Backpack Archery - Why a regular takedown recurve or longbow is not the ideal choice for many archers September 13 2018, 0 Comments

I have spent the greater part of 5 years carrying bows in my backpacks. And I don't mean strapped to the outside, I mean actually INSIDE my pack.

I have also read a lot of reviews and posts discussing what people believe are good options for packable bows and I think many miss the mark when it comes to understanding what makes for a good backpacking bow. I am sure they understand what makes for a good bow, but when it comes to actually carrying a bow with you in a pack more than a few hundred yards to your yearly whitetail hunt, it seems very few people who are writing on the subject have actually real world experience with extended time out in the woods.

My previous two articles dealt with "Survival Bow - Who should consider owning one?" and "Choosing a Traditional Bow vs a Compound Bow for Survival - What you should know." So if you would like an all round look into these subjects be sure to check them out.

Ok so let's start by defining what makes for a good backpack bow. This is luckily a rather simple matter (at least I think so). Backpackable bows need to:

1. Deliver an arrow accurately enough to hit its intended mark.

2. Deliver an arrow with enough energy to penetrate its target sufficiently.

3. Be long enough not to stack for taller archers. Stacking is a phenomenon whereby the bow draws nice and smoothly at the start of the draw and right near the end of the draw there is a very sharp increase in poundage making it very difficult to hold the bow at full draw due to the excessive poundage. Bow length and limb to riser geometry is critical in this equation, as are the materials chosen for the limbs. A bad combination of these leads to a bow that stacks badly for taller archers than the bow was optimally designed for.

4. Be protected from the elements and other rigors they may come across whilst on the move through the woods; including falls and hitting hard objects such as rocks.

5. Be easily assembled and disassembled.

6. Be easy to maintain.

Pretty simple right?

So let's now take a look at the type of bows one would typically consider that would attempt to fulfill these 5 criteria. Naturally this would include takedown recurves, takedown longbows, survival bows and what I would term dedicated backpackable bows such as the new Atmos Compact Modern Longbow sold by Survival Archery Systems.

Let's now look at how each of these stack up against the criteria.

Takedown recurves:

1. They deliver an arrow accurately.

2. They have enough energy to penetrate their target and are typically available in poundages up to 60# and maybe higher depending on the manufacturer.

3. Typically bows over 60" in length do not cause stacking issue for taller archers. Shorter bows of 58" and below have been known to stack for taller archers depending on the exact geometry. The only way to know is to test a bow before purchase; which isn't always possible.

4. This is where most recurve bows fall short of being a good option for many backpacks. Many people prefer the shorter style one-day or assault style packs which typically run about 22-23" tall. A 60" bow, which is a good bow to prevent stacking as we discussed above, typically has limbs about 24-28" depending on the length of the riser itself.

Do you see the problem here? 24-28" limbs just don't fit into a 22-23" space very well. And laying them on the diagonal takes up so much space it makes it hard to fit other items in the bag you are using. This is probably the least most understood point I have seen online, as most people have never actually tried to fit a bow into a pack before and if you can't fit a bow inside your bag then it must be strapped to the outside and is then at risk of being damaged due to falls and hard nocks; which is inevitable when on the move through the woods.

5. Assembly and disassembly is easy.

6. Maintenance is easy enough.

Takedown longbow:

Very similar to takedown recurve bows, but limbs generally need to be a bit longer to reduce stacking thereby compounding the problems with points 3 and 4 above. The main issue here is a combination of the straight limbs, as well as the materials typically used by most of the manufacturers. Wood just doesn't flex as much as more modern materials such as composite fibre.

Survival bows:

1. Due to the geometry of most grips found on survival bows a lot of readers are concerned that accuracy may be affected. Whilst they are in theory correct that handle shapes would not be as good as a more ergonomic shape (which would reduce hand torque), feedback from many users of such survival bows has shown that they are accurate enough to harvest game. We are talking about hunting bows here and not Olympic archery bows. Whilst they may affect accuracy ever so slightly they are typically good enough to be very effective hunting tools up to 25-30 yards. Most whitetail deer are harvested in the 15-20m range.

2. With poundages up to 55# there is more than enough power.

3. Most survival bows on the market make use of deep flex composite limbs which allow them to flex a lot more than other traditional materials. If you combine this with a good limb to riser ratio and typically have a 60" bow length then you are able to get a bow that doesn't stack much for the taller archers out there. So keep this in mind when looking at survival bows.

4. Most survival bows on the market are 22" or under so will fit inside most packs and therefore be well protected. Other survival bows are longer so don't fulfill this requirement too well.

5. Assembly and disassembly (if required due to some folding designs) is easy.

6. Maintenance is easy.

Dedicated backpackable bows 

This is a whole new breed of bows and its seems Survival Archery Systems is the first to design and launch a truly backpackable version, in the form of the Atmos Compact Modern Longbow, which not only allows for a variety of shooting styles and accessories, but has also reduced the total overall pack length of a 60 IBO bow to just 22". No other bow on the market comes close to this in terms of compactness for a 60" bow.

Let's take a look at how well it fulfills the criteria:

1. The riser and handle is styled similar to that of a compound bow allowing for very good accuracy and balance. As it allows for a number of accessories such as sites, whisker biscuits, etc it should shoot just as well as a regular takedown recurve bow and longbow.

2. With poundages up to 55# it has more than enough power.

3. The Atmos makes use of deep flex composite limbs similar to those on the higher end survival bows, so allows for straight limb geometry that not only reduces stacking, but also allows for a smaller pack volume. Arrow speeds, as with other higher end composites limb survival bows, are surprisingly good with claims up to 210 FPS for a 55# bow.

4. The Atmos comes in at that critical 22" packed length. Due to a combination of the limb to riser ratio and the limb material used the 22" length allows for a 60" bow that draws smoothly, but fits INSIDE more packs than any other full spec 60" traditional bows on the market. This is what sets the Atmos apart from all other 60" bows which typically have 24-28' limbs.

5. Assembly and disassembly is the same as with takedown recurve and takedown longbows though less simple than the folding survival bows.

6. Maintenance is the same as with aluminum riser takedown recurve and takedown longbows. It requires less maintenance than wooden bows which require care to keep the wood coatings in good condition.

So as we can see from the above choosing a bow for backpacking is not as simple as just jumping onto Amazon and choosing the cheapest or most popular recurve bow. Especially if you want it to last you any amount of time.

If you don't mind carry a bigger bag then you can pretty much fit any takedown bow inside of it, but a bigger bag means more weight and not everyone prefers the bigger hiking style packs when on the move through the back-country.

So let's summarize what we have discussed.

Takedown recurve and longbows are accurate and easy to use in the field, but unless you carry a really short bow that may stack on you then you pretty much have to strap it to the outside of most packs or let it stick out the top. In my opinion this goes against the whole point of backpacking with a bow. It really should fit INSIDE your pack to avoid damage and the potential of losing other items because the packs zip is not fully closed.

Survival bows whilst maybe slightly less accurate do a good job if they are long enough when strung, but short enough when packed so that they don't stack but actually fit inside a backpack. Some survival bows such as those from Survival Archery Systems have the added benefit of being able to store takedown arrows inside the riser, thereby protecting the arrows and reducing pack volume.

Dedicated backpackable bows (a new concept) seem to be the only bows that fulfill all 6 criteria I set for what I consider to be a good backpable bow. Whilst they are not within everyone's budget (NOTE: Their risers are CNC billet machined and not cast like cheaper bows which makes for a much more durable, robust  and lighter design), they do fulfill the needs of a growing number of people who want a weapon that can be packed into their rucks and not worried about until needed. If this sounds like you then the Atmos would be a great option and from what people who have used the bow have said, they are well worth the investment.

That brings an end to this article so I hope it has been helpful to you. If you would like more info on Survival Archery System's products check them out here.

Let us know your thoughts? Until next time.