Like most people, I have spent a great deal of my life using backpacks to haul around gear ranging from school supplies, to more ammo for a firefight. Backpacks are great for carrying around alot of stuff for a long time, but can have serious downfalls in mobility and accessibility when you are not carrying very much. When I am going down to my range in my backyard, usually I find myself having to carry alot of stuff, but not enough to justify the use of a backpack. For this reason, I like to use a shoulder bag instead.
My shoulder bag, also referred to as a satchel, can store my hearing protection, a pistol, ammo, water, and other things like targets and a staple gun. This allows my to just carry my camera and have a free hand for balance or to carry a rifle or targets. Alot of people have range bags for this, but even my range bag is too big to use for these few items. Usually there is just enough stuff to carry that I don’t have enough hands, yet is too little that using my range bag is just going to become a nuisance due to its size and bulk.
Think about if you are going hunting for a few hours outside of your campsite. You may feel inclined to carry a smaller backpack that can hold the essential items. But think about the fact that a backpack, whatever the size, has straps that can impede your ability to properly place the stock of your rifle in your shoulder if you should need to take a quick shot. If you are hunting with a shotgun, this misplacement of the stock could have painful consequences with some hunting loads. Not to mention that backpacks also add on to your overall size and silhouette, which can hinder your ability to move through thick brush with ease, and without making noise. Also keep in mind that you have to take off the pack in order to get to the contents if you should need them.
Consider the lessons we have learned throughout history for instance. During the centuries when armies had single shot muskets as their standard arms, they depended on satchels filled with the basic necessities for firing these weapons. In WW2, I am sure we all remember the scenes in movies and the pictures of the soldiers carrying satchels filled with Thompson submachine gun magazines, which were very heavy. Even when I was in the military, our ammo was issued out in bandoleers filled with stripper clips of ammo, which we had ready to go, and can be converted to carry fully loaded magazines. We still use satchels to carry our satchel charges and claymores on operations into enemy territory.
We learned that having a lot of weight in the satchel while slung around us is not going to be comfortable in the long run. But, one thing that is appreciated about it is the fact that it is very quick to grab, and it stayed out of the way of the shoulder when using a weapon and didn’t impede on your mobility. I remember how convenient it was during resupplies to be able to strap on several bandoleers of ammo and grenades, and not have to take off a pack to get to them when I was distributing it out to my guys, or to use them myself.
Shoulder bags and satchels are in no way going to replace backpacks, and really never could. But I think that they are a grand substitute when you are carrying a few items that you would like to get to at any time, and be able to snatch it up very easily at a moment’s notice. They have become my favorite form of range bag and way to carry gear.