An important part of any camping/hiking trip is the bag you use to haul your gear. On my recent vacation at a family cabin in Minnesota I packed a full duffel bag of clothes and toiletries, but I knew I’d need a second bag for day hikes and bringing supplies to neighboring cabins for picnics and parties. I’ve had a decent bag since college that I love, but it’s getting old and never really held a whole lot. It was intended for a few schoolbooks and pens, and not hiking supplies, so I thought I’d bring something else along this year.
Obviously, I needed a tough bag. No one wants a bag that’ll fall apart on them. We have a few brands that provide durable options, but Blackhawk has always impressed me. I’ve checked out various pieces of Blackhawk gear in the past, and not a single item could be classified as less than impressive. I’ve been wanting to put one of their bags through its paces, and not just take a quick look in the office, so I perused our various Blackhawk Bags. There are currently 78 options, which is somewhat daunting at first, but as so many of their bags are pretty specific to particular purposes I could exclude some, like the A.L.E.R.T. Bag (too big for a quick hike, though I did consider it as a suitcase. It holds a ton.) and the Tactical Long Gun Drag Bag, as I wasn’t going to be carrying any firearms.
After seeing so many options, I realized I needed to think some more about what I was looking for. I like to go for shorter hikes, and I want to be super comfortable every step of the way. I wanted a lightweight bag with good straps. My old bag is a messenger bag, so while I really liked the Cover Carry Messenger Bag I wanted to try something different.
The bag that finally caught my eye was the Blackhawk Sling Backpack. I’d never actually seen it in person before, but when I pulled one out I knew I had a good bag for my needs. It has a single strap, which I prefer, though for longer hikes it can get be a hassle to switch the bag from shoulder to shoulder. This turned out to not be a problem for me though, as the strap on the Sling Backpack is wide and padded. In addition, the waist strap allows you to secure the bag to your body very snugly. This eliminates any jostling or shifting. It takes a bit of adjustment though, as the waist strap can be both lengthened and shortened, as well as moved up and down along the main strap. This is nice, and once you have it set you should be good to go.
I used the Sling Bag a few different times. When I was driving up to Minnesota it was on the seat next to me, and I used it primarily for hauling snacks. I had a couple books and headphones in there as well, but I was driving so I didn’t really need access to them and they were placed at the bottom of the main compartment. The bag was perfect for quickly grabbing a snack, as it opens really wide and has easy to find zipper pulls. I could be in and out of the bag in no time without having to take my eyes off the road.
As well as it performed as a convenient travel bag, the main reason I took it was for hiking. The Sling Backpack is fairly compact, and while it rode a bit high on my back, it was super comfortable for longer treks. I packed a few basics for my hike: water, snacks (trail mix, Rice Krispies Treats, etc.), my Streamlight ProTac Flashlight (I hiked during the day, but if I got lost or hurt a flashlight is not only helpful for finding your way around, but also for signaling for help), some bug repellant bracelets, a few first aid items and my Wiley X Sunglasses. Much of the trails I regularly hike have heavy tree cover, so I rarely really need sunglasses, but from time to time I hit the main road and like to shade my eyes.
I set out on the trail with a few cousins, who range in age from 5 to 35 years old, and we had a great time. The air was cool in the shade. A steady, constant breeze made it difficult for mosquitoes to bother us. I hardly felt the bag after a while, and the waist strap made it easy to run impromptu races up hills or past trees. My 11 year old cousin Katie is fast as the wind (she already runs 5ks in about 20 minutes), so I needed to sprint full out without worrying about my backpack to beat her. I don’t like to lose, and she knows I won’t go easy on her.
The BlackHawk Sling Backpack had a ton of room, it was super easy to open and use, and the strap was incredibly comfortable. The only thing I regretted about it was that there was a ton of MOLLE Webbing that I hardly used. The only thing I had that could attach to it was the carrying case for the Streamlight ProTac Flashlight. I always like to use every part of a bag to its fullest extent, but I really didn’t get to do much with this. If I was hiking at night I’d actually have attached the flashlight to the MOLLE Webbing that was on the main strap that came across my chest. That would put it right at my fingertips when needed.
All in all, I was quite impressed with the BlackHawk Sling Backpack. I wish I could’ve used the MOLLE Webbing a bit more, but other than that it was more than strong enough for everything I carried. The important thing to remember with this bag is that its made for speed and mobility. You can really get around while wearing it. If you need to haul a sleeping bag, lots of clothes and supplies you’ll need more room, but for everyday carry, either for school or when you want to stay mobile, the Sling Backpack is a fantastic choice.