What Is the Best Backpack for Elk Hunting? 

 December 1, 2021

By  Keith Terrell

Elk hunting is one of the most thrilling game hunts out there. As it requires spending time in the wilderness, it’s crucial that you have all the equipment you need stored safely in a backpack for convenience. However, many people still wonder what the right backpack is for the sport.

The best backpack for elk hunting is spacious, has load-hauling capabilities, has organizational compartments, is quiet, and has a superior suspension system that fits your body well. It should also be water repellent, durable, light, and comfortable.

elk hunting

Choosing the right elk hunting backpack will be critical to your success as well as safety and comfort. Read on to find out everything you need to learn about selecting the appropriate backpack.

Backpacks that can be taken to elk hunting trips are a very small niche, though there are several features that you should look out for when shopping around for one. These are the specifics:


Opt for a medium-sized backpack with volumes ranging from 3,500-4,500 cubic inches (or within the 60-70L range). These are just right for beginner as well as novice hunters because medium-sized bags can be used for day hikes and they can also be used for longer hunts. It can be tempting to go for the biggest bag possible but this would only be a mistake since bigger bags will only cause you to pack much more than you really need.

Go for backpacks on the larger size of the spectrum, such as 4,500 cubic inches, if you intend to travel deep into the woods. These longer trips mean you will need camping gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, and cooking equipment. For longer trips too, hunters are better off using modular backpack systems that enable you to use big or small packs on one frame.

As a general rule of thumb, a 3,000-4,000 cubic inches pack is suitable for 1-3 days; 4,000-5,000 is suitable for 3-7 days, 5,000-6,000 is good for 7-10 days, and 6,000 and up cubic meters is a good size for a hunting trip of 10 days or more.

Load-hauling capability

Once you capture an elk, you will need to bring it back from the kill site and you’ll need to rely on your backpack for this. For this reason, it’s a non-negotiable to use a backpack with load-hauling capability of up to a hundred points as this is how much a large elk quarter plus your equipment will weigh. A backpack should have the ability to let you carry the greatest weight over the longest distance with the least discomfort, too.

Most backpacks allow you to strap the meat on between the frame and the bag, which makes the hunting trip so much simpler. Imagine how challenging it is to carry meat on your hands on the way down? Strapping meat onto your backpack will give you a major advantage while improving your efficiency in the back country.

It also gives you the hands-free edge so you can use your hands for other things such as holding trekking poles to add stability, or catching yourself in case you fall. Keep in mind that meat-hauling is associated with a pack’s suspension system: the shoulder straps, waist belt, load lifters, and frame. However, a great suspension system means nothing if you get a backpack that isn’t the right size for you.

Look for a backpack that allows you to adjust the torso length based on your own measurements. If you aren’t sure how to do this, or you aren’t sure if the torso length is correct for your body, it’s always recommended to bring your backpack to get it fitted professionally. You can also call the backpack manufacturer to ask about the right way to do this with your backpack.

It’s also vital that the waist belt is sized correctly because this is where most of the weight will be carried. You don’t want a pack that will slip down towards your behind when all the weight is on it. Additionally, don’t make the mistake of going sizing up on the waist belt because the right size will give you adequate room.

All of these components are critical because if one of them doesn’t work, then the backpack will not work for you. For this reason, ideal backpacks for elk hunting must have superior suspension systems which you’ll need to learn how to use.


Your backpack should allow you to carry additional gear that you’ll need for hunting. Several pockets for organization are helpful so that you don’t waste time digging out water, snacks, knives, game bags, weapons, and extra clothing.


Backpacks that are specifically made for hunting have been designed to be quiet. This is a very important detail that shouldn’t be overlooked. For example, if your bag gets snagged on the bush, it should hardly make any noise particularly in its buckles and zippers. Otherwise, it could scare your prey off.

Water repellent

Keep the rest of your belongings dry and safe from blood by using water repellent material in your backpack. You can also make use of several dry bags within the pack to keep the rest of your things clean and dry.


Hunting-specific backpacks are among the most expensive types of bags out there, so you should make sure that your hard-earned money goes to the right place. Buy from a reputable brand that offers a warranty, proof that the manufacturer is confident enough to back up their gear in the event that something happens to it.

Our Recommendations for Best Elk Hunting Backpack

If you're looking for some specific recommendations, here's some great packs that are highly rated and also available on Amazon:

-   TIDEWE Hunting Backpack
-   ALPS OutdoorZ Commander + Pack Bag
-   Stone Glacier EVO 40/56 Backpack

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you bring in your backpack when elk hunting?

Kill kit: It’s important to pack as if you’re expecting to kill elk every single time. Ideally, your kill kit should have around 6 game bags that are rolled up then packed tightly in a stuff sack. Other things your kill kit should include are a small sharpener, sharp knife, industrial grade garbage bags, and thin rubber gloves.

Clothing: Pack clothes depending on the weather, but always assume that in the mountains, there is a good possibility for both sunshine and storms especially if you will be hunting for several days out.

Survival and safety: Always have a well-equipped first-aid kit because you never know what accidents you could run into during your trip. For survival, pack along a small water filter, shelter tarp that can also be used as a butchering drop cloth, GPS unit, power bank for all your equipment, and batteries if needed. If you will be traveling to areas that have bear populations, it’s also ideal to bring along bear spray and a pistol to stay on the safe side.

Accessories: Some accessories can help you become a more efficient elk hunter. These include spotting scopes, a small tripod to improve glassing ability when you use your binoculars, a roll-top dry bag

Miscellaneous hiking goods: Other things to pack are merely optional; while some hunters find that bringing hiking poles are unnecessary and only add on to weight, others find them essential especially when trekking in terrains with steep descents and ascents. Other optional items include bringing a portable stove for making a nice bowl of soup, but alternatively you could be spartan, focus on the essentials to keep the weight down, and feed off water and protein bars.

At the end of the day, it will all boil down to personal preference.

How should an elk hunting backpack be cleaned?

It’s very common for hunting backpacks to end up soaked in blood and dirt by the end of a trip. Just spray it down using a power sprayer, or a pressure washer in your garage. Afterwards, soak it in ice cold water for around half an hour.

Once dry, wash it by hand or a brush, remove the water, then repeat the process using soapy water. There are some detergents that are formulated for washing hunting gear, just be sure to read the backpack manufacturer’s advice too. Hang to dry, and you’re done.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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