Deciding between the 3500 or 5500 can be a tough choice and we get this question almost daily. As a general rule our recommendation is if your average hunt is 5 days or less go with the 3500. If you consistently do 5+ day plus hunts then you will be better suited with the 5500. One thing that differentiates us is that because of the load shelf design the capacity to haul out meat does not change between the two bag sizes since its on the same frame. The only thing we are talking about here is how much gear do you need to haul.
Our bag ratings are also extremely conservative, the 3500 has 4700 ci of use-able gear space while the 5500 is closer to 7000. It’s one thing to consider when comparing our pack weights to others.
The gray area comes in to affect when you take into account how much gear you personally pack. Some guys are very minimalist and can hunt 10 days out of a 3500. Others like to pack a lot of extra stuff for the just in case and need all the space a 5500 offers for a 3 day hunt. Or some guys do a lot of late season hunts where even though it may only be a 2-3 day hunt the amount of extra clothes takes up a lot of space. Or maybe most of your hunts are under 5 days but once a year you do a week long backpacking trip (in this case I would recommend the 3500 and put your extra food in a dry bag in the load shelf)
Another thing to consider is if you want to get a 5500 but are concerned that it will not compress up as nice as the 3500 for day use. Because of how we designed this pack the two bags compress to the exact same size so the 5500 when day hunting works and functions extremely well.
Since the layout between the two bags is 95% identical this is purely a decision on how much space you need for your gear.
From an actual size perspective the 5500 is 3″ deeper (10″ vs: 7″ on the 3500), the same width and 10″ taller.
Here are some bullet points to help you make that decision:
Go with the 3500 if:
- Average hunts are under 5 days
- You spend a lot of money to save every ounce you can in your pack
- You pack from a minimalist perspective (a less is more attitude)
Go with the 5500 if:
- You do multiple week long trips every year
- Your pack weighs more than 45lbs on a 3 day hunt (good indication of how much gear you are packing)
- You aren’t as concerned about the extra 7oz and prefer the extra space
- You do a lot of late season hunts where bulky clothing is required