With all the backpacks on the market you would think that it would be easy to find a good one for hunting but the truth is that there are not many that make the cut in my not so humble opinion. Of course it depends on what you are hunting, where, what time of year and how long you plan to spend in the field but for most western hunters the needs are surprisingly similar. You need enough room for your gear based on the situation, the ability to bring home a good part or all of what you shot, and a bag that will stand up to the challenge without crippling you in the process. Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.
Finding a pack that will haul all your gear is not that difficult but finding one that can also accommodate an entire Coues Deer or a couple of elk quarters is. That has been the real bugaboo. The fly in the ointment. The turd in the punch bowl and the subject of many a late night discussion with my bro and several other like minded ne’er-do-wells. Until just recently we had to adapt, overcome and improvise by strapping our kit onto a freighter frame, persuade/entice/bribe a number of extra people into the field with us or actually go back to the truck, dump our hunting pack for a freighter and head back to the kill to pack it out. That becomes more problematic the farther back in the boonies you are. We always thought that there had to be a better way and, apparently, so did Dana Gleason. Leave it to the master pack maker of Dana Designs and now Mystery Ranch to come up with an innovative solution to the problem of occasionally hauling oversized loads in addition to your regular gear.
I present to you the Crewcab with NICE frame from Mystery Ranch in Foliage.
Two front pockets and two vertical wing pockets carry your basic gear and fold down over the cargo bay. The front pockets are not configured perfectly for me but I can certainly make them work. My Manfrotto 055CXPro3 tripod and Outdoorsmans Pan Head nestle nicely between the wing pockets. There is also a sizable zippered pocket on the inside back of the pack that works perfectly for a water bladder and Nalgene bottles.
A side view of the Crewcab shows the expandable bottom and cinch straps that take up all the room when it isn’t needed. The waist belt is thick and tailored for a comfortable precise fit and has PALS straps for accessory pockets.
Thick and comfortable but firm and structured, this waist belt is one of the best I have ever worn. It is also easy to adjust so when you need to crank it down you don’t have to ask for help. As I said, the harness is very well designed and extremely effective at supporting and distributing the load no matter how much it weighs. In fact, the ride gets better as the load increases.
Need to haul five gallons of water? Ammo cans? Cinder blocks? An entire Coues Deer, Antelope or a couple of big Elk drumsticks and still have all your gear with you? The Crewcab is one of only a few packs that do this trick while keeping the load well managed and under control.
OK, so I had to move my tripod. No biggie.
The wings spread open to create space for the additional cargo but they wrap, support and compress down on the load keeping it from moving around. The load stays tight and under control and I can still get to most of my gear.
Originally designed for the military but easily adopted by western hunters because the NICE Crewcab allows you to carry your basic gear and a whole lot more. There are a few things that I would change for a hunter specific version of this pack but I still expect it to perform better than most over the coming deer and elk seasons.
Here is what I can tell you now though, the Crewcab rides better, regardless of the weight of the load, than any other pack I have every worn with the exception of the Dana Designs Arcflex Astraplane Overkill, another of Gleasons creations. Stay tuned for further details and impressions on this and other top hunting packs we are testing.
UPDATE – The Crew Cab wins the coveted GREAT GEAR RECOMMENDATION because of its flexibility, carrying capacity, the way it rides when loaded, durability and most of all because of all the packs I own, it is the one I reach for when I go hunting or out to help a friend carry their kill out of the field. I don’t think there is a better convertable pack on the market. Well done Dana.
We can be educated and persuaded but not bought, bullied or bs’d.
Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who won’t or can’t turn back.
Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.