USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- I’ve been especially loyal to one specific large pack for everything I use a pack for in the woods & backcountry. I’ve loyally used this pack as my day pack, multi-day pack, camp pack, and meat hauler for well over a decade. It is a surplus USMC military pack with an internal frame (why didn’t they have these when I was jumping out of Airplanes? …Airborne!).
I do have to say, this year opened my eyes to a few new options in multiple areas and the exciting technology being utilized in the gear industry.
At SHOT Show 2020, (first time back in like maybe 10+ years) I passed by the Vanquest – Tough Built Gear booth, I wasn’t particularly interested in any packs and had mostly walked passed them until I glanced at a side display that had a pack with what I recognized as a built-in gun tote (their Beaver Tail D.A.M. system) … but what made me turn around and walk back was that they were using a mock AR15 as the represented gun. Being that I am an avid hunter who only hunts with an AR platform and continuously promotes the idea of hunting with an AR configured rifle (FB: ARHunters.com ) – I appreciated the representation they were displaying and had a closer look.
I liked the multi-use configuration they showed me. I liked how the “Beaver Tail” – D.A.M. system went from being a useful exterior strapping system to folding down and easily/quickly converting to carry a long gun, in my situation it would be an AR platform. I was eager to try this in some hard use, real-world, backcountry work. The pack its self only weighed 6lbs – this was much less than the pack I have loyally used for years…. and I mean MUCH less.
Vanquest Markhor-45 Pack
Fast forward to spring of 2020 when I strapped on the Markhor-45 by Vanquest for the very first time on a solo Barbary Sheep hunt in New Mexico. I loaded it as an extended all-day pack – with my standard essentials, then clothing layers, food & poegy bait, camera gear, and strapped the F4 Defense Small Frame AR10 chambered in 7mm-08 *2 into the converted Beaver Tail D.A.M. system. Then I was pointed uphill and walked for more than a third of the day up the nastiest canyon and rocky cliff country where Barbary Sheep roam, finally gained the elevation I wanted, and settled in for glassing for a couple hours just out of the heavy wind. It was windy and blustery so had I stopped a few times to change clothing layers when I was hot and to add layers when I stopped. The maiden voyage of the Markhor-45 was a success. I recognized that the Markhor-45 pack is lighter weight than my most favored pack, I had done this route several times over the years and knew it to be a body beater. Honestly, the lighter weight meant that I wasn’t as fatigued as I came out of the canyon under a headlamp. I made 2 more extended all-day trips into that nasty canyon country wearing this pack the whole way. About 11 miles each day so I became pretty familiar with the new pack and it started to settle into a comfortable ride.
I had full intentions at this point to make it my everyday pack all thru the Fall Guiding season which would be from late Aug-mid-Dec.
The primary material of the Markhor-45 pack is lighter weight and more water-resistant (pre-treated with a durable water repellent). The comparison of the heavy nylon material of my favored but noted heavy military surplus pack and the special lighter weight 1,000-D mil-grade Cordura and 500-D Cordura construction of the Markhor-45 pack are obvious if side by side. The Markhor has an inside lining that is a bright orange, I shrugged this off as kind of a gimmick (later you will hear I actually used this very effectively and realized exactly why it was designed this way – clever you all.). You can read the Spec & Feature data on their website for a detailed layout of pockets, materials, and features. My way is simply explaining it in plain speak terms and my own real-world experience.
Both packs are adjustable to packer sizing through multiple adjustments, fitting multiple sizes of wearers. As similar as they are in that regard, everything else is different. The Material, pocket structure, main body, pack weight, and closure designs are very different. I believe the Vanquest design is clearly more focused on the outdoors recreational hiker & smaller game hunter or recreational shooter at first go. It is also noted as a tactical backpack, a Bug-out pack, and a hiking pack. I can tell you what comes next for this Markhor-45 pack is probably not at all what it was designed or intended to do. It straight up went to work in the salt mines of the backwoods for a high-volume Elk Hunting Guide (me).
Vanquest Markhor-45 Pack Put to Work
The summer flew by, starting late August, I reported to Elk Camp and I had it packed and ready to be my primary pack for the season. I couldn’t bring myself to leave old faithful at camp so it remained in the vehicle as my back-up. My season starts in Colorado, guiding Archery Elk Hunters. I got assigned the first hunters of the season and jumped right into some seriously hot weather hunting while also teaching a new guide the layout of the property. I definitely appreciated the lighter weight of this pack under high heat in the field. Archery hunts for this property pretty much average 11-12miles a day during most of September CO. Archery. So added up the Markhor-45 and I became well acquainted pretty quick after about 250 miles in the woods for the month of Sep. We chased Elk, Mule Deer, and a few Bears and in the photos, you can see the different kinds of loads the Markhor-45 got tested on.
Season Re-cap: I had a hunter with a back condition so I volunteered to hump a metal folding chair to the top of a glassing hill to just see how it would feel and carry. (image above) The Beavertail was actually perfectly made for this exercise and it worked out very well (almost like it was designed to carry a folding chair).
Towards the end of September, I had a Muzzleloader hunter who also had a Bear Tag. You are allowed to shoot Bears with centerfire rifles in CO. so I packed the centerfire rifle when we were in Elk mode and then packed the Muzzleloader when we were in Bear mode while the hunter carried their primary gun.
Then as we moved into Rifle Season in CO the tempo picked up. I was called over to assist another Guide and Hunter with a nasty pack out in the steep nasty dark timber of the mountain – after a small snowstorm (felt like it was uphill both ways). I knew that area pretty well so I helped them cut in a trail and pack out the meat. The weight piled on from there.
As I said – rifle season is a much busier tempo and between my hunter’s kills and assisting other Guides & Hunters with pack outs I can say we easily logged over 500+ total miles in the woods with this pack between the end of Aug and middle of December with hunts in Colorado & New Mexico. I can guestimate that I personally also packed out 1,500lbs or more of Elk Meat, Mule Deer meat, and one-half of a Barbary Sheep in this Markhor-45 pack over the course of those 4 months. Several times we didn’t have bags enough for the meat and the Markhor-45 took on loads of Backstraps, tenderloins, and hamburger trim straight into the bag and the Cordura lining cleans up super easily after these uses and it did not bloodstain the light-colored pack or the interior lining.
As I said, the Markhor-45 is lined with an orange 210-D Cordura liner. Three times when I had another Guide and Hunter in the area and we were coordinating our spots I turned around and zipped down the pack to expose the orange for them to see me for reference with their spotting scope from long distances away. In archery season everyone is camo’d up and no one is wearing orange for visibility, then in NM – by State proclamation; orange is only recommended not mandated and so hunters can still be camo’d in the field. I was trying to tell a Guide, below me and to the east of us was a Mule Deer Buck (my hunter only had an Elk Tag) but they couldn’t spot us until I exposed the orange liner. In New Mexico, I needed to walk in another Guide and my Hunter’s buddy to come to assist us in processing a Bull Elk we had got just about an hour before we would lose light. Then once I texted a Guide to ask him if he could see us on a canyon rim from his position and which decent looked better – to the left or right of our position? I then understood and had a fond appreciation for the liner and why it was designed that way because it actually had a purpose and I actually used it as intended/designed in the field under real word use.
Vanquest Markhor-45 Pack, What I Learned
I will jump right in and give you what I think are areas I’d like to see a few changes in, then I will tell you what I liked and enjoyed about this pack very much.
The Beavertail D.A.M. system – I like this concept a lot. What doesn’t work about it for me is that the tail is probably just a little too long in extreme terrain but how often will other people use it like that (but its name IS the Markhor!)? In extreme terrain (steep heavy timber with fall downs or incredible pitches found Barbary Sheep hunting) ascents and descents and more so the descents, the beavertail drags as your stepping down steep inclines of over logs or the butt of the gun might hit your leg as you are stepping down exaggerated steep down steps. I just wish it was a little shorter that way. In all other normal situations, this system works perfectly as it is designed to do and very comfortably carries the gun. I do like the feature of the D.A.M. system.
Main Body Zipper – the entire main body is designed to zip down and layout flat. For the recreational user, I think this makes sense so they can get to all their layered gear. Me personally I’d like to maybe see a half or two-thirds zip down rather than a full zip. For me, a shorter zipper is fewer points of failure (long zippers fail underweight and pressures). Let me say – as designed the Zipper system of the Markhor-45 works well. My use of the pack was wholly different than designed and much more brutal than it was intended to be used for – the zipper did not fail but its limits were massively pushed. I have a suggested hybrid zipper system for a pack more specifically designed for the game hunting uses I put it thru so that items could stick out above the main body of the pack (note the elk leg poking out).
Overall I can give this pack a solid double thumbs up. I can legitimately say I really enjoy and like this pack. I fully recognize it was not designed for what I put it thru and I used it harder and in more extremes than what they would have considered for this pack. It stood up to all of the abuse very well. I once had a day pack not even make it thru Archery season before blowing out critical load-bearing seams and that is why my faithful military surplus pack was promoted to the everyday pack and I have been loyal to it for many years since. The Markhor-45 made it the whole season and didn’t blow any seams and it has rightly earned a front seat in the lineup – I fully intend to keep using this pack as my primary pack. It is and will continue to be the primary go-to pack for me currently.
The Markhor-45 pack by Vanquest carried heavyweight (bone-in, Elk Hind Quarters plus trim meat) comfortably without hurting my lower back or flopping against my body. It cinched down well and distributed the weight correctly – this is very important to a quality pack. No doubt I enjoyed the lighter-weight materials the pack is built from and even under the heavy workloads they held up. I can attest that the materials are easy and quick to clean blood and dirt off of with no visible staining at all. I also think they are on to something with the fold-down Beaver Tail D.A.M. system too. I know for a fact that several hunters took note of the pack I was using and asked to further inspect it and my opinion on it. Even going so far as saying they would be getting one for their next season in the woods – that is always a compliment to any company when someone spots its usefulness out in the wild and recognizes its place & value.
I actually really like this pack and I am most definitely using this pack much more in the hunts ahead. I didn’t go to SHOT Show 2020 looking for packs but I am very glad I stumbled across Vanquest and the Markhor-45 pack. It has proven to me to be a workhorse in the field and a comfort to carry. I can, in earnest, recommend this Markhor-45 pack by Vanquest as a sturdy hard-working versatile piece of gear.
Rating the Vanquest Markhor-45 Pack
- Durability – I give them a solid 5 of 5 because I know I loaded it far heavier than they ever would have and it went hard for 4+ months and 500+ ground miles.
- Adjust-ability – 4.5 of 5 because it adjusts easily to fit multiple user sizes.
- Comfort – 5 of 5 because it was much lighter weight than my go-to pack and it never once even caused soreness under heavy meat loads.
- Configuration – 4 of 5. This is not a meat packing or dedicated hunting pack that I used it for. It IS innovative and it works well for use I know they didn’t intend it to be used for.
- Materials – 5 of 5. As I said I wasn’t tuned into looking at packs. The Cordura fabric is definitely a lighter weight and strong replacement to the nylon I might be using as an old schooler, and what I see other hard use packs/meat packs made from
- Overall – Solid 5 of a pack. I know this pack will get preferred over anything I currently have in use.
If you intend to get one, tell them you read about them and enjoy a discount by using: VQ5CAT1219 as a Code at check out on the Vanquest website. I get nothing from it other than I requested my readers get their own discount Code. Be safe, hunt hard, and I hope you enjoyed my personal experience with this pack and the abuse I put it thru.
About JJ Sutton, C.P.S., C.M.A.S. :
A Native Colorado resident & lifetime Hunter. JJ served 7yrs in the US Army during the 90s and logged 12 months downrange during hostilities in the Balkins. Mostly work / some play he has traveled/visited 20+ countries.
He owned a highly regarded Private Security Firm for more than 15yrs., as a Certified Protection Specialist & Certified Master Anti-Terrorism Specialist, he worked Int’l Celebrities and personalities related to his business throughout Colorado & Caribbean. He has consulted & worked for private security interests during the 2002 Winter Olympics, later as a Presidential Security Detail Member with the President & First Family of Haiti. His skills and interests also include Firearms Training, Manufacturing & Consulting for custom design & builds of AR15s & AR10s. He now is an Industry Contributor, Consultant, Certified Range Master, Seasonal Hunting Guide and His current pet project includes promoting the Modern Sporting Rifle like it truly is intended to be with ARHunters: YouTube / Facebook (please “Like” AND Follow!).
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