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Dual Purpose Duo

As hunter-gatherers, humans have always taken what they needed to ensure success in the hunt and means to carry the plants and berries they discovered along the way. It has been said that the reason humans were such successful predators, was due to our inherent persistence.

We did not have the sharp fangs or claws of other apex predators, but we had the brains to create tools and the ability to anticipate what we would need while following our prey. Bags, baskets, gourds, pouches; all were as necessary for our early ancestors as the flint arrows and bows or spears they carried to dispatch their chosen prey.

One of the most widely known discoveries was Ötzi, a prehistoric hunter who was discovered in the Ötzal Alps on the border of Austria and Italy in 1991. With the hunter’s mummified body was found a bow and quiver with arrows, a complete copper-bladed axe, a flint dagger with a wicker sheath, two birch wood vessels clad with maple leaves, remnants of a backpack, a leather pouch with small objects, fur and leather garments, shoes, and other minor artifacts. Not all that different from the bowhunter of today, with a few higher-tech exceptions.

Now, there are nearly as many types of packs and bags as there are hunters. And most of them (bags, not hunters) are purpose-built. Larger capacity packs with frames for longer treks to the back country and packing out game, or smaller daypacks for closer destinations and stand or blind hunting.

Day packs and belt bags are usually built to carry whatever the average hunter might need to get through a day in the field. Water, cell phone, license and permit, spare ammo, a few snacks, you get the idea. The more you carry in your pack, the less you have to carry on your belt or in your jacket pockets. The purpose for these types of packs is pretty evident, but I recently encountered two daypacks whose usefulness doubled over the normal daypack classification. One was designed to pull double duty, the other was an unexpected, but pleasantly surprising discovery.

ALPS Outdoorz

Big Bear

Offering a wide variety of gear for hunters, the Big Bear from ALPS caught my eye. Designed specifically to be a multi-purpose hybrid, the Big Bear combines the best features of a lumbar or fanny pack with a standard day pack. The lumbar pack harkens back to the Korean and Viet Nam era Marine Corps haversacks that utilized H-type suspenders for carry. The Big Bear is of course made of more advanced materials and holds substantially more than those previous incarnations.

In fanny-pack mode, the main pouch can hold up to 800 cubic inches of supplies plus a large water bottle and other smaller items in the built-in pouches on the outside of the pack and the padded waist belt. If more cargo space is needed, the top of the fanny pack unzips to access a foldout section that changes to a day pack configuration that adds an additional 1,900 cubic inches of space for a total of 2,700 cubic inches. This hybrid approach makes for a unique pack that is suitable for a wide range of uses. Just need a few things for a scouting trip or a hike? Remove the shoulder straps and use it as a traditional fanny pack. Carrying a bit more for a day hike? Re-attach the shoulder straps and carry water, cell and other smaller gear on the padded waist belt and load up the pack section with everything you’ll need for the hike.

Heading out to the stand or blind early on a frosty morning? Wear the Big Bear in fanny-pack mode and carry your stuff out to the field. Warm up while you were on the stand? Put it in day-pack mode and pack your jacket and other colder weather gear in the pack and keep your hands free. Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to the Big Bear, and this pack comes through in a big way.

I took the Big Bear into the desert, loaded down in fanny-pack mode and found the shoulder straps and the waist belt very comfortable. I had a large water bottle in the provided pouch on the belt with another large bottle in the main cargo section. In addition to the water, I had a pair of small binoculars in one of the belt pouches and my cell phone in the other. Along with water in the main section, I also packed a granola bar and a package of trail mix, as well as a spare lens for my camera and a variety of smaller items. There was more than enough room for everything, and the pack was very comfortable, even after four hours hiking in 90-plus degree heat.

On a subsequent trek into the desert, I extended the top section and struck out on a hike in day-pack mode. In addition to the items I took the first time, I also included a set of rain gear, additional water and whatever else I could think of to fill the space. As in fanny-pack mode, the straps and belt made for comfortable carry. I also took a shorter hike with the pack in fanny-pack mode and only the belt. Once again, the pack was a comfortable and solid performer.

The Big Bear is available in Realtree Edge and Mossy Oak DNA and retails for $99 from Alps Outdoorz.

KUIU

Divide 1500

Anyone who spends any time in the outdoors is most likely familiar with KUIU and their purpose-built gear for everything hunting and outdoors. Their full-sized pack systems have supported high altitude hunters across the globe, but I was more interested in some of the newer additions to their expansive line of day packs.

Their Divide 1500 seemed to be a good mid-range size for the paces I planned to put the pack through. In order to get a feel for the pack, I loaded it up with the same materials I use for most pack evaluations. In the desert Southwest, that means water and plenty of it. The Divide 1500 provides handy external pockets for water bottles, but also features a pocket for a three-liter water bladder. The Divide 1500 is a straight-forward day-pack design, with all the innovation and comfort that KUIU is known for, built in.

For trail use I loaded up the pack with everything I could think of that might be needed on a hunt. Water, snacks, rain gear, knife, ammo, compass, binos, all fit in the Divide 1500 with no problem. Extra pouches built into the waist belt provided space for smaller items and the belt provided support for the full pack load. Shoulder straps are wide and padded making for a comfortable hike. Straps are easy to adjust while underway and the sternum strap adds additional support and comfort.

The surprise came when our office re-opened after the COVID lockdown. I prefer a backpack to a brief case and when it came time to go back, I had to transport my laptop and all the attendant chargers, connectors and mouse. I also took two bottles of water and lunch. I removed the waist belt for daily use, and it did the job admirably. The laptop fit neatly into the padded mesh pocket in the main section of the pack, like it was made for just that purpose. This is the same pocket that would normally house the water bladder.

The real revelation of its second use was en route to the annual SCI Convention in Las Vegas. I wanted something that I could use as a carryon, but still pack everything I would need for the duration of the convention. I packed my laptop, connectors, mouse, adapters, DSLR camera and extra lens, charger for the camera batteries, extra change of clothes, toiletries and a paperback. The pack was certainly full, but it was still comfortable to carry and went through the security checks leaving and returning with no problem.

The KUIU Divide 1500 will be a go-to bag for both the field and the office. It’s available in six colors and retails for $179 from KUIU.–Randy Gibbs, Associate Editor

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