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Gearing Up –
Things that Work
“Just One” Backpacks
If you do
much traveling or hunting in Alaska, backpacks are a fact of life.
Conditions can change rapidly from hot and sunny to cold, wet, and windy
in sometimes a matter of minutes. Having appropriate gear and clothing
is paramount to your safety and success, and wearing a pack is the
easiest and best way of making sure you can carry enough gear. I have
been wearing backpacks now for an average of ninety days per year for
nearly forty years. That’s a lot of days and a lot of miles. It’s no
wonder I slump. Anyway, I have developed some definite opinions about
them and can spot a pretender a mile away.
It used to be
external frame packs were the only option available for carrying heavy
loads and for most heavy, bulky items like moose quarters and boat
motors they still are. But internal frame packs with comfortable
harness systems, once the domain of serious rock climbers who couldn’t
risk protruding external frames catching on rock ledges, have caught on
with the everyday backpacker. It is currently difficult to find good
external frame packs that will stand up to the abuse that Alaskan
hunters dish out. Fortunately there are some internal framed packs that
can carry virtually everything; except the bulky moose quarters, antlers
and boat motors we sometimes have to strap ourselves to.
season I have been wearing a new backpack made by Eberlestock. Called
the “Just One” model it was designed by Glen Eberle to be as close to an
all around pack for the hunter and outdoorsman as is possible. Glen is
a former member of the U.S. biathlon team and a serious hunter and he
envisioned a pack that would allow a minimalist, fast moving hunter the
ability to carry a small, compressed pack all day yet after the hunt
still be able to pack in his kill with the same pack in an expanded
mode. If need be his rifle could also be carried in a built in sleeve
in the pack, leaving both hands free. When hunting I’ve never
considered hanging my rifle on my back but I discovered this summer that
the ability to slip a rifle or shotgun into my pack, along with my
clients fly rod tubes, a definite plus. With both hands free I can
assist them landing their catch of fish myself if I want.
One” pack basically consists of three compartments. Two full-length
outside compartments, ideal for clothing or spotting scopes and tripod,
and a large, mesh covered expandable center compartment specifically
designed for meat or other large items. It’s not large enough for a
moose quarter but would certainly do for sheep, deer and caribou. I
used it with a waterproof river bag for extra clothing. In addition
there is built in a folding sleeve for carrying rifles, fly rod tubes or
large tripod. Externally there are two side straps for compressing the
load and one longitudinal freighter strap for securing heavy loads.
Eberlestock “Just One” pack is easily the most comfortable and versatile
backpack I have ever worn. It wasn’t meant to replace an external
freighter frame but for your average Alaskan hunting trip it is ideal.
Note: Phil Shoemaker is an Alaskan
Master Guide. He runs Grizzly Skins of Alaska, a world renowned
guide service that provides its clients with 100% success rates on
horned and antlered game and over 90% on bears. And these aren't
just "any old" animals. These are record class.
Which brings up the question of hauling moose quarters. While we
don't know about packing boat motors, we can tell you that our pack is
designed to haul elk quarters, and of course, unless you're talking
about the ferry-boat sized moose (or is that mooses?) that Phil finds,
we're confident that you can pack a moose quarter with our pack.
Anyway, you can
contact Phil at
Phil Shoemaker, Grizzly Skins of Alaska, PO Box 273,
King Salmon, AK 99613
This article was written by Phil as a submission to
"The Alaska Professional Hunter" magazine. We're grateful to Phil
for providing this unsolicited endorsement of our packs.
...And to dispel any
seeds of doubt that are raised by his remark about moose quarters and
boat motors, take a close look at this picture, which was provided to us
by one of our customers, and shows his elk guide packing a measured load
144 pounds (the guide, Thomas Brunson of Timberline Outfitters in Ely,
Nevada, came by our booth at the RMEF Elk Camp and told us that he had
hauled over 30 bulls in this same J104, and that it's still going
strong. Impressed, we asked him if he wanted another pack.
He just gave us a shrug and a smile, and said no thanks, he didn't need
a new one because his first was still going strong!):