The most surprising thing about the new Carbine 2500 backpack is the name stamped on the Kryptek camouflage: SJK, the manufacturer formerly known as Slumberjack. The company that I associate with entry-level sleeping bags has produced a line of capable packs configured for hunting and tactical shooting purposes, and the midsize Carbine ($200; sjkgear.com) is a solid freshman entry.
Its size and many features make it a fine treestand pack, a mountain bag for minimalist overnight trips or longish day hunts, or a functional range bag. I spent a month with the Carbine earlier this fall, using it as a trail-camera tote, an early-season archery pack, and even luggage. Among its
The 2,450 cubic inches and generous pocket dimensions allow you to pack surprisingly large items in the main compartment—I managed to squeeze in a sleeping bag, raingear, pants, and a shirt—and numerous sundries in the stash pockets.
Beavertail Front (above, left)
The front pocket assembly is designed to unclip at the top to accommodate large or awkward gear like bulky clothes or a loaded game bag.
Bow/Gun Pocket (above, right)
The system for carrying a bow or gun is adjustable, snug-fitting, and positions the weight in the very middle of the pack, so there’s no shifting.
Tripod & Spotter The Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber ($389) packs down to 15.7 inches and weighs 2.4 pounds. Meopta’s MeoPro HD 80 ($1,725) features a 20–60X eyepiece and HD fluoride glass.
Backpacks are among the last of the one-size-fits-all outdoor gear, but the Carbine has enough adjustability that I achieved a very snug fit that didn’t shift, even when I ran to make a connection at Chicago’s O’Hare.
The handle on top of the pack has a quick-release buckle that allows for easy hanging on a limb or other support. On my bow hunt, I used this strap to secure the pack against a jackpine on a steep slope while I glassed for elk. The channel between the lower front pockets serves as a rifle rest.
Room for Improvement
Support: Most packs at this price feature a beefed-up internal frame for load support and rigidity. The Carbine has a plastic backboard stiffened with one aluminum rod, and the pack slouches under a full load.
Side pockets: I’d like to see one of these extended to better accommodate a spotting scope.
Zippers: I wish the pockets had center pulls rather than opening from just one side. I was constantly losing small items because the zippers weren’t closed all the way.