Buying gear for your first western hunt will make you cringe. Unfortunately for outdoors men and women in general our gear can get expensive. Whether it’s boots, pack, tent, clothes, GPS, rifle, binoculars, range finder, etc. The cost of a trip like this will start to add up.
I ran into this issue as I prepared for an elk hunt in 2018. Being from Ohio, it’s small game or whitetails and I either had to bite the bullet and shell out a lot of cash or figure out a way to get the gear I needed in an economic way. Thankfully friends and family were generous enough to lend me the majority of the gear. A pack was not one of them. After some research I was able to find an external pack at a good price. The Alps Outdoorz Commander backpack is what I decided to purchase. Honestly, it served me well and because of this I want to share my thoughts on the pack.
Hopefully this review will answer the questions and concerns you may have regarding this pack. For the review I will cover the following.
- Load Capability
Before getting into the review I wanted to touch on a program Alps Outdoorz does that promotes our hunting heritage. Whenever possible I like to support companies that give back and promote my way of life. The program is called “ Save the Lifestyle”. The program focuses on 4 points, Share, Sustain, Support, Save our hunting way of life.
Working with the National Wild Turkey Federation on a program called “The Mentor Pledge” a person pledges to take a new hunter or lapsed hunter out in the field in 2019. If you would like to know more, here is the link with more information and videos of new hunters on their hunts.
For my elk hunt we would be hiking in with everything we needed for a week on our backs. Lord willing we would also be hauling out elk meat. Because of this I wanted to get a pack that could carry a lot of weight easily. With all my gear I was right around 55-60lbs.
The pack handled this weight very well and it carried nicely. It was well distributed throughout the pack and I feel the external frame helped in this area. It’s a sturdy frame that can handle punishment. I will say the frame is on the larger size. What I feel makes it seem larger is the meat shelf at the bottom and support bar up top. Both of these extend beyond the bottom and top of the pack.
The support bar above my head did turn into an annoyance. It was a magnet for branches above my head to get caught on. In my opinion it isn’t really needed unless you are hauling out an elk quarter as it would prevent the leg from resting on your head or shoulders.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to load up the pack with elk meat but with the amount of weight I put on it with my gear and how well it handled the load it would have no problem hauling out whatever type of game you’re after.
The external frame can actually be purchased separately if you are just looking for a meat hauler. This year I will keep this in the bed of my truck when I hunt public land for whitetails. This would make quick work of a quartered or boned out deer. Also, it will be a great way to practice the gutless method of field dressing.
The bag connects to the frame through a pin and clip system. It will take a couple minutes to detach the bag from the frame as there are a handful of pins to remove on each side. It’s an ok system in my mind. For the price of this pack though it works well and gets the job done. Is there a better way…sure but that would raise the cost of the pack.
I would rate this pack as a 6 out of 10 with 10 being the best. Slightly above average and here is the reason why. The pack has no tension shoulder straps. This is a big draw back for me. After hiking for a couple hrs with a full load my shoulders began to hurt because there isn’t the ability to cinch down the pack against the top of your back and relieve your shoulders a bit. All that weight is constantly pulling against your shoulders. I tried to spare my shoulders by loosening the shoulder straps and put more weight on my hips but there was too much room between my upper back and the pack that it ended up making matters worse.
If Alps Outdoorz would fix this issue I would bump it up to an 8 or 9 out of 10 in comfort. Having tension straps is a big deal to me and it can make a difference with a full load and a long hike ahead of you.
Besides that, the shoulder straps and hip belt is padded very well. The padding on the hip belt wraps all the way around and the backing between the hip belt and shoulder straps is mesh that ventilates heat. The hip belt also has tension straps at the bottom of the pack that come in handy.
Don’t get me wrong it’s a comfortable pack for the price. It would be a lot better though with tension shoulder straps.
As mentioned above we carried everything we would need for a week in our packs. Obviously, I needed a pack with some size. This pack fits the bill. It is 5,250 cubic inches. Also, this doesn’t include the space between the meat shelf and the pack itself. I was able to fit my tent and a cushion for glassing in the space which freed up more room for my gear.
You can easily do a 5 to 7 day hunt or hike with this pack.
This is an area where this pack shines. My cousin and uncle both have Kuiu packs but mentioned how well they like the placement and size of the compartments on the Alps Outdoorz Commader.
For me I like this option. I would rather have multiple compartments on the pack so I can organize and then delegate certain items to a specific compartment. An example of this would be the 2 side compartments on the right side of the pack that double as a rifle holder. In one of the compartments you could keep everything you need for your gun…bullets, lens cloth for scope, tape to cover muzzle to keep debris out, etc. These 2 compartments are each about the size of 2 fists stack upon each other.
Another well placed compartment is the one in the middle of the pack. This is a larger compartment that could hold your food for the day, or your rain gear. The hip belt has pockets on each side. I was amazed what all I could fit into one of the pockets. Wind checker, GPS, iodine tablets, extra bullet and batteries to name a few. Anything that I needed quickly and frequently was held in the hip belt pockets.
Favorite compartment on this pack is the bottom one. Inside the pack there is material that separates it from the main section which is a nice added feature. Initially I used it for my sleeping bag but as the trip went on I put my clothes in there instead. This was great for 2 reasons.
- The top of the pack closes by means of a draw string and then is covered by a flap of material that snaps into place. While this is nice to keep your gear dry and contained if you just need a jacket or gloves it gets annoying going through the process every time. By using the bottom compartment I saved time and hassle because it’s just one zipper.
- The size of the bottom compartment is perfect: Having the ability to store all my clothes in one location was great. Just grab and go.
My pack did squeak a bit. It was more of an annoyance than a sound issue possible scaring game. I was able to determine that the squeak came from where the shoulder straps connected to the frame and also where the hip belt wrapped around the frame. I believe it was the material rubbing the frame. Still working on a solution. If you know of any please leave me a comment below.
As mentioned above the lack of tension straps is a bummer. It’s something I think is important for a pack. On the flip side the price of this pack for what you get is outstanding so you need to shave costs somewhere.
If your looking for a pack that will get the job done and handle weight at a great price then I would highly recommend the Alps Outdoorz Commander. When I did my research I could not find an external pack that had this many offerings at the same price.
With a 4 out of 5 star rating with over 756 reviews I can understand why Amazon has this ranked as their #1 best seller. Keep in mind though this pack is a great option but meets the basics. It does lack the creature comforts of other packs but you will have to pay a higher price for that.
My pack did everything I needed it to. Having the option as a meat hauler is a great perk as well. If you have any further questions on this pack leave me a comment below and I’ll get back with you. If you have ever used one of these packs let me know your thoughts as well. I’m curious to hear your opinion.
Have a good one!