WON Landing Page March 2022

Sara Ahrens’ OffBeat: My backpack of choice for the big show? Maxpedition Vulture II

I find it amusing that one of the most common questions I am asked in regards to the whole Top Shot experience is, “What does everyone have in their backpacks?” This question makes me laugh because people really want to know, like it’s a big secret. It’s not a secret at all, but since it is such a popular question I thought I would share my response and discuss the thought process I used to decide which backpack I would purchase in anticipation of my participation.

Sara Ahrens. Photo courtesy of History.com.

The truth is, reality television isn’t really reality. I know I am shocking a lot of people with that statement. I don’t want to crush people with this ‘reality’ check, but what you see in a television episode is the result of retakes, splicing and editing. When you watch Top Shot, what you see is about 40 minutes of footage.  It takes about 46 hours of video to make that 40 minute show, so a lot of footage is conveniently left out.

What does this have to do with the backpacks you might wonder? Contestants are not shooting these competitions in five minutes like it appears on television. Filming can take hours and there is a lot of hurry up and wait. For instance, the very first competition was the Smith and Wesson 500. It seemed like every time a contestant shot a target, flying glass would strike a contestant (I was hit on the very first shot and my neck bled … very scary).

In between every pair of contestants that shot, targets had to be extinguished and then replaced, slats of wood on the crates had to be removed, replaced and re-stained, cameras were being set up and moved, and there are many other behind the scenes activities that take place. Overall this part is boring to the viewers, so it is edited out. The show was filmed in the mountains of California and the weather reminded me of Colorado. It constantly changed (though I don’t recall Colorado ever feeling as cold as California). So to answer one of the most popular questions, “What was inside everyone’s backpacks?” is simple; the backpacks contained whatever the contestant thought he or she might need in the course of a lengthy day away from the house. My backpack contained eye and ear protection, sunscreen, tissue, water, my jacket, fleece, a baseball cap, eye drops, chewing gum and gloves.

I invested some time deciding which backpack to purchase and bring with me on the show. I ultimately opted for a Maxpedition Vulture II backpack. I initially ordered the Condor II backpack, but the capacity is only 1950 cubic inches and when it arrived it looked like a children’s pack. It did not look roomy enough for jackets and gear, so I bit the shipping cost and returned it, then I ordered the Vulture II backpack.

Maxpedition Vulture II backpack in Foliage Green

Sara's backpack of choice for Top Shot

I think that the Maxpedition backpack is one of the sturdier backpacks I have purchased in my lifetime. It is made out of 1000-denier water and abrasion resistant, light-weight ballistic nylon fabric. One feature that I really like is that the main compartment unzips fully. This has been problematic for me in the past and I would say this is the number one feature I look at before making a backpack purchase.

I also like the Maxpedition Vulture II because it reminds me of my Alice pack in the Army  in the way it sits on my back (I could purchase an Alice pack, but I never liked the three pockets on the front of the pack because certain types of gear easily fall out). I like that the Vulture II has a sternum strap and integrated belt. Maxpedition backpacks also feature hook and loop systems for the addition of accessory pouches, if you’re into being that organized. I really only took issue with one feature of this pack, and I chalk that up to a lack of attentiveness on my part. There is a padded compartment at the rear of the pack that can be used for the storage of laptops, which I consider a benefit. Just beware if you purchase this backpack, that at the bottom of this compartment (near the should straps), there are 2” gaps on each side. I threw a USB thumb drive in the computer compartment with my computer and lost it. I suppose that’s my fault, but it still upset me. This backpack costs about $150. I purchased my pack in February and there are still no signs of wear, and it gets used daily by either me or my son.

Vulture II Backpack Features

  • Main Compartment: 20.5″(H) x 16″(W) x 7.5″(D)
  • Front Pouch: 15.5″(H) x 12″(W) x 2.75″(D)
  • Slip Pocket: 15.5″(H) x 12″(W)
  • Capacity: 2810 cu. in. / 46 liters
  • Weight: 3 lbs , 8 oz
  • Hydration: Up to 100+ oz Bladder
  • Support: 1″ Sternum Strap, 2″ Integrated Belt (min 19″ strap alone / max 52″ strap alone; min 34″ loop / max 67″ loop)
  • Optional accessories: Hook & Loop Modular Accessories and Grimloc Carabiner, Hydration reservoir

Visit Maxpedition packs online.

 Sara Ahren’s OffBeat is sponsored by Otis Technology — from the front lines to the hunt of a lifetime.



The Conversation

One Comment
  • Tammy says: November 1, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Sara, thanks for letting us know about a GREAT backpack. Even bow hunting in Missouri, the weather can change fairly quickly, or once the sun starts going down, it cools down a lot, so I always pack extra stuff and some of it doesn’t quite fit in my backpack, so I am going to check this pack out. And thanks for the kind of behind-the-scene view of the shot. They do such a great job with the filming, I didn’t even think about all the other stuff going on!