When I am preparing for shorter day hunts, I am not looking to pack out my entire inventory of gear. As opposed to trying to pack for every imaginable scenario, my goals have evolved to be a versatile and adaptable hunter, while carrying the minimum amount of gear. I’m always working from a checklist that has been refined over the years to include only the gear I need to be successful.
The best hunting day pack will allow me to be fast and light, for maximum stealth and mobility. Day packs occupy the sweet spot between smaller waist packs, and full size hunting backpack. When you are looking at day packs, it’s important to remember that you will be actually hunting in them! It has to be functional, and fit with your style of hunting.
Qualities of a Good Day Pack
Versatility and toughness are the most important qualities I look for in a day pack, and there are a few specific features I check for when reviewing a new day pack.
- Expandable Storage – Great for the inevitable last minute addition to the pack, and for room to hold layers of clothing for those warmer afternoons.
- Good Pocket Setup – I want multiple sized pockets on the inside and out, for fast gear retrieval, and to keep items secure and quiet.
- Sturdy Strap Design – A good pack strap keeps the pack tight to your body, leaving little room for sliding and side to side movement. The better your pack fits you, the more stealthily you can move through the woods. The straps should also have plenty of loops to accept carabineers, D-rings, and compression straps.
- Toughness – Your deer hunting day pack is going to take all kinds of abuse, from rain, cold, dirt, blood, rocks, and more. You had better choose a pack made from a durable material.
Day Pack Comparisons
My two favorite brands of day packs, no question, are Badlands and Tenzing. I know that you get better quality materials and a better overall pack for the money with them. I’m not saying you can’t get a good cheap day pack for hunting from a brand like ALPS or Redhead, but you will get more life and better use out of the top brands, as well as a better warranty. Here is a comparison chart, and reviews of my Top 4 choices.
|1. Tenzing TZ 1200||1,211 cu-in||2lb 0oz||8||-||-||$$||4.8 out of 5|
|2. Badlands Diablo||1,900 cu-in||3lb 1oz||8||Yes||-||$$$||4.8 out of 5|
|3. Badlands Pursuit||1,500 cu-in||1lb 14oz||5||-||-||$$||4.6 out of 5|
|4. Tenzing TZ 2220||2,228 cu-in||4lb 0oz||11||Yes||Yes||$$$$||4.6 out of 5|
The low profile shape and form fitting design of the TZ1200 also makes it a great day pack for bow hunters. While it’s form fitting, it’s not going to make you hot, thanks to the breathable mesh design on the back padding and padded hip belt.
For an ultralight day pack, there are plenty of storage options. On the outside, there are 2 pockets, expandable bungee webbing, and two compression straps to tie down extra items. Inside, you will find a 2 liter hydration bladder compartment, multiple small item pockets, for your laser rangefinder, knives, and extra pieces of gear. As if that wasn’t enough, the main compartment itself is expandable, effectively doubling the max storage capability.
Where the Pursuit pack differs though, is in its shape. It is designed more like a traditional backpack versus the low profile design of the Tenzing, and I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing. If you have a few bulkier items that would struggle to fit in the TZ1200, then this pack would suit you better. If you want your pack to be firmly secured to your body, you should know that the Pursuit does not have a waist belt and could be more prone to side to side movement.
For storage, the Badlands Pursuit has two large zippered side pouches, two webbed pockets for water bottles, and a set of bedroll loops at the bottom. On the inside, you will find a roomy main compartment, with a water bladder divider, as well as several pockets for smaller gear items.
The Pursuit day pack is constructed of a very tough fabric, but in the rare event you have an issue, Badlands has a terrific fix it or replace it warranty.
Badlands claims that the Diablo will easily hold 40 pounds of gear. That’s a lot of weight to carry on a day hunt, but it’s nice to know the capability is there when you need it. That kind of capacity will make this a great elk hunting day pack.
The “Hypervent” mesh back and suspension frame system keeps the pack directly off your back, so you won’t get overheated while carrying this pack all day. After reading through tons of customer reviews, it’s clear that this is one of the favorite features of this pack.
Like the Pursuit, the Diablo day pack has two water bottle holders on the sides, but instead of side pockets, it has one large compartment on its backside, and one directly underneath the main compartment. On the inside are multiple storage pockets perfect for a cell phone, rangefinder, binoculars, or a handheld GPS.
The pack is made from super tough tricot fabric, with Dyneema reinforcement panels. The outside has 4 compression straps on the sides, and 2 on the bottom. On the inside are 6 more specialized zipper pockets and a water bladder divider that will hold up to a 3 liter hydration pack.
The extras like the roll out rain cover in the bottom, fold out rifle and bow boot, and good hip belt support, are what set this pack above the rest for me.
The TZ2220 holds way more gear than should be possible in a day pack, yet maintains the sleek, body hugging shape of the smaller TZ1200. For shorter hunts, I’d still go with the TZ1200, but for the ultimate in versatility, and having one pack that does it all, it is going to be hard to outdo the TZ2220.