Being from the Midwest, elk hunting is something that I don't get to do every season, although I would love to. So when spending up to a year planning an elk hunt you want to make sure you have everything necessary to accommodate your trip. After securing a license and plane fare early in the year my next step was choosing the correct gear. Other than my 06 Bowtech Allegiance, arrows and accessories my next call of business was a pack. Not just any pack, I was looking for a pack that would sustain me for at least a week with supplies as well as a pack that was durable and wouldn't succumb to a tough climb and rough conditions This would mean a pack which functions not only as a pack capable of carrying all my gear into camp but one that could be used as a slimmed down backpack for daily hunts. After researching many packs I finally settled on the 4500 from Badlands. To see the entire line: Badlands
Why Badlands you might ask? First off I was looking for a pack that was made out of materials known for their strength as well as a pack that had several large compartments. All of Badlands packs are made from very durable materials including their own proprietary KX0-32 fabric, hyplon as well as stitching from arimid thread. Almost as important, a pack utilizing compartments allows you to distribute the weight evenly. For example a pack with no compartments is just like carrying a grocery bag. All the weight will be concentrated towards the bottom putting more stress on your hips and lower back.
The Badlands 4500 has five separate compartments allowing you to stow different types of gear and evenly distribute the weight. My companion was using a pack that cost 200 dollars more and was very cumbersome. How do I know, because we switched packs and he experienced relief for the next hour or so as I took on the burden of his back. By the time I was done carrying it my hips and lower back were feeling every ounce of that pack. I was relieved to switch back to my Badlands.
The 4500 uses a formed polycarbonate frame and molded foam to reduce weight and enhance comfort. The molded foam contours to your body eliminating pinch points enabling the pack to feel like a part of your body. The polycarbonate frame on the other hand adds strength without added weight. It is twice as strong as aluminum while weighing in at half the weight. A pack with a metal based frame sometimes hinders carrying capacity or packability.
The Badlands is also very well built from a strength issue. All important tack locations use Arimid thread which is nearly impossible to break. I believe I put these to the ultimate test as I packed as much as I could carry for an eight day Idaho elk hunt in a remote area of unit 36A. Clothes, tent, sleeping bag, water purification system and food comprised the bulk of the items distributed within the close to 4800 cubic inches of pack. Yes, 4800 cubic inches with the 300 cubic inch day pack attached. As mentioned earlier because the frame is built in there are no constraints or frame parts to get in the way that may limit available space. Even though the pack was "stuffed" to the max with 50 plus pounds of supplies, clothes and camping accessories it was evenly balanced and comfortable. I was even able to secure an additional bottle of fuel at the last minute for my compact stove just in case of an emergency. I even had space to spare and could have brought along a ground mat if I wouldn't have forgot it!
The five individual compartments are easy to get into thanks to zippers outfitted with large graspable pull tabs. Even with gloves on I was assured of a firm grip. The larger compartments have double zippers, making it easy to access or close from either side. Most of the compartments are lined with straps for further securing internal items. Within the top compartment internal clips and straps are convenient for securing valuables such as keys. The side compartments are a great place to store game calls and backup items such as archery releases, compass and small flashlights.
The top compartment has two compression snaps that easily expand it in order to make more room as well as turn it into a fanny pack. This is extremely helpful for quick hunts not far from camp. When returning from your hunt it can be quickly reconnected to the main pack. For all day hunts away from camp a second compartment becomes a larger day pack compete with a comfortable shoulder straps. It has a mesh backing to aid in air circulation in order to help keep you cool and comfortable. Like the fanny pack, when you return to camp just a couple snaps and it easily attaches back to the main pack.
All the straps on the 4500 are very durable and strong. I could confidently lift the fully loaded back by the back support strap, ora any strap for that matter and sling it over my shoulder. I would then slip my other arm through and cinch the belt and chest straps. Easy adjustable pull straps made quick work of securing the pack once on my shoulders. One quick pull was all it took. The chest compression strap also had elastic to make fast work of snapping the buckle closed. The oversized belt clip anchored the pack securely and also included two quick adjustable waist pull straps. Within seconds you were ready to hit the trail with a full and balanced load.
The bottom of the pack is made of a tough-wearing ballistic material. I had confidence that each time I placed the pack down there were no worries as to the abuse it took on a variety of surfaces. A fully loaded pack hit the ground a number of times during the rugged trip in and out of the mountains. I was especially in a hurry on the way out as several brush fires were sighted in our area. I didn't want to stay in one place too long and the pack was sometimes abused as I pulled on the support straps as I would fling it over my shoulder before securing it for the next leg of my trip. The top of the pack took abuse as well as I would duck in and out of low hanging limbs.
Finally the pack is waterproof and wasn't really tested other than one afternoon of showers which seemed to have no ill effects on the pack. So in conclusion if you are looking for a full size pack capable of sustaining you for any length of time on a pack in hunt or hiking excursion I highly recommend the Badlands 4500 (4800 actually with fanny pack).
Design 5 of 5 - Made with the hunter in mind I don't believe I could have found a better pack for the money are the class of pack I was looking for. It had features that were very useful, especially the smaller fanny and day pack characteristics. Unfortunately my trip was cut short by fire and I didn't get to test the 4500's ability for packing out game. The pack does have a meat shelf and accessories for just such occasions. But based on everything else I encountered in four days I am very much impressed.
Toughness/Durability 5 of 5 - This pack certainly lived up to its name. I was pretty abusive towards it and it stepped up to the challenges. From being tossed around to being stuffed full, the seams and material did exceptional for the circumstances. Also here is an impressive list of features found on every Badlands pack.
" Badlands Packs use only #90 thread " Badlands Packs seam tape every seam " Badlands Packs use #10 toothless zippers " Badlands Packs bar-tack all stress point with Arimid thread " Badlands Packs take every piece of webbing possible and run it into two seams " Badlands Packs sew over every seam at least three times (four or five in high stress areas) " Badlands Packs use proprietary zipper pulls that are molded with a special rubber that gets sticky when wet " Top lid turns into a fanny pack " Removable day pack (on the rear) " Polycarbonate frame system (twice the strength of aluminum at half the weight) " Badlands Packs offer an UNCONDITIONAL LIFETME WARRANTY. No matter who's at fault Badlands will fix
I would like to place an emphasis on the warranty. Even if you buy it at a garage sale and something happens, Badlands will fix it, most impressive!
Instructions/Manual 4 of 5 - If there was something lacking it was only an instruction manual for the pack. I could pretty much figure out all the accessories/features of the pack. This pack was sent to me directly from Badlands and not purchased at an authorized dealer. If I would have bought from a dealer I believe I would have had a thorough understanding of the features.
In conclusion I believe there is nothing more I can say about this pack except I look forward to using it on future hunts as well as testing the Badlands Monster Pack this upcoming Whitetail season.