover works.

It’s also significant that the various attachment buckles haven’t broken. That’s a recurring problem with some other packs I’ve used in bitterly cold temps: The plastic buckles break too easily when the temperature drops. So far, this ALPS pack has spared me that problem even though I’ve been using it hard for late-season whitetails in northern Wisconsin.

Final Thoughts

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In the end, if you use the pack as a daypack, carrying water, rain gear, a possibles bag, trail food, etc., the Crossfire X is a fine pack. This is especially true in warm weather when that vented suspension really shines. For carrying essentials from the truck to the turkey blind or deer stand, this is my go-to pack.

I can also see it getting quite a workout during preseason scouting sessions or during deer and elk season when I want to travel light, quick, and quiet. But when the loads get heavy, either with gear or game, I prefer other packs I already have.