A fanny pack wouldn't quite cover it. And by it, I'm referring to my butt. Unless it has a good shoulder-strap system, a fanny pack on me will quickly end up being the catalyst to a good trip-and-fall maneuver. A bit of time was spent browsing the packs at the Cabela's retail store, and I came across one I didn't think would work, but it was close. The more I looked at it, the more possibility I saw. The Cabela's Elite Scout Pack had everything I was looking for and more.
First impressions aren't everything
My first impression of the pack was that it was too small for my frame. Then I realized it came in two sizes. The large pack fit very well. The straps centered the pack nicely and didn't interfere with any movement. I had a mule deer hunt coming up and knew I'd be doing a lot of walking and glassing. What I didn't want was to feel like the pack straps were binding my shoulders, especially when I was looking through the binoculars to check out a lump of grass that may have sprouted antlers or a fence post that may have been a wall-hanger. The tops of the straps also had a textured fabric that gripped my rifle sling and was a welcome touch. The pack's designers also realized that its wearers might need to shoulder the old rifle once in a while, so the straps don't interfere with that at all.
How many times have you been hiking and needed a drink? I like to keep my hands as free as possible, so that usually means carrying a water bottle in my pack. Like I said, I'm a big guy, and I can go through a lot of water. I was pretty happy to see the integrated hydration system built into this pack. It has a convenient 68-oz. drink bladder and a tube that connects to clips on the shoulder straps. A one-way bite-release valve allows you to drink water or the beverage of your choice while on the go, all without having to stop and take the pack off, pull out a bottle, and, you get the idea. It wasn't a huge deal in 35-degree November weather, although I did appreciate it. But during a 95-degree turkey hunt this spring, I had that bite valve implanted in my cheek. Refilling the pack's bladder is easy as well.
At first glance you might wonder why the pack is set up the way it is. It has a main compartment, and then it looks like the main pack has a backpack of its own. What this does, with the aid of built-in compression straps and a mesh carry basket, is allow you to stow your jacket after the weather heats up for the rest of the day, or pack a jacket in with you and not have to carry it separately. Simply roll it up, stuff it into the open space and cinch down the compression straps. This ability to carry bulky items comes in handy for whatever gear you need. This is a nice feature, and once again, being a bigger guy, it's one I definitely appreciated. During my hot, spring turkey hunt, I wasn't peeling off extra layers and stuffing them into the pack, but it did a great job holding my seat pad, which turned out to be a vital piece of gear when it came to keeping my previously mentioned hind-end off the rough, tick-infested ground.
Now you see me
Call me crazy, but I'm quite picky when it comes to camo patterns. Some may not feel it's too important, but I fall into the "I'll take every bit of help I can get" category. I'm not saying all your camo should match, but it needs to be effective. I was planning to use the pack first and foremost for a mule deer hunt. I chose the Seclusion 3D Outfitter® pattern, as it has the ability to blend with just about any condition you might run in to. The rest of my camo didn't match, but it blended well enough that it really didn't seem like a problem. One successful hunter I know likes to vary his camo patterns, as he feels it does a better job breaking up his outline. I think he may be on to something.
If you're looking for a light, easy-to-carry pack to hold your stuff, the Cabela's Elite Scout is what you seek. It carries just enough gear for light hunting duties and isn't bulky. You're not likely going to fit enough gear in it for an overnight, although with the space-saving gear out on the market today, you might have enough for an emergency. It has enough space for what I want to use it for, and the hydration pack makes it great for warm-weather hunting. I'm very happy I picked this pack, and you will be, too.
Click here to purchase the Cabela's Elite Scout Pack