A break for Blackhawk from designing tactical gear resulted in a line of packs designed for hunters and outdoorsmen. Today, we take a look at Blackhawk’s BlackTimber pack and give our impressions of its readiness for the field.
Mother Nature is a fickle lady that takes great pleasure in forcing hunters to change their plans. Head out for a morning hunt in beautiful weather and it will be pouring by afternoon. By the time you get to your deer stand you will remember what you left behind. Bag that monster buck and the nearest road will be miles away. All of these are good reason for a hunter to pack a bag to carry with him to the woods. However, it has only been the past year or two that companies have been designing packs based on the needs of the average hunter. Most hunters have been using packs that were designed for campers, hikers or the tactical market. Recently Blackhawk, noted for their tactical gear, has introduced several packs design for the needs of the hunting outdoorsmen. These packs carry over some of the features of their tactical line, but more so, they also carry the same quality level for which Blackhawk has been known. For the past few weeks I have had the chance to carry one of their BlackTimber models on a few trips to the woods and to really check out it’s versatility. As I mentioned, they have incorporated several features of their tactical line into this new pack.
A main item would be the hydration unit. The 100 oz. (3 liters) hydration bladder features a wide fill port and is made using Blackhawk’s anti-microbial materials. The unit also has a rotating bite valve and quick disconnect tube system. One new feature is the “holster” for the bite valve that is attached to the pack straps. Nothing is worst than pulling up your drinking tube only to find that your bite valve has been dragging in the dirt. The new holster keeps the bite valve in place and away from harm. The pocket to hold the bladder is in the main compartment of the pack, but unlike many packs, this one is easy to get to and removing the bladder for a re-fill is an simple matter. One thing to keep in mind when you use a hydration bladder over the standard water bottles, keep them clean. They need to be washed out and dried between uses or you will end up with a bag of germs waiting for you to take a drink.
The pack itself is rated to have 2,557 cubic inches of storage space once you expand the outside stuff pocket. There are also MOLLE straps on the side of the pack and on the waist belt to enable you to expand it’s uses with additional pouches. The waist belt is removable which is a feature I like. I find most waist belts just get in my way on short trips to and from my hunting stand but would want to use one on overnight trips or long hikes. The straps are padded and have enough adjustment for even overly large hunters. This comes in handy when you try to carry a pack while dressed for cold weather hunting. Too many packs will fit in the summer only to feel tight once you start wearing your winter overcoats. Both straps also have a non-slip surface to prevent your rifle’s sling from slipping off. The back of the pack has a “SpaceNet” molded panel to allow air flow between the user and the pack. Even in the coldest weather you can work up a good sweat getting to your stand or hauling off your kill. This ventilation will allow this moisture to evaporate rather than keeping you wet and cold.
Looking at the outside of the BlackTimber pack, you have several storage choices. Besides the MOLLE straps, there is an open pocket on the side. They are not that large but will hold the end of a tripod, machete or shooting sticks when used along with the compression straps. A bungee retention system on the face of the pack will hold an extra jackets or poncho in a convenient location for quick access. Loosen the compression straps and you will find a large stuff pocket between the main and secondary pouches. This can come in handy at times but remember that whatever you use it for will be exposed to the weather. While hiking to my deer stand I prefer not to wear my heavy outer wear and this open pocket would be the perfect method to carry it.
The secondary pouch can be opened with the dual zipper and is large enough to hold most of your small gear. Open the pouch and you will find four smaller pouches to help organize your gear. Also in this pocket is another zippered compartment. Open it up and there is a pull out hunter orange panel to add a bit of safety for those trips to and from the woods. I’ve never seen a Whitetail deer wearing orange and hopefully any other hunters in the woods will think twice before mistaking you for game.
On the face of the main pouch you will find another zippered compartment that is a little slim but can still be used to help separate your gear. The main compartment is 21 ½ inches high, 10 inches wide and about 5 inches deep. The overall size of the pack has plenty of room for a good weekend trip and if you need less room, the compression straps will make sure your load doesn’t shift around. A really nice feature is that there are rigid panels in both the back of the pack and in the secondary pouch. The pack keeps it’s shape even when empty. This may seem a simple feature but it does make loading and unloading the pack a lot easier. Construction is exactly what you would expect from Blackhawk, outstanding. I could not find a weak point in the entire system. The sample pack came in an Advantage Max-1 HD camo but these packs are also available in Mossy Oak or ARPAT camo patterns.
Of course the only way to really judge a pack is to take it out and use it. Any pack will feel good if there isn’t anything in it. Wanting to get a good feel for the way it carried, I packed for a weekend even though I only had a few day trips planned. Getting three days of food, an extra set of clothes, a poncho and emergency E-Wing shelter packed was not problem. There were still several of the smaller pouches open for items such as a compass, GPS and since this is a hunting pack, extra cartridges. The heaviest item of all was the full water bladder, but since all of my testing is being done in the middle of the Summer I was thankful to have every drop. One suggestion I would have to Blackhawk would be to make the side pockets large enough to hold an extra water bottle. Everything together brought the weight of the pack to just over twenty-five pounds yet it still felt comfortable. The wide shoulder straps are well design and deserve most of the credit. It did take a few days to get used to where I had packed everything but once I got the feel for it, getting to my gear quickly was no problem. To check the camo pattern out I placed pack in a setting where I had both greenery and dead leaves. The pack blended well against the dead leaves but did stand out against bright green leaves. But this won’t be a problem since hunting season always falls in the late Fall and early Winter.
Overall I was very pleased with the BlackTimber pack. Yes, there were a couple of changes I would make, but anyone who uses a daypack very often will always have their own ideas of what makes a perfect pack. If you are like me and can’t sew a button back on your own shirt, I would suggest the next time you’re looking for a good hunting pack, check out Blackhawk.
Blackhawk Products Group
6160 Commander Pkwy.
Norfolk, VA 23502