For the last seven or eight years I have been carrying the same pack with me in the field -- an extremely solid canvas rucksack that I bought (of all places) at The Gap.
In 7 years it has never been washed, and so it has developed a rather pungent smell combining human sweat, dirt, dog, and old groundhog, raccoon and fox urine.
The smell of this pack may be an acquired taste, but it smells like the field to me, and I like it.
That said, there is a time to wash all things, and this pack's time had come. The pack also needed repair -- holes had developed in three spots, and I had lost one or two small items out of the bottom and begun to bag things inside the main compartment.
Enough of that; time to clean it, patch it and sew it up.
And I really meant to do that too.
Then, a couple of weeks ago Chris showed up with a brand new bow hunter's pack.
Greg D. had recommended such a pack to me several years back, but I did not understand what made it better (or different) from a regular rucksack.
With the item in front of me, however, I saw its advantages right away -- it fit a shovel blade perfectly. Without wasting too much time, I ordered one off the Internet. What's the worst that could happen? That I wasted a little money? I've done that before!
The bag in question came from The Bag Depot and it's the Brockwood "Sniper" in a "Mossy Oak Breakup Pattern"
Yes, yes, now I own something in camo. I will try to get over it.
The pack itself is made of something described as "water-repellent suede-cloth" which is supposed to be a "super tuff material that resists burrs." No doubt all this is true, but I liked the plain old double-sewn army-green canvas of my old pack pretty well. This new stuff seems a bit heavier. That said, this new pack is "made in U.S.A. with Manufacturer Lifetime Guarantee." You can't beat that.
As you can see from the picture, the "Brookwood's Original Patented Bow/Rifle Backpack," has a fold-down pocket that fits a shovel blade like a glove (click on picture to enlarge).
Two center snap-straps run up the middle of the back, and these can be used to affix the shovel handle to the pack, as well as to hold (in my case) a machete, a snare pole, and a good leather leash. My long handled Yo-Ho trowel fits in the right side pocket, and several small eye-wash bottles slide into the left side pocket.
The main compartment of the pack is cavernous, but my goal is to keep as little as possible in there; a small emergency medical kit, a folding saw for roots, two large knives (a Buck Pathfinder and a socketed Cold Steel "Minibushman" that fits on the end of my digging bar), a small scale, a cloth tape measure, extra electrical tape, locator collar batteries, and (in winter only) fox nets.
Segmented off within the main pack, up close to my back, is an area for a water bladder -- a very nice thing to have in the field.
The pack itself has both padded shoulder straps and a padded waist belt. There is also a "padded back with moisture-wicking fabric." Very fancy.
I was out on Sunday in extreme heat and it seems a pretty good pack. Though I have a strong emotional attachment to my old pack, this new one may be better. For one thing this new pack has a thick waist strap, and if you have spent a lot of time walking with weight in the woods, you know that alone can make a world of difference.
I used the pack this last weekend as shown. That said, there is also a large detachable pocked that can be strapped on the outside of pack to cover over the shovel and snare. I do not need this extra bit of room, but it occurs to me that it might be a very nice bit of camouflage for the folks in the U.K. who do not want to be seen in the field with a shovel. By simply slipping a small tubular camo-bag over the shovel handle, no one would know you had a shovel at all.
Useful for some, no doubt.
As for my old pack, it is nice and clean now, and repaired too. It will not be disappearing, but instead will take up the sport of fishing.