For years I never utilized a backpack on any of my whitetail hunts. For me, they always seemed to cause more problems than they solved. A backpack equals added bulk for the already-small treestand. Any opportunity to use it creates movement that deer can spot from a hundred yards away. Generally, they're noisy. And let's face it, if you can get by without it, why risk it? Call me a minimalist, but I can execute a successful hunt with only my bow, arrows, release, rangefinder, wind indicator, and of course, the camo apparel I'm wearing. This setup never really warranted a backpack. Most modern hunting apparel is geared more on the tech side of things, offering integrated pockets for pretty much everything you need for the average sit. Notice how I said "average."
This mindset changed when SITKA launched their Tool Belt in 2020, which in my mind is essentially a fanny pack on steroids. Designed with the mobile, hang-and-hunt style hunter in mind, this pack allows you to maintain a low profile while still being able to bring all of the essentials with you on your hunt. I've been able to use it and noticed several advantages its provided me and my hunting style.
Technology and Features
Based on SITKA's Tool Bucket design, the Tool Belt pack features a two-way top loading lid, which makes it extremely versatile, allowing for easy access when hiking in, as well as convenient storage hanging from a tree.
As you open the main compartment, you'll notice several see-through mesh pockets that provide 600 cubic inches of room. Thanks to the design layout, I found that it's more than enough space for all of my gear.
Located on the belt strap, SITKA included several pockets specifically designed for certain pieces of gear that every hunter needs in the woods. I'm talking about dedicated spaces for a wind indicator plus a secure, zippered compartment for your rangefinder. These are tools that you may need easy access to on your hike into the stand, and allow you to reach with minimal movement.
Another great feature of this pack is the removable water bottle holders (there are actually two) that have a silent interior fabric. I have been looking for this sort of thing for several years now. No longer am I rummaging through my pack to find a buried water bottle, and the crumbling plastic sounds echoing throughout the woods as I try to remove it from elastic side pockets are done with.
Size & Specs
All told, the SITKA Tool Belt is 600 cubic inches. The hip pack portion itself only weighs 34 ounces, the shoulder strap is 7.5 ounces, and the pack and strap combined weigh only 41.5 ounces. There are a grand total of 10 storage compartments plus a removable hybrid harness system. The camo pattern offered by SITKA on the Tool Belt is the GORE Optifade Elevated II, the latest whitetail-oriented pattern from the brand. It's designed specifically for hunters in an elevated treestand position.
Apparel Carry System
Possibly one of the most praised features of this pack is the apparel carry system. This removable mesh harness can easily be stored in the back pocket of the main storage compartment in the pack. It converts the Tool Belt into a hybrid style pack, allowing for easy storage of extra, bulky gear like a jacket or bibs.
We all know that when hunting whitetails, temperatures can be unpredictable and fluctuate frequently. I can't tell you how many times during a November rut hunt that the temperature was in the single digits in the morning, increased over 30 degrees in the mid-afternoon, and then dropped back down into the teens by sunset. With these fluctuating temps, it's important that you pack extra insulation layers while also having a convenient place to store them when they aren't needed.
Nothing can ruin a hunt quicker than frigid temperatures making us miserable, or too many layers causing some midday sweat. The apparel carry system within the Tool Belt allows for an easy transition of layers, while still remaining undetected in your treestand.
The SITKA Tool Belt is the perfect companion for the minimalist hunter who likes to stay mobile and prevent too much bulk. Hang-and-hunt and tree saddle systems are becoming more popular as hunters realize the correlation between mobility and harvest success. With these hunt setups, trimming off any unnecessary gear to limit bulk and create a more undetected entrance and exit is crucial. This is what attracted me to the Tool Belt.
While this pack likely won't fit every hunters need's, it changed the way I set up my hunts and allowed for more comfortable sits with enough versatility to use on those 12-hour treestand hunts. SITKA has always been an innovation leader in the industry, and that was shown perfectly with the most technical and comfortable hip pack on the market.
This pack retails for $239, and while that may seem higher than some of the other competitors, the quality and technical features of this pack seem to be in a league of their own. Adding that with SITKA's lifetime warranty, and this will be the last hip pack you ever buy.
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