Hunters have to tip their caps to the hiker and biker set. From high-performance underwear to miniature matchless camp stoves, much of what’s made for jaunts up K2 or for bombing down a mountain bike trail can be just as handy during deer season.
One of the more recent items to cross over had its start 10 years ago, when former paramedic Michael Eidson rigged an IV bag filled with water to the back of his T-shirt after participating in Texas’ Hotter’N Hell Hundred bicycle race. Eidson dubbed his hands-free hydration system the CamelBak. Now, a similar system is standard issue on many backpack models, including more than half of the deer hunting packs marketed by Cabela’s.
Ideal for active hunts in the warm, early-season woods, these hydration systems feature a collapsible plastic bladder that fits into the pack. An attached tube runs up the shoulder strap. The sipping spout can be clipped close to your jaw, so you can take a drink by simply turning your head. Still-hunters and drive hunters don’t have to stop and create extra noise and movement to take a drink. Also, because the weight is centered across your back, it’s less bulky than carrying a water bottle on your hip.
Notable among the hydration-compatible daypacks from Cabela’s is the new Hybrid Hunter 2-in-1 ($120; 800-237-4444; cabelas.com), with a 68-ounce water bladder. It quickly converts from a daypack to a fanny and is constructed of a quiet, water-proof material.
CamelBak’s Ranger and Upland hunting packs are both designed around what many feel is the best hands-free hydration system. The roomy Ranger daypack ($80; 800-767-8725; camelbak.com) comes in Realtree or Mossy Oak camo and has a 100-ounce antimicrobial, insulated bladder. The Upland Pack ($40), though created for the bird hunter, is perfect for the tree stand, as it doesn’t get in the way as you sit. More important, you’ll never be fumbling for a water bottle when your buck shows.