The SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 by Slumberjack is a stout hunting backpack aimed squarely at helping you haul big loads. It’s lightweight but burly, built around an anodized aluminum frame. It’s versatile, comfortable and can carry up to a mind-boggling 200 pounds. In case you’re wondering, we don’t know anyone who is willing max out the Rail Hauler 2.0.
Before the SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 came out, Slumberjack produced the Rail Hauler 2500, which was a combination large duffle pack with the first-general Rail Hauler frame. The system was pretty darn good. We’ve hauled elk, deer and bear with the first-generation version and it performed admirably. The SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 skips the extra duffle in favor of doubling down on what it does best: hauling heavy loads. SJK sent us out a review unit to see what’s changed.
Let’s take a closer look.
SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 Review: Overall Design
The external frame-style hunting pack has been around forever. It works great for lashing elk quarters to it and hauling it out of rugged country. Of course, you can haul smaller deer quarters or completely bone out an elk and haul the meat in game bags and this frame system will hold it well.
The frame offers some advantages over bag-style backpacks. The frame lets you place oddly sized game quarters on the ledge and frame and still be able to haul it out in larger pieces. Depending on your hunting situation, that might be easier or better or smarter than boning out an entire animal.
In addition, because the sides, top and bottom are relatively open, you’re going to get better airflow around your game meat, which will help keep it drier and cooler, which will make it less likely to spoil if you run into trouble or hot weather.
The sweet aluminum frame is conducive to grabbing, carrying and moving the pack around. It’s handy. We like it a lot.
Of course, the SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 errors toward hauling heavy loads. The hip belt offers plenty of padding with easy tightening and loosening adjustments when you’re under a load. The shoulder straps offer great cushion and are also easily adjustable, along with the load lifters on the top cross bar. The torso adjustment ranges from 17.5” to 20.5”.
The overall pack itself is 13.5” wide by 31” high. It weighs 5 lbs 9 oz but it actually feels lighter when you have a light load or a day pack lashed to it — because it’s designed to carry heavier loads.
SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 vs. Original Rail Hauler
The rear carry strap system on the original Rail Hauler was based off of a winged design that wrapped around the load and connected to together. It worked well in the original, but the new version is even better: The rear fabric is all one piece, connected at the bottom and open at the sides and top. The straps securely expand or shorten to let you lock in the load.
The bottom load carry shelf has an extra bit of metal to help support heavy loads.
The 2.0 version design is definitely improved to making heavy loads easier to lock in, but if you happen to find the original at a significantly lower price, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend nabbing it.
SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 Review: How to Use It Best
If you’re hiking into base camp, you can load up the Rail Hauler 2.0 with gear to drop at base camp, then carry a lighter day-style hunting backpack when you go out on hunts. If you harvest an animal, you could haul what you can with your lighter pack and then transition to the Rail Hauler 2.0 for a heavyweight haul out.
Another option is to hunt with the Rail Hauler 2.0 on your back at all times. You can easily strap a bag full of gear or a hunting daypack full of gear and go for miles. Because the pack is built to haul heavy loads, a 25-pound pack feels pretty good in the Rail Hauler.
Are there any downsides? If you’re looking for a very agile backpack, the Rail Hauler 2.0 can sometimes feel a bit too wide — at least, for me when I’m bowhunting, I prefer a narrower pack on my back. It’s bothers me less when I’m rifle hunting; however, I have a hunting buddy who is about the same size as me and he likes it fine for both bowhunting and rifle hunting. In fact, he prefers it because the Rail Hauler gives him peace of mind during the hunt — he knows that he has the pack he wants immediately ready to carry out a big load from rugged terrain.
Either way, the great thing about the SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 is that it’s a flexible pack system. You can use it as your base pack for both gear and meat — or even leave it in the pickup or with an ATV and save it for just the heavy loads.
I think of the SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 this way: If my job is to haul a heavy load up a mountain and I have a choice between the SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 and a wide variety of other hunting packs, I’m going to frequently choose the Rail Hauler 2.0. That’s not to say the other packs aren’t great, too, but I know the SJK Rail Hauler 2.0 is a great pack for hauling heavy loads. It’s plenty comfortable for a heavy hauler hunting pack and it’s surprisingly durable and strong. Plus, we’re big fans of the Kryptek camo pattern and the color of the frame — SJK did a nice job with the design details. Highly recommended.
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