I really love Florida in March when winter is still having its way in my home state of Minnesota: pelting us with snow and ice, getting in its last licks of nasty-cold nights and not-much-better days. Which is exactly what was happening, a few years ago, as I slipped toward a sun-kissed glade to set up for an Osceola gobbler. The folks back home were shoveling, while I was slathering on sunscreen. Perfect.
Well, not quite perfect. Because, you see, in one hand I toted a pop-up blind. In the other I clutched a folding stool and a pair of decoys. My turkey vest bulged with gear, and the crossbow I carried had this skinny little strap that kept sliding off my shoulder. I was rigged just poorly enough that I'd have to stop every 30 yards to slide things back into place, which was irritating enough to make me curse, grumble and sweat'¦even as I hunted in Paradise.
Had I bothered to tell them, my snow-shoveling compadres back home would have reviled in evil glee.
Of course, there wasn't much in the way of packs designed specifically for toting crossbow back then. Or if there were, I was clueless about them.
But now, I find myself in hands-free, crossbow-toting bliss, thanks to some of the coolest packs going.
These are some high-performance gear haulers, capable of carrying enough clothing and gadgetry for everything from an afternoon hunt to a multi-day expedition. And they accomplish this while carrying your crossbow safely, securely and making it easy to access. For a look at some of the newest models, read on.
This pack is crammed with features that crossbow hunters will love. The MatriX sports a drop-down pocket that secures the weapon at the stock, and two padded straps that start at the pack's center are used to wrap around the middle of the bow, then fasten on either side of the pack for additional security.
An internal aluminum stay gives the MatriX additional comfort and the stability to handle a big load. In addition to the roomy main compartment, there are two front "wing" pockets, two side mesh pockets, and two pockets on the waist belt. Additional features include a blaze orange rain cover and a hydration pocket and port. 2,700 cubic-inch capacity. 4 pounds, 1 ounce.
Super Day Pack
Badlands has a stellar reputation for making tough, no-nonsense packs, and they've updated their popular Super Day pack. The unique strapping system which has always done a fine job of toting bows and firearms, has now been tested and improved to include horizontal bows. Like all Badlands packs, the Super Day features KXO-32 fabric, a strong, ultra-quiet and totally waterproof material that, thanks to a Teflon membrane, remains flexible.
The roomy main compartment gets plenty of support from pockets on the side and the waist band, and (this is important to me) there are some awesome lashing straps on the exterior for tying in those gear items that don't fit in the main compartment or you need to be able to access quickly. 1,950 cubic inches. 3 pounds, 15 ounces.
Bolt Crossbow Pack
Masko Outdoors has partnered with Bohning Archery Products to produce the Bolt crossbow pack. The Bolt features a unique center channel that securely holds any crossbow style, but allows the hunter to remove the crossbow without taking off the pack.
There are six zippered pockets for easy storage, and the camo is True Timber TM XD3, and the construction is a Cordura fabric known for its toughness and durability. There's a separate quiver holder for easy access to bolts, and the adjustable chest straps aid in comfort and superior pack fit.
Outfitter Bow and Rifle Pack
While it doesn't say "crossbow" in the title, the fold-out support on this new pack from Cabela's can easily accommodate the stock of a horizontal bow. The generous main compartment is perfect for stashing large items, and two side pockets can handle hunting accessories. There's a padded compression pod that holds a crossbow in place in transit, but it can be removed for use as a day pack.
There's also an organizer panel that features a hideaway blaze orange safety panel and an updated electronics pouch. For hunts where hydration is critical, the pack features a 2-liter reservoir. YKK water-resistant zippers, a fully padded hip belt and contoured shoulder straps complete this quality pack.
The durable CT450 Plus fabric is available in four camo patterns; Realtree Xtra, Cabela's Outfitter, Cabela's Zonz Woodland and Zonz Western. 4 pounds, 1 ounce. 2,400 cubic inches.
Another company known for making high-quality packs, Eberlestock has a perfect crossbow-toter in the X1A1. Depending on your weapon, the crossbow can either be carried in the Quickdraw Back Scabbard, or lashed to the pack with the Ripcord Bow Tether.
Their new "shooter harness" is vertically adjustable for different torso lengths, yet is light and strong enough for carrying heavy loads.
In addition to a roomy main compartment, there are external side pockets for storing smaller items. Straps for lashing gear and clothing to the outside of the pack are secured by padlock webbing points that result in a safe, secure attachment. 5 pounds, 8 ounces. 1,900 cubic inches.
The Ex-Pack features a center channel with an adjustable Velcro strap that can not only adapt to any crossbow, but position it to your liking and allow easy access and a quick release. Ex-Pack also sports an easy-access, quick-detachable, quiver holder.
Featuring an ultra-quiet polar fleece fabric in True Timber XD-3 camo that is not only quiet and lightweight, but weatherproof, the Ex-Pack is an ideal choice for backcountry hunters. Crafted with premium components, the Ex-Pack has fully adjustable, padded shoulder straps as well as an adjustable, padded waist belt that transfers the bulk of the load to your hips. 900 cubic inches. 2.1 pounds.
Cross Over Crossbow Pack
Game Plan Gear
Another pack with the capability to tote a crossbow, muzzleloader, or other firearm; the unique wrap-around design of the Cross Over makes it one of the most adaptable packs going. It features internal pockets and a nicely padded hip belt that helps carry the load.
One interesting feature of this pack is that it can be opened up to wrap around a tree (for turkey hunting or for use in a ground blind); then the pack serves as a padded backrest and the internal pockets are now easily accessible. The Cross Over features Mossy Oak Infinity camo. 5 pounds.
TCSP14 Shooter Pack
Tenzing has established itself as one of the top makers of quality hunting gear, and that attention to detail is evident in this pack. The split-center design will easily carry a crossbow (or rifle), then double as a shooting rest when removed.
There are nine compartments/pockets for gear storage and organization, and a foldout rain cover keeps your gear dry when the weather turns ugly. The breathable mesh back pad and padded hip panels combine for great comfort while hiking, and a 2-liter hydration reservoir insures you'll be hydrated on even the most arduous hunts.
An exterior shell of durable Dyneema tricot is tough, weatherproof, and ultra quiet. 4 pounds, 6 ounces. 1,600 cubic inches.