Bison packs

Beyond rifles (maybe) and a whole lot of gamebags (to be discussed soon) there’s not much bison hunting demands beyond the pursuit of deer or elk, save perhaps when it comes to your backpack.  In a few weeks we can expect to carry out the equivalent of between 3 and 4 mature elk, which will demand unusual measures at the kill site and to store the meat, and multiple trips to get it out.  Multiple trips, especially over multiple days, vastly complicates scent management, which in Grizz country is a big deal.  While hunting, and while carrying lots of meat, you’re already inherently doing a lot wrong insofar as bear management is concerned.  There’s no reason to make things worse.

The two packs pictured here are similar, with almost identical dimensions, very similar construction methods, and fairly similar feature sets.  The black multicam bag is built for the Seek Outside Revolution frame, and optimized not only for hunting, but for use while in meat shelf hauling mode.  Abundant compression (three each side, three front, two each top and bottom) is necessary here, as is lateral stiffness in the frame complex, to avoid barreling the load into your back.  The tan pack is built on an integrated Seek Outside frame, built to hold gear for backpacking, as well as haul boned out meat bagged and hung from internal loops at the top of the frame.  Because of that, it has much less compression, as the demands for load control won’t be that high.

All this (as well as lighter materials) makes the tan pack almost 1.5 pounds lighter, as well as giving it a cleanness and simplicity which are appealing.

The center zip works very well for on the fly accessibility, both in conventional backpacking mode, and while meat shelfing.  The zip opens all the way to the top of the shroud, allowing the pack to splay open, which making loading meat and then gear nice and quick.  I close the final 4-5 inches with velcro, so that with the role top done down three times the zipper is just free (pull can be seen on both packs, above), allowing gear to be loaded and unloaded with the roll top fastened.

The black appears a lot wider than the tan one, which is partly a result of much less stiffer fabric and how they’re easy stuffed for photos, and partly the shape of the base panel.  Each bag is 42-43 inches in circumference at the base, but the black bag is an inch wider against the user, and 2 inches wider along the back, which makes it 1.5 inches shallower.

I’ve been experimenting extensively with shoulder strap and hipbelt padding over the past year, and the current state of my thought is well represented in the tan pack, whose shoulder straps are a single 1/4″ layer of 5 pound EVA, with a layer of 5mm 3D mesh against the user.  The hipbelt uses the same foam and mesh in the lumbar, and softer 2 pound foam in the sides.  Thin shoulder straps are lighter and cleaner, absorb less water, and don’t interfere as much with things like shouldering a rifle.  I’ve not been able to go this thin with any softer foam without having the straps roll and deform under heavy loads.  The thicker 3D mesh has downsides, mainly in the way it collects pine needles, but it pads and wicks and generally prevents chafing better than anything else, though research in this area is ongoing.

I’ve also been experimenting with how possible it is to make pack side pockets which are too big, and to that end the tan pack has pockets which are 5 inches deep, and over 15 inches tall on the front side of the side panel.  Attaching cubic inch measurements to open pockets is a bit silly, so by way of reference I’ll say that you can cram this pack full of gear for a 10 day whitewater, have it absolutely bursting, and fit two two liter soda bottles in each pocket.  Which is overkill without extensive shaping, as a mere nalgene flops around quite a bit.

I had side pockets on the black pack, but cut them off as the design wasn’t that good, and meat shelf loads make conventional side pockets less than ideally useful.  The theory is to have a pocket which attaches to belt and frame, in this case a hacked Mystery Ranch wet rib, which seems promising.  Other meaty details I leave for those with a keen eye.

In keeping with the theme this week, I’ll probably bring the black pack, as it carried out an elk last year, and the meat shelf option makes keeping blood off your gear so simple.  It doesn’t keep blood from staining the pack, or from potentially dripping on to your clothes, opening the possibility that such items might need to be hung.  The Cordura used in the Revolution frame is particularly absorbant, and after a half dozen critters mine is permanently reddish.  Next on the list is making this from laminate fabric, slick side towards the meat.

9 responses to “Bison packs”

  1. collinswannabesite Avatar

    Those pockets are crazy big on the tan one.

    I like the attachment on the multicam…I wish seek outside would put that sleeve at the top that slides on top of the frame…when not using the shelf it would make the whole thing much more solid/fiddly I feel.

    Does the multicam have a hidden pocket on the frame/top side, or is that a top access zipper?

    1. Both have a top stash pocket.

  2. Do you prefer EVA to crosslinked PE? I’ve found denser (L400+) CLPE to work pretty well and not deform too much over time. Curious to try out EVA though. Would you mind sharing your source for denser EVA foams?

    1. North Shore Inc sells a variety of denser EVAs. I don’t have much experience with PE, so can’t comment. Longevity of EVA has always been a strong point.

  3. […] miles for the bison, and 7 and 17 for two deer.  I intentionally tried both of the packs mentioned here, neatly and definitively confirming my previous suspicions.  For big loads (i.e. critters larger […]

  4. […] month a reader contacted me about a pack bag for a Seek Outside frame, mentioning these bags as inspiration.  Primary use for the pack would be elk hunting in the Olympics, with capacity and […]

  5. thechrislundy Avatar

    I’m working on a design for a MYOG packbag for a Seek Outside frame so I’ve been enjoying perusing your posts. I’m sure it necessitates a bit of packing care, but do you miss not having a foam backpad on the tan pack like the stock SO packs have?

    1. I do not. I think integrating something like a cross stay is a much better investment in time and ounces. If you pack poorly the foam doesn’t really do all that much.

      1. thechrislundy Avatar

        Thanks Dave, that’s helpful. Good idea about the cross stay – I’ve definitely had some issues with mid-back bulging.

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