“So, if you’re lucky, you can march off into the swamps under cloud cover. If you’re not so lucky the sun will beat on you like a hammer. That particular day was one of the latter…Some idiot brought a thermometer, and as we were watching that buffalo herd drift off through the heat waves, we were told that it was 130 degrees Fahrenheit where we were standing.” – (Craig Boddington, From the Cape to Kasserine)
I know I quote him frequently, but that’s mainly because Craig Boddington seems to have been everywhere I want to go hunt, and done everything I can think of doing while there. But, rather than mainly inspirational, the above quote was a warning for one who needs lots of hydration because of a crappy immune system.
So, knowing that I was heading into those very swamps to hunt a Cape Buffalo with Mark Haldane’s Zambeze Delta Safaris, I started a search for a pack for hunting that would 1) give me the ability to easily take several liters of water, 2) have enough easily-accessible pockets to carry rifle straps, snacks, medications, etc, 3) not interfere with my Trader Keith Culling Belt and Cartridge Slide (see TTAG review), 4) be light, 5) be durable, 6) be quiet and, finally, 7) with all of the above, be comfortable to wear.
Yep, Southern Hemisphere Mozambique in November will qualify as ‘Sub-Alpine’ in both altitude and climate!
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I will be hunting the Zambezi Delta region four times in the next 1 1/2 years. So, my pack needs to also be very durable when used as a carry-on for overseas flights, shoved into the cargo holds of charter flights and worn under blistering hot and humid conditions through ‘bush’ and swamps.
However, I also chose this pack with upcoming North American and European trips in mind as well. Whether on horseback hunts after Elk and Mule Deer in Wyoming or ‘stalking’ Chamois and Mouflon in France, I wanted this to become my go-to day pack for hunting.
Why I Chose the SITKA Gear Mountain 2700 Pack
Before I start going through the seven issues/features I wanted in a day pack for my hunting trips, let me mention some of the other features provided by the Mountain 2700; some of which overlap with my ‘Big-7’.
Just inside, and at the top of the main compartment, is located a zippered pocket that provides a secure place to store tags, keys, cell phone, etc. By being at the top, whatever is placed there will be easily accessible, and protected from crushing. This will be particularly useful for my cell phone that doubles as a backup camera.
There are two vertical pockets that run up both sides at the back of the Mountain 2700.
This rest has already come in very handy for North American hunts, and will probably see even more use when I am hunting in Africa and Europe.
Alternatively, tripods and fieldrests can be secured in the two side pockets using the straps along the side of the pack to tighten them down.
Last-but-not-least of the features is the design and construction of the waist belt. The belt on the Mountain 2700 is built from a ‘triple-density foam’.
This may sound like manufacturer-speak, and maybe it is, but whatever this means, it makes for a very comfortable feel and fit. Part of the comfort comes from the addition of a similarly-padded lumbar support.
I have not yet tried out the final feature of the waist belt; the strong, and lengthy, Velcro Strips on both sides of the belt. They are accessed by lifting a narrow, vertical Velcro strap.
There is a wide Velcro strap that is then pulled forward.
Once that strap is released, there is a second strap that can also be opened.
The size and location of these Velcro secures are designed with pistol holsters, bear spray, etc in mind.
Though I will not be carrying such items in Africa or Europe, I will when hunting in North America.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration – The Mountain 2700 was explicitly designed with the challenge to hunters to stay hydrated while under moderate-extreme exertion. Why do I conclude this? Because it is equipped with an Internal hydration sleeve that will accommodate water bladders in excess of 3 liters. Pictured is one of my 3 liter bladders, filled and inserted into this sleeve.
Having the internal sleeve is one thing, but being able to continually access the water is another. The pack’s design also allows the wearer to run the tube from the bladder out the top of the internal pocket,
across their shoulder
and then to a point where the tube can be secured to one of the pack straps.
I realize that I am really hammering away on this feature. For some of you, hydration might be much less of an issue. However, as I mentioned, it is unfortunately of critical concern for me.
Accessible Pockets – I mentioned earlier about some of the pockets located inside and outside the pack, so I won’t belabor this point. However, there is another, very handy pocket, located on the outside/top of the Mountain 2700. This is where I will plan to drop rifle straps, snacks etc so that they are immediately available without much movement.
This will be particularly important once we’ve crawled into the big herds of buffaloes in the Zambezi Delta…
Can I [Comfortably] Wear the Pack and my Culling Belt and Cartridge Slide? – I will be wearing the waist belt a bit off my hips when I have on my culling belt and cartridge slide.
When it was fully-loaded and resting above my hips, it was comfortable. I will not promise that after a full-day, with temperatures reaching 130-degrees Fahrenheit, I will not be glad to be shed of the belt, slide and pack. But, from past experience while hunting in heat, that will be the case regardless of the pack.
Lightweight Day Pack – At 3.5 lbs, empty, the Mountain 2700 pack does not start out with unnecessary weight to be carried by the wearer. This is VERY important. You don’t want to have to lug any more weight than necessary up-and-down grades, or through broiling swampland – at least I don’t. When you slip on the empty Mountain 2700, you don’t feel it.
I have carried two different packs while trekking 10 days in the Himalayas, and hunting for black bear in the incredibly tough Selway drainage of Idaho. Neither of those packs were as light, when empty, as the Mountain 2700. I wish they had been.
Quiet and Durability – I have yet to take the Mountain 2700 into the woods. So, I can’t give feedback on how quiet it will be when hunting. What I can say is that its fabric does not rattle much when shaken like some of my other packs. Neither does it give off any scratching noises when rubbed across door jams. Those are two tests I normally use to see how much noise clothing or packs will produce while hunting.
One of the reasons that this pack is quiet (and lightweight) is due to its specific construction. Ironically, its construction also guarantees durability. Let me explain. The face and back of the Mountain 2700 is constructed from 220-Denier Nylon that is ‘PU coated’.
In case you, like me, are unaware of why this is important in a pack designed for hunting: “PU coated fabric is made up of a synthetic woven base fabric (usually polyester or nylon) with a waterproofing polyurethane coating or laminate. The polyurethane coating is applied to a single side of the base fabric, this makes the fabric water resistant, light weight and flexible.” (ATTWOOLLS Manufacturing)
The areas of the pack that will likely carry the most strain, and receive the most abrasion – back pockets and bottom panels – have been reinforced with 450-Denier Polyester.
Conclusions – When partially loaded or fully-loaded (the Mountain 2700 is recommended for loads not exceeding 45 lbs), I have found the Mountain 2700 to be comfortable on my waist and shoulders. I have been wearing packs for approximately 50 years – for hunting, for backpacking, for trekking – and I can tell when a pack will ride wrong on me, be noisy or not provide what I need in the way of accessories. The SITKA Gear‘s Mountain 2700 Pack for Subalpine Big Game Hunting should work very well for me as my Day Pack for hunting trips.
At $329, the Mountain 2700 is not inexpensive, but its design and construction should give me years of dependable service on a wide array of hunting trips.
Mike Arnold writes for a number of outlets; links to other articles can be found here.
Except where noted, all photos courtesy of Frances and Mike Arnold.