Gear Review: The Slumberjack Wild-Her Pack
Since The "How-To" Gun Girl turned 1 last month, I decided to do something a little different with this post. This is a gear review of the Slumberjack Wild-Her Women's Hunting Pack (MSRP: $159.95) as told through the story of my whitetail hunt in northern New Hampshire last November.
I received the pack from the manufacturer for the purpose of this review. I have not been compensated for either the hunt or the review, and all opinions are my own.
Last fall I connected with a staffer at Quality Deer Management Association via their social media posts around a Field to Fork program in Georgia. That staff member connected me to a QDMA board member in New Hampshire, who offered me the opportunity to participate in a mentored whitetail deer hunt. Not only would I be able to learn from a hunter who really knows his stuff, I would get to go hunting with a friend of mine on land that is managed with Quality Deer Management techniques. That meant higher chances of seeing deer and a lot more fun than I’d had hunting on my own.
Since my friend was even newer to hunting than I am, I decided to share my gear with her so she wouldn't have to spend a lot of money to try out hunting. That made for an excellent excuse to do some shopping to make sure I was fully equipped!
After surveying my camo, I was pleasantly surprised to find that over the previous seasons I had accumulated two full sets of camo outerwear - one for me and one for my friend! It turned out the only thing I really needed to get was a pack, since I only had my turkey vest for carrying gear. The hunt was scheduled in November, so we would be hunting during the part of deer season where it is legal to take a deer with either a bow or a rifle. Since I still had all my tags (womp, womp - it was a tough archery season for me) I decided to maximize my chances of getting a deer by bringing along both weapons. The hunt would be a mix of spot and stalk as well as stand hunting. My friend was happy to borrow my turkey vest, and I decided to search for a pack to carry all my gear, extra ammo, and both my gun and my bow. Beyond just carrying everything, I wanted one pack to make it easier to get into and out of tree stands.
As fate would have it, a podcast I listen to featured a camouflage pack as the "gear of the week" a month before my hunt. Barbara Baird of The Women's Gun Show thoroughly enjoyed using the Slumberjack Wild-Her pack on a hike through some of Utah's national parks. She commented on the fit and functionality of the pack, and how it would be great for hunting as well. The timing was too perfect, so I reached out to Barb and Slumberjack, and a week later the pack was ready with the rest of my gear for this hunt.
My first thought when I saw the pack was: "Wow, this pack looks cool." Kryptek is camouflage that works in the field as well as in battle, and it looks good. The Highlander pattern of the Wild-Her pack blended well into the barren landscape of the north woods of New Hampshire late in the season.
The branding on the pack is minimal, and what is there is either khaki or a subtle deep purple. This is definitely a breath of fresh air among women's hunting gear, which frequently features bright pink prominently. That bright pink might work for some people, but it isn't my style so I was happy to see this pack was mostly camo.
My favorite feature of the Wild-Her pack is the storage for a bow or a rifle or shotgun. Storing my gun or bow in the pack leaves my hands free to grab on to rocks or trees on a more strenuous hike. Straps at the bottom of the pack and toward the top secure the gun or bow to the pack. Whether carrying a gun or a bow, the Wild-Her pack offers protection for your equipment. The rifle's optic as well as the bow's sight and arrow rest are covered from potential damage from scratching and incidental "dings" along the way to the stand. This is a HUGE multi-purpose benefit and I love that it comes with every pack.
This pack features a ton of storage options. The hip support has plenty of space for grab-on-the-go items like hand warmers, a cell phone, and a poncho. There are two rear pockets in addition to the large main pocket of the pack. These pockets can be cinched closer to the main pocket by tightening four straps, two on either side. If the main pocket gets totally stuffed, those same straps can be let out to allow for more gear. Within each larger pocket there are lots of smaller compartments to help stay organized.
The hip support is fastened with an easy-to-adjust belt, designed to distribute the weight of the pack from the shoulders to help with fatigue. There are also pockets for a water bottle or buck knife on either side of the pack. And if you are an always thirsty, part-camel like I am, there is a separate "envelope"-style pocket for a Camel-Bak or Platypus hydration bag within the main part of the pack. The hydration tube slides easily through a cutout in the top of the pack and can clip onto a number of places on the shoulder straps.
MOLLE system straps are sewn onto the side and back of the pack. I haven't done this yet, but I do plan to get an IFAK-style first aid kit to strap on at some point. The MOLLE system offers even more gear storage options with this pack, as just about any additional gear pouches can be strapped on. There is also a velcro area on the outermost pocket of the pack, for those inclined to use patches.
Packing the Pack
Getting my gear into the Wild-Her pack was easy. The lower-most pocket proved large enough to fit extra layering options like a face mask and hoodie, and I used the upper-back pocket for my hunting license, maps, a pen, and extra hand warmers (are you getting the sense of how cold I get?). If I had deer calls or rattles, I would have had plenty of room for them. I put my knife into the side pocket, hopeful that I would get a chance to use it and put my newly-acquired field dressing skills to work.
Since we had to hike out to our tree stands, I ended up stuffing my bulkier layering items in the large part of the pack to avoid getting sweaty and then freezing once up in the air in the stand. I would hike out to the stand with my rifle sling on my shoulder and my bow attached to my pack, wearing lighter layers to allow the sweat to wick away. Yes, surprisingly, I worked up a sweat hiking in below-freezing temperatures!
Once we arrived at the stands, I would first unshoulder my rifle, attach it safely to the pull-rope, then climb into the stand with the pack on my back. I could then pull my rifle up. The Wild-Her pack made it really quick for me to get into the stand and settle in. The quicker I could get settled and quiet, the less noticeable I was to deer - another great advantage of a pack that can hold a bow!
I really enjoyed being able to stuff a lot into this pack without it getting too bulky. It housed everything I needed to stay warm, fed, hydrated, and safe while in the woods, yet it never got too unwieldy for me to climb into a stand. I kept my hunting license and tags in a plastic bag inside a zippered pouch in the upper back pocket. The hydration bag was clutch - my water bottle has proven too noisy to be relied-upon while hunting. I loved being able to silently grab a sip of water while on the hike or in the stand.
On this hunt we took breaks at mealtimes, so we would be in and out of the stands three or four times a day. This pack is as easy to re-pack and put on to climb out of a stand as it was to pack at the beginning of the day. It seemed to expand endlessly to fit whatever I needed, but still never became too large to maneuver with the pack on my back.
Though we encountered plenty of sign in the form of scrapes and rubs and tracks, we didn't end up seeing any deer over the weekend of hunting. The weekend we scheduled the hunt happened to also be a full moon with clear skies at night, which might have allowed the deer to be more active after shooting hours. None of us heard many gun shots while we were in the woods, so at least we weren't alone in not seeing deer.
Despite seeing no deer, it was a fantastic experience to share with my friend. Our mentor was generous with information and expertise. He was happy to share with us stories of hunts past and images from trail cams. He set us up in stands where we would have had a great opportunity to see deer, had they been moving. I felt well-equipped for this hunt, between my cold weather gear, outfitting my friend with full camo, and fitting everything I needed into the Wild-Her pack.
Overall: This Pack Is Worth It
If you have made it this far in the review, you know I really enjoyed using this pack. There are a couple improvements that Slumberjack could consider to take this pack over the edge from "really great" to "totally amazing and everyone needs one now." One thing I wish the pack had was a way to adjust the height of the hip support and pockets. I felt like it was hitting me a little high on my hips compared to where I'd like it to, and adjusting the shoulder straps only made the top of the pack sag away from my upper body. That didn't help in the long run so I ended up wearing the pack pretty high and dealing with the position of the hip supports.
Additionally I wish the pack fit my bow a little lower. It is definitely optimized for a gun. To fit a shotgun or rifle in the pack is pretty straightforward since there is a cut-through in the lower back pocket for the butt stock to slide through. The rifle or shotgun butt then fits into a pocket that hangs down from the back of the pack. That cut-through on the rearmost pocket of the pack is too narrow to slide my bow cam and riser through, so my bow sat pretty high up in the pack. I had to be careful ducking under branches to make sure I didn't smack my cam on something unintentionally.
Other than these two improvements, I loved hunting with this pack. It fit all my gear, my license and tags, extra ammo, plenty of water and snacks, and maps. I am probably going to take this pack with my on my turkey hunts later this spring, since I can carry a shotgun in the pack. I hope to acquire some MOLLE straps so that I could secure my portable ground blind to the outside of the pack and fit any decoys and calls in the big pocket. I will probably also take this out on hikes once the trails clear in the spring here in New England, since it is so lightweight and comfortable.
Got any questions about the Wild-Her pack, or about my deer hunt? Let me know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org!