How to Load Your Pack for a Backcountry Archery Deer Hunt

Jul 25, 2022 | Tips & Tricks | 0 comments

Archery mule deer is inching closer and you can barely wait. Your gear is “dialed-in” as they say, with all the essentials for a successful hunt. Now it’s time to stuff that mule deer gear into your backcountry pack. You meticulously lay it out on the floor with the intention of expertly packing it up and heading afield with an equally dialed-in backpack. So where do you begin? While a quality backpack is important, you can negate it by incorrectly packing it. A well-packed backpack enables you to move and react naturally, minimizing strain on muscles and joints. It literally can be the difference between you wanting to keep grinding or wanting to give up because you feel like you’ve been drop-kicked. Packing your hunting pack is art and science. In this article, we’ll put packing your hunting pack in the simplest terms starting from the bottom up.

Bottom: Lightweight Gear

The bottom of the pack is for the light stuff like your sleeping bag, pad, and clothes. Packing light on the bottom avoids the feeling of your pack is pulling you down at the waist and shoulders.

Core: Heavy Gear

As you move up the core of your pack, start increasing weight. Camp shoes, stove/fuel, water filter, food, kill kit, and your shelter are primary items to pack in the core. Your water bladder will be here too close to your back. Fortunately, most packs have a dedicated bladder hanger in this spot.

Top/Lid: Essentials

The uppermost part of your pack is an excellent spot for essential items. Toiletries, first aid supplies, snacks, jacket, phone charger, headlamp, firestarter, and calls are great items to pack up high in your bag and/or lid.
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Side Pocket

Many packs have big pockets on the sides of the main bag running the length of the pack. The key is to pack each pocket evenly with weight to keep the balance. Western hunters often carry tripods and spotting scopes. These side pockets can be useful for your glassing gear by putting the spotter on one side and the tripod on another for balance. Use the strapping to cinch them in close and tight and you’ll have the weight distributed evenly and in close to the core.

Hip Belt

Some of the same items you can put in the top/lid can also be put in the hip belt pockets if you have them. We like to put mouth calls, snacks, bullets, or other small items you would like to have quick access to.

Rear/Outside-Facing Pocket

A lot of packs have a stretchy pocket on the very back of the bag. Remember, this is the furthest point from your center of gravity. The best thing to do here is put very light items you’ll need often like a puffy jacket, gloves, and/or neck gaiter.

Weapon

This is where hunters often break the rules of having the heaviest items close to their back. When hiking long distances it can be nice to put your weapon on your pack if you’re not going to need it. Our advice is if you put it on your pack, balance it as best you can with everything else and utilize straps to bring it into you as close as possible and keep it from jostling around.

Some Other Cardinal Rules

  • Choose the correct capacity for the job and don’t overpack.
  • Densest and heaviest gear toward your back and between your shoulder blades.
  • Use all those compression straps to bring the weight into your center of gravity and to keep gear from slopping around.
  • Put high-use items where accessible.
    Stuff sacks or compression bags help you organize and keep things where they belong.
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