Day hunts have always been high on my priority list – lack of confidence and ‘hunt fitness’ when I first started hunting made them my go-to option.
These days though, it’s usually down to being time-poor or just needing to get out of the office and get my fix. Where I live, I’m lucky to have easy access to several day-hunt options, which suits me perfectly.
Having a couple of choices of pack sizes in your hunting gear allows multiple hunting approaches – whether it’s a daypack that suits lightweight bush hunts and those mid-winter day trips, or hunting from a base camp/hut. Being able to walk further or stay out longer and push your physical limits can depend on many things such as fitness level, mental toughness, weather conditions and sometimes even gear. For me, being smart about gear selection is paramount, and pack choice is important.
When the opportunity to test Hunters Element’s new 25L Canyon pack became available, all our regular review writers were busy with other gear reviews, so the job fell squarely on my shoulders. Any excuse to get out of the office for a hunt is a good one in my books – and surely, I can legitimately say I was ‘working’ … right? Plus, I’ve been looking for a lighter-weight, smaller-sized daypack than my current 40L version.
Hunters Element need no introduction – they’ve cemented a loyal following in the hunting community in NZ and pride themselves on making quality technical hunting apparel and gear. Their ethos on sustainability is something to be admired, and their dedication to providing gear that stands up to the rigours of our New Zealand outdoors is something they strive to achieve with every product. I was keen to see if the Canyon 25L measured up.
The 25L Canyon pack clearly fits into the mid-sized daypack category; it’s available in Hunters Element Desolve camo pattern or Forest Green and made from their Hydrafuse Stealth SHELL fabric.
It’s equipped with the usual features you’d expect in a quality daypack like hydration bladder friendliness, multiple compartments, rain cover, plus a few more.
But it’s the attention to detail, in my opinion, along with the practicalities of the design and features, that determine the usability of a product and help it stand out from the rest.
I was keen to test the features the Canyon pack offered on as many day hunts as I could squeeze in and get a thorough feel for this piece of kit. Testing was conducted over a three-month period, which included a Helisika trip into the Kaimanawas first up where I had the luxury of a hut each night and multiple single-day missions with the pack loaded up with the essentials for open tops hunting. In addition, there was some bush hunting around the Central Plateau, plus some duck hunting thrown in, and finally, a South Island red stag mission for good measure.
At NZRod&Rifle, we pride ourselves on providing thoroughly tested product reviews, so I wasn’t about to let the team down. Consequently, I managed to head out on 14 separate occasions and use the pack, which gave me plenty of testing time and provided feedback for this review.
When out in nature, I generally like to be prepared, so I pack a bit on the heavy side as far as gear is concerned and cater for the what-ifs; on average, I pack around 10kgs for a day hunt – depending on time of year, location etc. For some of these hunts, the weight of my gear got as high as 14kg, which doesn’t sound like much except when you consider this is only a 25-litre pack – I used the space available as strategically as possible utilising all the pockets and compartments. If you then add some harvested meat into the mix, the Canyon’s harness got a thorough workout! The heaviest load I carried was 23kg.
I found the FOAM FLOW harness comfortable to wear on long days and the aluminium brace adds some needed rigidity to the pack for the heavy carries. I didn’t find the built-in ‘air-flow’ channels made much difference in helping to keep a drier back when on a good walk; although, in my experience, I’m yet to find a pack that provides adequate back ventilation for the sweaty back scenario. Maybe I just sweat more than the next hunter …?
The chest strap on the harness features a built-in safety whistle on the snap buckle, which is a nice bonus. Plus, the chest strap can be adjusted through a vertical plane where it attaches to the shoulder pads; this level of adjustability is something that’s not always available – my current 40L pack doesn’t have this function and I find it annoying. But with the Canyon being adjustable, I found I could get the strap to sit at a comfortable height for my 6’4″ frame. There are adjustment points on the shoulder straps to pull the pack closer to the body for heavier loads, thus altering the weight-bearing points while on the go.
Also on the shoulder harness is a hydration-tube-retaining clip to stop the drinking tube from flopping around or snagging on bush. The FOAM FLOW harness system on this pack definitely gets my tick of approval for practical features and comfort.
Another important feature is the AnchorLOK webbing on the hip pad, which is great for additional accessories, pouches or PLBs, multi-tools and the like.
The same AnchorLOK system is also located on the inside of the top zip compartment adding to the ability to compartmentalise gear like first aid kits or food pouches. I found these to be a great addition to the pack and practical to use.
Rifle Scabbard and Clip
The inclusion of a rifle scabbard is an interesting feature, and for me, the jury is out on its usability. I can see the intended practicalities of one on a big, multi-day, large-capacity pack for when you’re putting in the big kilometres getting to and from your intended hunting grounds – this feature would be a bonus. When I used the scabbard during a heavy carry-out, I found the butt of the rifle occasionally caught on the ground in steep country. I did note, though, that using it kept both hands free.
The system relies on a snap buckle attached to the right-hand hip pad that can wrap around the handgrip on the rifle stock or the trigger guard. The barrel is supported by a circular plastic tube that encases a strap you slide the barrel of your rifle through and, depending on barrel length and whether you have a suppressor fitted, getting your rifle barrel through this tube can take a few attempts.
One thing to be aware of with the hip-mounted scabbard clip: depending on which shoulder you carry your slung rifle on, the clip can rub against the stock of the rifle when not using the scabbard clip. The simple fix is carrying the rifle on your left side or, if you choose not to use it, removing the clip altogether.
The Canyon’s 25 litres consist of a main compartment plus three others; the main compartment has a large opening via U-shaped YKK zips and allows plenty of room for large pieces of gear like jackets, stoves, cameras etc., while the top compartment provides easy access for frequently used gear. A generous front compartment is perfect for longer, flatter items, while the side compartment has built-in ammo storage as well as two mesh zipped areas great for important items that you don’t want to accidently drop … like car keys. It has features like the zipped mesh pockets that add serious practicality – not to mention every scrap of space can be utilised!
All the YKK zips have the blaze orange pull loops, which can still accommodate a gloved finger and make for easy smooth operation.
The Hydrafuse Stealth SHELL fabric is as quiet a fabric as you can get for bush stalking and does a brilliant job of minimising contact noise.
A built-in blaze orange rain cover adds some practical waterproofness to the pack and aids in hunter visibility.
The pack is adorned with plenty of expansion tie points for tripods, bows, drink bottles and trophy heads; however, I’d recommend using some additional straps for heavy loads if attaching gear or heads to the outside of the pack.
There’s a plethora of choice when it comes to daypacks on the market – whether it’s a 15L, 25L, 35L, or even a 40+L, they all have their place. Which size to go with comes down to personal preference and how much or how little gear you like to pack, along with the type of hunting you do.
For the first few hunts, where I was based at a hut and hunting around the tops of the Kaimanawas, the 25L Canyon performed well, though it was at its capacity most of the time.
For a bush hunt, the pack was the perfect size and even more so for those after-work evening sessions.
Most of the design features are practical and add to the usability of the Canyon.
My only small gripe was with the rifle scabbard. While nice to have, I don’t think it’s necessary for a 25L daypack, and when not in use, the hip clip was a touch annoying – especially when carrying a rifle slung on my right-hand shoulder, which, being right-handed, is my natural side.
Overall, the Canyon is well thought out with good construction and features, and I thoroughly enjoyed using it.
At $229.00, I believe this represents good value – you get a pack that’s practical and provides good comfort level.