Cactus Outdoor, better known as a high quality New Zealand made tramping pack manufacturer and heavy duty canvas clothing brand. They have now expanded their range to include the no-nonsense kiwi hunter that strives for quality and practicality and this is exactly what Cactus have built their reputation on. The evidence is clear to see when you get up close to any of there products; Tough is the first word that pops to mind.For the last month I’ve been running their new Cactus Huntaway pack as my go-to day bag. Paired with the new well designed gun scabbard, this on paper looked to be a great combination. I’m the first to admit I’m bloody rough on gear, almost too rough and if it will break I’ll be one of those guys that it happens to. First thing I noticed when I picked the pack up was the weight and quality of the fabric; in this case 12oz canvas and C-1000D. Even I was going to struggle to break this.
The Huntaway is a 45+10litre day pack/overnighter and a very simple design. Single top loading pack with an adjustable hood that extends to give you an extra 10litres when required. It is made from two different materials; C-1000D and 12oz canvas. The C-1000D is used on the base and side pockets and is specifically used for high abrasion areas. Heavy duty 12oz canvas is used for the remainder of the pack. Both have very good levels of waterproofing properties.The pack is noticeably narrow and its volume comes from its extendable length; a good thing in my opinion as you don’t have to worry about getting caught up on scrub or bush which can be common when using an oversized pack.
On the top of the Huntaway there is a very generous pocket inside the lid, this combined with the large YKK steel zip provides a good place for valuables like your range finder, PLB, knife, headlamp and so on. Cactus has also included an ice axe loop and and elastic pull cord for securing loads on the front of the pack, in the Huntaways case head skins and capes.
The Huntaway showing the elastic pull cord on the front; ideal for ice axes, capes or skinsEach side of the pack has two tension straps complete with heavy duty quick release aluminium buckle clips. Personally I didn’t find much use for the clip, I did find the straps difficult to get tight when I had my tripod placed in one of the side pockets due to the sharp edges of the aluminium clip.
Pulling it smoothly to get a nice snug fit wasn’t easy but I believe this is purely because the clips were brand new and the edges that the straps feed through were still very sharp. The more I used them the more freely they began to move.
Heavy duty aluminium compression clip: there are two of these on each flank of the packCactus has included an internal bladder pocket inside the main compartment along with a pull draw cord at the top of the load compartment to close off before pulling the lid shut. They have also included a very comfortable harness system and while it’s not a fixed frame harness like the larger packs it’s surprisingly very nice to wear and fits your back well.
It’s a simple design with a removable foam padded back that can be pulled out and used as a seat if the ground is wet and don’t want wet jocks. The harness has one chest strap and a solid waist strap; ideal for heavy loads.
The harness system is simple but very effective10mm+ removable padded foam backing provides good comfort but can also double as a seat when glassing As part of the review Cactus included their all new “rifle scabbard”. This simple but useful piece of equipment is sure to help many kiwi hunters. It’s made from padded canvas, two compression straps and an adjustable rifle butt holder.
It will fit almost any pack and does not come with the Huntaway but the two make for a lethal combination. The padded canvas wraps around the centre of the rifle with the butt obviously sitting inside the butt pockets. The two compression straps are fully adjustable to get a nice fit and allows the rifle to sit nicely on either side of the pack; you choose.
The new padded rifle scabbard gives you confidence that your pride and joy has some form of protection from falls.The butt pocket provides a snug fit with a pull cord to take up any slack Hunting/Testing:
The first hunt I took the Huntaway on was a Canterbury tahr hunt. Myself and a good mate Ant were on a mission to get Ant his first bull; well that was the plan anyway.. As fate would have it we had 4 days of horrible weather which brought in snow, rain, sunshine and gale winds.
With a few bulls seen it wasn’t until the last day right on dark that Anthony shot his first bull in a typical gale force Canterbury north-wester. We had put in a massive effort to close the gap and get to 190 yards with minutes to spare before it would be dark and his shot was a good one but as happens with tahr hunting the bull soaked up the lead run and fell into a spot I couldn’t safely retrieve.
Young bull spotted in some steep country during the Huntaways first huntReturning home I was straight back into a few local guided meat hunts in a Wairarapa. The Huntaway was my go-to “work” pack, a generous size yet when not fully loaded very compact which meant carrying jackets, extra clothing, food, 2 x cameras, PLB, knife, drinks and whatever else was needed easily.
The sizing was perfect and in the 3 weeks that followed the Huntaway saw everything mother nature could throw at it. I had one particular evening hunt that started out fine but within an hour it pissed down; not just rain, I’m talking torrential for 2 hours while on the hill and I was literally soaked to the bone. While I carried the pack, I was nervous as I had 2 cameras buried deep inside without dry bags it was that wet I didn’t want to even check if they were ok incase water got inside when I opened it.
As we headed back to in the ute I couldn’t help but think taking my cameras was a stupid decision and the insurance company may be receiving a call when I got home. Eventually I made it back and and opened the pack expecting them to be at least wet and needing a night in the hot water cupboard but to my surprise they were both completely dry. I didn’t have them in dry bags or covers; they were literally thrown straight in the main compartment and neither had a drop of moisture on them.
Few more pics from the last month or so.This unfortunate red fell to the old open site .303 and was boned and packed out in the Huntaway. I still had room for all the meat and gear I was using. Watch this in action by viewing the video above.Conclusion: In my opinion this pack is a solid and well-designed product. One thing I’ve learnt from my years of running around the hills is there is a lot of “gear” that is simply not up to the task it’s claimed to be.
The Cactus Huntaway is the complete opposite and I have no doubt this pack will last a lifetime. This is a quality product that I’m sure serious hunters will appreciate.
The degree of materials and workmanship is to a standard unmatched and I’d have no problem recommending this pack to anyone wanting a day/overnight pack that will not let them down when it matters. While it’s likely suited to more of your alpine hunter purely based on the fabric been noisy when making contact with scrub or trees it won’t stop me using it in the bush.
And what’s the best thing about this pack? The warranty! The Huntaway comes with the Cactus Tough Lifetime Warranty, this means the life of the pack not you, sell it 5 times and if it rips Cactus will fix it – hard to complain with that!
Watch the video below for more information about this product and the hunt featuring the red yearling above and the 100 year old 303!
The Huntaway has an RRP $399 and the rifle scabbard $79.99 and can be purchased from www.cactusoutdoor.co.nz or you can pop into the Christchurch based shop at 90 Fitzgerald Ave, CHCH