Let me just come right out and say it, I freaking love this pack. A lot of gear is personal, and packs are definitely one of those items. What works for me, may not work for you. The same can be said of boots and many other gear items. Keeping all of this in mind, the Badlands 2800 is perfect for me and the type of activities that I take part in. So, what do I love about it?
Size. Badlands lists the pack at 2875cu, which is a bit misleading when you determine just how the pack is built. When I compare the 2800 to other packs with similar capacity, the 2800 just blows it away when it comes to carrying loads. I can get some really great loads in the 2800 that would cause the other packs to burst a seam. Part of the reason for this is the pack’s “wing” or “hinged” design. Two of the external pockets swing open and leave you with a great way to store gear “in” the pack, but not enclosed into the pack. This feature really shines for items like tarps and other gear that doesn’t fit will into a pack, or that you may not want to enclose in a pack for other reasons (moisture, stench, dirt, etc). This brings me to…
Versatility/Organization. I have a bit of OCD when it comes to having things a certain way. (Just ask my wife!) When I have a pack I want it to be versatile, yet structured. The 2800 gives me this. There are so many various ways to carry gear in the 2800, and at the same time there are also essential organization elements built-in. The 2800 has a great water bladder. The bladder shape is square, instead of long and skinny like a CamelBak reservoir. This square shape keeps your water close to the back, and keeps it riding high where your heaviest weight should be carried. The 2800 also features a cradle that can be tucked away, or deployed to carry a rifle or bow. Remember that wing designed I mentioned? It really comes in handy when carrying your rifle or bow. By opening up the wings and placing the bottom of your rifle/bow in the cradle, the 2800 creates a secure and protected way to carry your precious equipment. One other feature of the 2800, which many users don’t even realize is there, is a nice little pistol holster built into the inside of the waist straps. While this holster isn’t perfect, it better than almost all other ways to carry a pistol without having your pack interfere. Having this holster built-in to the pack is only a plus. Speaking of the hip straps, I also love the integrated zippered pockets. They are perfect for keeping frequently accessed items handy. I always keep my camera, compass, and wind indicator in them. Throw in the dedicated sleeping bag compartment, built in rain-fly, and many other organization features, and you have made this semi-OCD man very happy.
Comfort. All of the other features I have mentioned so far are great, but if the pack isn’t comfortable those other goodies are of little value. The Badlands 2800 is comfortable. Very comfortable. I have done quick and light trips with 2800, and I have done long and heavy trips with the 2800, and whether I am hiking a steep ridge, or climbing a tree to my stand, the 2800 just fits. Now, as I mentioned earlier, this is one of the aspects of the pack that is personal. The 2800 doesn’t have and adjustable yoke system, so it isn’t going to fit everyone, but it sure fits me. The two things that stand out when I think of the comfort of the 2800 are: 1) The shoulder and hip straps. Both straps are adequately cushioned, without being too soft, and both are pre-curved to fit the contours of your body. I have found that the contoured and sculpted hip belt may be the most comfortable thing about this pack. 2) The back panel. Badlands also shaped the back panel to ride with the contours of your body. In addition, the back panel is also ventilated to allow air to circulate between your back and the pack. This ventilation would have to be one of my other favorite aspects of this pack.
I expect the 2800 to last many years, and with Badlands unconditional lifetime warranty to back it up, I am sure that it will.
Cons. Coming in at 4lbs 15oz, I wish the base weight of the Badlands 2800 wasn’t so high, though I do understand the reasons that it weighs in where it does. The fabric on the 2800 isn’t ultralight, but the trade off is that it is incredibly durable and virtually silent. Also, some of the weight comes in from the additional features: built-in rain fly, stout padding, variety of organization, etc. For a pack with this intended use, and for the way in which I hunt, this is a trade off I am willing to make. If your primary use of the pack won’t be hunting, you can definitely find a similarly sized, and more simply designed, pack that weighs a fair amount less. I would also be looking for a better weight-to-size ratio if I were using a pack for extended (5-10 day) trips, but that isn’t what the 2800 is designed for anyway.
The first broadheads I ever shot were Rage 2-blades that a good friend of mine gave to me when I got my bow. They Rage’s were accurate but the o-ring containment system bugged me. After having some blades deploy before and during flight I knew that I wanted to seek a good fixed blade alternative. I loved the simplicity of fixed blades, but I had heard some bad stories about their consistency and accuracy. I messed around with a few different heads and finally settled on the G5 Striker. I loved the combination of a strong fixed, yet replaceable blade system. The G5 Strikers are also fully spin tested from the factory, which is very important in assuring that you are getting a good shootable head out of the box. After adjusting my rest just a bit, I had my bow tuned and both the G5 Strikers and field points hitting together at point of aim.
I only got to use the Strikers on one kill this year, but it was a nice clean pass through with an impressive amount of internal damage. The industry can come out with whatever fancy new mechanical broadhead they want, but a tuned bow and a strong fixed blade broadhead will do it for me.
If you are interested in a head like the Striker, but aren’t looking for a replaceable blade design, the G5 Montec is also a great head. Also, the new Montec CS (carbon steel) is scary sharp and easily sharpened with a flat stone.
Cons. I wish the Striker was more easily sharpened without disassembling the head, but again I understand why it is designed the way it is. The replaceable blades don’t sit flush with the cut-on-contact tip; both of which can be sharpened, but not at the same time due to their offset from one another. Disassembling and sharpening the head and blades is still rather simple, but a head like the Montec that can be sharpened without any fuss definitely has its advantages if you are going to be sharpening blades and not replacing them.
This year was my first year bowhunting, and my first year hunting from a tree stand. I grew up hunting with my Grandpa, from the ground. Last August, after just spending hundreds of dollars on buying my bow and getting it setup, I just happened to see a tree stand for sale in someone’s driveway while driving around checking garage sales. I ever so subtly mentioned to my wife that we should stop and check that sale out. I made quite the nonchalant move towards the stand, hoping to find a ridiculously low price that I could talk my wife into. Approaching the stand I realized that it was a hardly used Summit Viper. At this point I didn’t know much about stands, but I knew that Summit had a reputation of making great climbers. Long story short, I talked the woman running the garage sale into selling me her husband’s “useless” stand to me for $70.
The Summit Viper is a two piece climbing stand with all aluminum construction, weighing in at 20lbs, and has a weight capacity of 300lbs. My garage sale bargain came as a new Viper does, with all of the necessary instructions, disclaimers, ropes, and harness. Having not used a climber before, I found the instructions pretty clear, with the exception of working with the harness and safety ropes. Attaching the stand to the tree is dead simple and fairly easy to do even in the dark. Climbing with the Viper is also easy if you have the Rapid Climb Stirrups, which are now a standard feature on new Viper stands. My Viper was an older model that did not come with the stirrups, but simply used a bungee system to secure your feet as you climbed in the stand. I added the stirrups and let me tell you, they are worth the $20 if you don’t have them already.
Once in the tree, hunting from the stand is very comfortable. The seat height can be easily adjusted, and the fully enclosed design makes for a worry free hunt when you are swaying in a tree 25′ from the ground. Having a deer right under your stand makes you appreciate just how quiet the Viper is, even if you are shifting positions, or moving from seated to standing. The wrapped padding on the aluminum construction is a great feature for both padding and insulation from the cold metal on a frosty morning. I found the platform to be plenty large and to easily accommodate a variety of positions that are important when you are in the stand on a long hunt.
Packing the Viper in and out of the woods is made fairly painless due to its design which allows the top and bottom section of the climber to nest within one another. The Viper also included straps to wear the stand like a backpack. I typically don’t use this feature, simply because I am usually already wearing my Badlands pack into the woods. I like to sling the tree cables over my should and carry the stand on my side.
Tips. Over the first several times that I used this stand I have found out a few tips that may be of help if you are just getting started with one.
– Number one, ditch the odd metal hook system that is used to attach the harness to the fall rope. Replace this hook with a lightweight climbing-rated carabiner that is much lighter, has a lot less bulk, and is much easier to slip into your fall rope.
– Number two, absolutely positively make sure that before you climb you have the bottom piece of the climber secured to the top piece in some manor. This is a easy step to forget, but it is critical for your safety. If for whatever reason your bottom piece slips down the tree while you are hanging from your top piece, you are going to have a fun time getting out of your tree safely. Summit provides an rope that is intended for this purpose, make sure you use it!
– Number three, many guys tie their haul line to their belt or harness while climbing the tree. I have found it is much easier to tie the haul line directly to the bottom piece of the stand. In this manor, your haul line isn’t getting tangled up in your way while you are climbing, and yet it is still easily retrieved when you reach your desired height in the tree. When it comes to tieing off your haul line, and securing your sections to one another, I recommend you use a bowline knot.
Cons. As with the Badlands 2800, weight is a consideration with the Summit Viper. Twenty pounds is nothing to scoff at, but also as with the Badlands 2800, I understand why the weight is what it is. The Viper is stoutly built, it is spacious, and it is secure. You can find lighter stands out there, but you will be making a compromise in build quality, space, or security to be sure. The only other consideration I have is that the tree cables will definitely lose their plastic coating over time, and as they do the stand will become nosier to secure to the tree, though it should not effect the noise of climbing or using that stand once it is set.