Packing Up: the History of the Big Woods Bucks fanny pack, and new features for the 2022 fanny packs (coming soon!)

When I grew up hunting in southern Maine, the only hunters I knew who carried packs were the ones who sat on stand all day. Those guys usually carried a knapsack with extra clothes, a lunch and a thermos of coffee for their day in the woods. The hunters that roamed around including me, threw a sandwich in our pocket and carried wooden matches to start a fire. There were not many pieces of woods big enough to worry about getting out in a short period of time. It was when I started hunting the big woods of northern Maine, that I knew carrying a few simple things with me might be a good idea. I really didn’t realize how big the woods really were until I made that first trip north in 1980. Back then, drivable logging roads were few and far between. Back then most of the roads into the woods were winter roads and old grown in tote roads. I knew when I headed into the woods in the morning, I would never know what I might encounter during the day.

My First Pack

Knowing I would need a pack to carry a few things as well as food for the day, I started searching for a suitable pack. My only requirements were that it had to be small and quiet with no bells and whistles. Back then there were not a lot of options for those requirements. I finally settled on a polar fleece knapsack. The pack had the main compartment and also a small zippered pocket on the back of it. Back then I only had one week to hunt each season, so the pack didn’t get a good workout. After two years, I decided that this pack wasn’t going to work for me. the main reason was that at 6’ 3” I had to do a lot of ducking under blowdowns and the pack was always catching on limbs and snapping them. The shoulder straps were padded with a nylon covering and they continually were slipping off my shoulders. And lastly, when it rained the pack and everything in it would be soaked.

A Belt Pack

I searched the outdoor catalogs again and found a new type off pack. The belt pack or “fanny pack as they called them had just come onto the hunting gear scene. I settle on one that was fairly” small in size, with a main pouch and a flap pocket that ran the whole length of it. This pack had a nylon liner to help keep it dry. This pack turned out to be just what I was looking for. I used the main pocket for my lunch, drag rope, and extra gloves. The flap pocket I used to carry my topo map, fire starting things and an extra compass. I buckled it on my waist and pulled the back of my jacket over it. Carrying it this way it was sleek, and it wouldn’t catch on anything while ducking through the thickets. I carried this fanny pack for 20 years and countless miles before it finally wore out. By this time nobody was offering a similar for sale.

The Big Woods Bucks Fanny Pack

Not being able to buy another similar pack I decided to design my own. By this time Chris Dalti and I had started the Big Woods Bucks business and were filming my exploits while hunting and guiding. A fanny pack would be the first hunting product we could bring to the market. When designing the new pack, I used basically the same idea as my old belt pack, with a few upgrades. The first was to make it out of wool. I wanted the pack to be wool for the same reasons as I wear wool clothing. For the pack it was mainly for the quietness of the fabric. I added a Velcro closed pocket on top. The idea was to put a GPS in it where it had visibility to the sky. I also added a divider pocket inside to keep my sandwiches against my back to keep them from freezing on those cold days. I had my sister in-law make a prototype out of a wool military shirt and I used it during the next season. This belt pack worked great, so we decided to go into production on them.

We sourced out the wool and parts and found a stitcher here in Maine to make them for us. Once we go them into the hands of other hunters, we found that it was a hit. The only negative feedback we had in those first couple of years was that it was too big for some hunters. Our next step was a partnership with Beagle wear to make the packs for us as well as a hunting coat and pants. The new fanny packs were scaled down by two thirds in size to accommodate that group of hunters. After Beagle wear went out of business, we partnered with Silent Predator to take over the manufacturing. They ended up changing a few things which were out of our control, but made a good quality pack and clothing for us. Everything went good for a few years until they decided to get out of the wool business due to supply constraints from the Corona virus epidemic.

Time for some New Design Changes

The Big Woods Bucks business struggled for a year trying to find a wool source as we were out of stock of packs, and clothing. This time were going to keep control of our clothing and packs by sourcing all the materials and contracting out the manufacturing. Ironically, we found the wool where it was sourced by Silent Predator, right here in the USA. We were excited about it as their wool is of the highest quality virgin wool. We also decided to make a few more design changes as we have gained plenty of feedback with thousands of packs in the hands of hunters. We will now be making two versions of our wool pack. The first version will be the same as the most current fanny pack, except that it will have shoulder straps for those hunters who have been requesting them to keep the weight off from their hips. In keeping with simple design, the straps will be similar to suspenders. They will be web belting straps sewn into the pack and waist belt.

The other pack model will be a belt pack of the same original design with the depth narrowed by two thirds to make it smaller and sleeker. It will fit better under a jacket for those hunters who carry that way, as I do. The only other change to this pack is that it will be minus the GPS pocket as there is no room for it. We think that these two pack designs will fill the bill for most hunters. We’re also proud to say that Big Woods Bucks packs as well as clothing are made in the USA with made in the USA wool.