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Gearing Up – Things that Work

Eberlestock “Just One” Backpacks

Phil Shoemaker

            If you do much traveling or hunting in Alaska, backpacks are a fact of life.  Conditions can change rapidly from hot and sunny to cold, wet, and windy in sometimes a matter of minutes.  Having appropriate gear and clothing is paramount to your safety and success, and wearing a pack is the easiest and best way of making sure you can carry enough gear.  I have been wearing backpacks now for an average of ninety days per year for nearly forty years.  That’s a lot of days and a lot of miles.  It’s no wonder I slump.  Anyway, I have developed some definite opinions about them and can spot a pretender a mile away.

            It used to be external frame packs were the only option available for carrying heavy loads and for most heavy, bulky items like moose quarters and boat motors they still are.  But internal frame packs with comfortable harness systems, once the domain of serious rock climbers who couldn’t risk protruding external frames catching on rock ledges, have caught on with the everyday backpacker.  It is currently difficult to find good external frame packs that will stand up to the abuse that Alaskan hunters dish out.  Fortunately there are some internal framed packs that can carry virtually everything; except the bulky moose quarters, antlers and boat motors we sometimes have to strap ourselves to.

            This past season I have been wearing a new backpack made by Eberlestock.  Called the “Just One” model it was designed by Glen Eberle to be as close to an all around pack for the hunter and outdoorsman as is possible.  Glen is a former member of the U.S. biathlon team and a serious hunter and he envisioned a pack that would allow a minimalist, fast moving hunter the ability to carry a small, compressed pack all day yet after the hunt still be able to pack in his kill with the same pack in an expanded mode.  If need be his rifle could also be carried in a built in sleeve in the pack, leaving both hands free.  When hunting I’ve never considered hanging my rifle on my back but I discovered this summer that the ability to slip a rifle or shotgun into my pack, along with my clients fly rod tubes, a definite plus.  With both hands free I can assist them landing their catch of fish myself if I want.

            The “Just One” pack basically consists of three compartments.  Two full-length outside compartments, ideal for clothing or spotting scopes and tripod, and a large, mesh covered expandable center compartment specifically designed for meat or other large items.  It’s not large enough for a moose quarter but would certainly do for sheep, deer and caribou.  I used it with a waterproof river bag for extra clothing.  In addition there is built in a folding sleeve for carrying rifles, fly rod tubes or large tripod.  Externally there are two side straps for compressing the load and one longitudinal freighter strap for securing heavy loads.

            The Eberlestock “Just One” pack is easily the most comfortable and versatile backpack I have ever worn.  It wasn’t meant to replace an external freighter frame but for your average Alaskan hunting trip it is ideal.


Note:  Phil Shoemaker is an Alaskan Master Guide.  He runs Grizzly Skins of Alaska, a world renowned guide service that provides its clients with 100% success rates on horned and antlered game and over 90% on bears.  And these aren't just "any old" animals.  These are record class.  Which brings up the question of hauling moose quarters.  While we don't know about packing boat motors, we can tell you that our pack is designed to haul elk quarters, and of course, unless you're talking about the ferry-boat sized moose (or is that mooses?) that Phil finds, we're confident that you can pack a moose quarter with our pack.  Anyway, you can contact Phil at


Phil Shoemaker, Grizzly Skins of Alaska,  PO Box 273,    King Salmon, AK  99613

This article was written by Phil as a submission to "The Alaska Professional Hunter" magazine.  We're grateful to Phil for providing this unsolicited endorsement of our packs. 

...And to dispel any seeds of doubt that are raised by his remark about moose quarters and boat motors, take a close look at this picture, which was provided to us by one of our customers, and shows his elk guide packing a measured load of 144 pounds (the guide, Thomas Brunson of Timberline Outfitters in Ely, Nevada, came by our booth at the RMEF Elk Camp and told us that he had hauled over 30 bulls in this same J104, and that it's still going strong.  Impressed, we asked him if he wanted another pack.  He just gave us a shrug and a smile, and said no thanks, he didn't need a new one because his first was still going strong!):

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