Home > Outdoor > Hunt & Fish

The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024

If you hunt big game, you need a backpack. We carried many over mountains and across fields to find the best hunting backpacks on the market.
(Photo/Lindsey Mulcare)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

Hunting backpacks are a personal choice. They must carry very specific items and, in the case of big-game packs, handle massive loads of meat after a kill. But they must remain light and nimble for use while hunting.

We’ve spoken with hunters and field-tested several packs to suss out the top hunting backpacks on the market. To choose the best backpacks for hunting, I and other editors used them in the field, primarily in Colorado and Montana for elk and mule deer hunting. We also tested packs whitetail hunting in the midwest and have used several models for long-distance overnight hikes in the off-season. Most of the packs on this list have been through more than one season.

This article focuses on larger packs meant to haul meat and gear in the backcountry. For those who just need a daypack, check out this link. For the rest of you, there are a lot of options, and the attributes of a good pack can be found in many brands. At the bottom of this review, I’ve noted a few things to look for in our buyer’s guide for frequently asked questions, and I’ve also added a comparison chart to help you steer your decision-making.

Editor’s Note: For our November 9, 2023, update, we’ve expanded our lineup to include the Alpha 3200 from Akek. This up-and-coming brand delivers a complete system to get you and your gear deep into the backcountry, with the hauling capability to help you bring your kill home.

The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2023

Best Overall Hunting Pack

Stone Glacier Sky 5900


  • Weight 5 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Volume 5,900 CI (expands up to 8,000 CI with meat shelf and optional lid)
  • Material CORDURA 500, Xpac
Product Badge The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Extremely durable. This pack will last for decades
  • Carries heavy weight with ease
  • Large primary sack carries large items well
  • Versatile, modular system allows frame to be used with other packs if desired


  • Heavy
  • Not a lot of organizational options
  • Requires expensive add-ons to get the most benefit of the system
Best Budget Hunting Backpack

ALPS OutdoorZ Commander + Pack Bag


  • Weight 7 lbs., 5 oz.
  • Volume 5,250 cu. in.
  • Material Nylon ripstop fabric
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • A very capable bag for a great price


  • Old-fashioned aluminum frame isn't the most comfortable
Runner-Up Best Hunting Backpack

Exo Mountain Gear K4 Pack System


  • Weight 5.0-5.7 lbs.
  • Volume 4,268-7,828 cu. in.
  • Material 500D CORDURA, with stretch panel components
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Flexible comfort while load bearing
  • Extended range of sizes to fit just about every hunter
  • Quiet. No pack squeak, yet…


  • Still too early to say. Will update as we continue testing.
Most Durable Big Game Hunting Backpack

Mystery Ranch Metcalf


  • Weight 5.7 lbs.
  • Volume 4,335 cu. in.
  • Material 500D CORDURA
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Extremely durable
  • Various straps allow for versatility


  • Heavy
Best Deer Pack

Badlands 2200


  • Weight 5 lbs., 10 oz.
  • Volume 2,750 cu. in.
  • Material Badlands' new KXO-50
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Allows for good organization


  • Too small for most overnight hunts
  • Expensive for size
Best Sheep and Goat Hunting Pack

Stone Glacier Terminus 7000


  • Weight 3 lbs., 15 oz.
  • Volume 7,000 cu. in.
  • Material SG ULTRA PE and X-Pac fabric
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Exceptionally durable for its light weight
  • Very capable of carrying heavy loads
  • Strength-to-weight ratio is incredible


  • No meat shelf requires meat to be loaded internally
  • Tailor-made for sheep hunters. Less versatile than other packs on the list
Best Lightweight Pack for Elk Hunting

KUIU PRO Pack System


  • Weight 4 lbs., 4.7 oz. – 6 lbs., 0.8 oz.
  • Volume 2,300-7,800 cu. in.
  • Material 500D CORDURA Ripstop
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Very light, yet strong frame
  • Interchangeable packs allow many variations using the same frame
  • Meat shelf is very effective


  • Zippers are loud
Most Complete Pack System

Akek Alpha 3200


  • Weight 5 lbs., 11 oz.
  • Volume 3,200 CI (expands with meat shelf)
  • Material CORDURA 500, carbon fiber frame
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Complete pack system, no add-ons needed
  • Durable
  • Carries weight well


  • A little small for multiday hunts in cold weather
  • Slightly heavy

Best of the Rest

A Great Rifle Carry System

Kifaru Gun Bearer


  • Weight 4.2 oz.
  • Volume N/A
  • Material N/A
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Comfortable
  • Convenient
  • Quick access


  • Rifle points forward

Kifaru Gnargali


  • Weight 5.8 lbs.
  • Volume 5,090 cu. in.
  • Material 500D CORDURA ripstop
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024


  • Simple design with ample storage space
  • Lightweight frame capable of a heavy packout
  • Easily customizable with additional storage


  • Additional storage/organizers must be purchased separately

Stone Glacier EVO 3300


  • Weight 2 lbs., 7.1 oz.
  • Volume 3,300 cu. in.
  • Material CORDURA 500, Xpac
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024

Seek Outside Revolution Suspension Pack Frame


  • Weight 2 lbs., 9 oz.
  • Volume Load frame that adds 2,000 cu. in.
  • Material N/A
The Best Backpacks for Big-Game Hunting of 2024

Hunting Backpacks Comparison Chart

Hunting PackPriceWeightVolume (cubic inches)Material
Stone Glacier Sky 5900$6595 lbs., 8 oz.5,900-8,000 CI500D CORDURA ripstop
ALPS OutdoorZ
Commander + Pack Bag
$3007 lbs., 5 oz.5,250 CINylon ripstop fabric
Exo Mountain Gear K4 $6755.0-5.7 lbs., 11 oz. 4268- 7828 CI500D CORDURA
Mystery Ranch Metcalf$5505 lbs., 11 oz.4,335 CI500D CORDURA
Badlands 2200$3355 lbs., 10 oz.2,750 CIBadlands’ KXO-50™
Stone Glacier Terminus 7000$6493 lbs., 15 oz.7,000 CISG ULTRA PE and X-Pac fabric
KUIU PRO Pack System$539-6394 lbs., 4.7 oz. – 6 lbs., 0.8 oz.2,300 – 7,800 CI500D CORDURA Ripstop
Akek Alpha 3200$5705 lbs., 11 oz.Volume: 3,200 CI (expands with meat shelf)CORDURA 500, carbon fiber frame
Kifaru Gun Bearer$51-694.2 oz.N/AN/A
Kifaru Gnargali$3505 lbs.,13 oz.5090 CI500D CORDURA Ripstop
Stone Glacier EVO 3300$6142 lbs., 7.1 oz.3,300 CICORDURA 500, Xpac
Seek Outside Revolution
Suspension Pack Frame
$3452 lbs., 9 oz.N/AN/A
The author elk hunting back at the trailhead with a fully laden pack; (photo/Sean McCoy)

How We Test Hunting Packs

Our team of testers are avid hunters with decades of experience in hunting, as well as other outdoor pursuits. Lead writer Sean McCoy has been hunting since he was 12. That’s … a lot more years than he’d care to admit. But he still covers big ground chasing Colorado elk and mule deer each fall and he also travels for hunts in the Midwest several times each year. As a runner and a skier, he understands the benefits of lightweight and minimal designs in a backpack but knows that a hunting pack must be a capable, durable load hauler.

Rachelle Schrute and Nicole Qualtieri both contributed knowledge to this guide. Both are avid hunters living in Montana. Schrute, GearJunkie’s Hunt and Fish editor, pursues elk, deer, mountain lion, and bear, as well as small game, every year.

We first published this guide in the summer of 2020 with an inaugural lineup of eight packs, and while our selection has grown to 12, we don’t see a lot of turnover in these pack designs. They’re generally tough, durable, and as light as possible while still being able to carry heavy loads. And while they can be expensive, we’ve spent the time to know that they last for many seasons.

Each year, we reevaluate the field and try to select models to address the needs of various hunters, from modular systems to all-in-one packs. While we identify our absolute favorite model, every pack highlighted here is quality and we encourage you to purchase the pack most in line with your needs.

Our testers put each of these packs through their paces with a range of applications. We know hunters will be using these load haulers to carry supplies far into the backcountry, or maybe to retrieve a kill a mile from the truck. To give a fair and thorough evaluation, we’ve had some packs in testing for over 2 years, providing plenty of opportunity for big miles and heavy loads.

Our goal is to provide you with the best intel to make an informed purchase. We test this gear, and this is our honest opinion about our favorite products. These are the packs we’d recommend to our friends, and in fact, we do, usually sending along this guide when family or friends ask us which pack to buy.

Hunting Backpacks: A Buyer’s Guide

Obviously, these aren’t all the packs on the market. But these are among the best we’ve found. What should you look for in a backpack for hunting? Let’s break it down.

1. Haul heavy loads. If you intend to carry meat and/or camp gear, a hunting backpack should be capable of carrying a very heavy load. For big-game hunters who trek into the wilds, that means up to 100 pounds. Why? Because that’s what a big elk quarter plus some gear will weigh.

Historically, this has meant hunters needed external frame packs. But pack makers have developed incredible internal frames and modular systems in the past decade, giving hunters exceptional tools for carrying both meat and gear.

Stone Glacier Terminus 7000 backpack testing
The author carries the Stone Glacier Terminus 7000; (photo/Lowell McCoy)

2. It should fit like a glove. Many packs come in various sizes or have adjustable torso lengths. Make sure yours fits properly.

3. Carry gear too. For many, it should carry gear while hunting. This means things like snacks, water, extra clothing, game bags, knives, and possibly your weapon for long walks. Multiple pockets are nice for organizing gear. And large packs should have straps to compress down when not fully loaded. For deer hunters who can drag game out of the woods, a smaller pack can be just fine.

4. Ample space. For those who pack deep into the woods, it should be able to carry enough gear to sleep out overnight — or longer. This means a sleeping bag, tent, and cook gear, plus the items noted above.

For this reason, modular systems that allow larger or smaller packs on a single frame perform admirably. These also offer the versatility to use a single frame on various styles of hunts.

5. It should be quiet. This is unique to a backpack for hunting — and is really important. The material should not make much noise when snagged on bushes. The zippers and buckles should operate quietly.

6. Don’t forget daypacks. For many hunters, these packs are more than needed. A small daypack works for those who hunt deer or smaller animals where they can be dragged out. Those with access to ATVs or horses also can likely get by with a simple daypack too, as your ride will handle the heavy hauling.

Hiking Pack for Hunting: The Backpack You Already Own

Don’t want to buy a new pack just for hunting? No problem. If you backpack, you already own a pack that’s entirely capable of serving you as a hunting pack. It just won’t be ideal.

Backstraps, tenderloins, and meat scraps will fit into the main compartment of most large, internal-frame backpacks designed for hiking. If far from the trailhead, deboning front and rear quarters will allow even their massive volume to fit in larger packs.

Just be sure to bring game bags and a heavy-duty garbage bag or trash compactor bag to line your hiking pack to minimize bloodstains.

Most internal-frame packs can even carry the heavy load of a bone-in elk quarter. It probably won’t be comfortable, but it’ll do in a pinch. Just bring some paracord, lay the quarter on the pack, and get strapping. The job won’t be pretty or fun, but it will get the meat out of the field.


What is the best deer hunting backpack?

The best backpack for deer hunting varies depending on your style of hunting. Will you drag the deer out of the woods, or do you need to quarter it for a long pack out? If you will quarter and carry your deer, it needs to be able to haul a heavy load comfortably. In that case, look for a pack that can handle 100 pounds or more, so you can pack out your game plus all your equipment.

Make sure that the pack you’re considering also operates quietly. Find a pack whose buckles and zippers operate quietly to prevent scaring off your quarry.

If you hunt close to the truck and can drag your deer out of the woods or haul it with an ATV or horse, a simple daypack will likely do the job.

What should I keep in my hunting backpack?

It depends on how much time you plan on spending out in the field. For day trips, plan on carrying food, water, extra layers, your calls, a first aid kit, kill kit, and anything else you might need.

For multiday trips, add a tent, sleeping bag, and pad, plus extra food and a camp stove to cook your gear. Just make sure you have enough room to pack out a heavy load of meat.

Most importantly, prepare for your specific hunt. Every location and weather condition requires different equipment, so do your homework well in advance.

How big of a pack do I need for elk hunting?

For elk hunting, you’ll want a pack that can haul at least 100 pounds. This will likely require a purpose-built backpack meant for big-game hunting.

The pack volume itself will depend on how long you plan on spending out in the wild. For multiday trips, you may be looking at 4,000 to 7,000 cubic inches, with additional space available in a meat shelf.

How do I clean my hunting backpack?

If it’s soaked in blood, you may need to spray it down with a power sprayer. Use a pressure washer to hose it off in the driveway. Then soak it in a tub of ice-cold water for about 30 minutes. Then hand or brush wash it, and then dump out the water and repeat with soapy water.

If you can, use a detergent made specifically for cleaning hunting gear. Give it a good rinse, and then hang it to dry.

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!