Tenzing 6000 vs Mystery Ranch Metcalf
A good backpack is not something to overlook when gearing up for a big game hunt. It’s tough to know if you've made a good choice when buying a backpack until after you've put it through the ringer for a week or two on a hunting trip. It wasn't until this past year that I realized just how much backpacks can differ from each other in fit, function, and quality.
In the past, I used a Tenzing 6000 for 3 years on all my mountain elk hunts and camping trips. This past year I switched to a Mystery Ranch Metcalf for a week long elk hunt. Although these packs differ greatly in features and function, both will get an elk off a mountain. I’ll cut to the chase, I prefer the Metcalf, but I do miss some features of the Tenzing 6000. Read below for my full review.
Tenzing TZ 6000
The Tenzing 6000 is Tenzing’s main backcountry hunting backpack. It weighs in at just over 7.5 lbs and has 4400 cubic inches of volume. You can then unzip the pack away from the frame and gain an additional 1600 cubic inches in the form of a meat shelf. This additional space gives you 6000 cubic inches of total volume. Unfortunately, the meat shelf is not practical for elk. I had a hell of a time getting a front shoulder to fit in the meat shelf opening. After discovering this, we did not even try to fit the hind quarters of an elk into the meat shelf until the quarters were deboned. The small opening to the meat shelf is a big draw back to this backpack, in my opinion.
The Tenzing does offer awesome organization and it’s very easy to access. The outer most zipper in the middle of the backpack contains the small organization compartment. I believe there are 11 small to medium sized zippered pockets that make it easy to keep your small stuff well organized. There is also a long, narrow zippered pocket on each side of the backpack. Ideal for a spotting scope, small tripod, or other gear which you may need quick access too. Unfortunately, the zippers do not hold up well. I have had several zippers fail on me. I even sent in a used backpack last year due to multiple broken zippers, received a brand new pack, and had a zipper break within the first week. Inexcusable for a $400 backpack.
The Tenzing is a very comfortable backpack. I would train with it all summer and would hike 8-10 miles a day with it on while hunting with no discomfort. With heavier loads, I did notice the backpack would ride low no matter how I had it adjusted Minus some of the durability issues, I did enjoy hunting/living out of it for a week straight every year. I am 6’2”, 210 lbs, with a long torso which makes the 6000 a good fit for me. I could easily carry everything I needed for a 5 night, 6 day hunt in this pack. If you're more of a day hunter or you’re looking for something to get you through a 3-4 day hunt, check out the Tenzing 5000.
Mystery Ranch Metcalf
The Mystery Ranch Metcalf is recommended for multi-day hunting trips lasting up to a week. It weighs in at 6.1 lbs with 4,333 cubic inches of volume. The style of this backpack is quite simple but I've found it to be very efficient. The main bag of the backpack has access through the top or via one long zipper running along the side of of the bag. The meat shelf on this backpack comes from a load sling between the pack and the frame. This makes it very easy to load quarters of any size.
With essentially no compartments for organization, I organize my small loose items by putting them into small ziplock bags and then keeping all of those in one big ziplock or dry bag. Having the bag of the backpack designed this way makes for an incredibly diverse backpack. With the way the straps are positioned on the bag, you can cinch them all down and convert this into a small backpack ideal for day hunts. Also, you might wonder why the lid is split into two long compartments. This is to ensure no space is lost in the lid when it is pulled tight over the bag.
The load bearing ability of the Metcalf is far superior to the Tenzing. The comfort of the Metcalf is on par with the Tenzing with lighter loads but the Metcalf really shines when it's fully loaded. The frame comes in different sizes, ranging from XS to XL, which makes this backpack the right size for anyone. For sizing reference, I wear a size large.
As stated above, the Metcalf by Mystery Ranch is the clear winner for me. Sometimes less is more and by eliminating all the compartments and zippers there ends up being less that can go wrong with the Metcalf. Also, the weight of the backpack and ability to be easily condensed into a day pack makes the Metcalf my go to backpack.
This doesn't mean the Tenzing should be overlooked. With added features like a pull out rain cover, bow/rifle sling, and superior organization all at basically half the cost of the Metcalf ($250 vs $525), the Tenzing is still a good option.