how We test
EVALUATING HUNTING packs is ultimately an exercise in personal preference. One person may want a zipper here or a compression strap there, or would prefer a strong internal frame over a bow or rifle carrier. A pack that fits a shorter, stouter frame won’t fit a taller, lankier person. There’s also the matter of use. A Western elk hunter has a different expectation of a pack than an Eastern whitetail hunter. We tested packs with those variations in mind, leaving plenty of room for subjectivity but also evaluating the objective aspects of each submission. We measured the capacity and weight of each pack and the range of adjustability of straps and belts, and then awarded points for versatility (ability to haul a gun or a bow, meat, bulky coats, and smaller items like rangefinders and phones). We tested the strength of buckles, straps, and seams. And then we tested the fabric in three different ways: measuring loudness with a digital acoustic meter, moisture resistance by running each pack under a shower for 15 seconds, and abrasion resistance by dragging loaded packs along a gravel path. Subjective assessments included design, features, whether the pack met the purpose for which it was intended, the ability to be adjusted to comfortably fit a wide range of body sizes, and value. The pack with the highest score— the Kuiu Icon Pro 1850—won our Editor’s Choice award. We didn’t award a Great Buy, concluding that no pack was a runaway bargain.