- What to Look for in a Saddle Hunting Pack | 2 Different Pack Setup Examples
What to Look for in a Saddle Hunting Pack | 2 Different Pack Setup Examples
By: Jeremy Dinsmore
There are many benefits of saddle hunting. I find the reduced gear weight to be one of the biggest benefits. There is no “right” way to carry your gear in and out of the woods. You need to find what works best for you. I will say though that the majority of hunters have some sort of “system” they use when heading out in the field. For instance, I use two different pack setups when I head out to try and fill my tags. I will break down my two setups in this article and explain what you may want to look for in a pack setup for your saddle hunting system.
What to Look for in a Saddle Hunting Pack
Being a mobile hunter has evolved so much over the last 5 years and will continue to adapt and evolve with no end in sight. It seems each year at every trade show some brand is coming out with a new piece of gear that is lighter and/or more efficient to use. Pack development is no different. One of the first things that I look for in a pack is making sure it is comfortable. I prefer a pack with a good hip support, like a padded belt. This will allow you to distribute the majority of the weight you carry on your hips instead of your shoulders. With a hip belt, you are physically able to carry more weight, more comfortably. This can play a huge factor when you are hunting the mountains or walking/biking in a few miles. I know first hand that this will make that trek a heck of a lot better and much more manageable. The second attribute I look for is functionality of the pack. Look for a pack that will be able to hold all the gear you need. To go along with this, ensure the pack offers exterior compression straps to lock down climbing sticks or other gear (clothing). If the pack you are looking at checks these two boxes, then I would recommend determining how big you want your pack to be. Do you carry filming gear? If not, then you can get away with your main compartment being smaller. If you do, then you will want enough space to fit that gear in. Both packs that I own are around 1,900 ci. This allows plenty of space for all my needs and gear and then some. The Badlands Diablo VT Approach Pack is a great option for most.
My Two Saddle Hunting Pack Setups
Now, you are probably wondering why I run two different pack setups and I hope I can answer that for you in an easy way. Living in central Pennsylvania, I mainly hunt mountain terrain on public land with little to no agricultural land. The same happens when I get home to hunt in eastern PA, on private land. However, I try my best to hunt out west every two years and I wanted a pack that could be used here in PA as well as out west. That is why I decided to run the Kifaru Stryker XL pack on a Duplex Lite Frame. I have a video on our Antler Up Outdoors YouTube where I break down that setup. When I go out west, I just pair my camp bag with the Stryker XL and I am good to go on a 5+ day hunt. Here in PA for saddle hunting, I use this specific pack when I know I have a longer hike to my hunting location or when I know that if I am successful that I will quarter a deer out instead of dragging it out. This setup checks all the boxes that I mentioned above about comfort and functionality. This setup is on the pricier side; however, it is a do-it-all pack for me. The only downside to this pack is that with a frame, it’s bulky. This is the reason I decided to run another different pack in order to save that extra little bit of weight for times when I know that I won’t be packing out a deer. For this setup, I run the Kifaru Shape Charge with the Tethrd Predator XL pack attached to it on the outside of the pack via clips. This pack again checks all the boxes mentioned above except that it is more streamlined due to not being on a frame like the Stryker XL. This pack fits all my needs and I double this pack as an EDC pack when needed. So again, I get more use out of this pack than just hunting.
Many Ways to Perfect Your Saddle Hunting Setup
Regardless of the pack that I take out, I am able to pack in my extra layers of clothing, climbing sticks, saddle platform, kill kit and camera gear. Now how you decide to pack these items is totally up to you. I mentioned earlier that you should look for a pack that has some exterior compression straps. This is the most convenient way to strap climbing sticks to a pack. When it comes to carrying my platform on the Stryker XL, I place it in the pack sling area and on my Shape Charge it is in the Tethrd Predator XL bag. These two setups are perfect for how I hunt, whether it be on public or private ground. If you are hunting on land that you are not trekking up and down mountain terrain, then you can get away with something even more streamlined than what I mentioned above. I noticed hunters this past year that have prehung setups on private or public land that were running a fanny pack style pack and carrying in their bow only while wearing their saddle in. It totally worked for them. The key aspect is that you are able to have the items you need for your hunt, and be comfortable carrying those items. So, have fun, be creative and practice with your setup. This will help you make sure that you have full confidence in yourself and your gear when opening day rolls around.