For a few years I have been in the market for a hunting pack capable of long trips into the wild. But, like numerous types of hunting gear these days, the choices were somewhat overwhelming.
My criteria didn’t seem too stringent; I was looking for something that would be easy on the wallet, hold enough gear for a week in the wilderness, easily secure either gun or bow, comfortably carry lots of weight and durable enough to last me a few seasons. So, after checking out several brands and models, I decided to try the new ALPS OutdoorZ Commander X frame and pack.
I’ll be honest; I was skeptical at first due to the weight of the pack. It was on the heavier end, at least in comparison with others in its class, weighing in at just over nine pounds. But, I liked the space it offered – 4,000 cubic inches – and decided to give it a test for a backcountry archery hunt for turkey and elk in Colorado.
After a combined eight days of hunting, hiking and backpacking in San Juan National Forest’s Weminuche Wilderness Area and public land near Trinidad, Colorado, I was more than impressed. Here’s why:
- Solid construction – The pack’s greater weight was because it was well made using durable materials. The pack easily held up while hiking through scrub oak, and the often painful New Mexico locust found near Trinidad. The design also was extremely comfortable when hiking, even loaded to greater than 65 pounds of gear.
- Lots of space and customization options – This is a must for a backcountry hunt. An adjustable top pocket makes filling the pack to the extreme an easy chore, and could be easily removed and converted to a fanny pack. In addition, the front bag could be used as a stalking pack. I used it for storing extra calls, knife, tags, etc., for easy grab-and-go hunt situations. And finally, the pack easily unzips and detaches from the frame for easy transportation of deboned meat or full quarters.
- Bow and gun carrying pocket – My Bowtech Boss, a tall 36-inch axle-to-axle bow, was quickly and safely secured to the pack using the rifle and bow cam pocket – a feature that is easily tucked away into the bottom of the pack when not in use – and the compression straps that help secure the pack to the frame.
- Optics storage – The spotting-scope pocket kept my optics safely tucked away and well-guarded against accidental damage. The side panel access also made retrieval of the scope quite easy for quick glassing of hillsides and canyons.
- Protection from the elements – The pack cover tucked into a hidden compartment on the bottom of the backpack, and was easily adjusted to fit the pack regardless of how full it was loaded. While in the high country of the Weminuche, the cover was frequently used to shield my pack against light flurries, morning frost and regular afternoon thunderstorms.
To my regret, I never got to test the fully loaded frame by itself. I had missed opportunities on turkeys and elk, and the few blue grouse I arrowed certainly did not warrant a separation of the pack from the frame.
That being said, there is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be toting the durable, spacious and comfortable Commander X into the backcountry for years to come.