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I had been toying with the idea of buying a new hunting pack, but I hadn’t had time to get it done before this year’s bow hunting season for Idaho elk, so Chris hooked me up with the SJK Carbine 2500. He told me it needed a bit more time in the field.
“Abuse it and report back,” he said.
So I took it on a five-day elk hunt in brushy and thick-timbered Idaho country that goes from steep to damn steep.
I figured I would find out if it had the functionality and diversity I expect out of a backpack. It looked like it, and after using it, here’s what I found.
Inside the SJK Carbine 2500
First, it has many pockets, which I value. I like to take everything with me that I might need, not only in an emergency but for changing weather conditions, different hunting attire, hunting gear, and survival gear if I ended up stuck in a hole somewhere.
I keep it as light as I can, but I’m that guy, you know, the one who always has to bring the extra rope, the small tarp, the saw, the boning knife, and other gear that most folks forget and then need once they are, again, stuck in some thick hole with an elk or worse, an incoming snow storm.
The SJK Carbine 2500 blends the best of a light daypack with a versatile hauler.
The Carbine 2500 is designed to function as a wide and stable rest for prone shots.
The rear pockets extend down to provide room to haul a bow or a deer quarter.
The Carbine 2500 includes a handy pocket for 12 rifle rounds.
The straps are padded, but not too large to get in the way of a rifle at your shoulder.
So that’s the challenge — to have a small pack that is light enough that I can stay nimble but also large enough to pack my gear. All the pockets in the Carbine 2500 give you plenty of room to organize a lot gear but also keep it easily accessible.
Second, the Carbine 2500 pack is tough and durable. I had it two-thirds loaded and I was crawling through brush, under logs, over logs, and it stuck to my back nicely. No tears, no problems with stitching or stress after miles of use in heavy cover.
It’s well-made and uses bigger zippers, which I appreciate, and the overall nylon material seems tough enough. As for the Kryptek camo pattern, it seems to blend well and it looks cool, too.
Third, even though I didn’t harvest an elk on this trip, I’m confident that I could use the compression system to haul out a front quarter, or reorganize my load to fit in even more boned-out meat, or better yet, carry a monster bull elk rack on the first trip out. While you could probably manage to get a whole elk out with this pack, though, I like to save the heaviest loads for a pack with a solid frame that is purpose-built for heavy loads.
For those heavy loads, I’ll be using the SJK Rail Haulerframe, which will also hold the Carbine 2500 — because I think the Rail Hauler frame with a versatile pack like the Carbine 2500 gives you a lot of options. Depending on where you’re going, you could take the Rail Hauler with you or leave it with your ATV or pickup.
Compound Bow or Rifle Carry System
The primary design of the Carbine 2500 is aimed at rifle hunters first, which is no surprise given the name — one of the pockets has a spot designed to hold rifle rounds, and if you lay the pack on the ground, it can function as a rest.
There is also a pocket for the stock of your rifle, which you can secure with the straps of the carry system.
For your bow, your bottom cam may or may not fit into the drop-down pocket, but the straps and carry system give you plenty of room to strap in a compound bow for those long hikes.
My only very minor complaint is that the nylon can be a little louder than cloth or fleece-type packs when you’re crawling through heavy brush. My hunting buddy was using a quieter pack but it was significantly smaller, too, and I’m not convinced it would be as durable as this pack over time. I didn’t notice a difference in noise while walking trails — only in the brush.
Chris Maxcer’s initial SJK Carbine 2500 review scored this pack at a 4.5-star rating, and after spending some quality time with the SJK Carbine 2500 this fall, the score holds.