by Per a. Jacobsen
The guys from Cactus heard that I’m known for being a bit rough on gear. If it’s breakable, I’ll break it! So they threw a Huntaway pack on my shoulder with instructions to give it a real good thrashing out in the hills, and asked for some feedback on the pack.
Building a pack that works for New Zealand hunters who get stuck in is not easy. I have had my fair share of broken promises when it comes to packs. So, like many other hunters, I have become very fussy when it comes to settling on a pack that not only suits my needs, but also can withstand everything that the New Zealand backcountry and weather can throw at it. Well, I can give you one word to help you decide on your next pack: Cactus!
The pack is actually very waterproof – an absolute must for hunting and tramping in the New Zealand outdoors. Cactus gear is known for being heavy duty, but the Huntaway is surprisingly lightweight. Canvas is a fantastic fabric, but canvas packs have had a tendency in the past to be pretty heavy. Weighing in at a mere 1.6kg, the Huntaway allows you to focus on stuffing vital gear into it, rather than carrying around a heavier pack with less room for the gear you need.
Hold on a minute mate! Who at Cactus deserves a pay rise for designing these side buckles?! Sometimes we come past some new innovative ideas in various bits of hunting gear that just somehow make sense. The metal buckles on the Huntaway are one of those ideas. Firstly, they are far superior than any plastic buckles you’re used to finding on the side of a pack. They are super easy to undo, even with a heavy-duty glove on, and they’re even easier to do up. I’m one of those chaps that start getting numb hands the minute they’re exposed to cold weather, so being able to handle the pack with your gloves on is just awesome. Sure, the buckles have scratched my scope a little bit (until I put a scope-cover on) but I didn’t buy the scope for it to look pretty.
The pack offers access to the main compartment from the top, and that’s it! Cactus did not want areas where this pack might fail in the waterproofing, nor were they trying to construct a heavy pack. The simplicity in the design is a great feature, brought to life by clever decision-making.
The side pockets offer a generous space for both my tripod and my spotting scope. They also have two side strops with the metal buckles on each side to trim the pack in general, and to hold the tripod (or a fishing rod) in place.
An extra compartment can be found behind the back support – perfect for a water system or for storing laminated maps and the likes. The compartment even has a little neoprene mat, which I worked out can be removed and actually be sat on whilst enjoying a steaming hot cuppa!
The hip belt is a very strong design. It’s fully adjustable in two places so that it allows the pack to fit snug around the user, and makes carrying heavy loads so much easier and comfortable.
The extendable top hood pocket is a subtle but great feature that, simply put, enables you to carry heavier loads on your way home from the hunting grounds.
I’m a sucker for punishment and love to climb into alpine environments, so I need to carry an ice axe. Cactus put an ice axe attachment right in the centre of the front – just awesome!
Other reviewers have labelled the Huntaway’s price tag as a minus. I couldn’t disagree more. Price often follows quality, and if this pack were cheap, I’d be raising my eyebrows at it. The fact that this pack is made in New Zealand, by real people, not machines, is enough reason for me to be paying good money for good quality.
I miss having a small opening for my bladder system. The Huntaway has a bladder compartment, but no separate access. The only access is through the main compartment lid at the top. It would be great to stuff my bladder hose out along the side.
My previous pack offered three external zip pockets, two on the front of the pack, and one on the top lid. I guess I have become accustomed to that feature, so I am missing the extra pockets. However, I understand the compromise in order to keep weight down, and to make a more durable and waterproof pack.
We are out there to hunt, harvest, and survive. The Huntaway pack is designed with just that in mind. It is strong, durable, lightweight, and waterproof. With its innovative features, comfortable hip and shoulder straps, I was loving this pack even before I put weight into it! And with Cactus’s comprehensive warranties, sidled with equal dedication to ensuring the quality of everything that leaves their Christchurch manufacturing line, I can see this pack being a popular choice amongst hunters, trampers, and adventurers.
Just like settling on a rifle style, brand, and calibre, you need to identify what exactly you need from your backpack. I suppose this is best carried out by analysing where you hunt and for what, and most importantly how you hunt.
Your backpack will aid you in your quest, but there are numerous options out there so choose wisely. Things like capacity, waterproofness, detachable pockets, integrated water systems, frames vs frameless, and weight are just some of the factors you will need to consider. On www.cactusoutdoor.co.nz you can browse through their range of backpacks, and will likely find one that suits your needs.
- Volume: 45 + 10 litres
- Weight: 1.6kg
- Dimensions: 61cm high, 30cm wide
- Fabrics: Ultra C-Canvas with a C-1000D cordura base
- Colour: Black or Olive
- Storage: Single compartment with an extendable 3D hood pocket. Two side pockets. Internal bladder pocket. Elastic bungy on front of pack.
- Back support: Air-mesh, internal foam, plus removable foam panel
- Chest strap
- YKK zips throughout
- Double and triple stitched throughout
- Warranty: 5yr Pack Guarantee as well as the Cactus tough Lifetime Warranty
- RRP: $469
- Proudly made in Christchurch, New Zealand
Check out the Huntaway pack here.