Seek Outside’s Fortress is a versatile, durable, ultralight load hauler that’s made in the USA with a commitment to conservation.
Are hunting-focused backpacks really necessary? I’ve spent years backpack hunting and packing out animals in NW Wyoming with my Osprey backpack but have always been intrigued by the breakaway-style hunting packs from Seek Outside.
Well, after a busy September, it’s safe to say that the Osprey is going into well-deserved retirement.
Hello, Seek Outside Fortress 4800! This versatile, durable, ultralight load hauler absolutely crushed my expectations during successful archery elk and rifle deer hunts in the Wyoming backcountry.
The Seek Outside Fortress 4800
There’s a wide variety of hunting-specific packs to consider nowadays. This means personal preference can dictate what the “best pack” for you might be.
For me, the Seek Outside Fortress 4800 ($525) rises to the top for the following reasons.
The versatile nature of the Fortress might be its top characteristic. While other packs have a more rigid design, Seek Outside deliberately leaves its packs customizable to fit your specific needs.
I particularly like how the pack’s pocket system sets it up for distinct zones of use.
Hip belt pockets are easily accessible with one hand for snacks, headlamps, inReach/GPS, hat/gloves, and other often-used items. The oversized water bottle pockets on the side of the pack also fit a spotting scope, tripod, trekking poles, or bugle tube.
I also used one to store a wet tent, keeping it separate from dry gear inside the pack. The pocket has an elastic cinch, which allows you to quickly store small loose items like garbage you find on the trail as well.
A key component of the Seek Outside backpack system is the Talon or Merlin, small external pockets that affix to the back of the pack, providing compression and extra storage. You can choose which Talon you’d like as part of your 4800 system, and there are six options total.
The Talon adds about 800 cubic inches of storage and also adds compression to the main pack bag. The Merlin does the same but is larger (1,400 cubic inches with three zippered pockets, and it has backpack straps for use as a standalone day pack as well. Important items like a water filter, extra layers, and food for the day fit nicely in the Merlin, which is what I prefer.
Finally, the 4,800-cubic inch Pack Bag can accommodate your camp gear, kill kit, and other items that you might use one or two times a day. It’s also removable from the external frame, an important feature for hauling loads or attaching the Merlin to use as a smaller pack for day hunts.
The versatile design of the Fortress really shines when hauling loads. Thanks to a carabiner-type feature, gatekeeper straps are totally removable and can be moved around to numerous attachment points, making it easy to secure awkward loads and your rifle or bow.
My pack carries everything from small rolled rafts to water jugs, and drybags of extra gear. I haven’t tried it yet, but I could see it being modified to comfortably carry small children on hikes.
Like many other hunting packs, the pack bag is designed to break away from the frame in order to secure weight up close to your body for more efficient hauling. It can also be removed and left in the field (it’s waterproof) or at your truck, with the Talon/Merlin acting as compression securing the next load.
A key difference between the Seek Outside Fortress and my old Osprey pack is that the Fortress is overbuilt to carry more weight than is humanly possible.
The sturdy yet flexible frame contours and moves with your body, keeping weight close. Load lifters (with adjustable heights) keep weight centered on your hips and shoulders. In addition, abundant gatekeeper compression straps and attachment points immobilize the load, reducing fatigue.
The customizable nature of the pack means you can adjust the height of the pack between the hip belt and shoulder straps so it fits your body perfectly. The hip belt is available in several different sizes to accommodate different body types. And its double strap design allows the belt to conform to your waist.
Despite all of these design considerations, the Fortress remains remarkably light at under 4 pounds. This is more than 1.5 pounds lighter than my previous pack.
Hunting packs take a beating and need to be made with durable and repairable materials.
The Fortress’s rugged Xpac fabric resists abrasion and is also waterproof, meaning you don’t need to bring a rain shell. Despite some nasty early-season snowstorms, I had no moisture issues in the main pack bag, I’m looking forward to trying it out as an ultralight dry pack for rafting in the future.
Seek Outside packs come with replacement buckles should one break. It’s also easy to patch the Xpac fabric with duct tape or tenacious tape should it be damaged in the field.
Made in the USA
The hardworking team at Seek Outside makes their packs and tents by hand in Grand Junction, Colorado. Its responsive, knowledgeable staff is really helpful with answering questions and repair/service issues. I appreciate the ability to talk to a real human being who knows the product they are talking about inside and out.
As a small company, Seek Outside has also been a long-time supporter of conservation. They’re members of 2% for Conservation and actively support Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and other conservation organizations.
Disadvantages of a Seek Outside Fortress
I can’t see many disadvantages to the Seek Outside Fortress. The small company makes nearly everything by hand, which means lead times on products can sometimes extend into several months, so be sure to place orders well in advance.
Its quality gear is also on the more expensive side but you get what you pay for, and it’s well worth it, in my opinion.
I will say that the Fortress pack is not super intuitive. It takes time to properly fit the pack once it arrives and learn how it works best before heading into the field.
Seek Outside has a virtual learning library on its website to help with this. Plus, its customer service team is very helpful with questions.
When it comes down to it, these disadvantages aren’t really disadvantages at all. It just takes some time to get the pack. And then a bit more time to learn your new system.
After packing out over a dozen animals with a backpacking pack, the hunting-specific Seek Outside Fortress has been a really nice upgrade.
This versatile, durable, ultralight load hauler is sure to become a year-round all-purpose pack and will perform for years to come.
If a dependable backpack made in the USA with a commitment to conservation is what you are looking for, then look no further than the Seek Outside Fortress.