UPDATED ON: May 1st, 2015
I can still remember my first experience with a Badlands backpack. It was several years ago and I was in Texas on a whitetail hunt testing a new bow sight that had yet to hit the market. All of the writers in camp, including myself, were given a gift from the hunt sponsor. That gift was a Badlands Diablo backpack. And even though I was hunting in flat terrain, I was very impressed with it. However, after returning home I realized exactly why that pack was built and just how effective it was in the rough mountains of my home state. Today, it is still one of my favorite packs. That is until the Badlands Summit arrived.
A New Era
The Summit was built to replace a legendary pack in the Badlands lineup….the 4500. Without a doubt those are some pretty big shoes to fill. After all, the 4500 was arguably the pack of choice for more guides and Western Hunters than any other pack on the market. However, the Summit fills those shoes and then some with a newly designed suspension, lighter weight and new pack material that is teeming with technology.
The Badlands Summit is the predecessor to the highly acclaimed 4500 and is one of the best Western or Mountain packs on the market.
Top To Bottom
The Summit has so many features it is probably easier to start at the top and work my way down. Up first is the removable lid. This is one of my favorite features. The removable lid serves several purposes. First it allows you to stuff any number of essentials in it, dropped the main pack, and take off when you need to close the distance to your target in a hurry. The Lid has a large storage compartment on the inside and a smaller zippered pocket on the top. Together they provide ample room for food, clothing or whatever you deem necessary to have at your fingertips. This feature is also great for guys like me who hunt whitetails in mountain terrain. It allows me to drop the pack when I reach my treestand and simply carry the lid up with me. This drastically diminishes the chances of being spotted by an approaching buck. You see, hunting whitetails in the mountains is unlike hunting them in flat regions of the country. Quite often I take uphill or dead-level shots from a treestand!
The removable lid has plenty of adjustability which allows for even more storage space when/if the contents of the pack overflow the main compartment.
Zip It Up
The main body compartment on the Summit is built for two things; maximum storage and easy access. Thanks largely to the vertical zipper that runs half the length of the pack, users can easily open up the Summit and reach the contents inside. The top of this compartment has an expandable “storm collar” that, in conjunction with the expandable top lid, provides a great deal of additional storage space; 14 inches to be exact! The top can also be closed with the provided roll-top buckle system.
In addition, users can access the main body of the pack without removing the lid thanks to the two-way zippers that run the length of the main compartment. It is little things like this (and many others) that make this pack so great.
The main compartment of the Summit is huge. Bowhunters have enough room to pack for any and all weather conditions as well as carry boned out meat after tags are filled.
Inside the main storage compartment you will find a 95 oz. hydration bladder pouch as well as an innovative vertical compression strap that lifts and pulls the main body of the pack up and into the back wall of the pack frame. This feature adds greatly to the Summits ability to carry heavy loads comfortably.
Located on the outside of the main compartment is a second unit that offers a plethora of organizational options as well as more storage space. This “piggy back” compartment is great for those smaller items you want to keep organized yet close at hand. When I’m hiking a long way into my hunting area I find this to be a great place to keep a second, fresh base layer that I can change into. Of course, I stuff the soiled base layer in a scent proof, zip-lock baggie.
The second storage compartment offers 3 additional pouches (2 zippered); adding further its load carrying capabilities.
Moving around to the sides of the Summit you will find 2 very large, very long “optic” style pockets that can easily carry a spotting scope, camera tripod, or any other item you can stuff inside of it. The pockets are roughly 25 inches long x 8 inches wide so there is plenty of room no matter what you throw in there. The side pockets come with 3 compression straps that run the length of the pocket. However, the last compression strap actually runs underneath the side mesh pocket allowing easy access to gear despite the fact that the compression strap is cinched tight; for example when carrying a rifle or any other item on the outside of the pocket.
Plenty of backpacks come with side compression straps but how many use some of the strongest, most flexible material on earth to hold your valuable gear in place? The Badlands Summit does.
The side compression straps, as well as the rear compression strap, AKA “high stress” areas, are all attached to the back pack with Hypalon; one of the highest strength, most flexible materials known to man. In other words, the Summit isn’t going to fail you. I find this comforting; especially when I have my Mathews strapped to the rear portion of the pack. After all, the last thing I want or need is strap or material failure resulting in a dropped and damaged bow rig; it is game over after that.
However, in true Badlands fashion, the company didn’t just simply sew this Hypalon material to the pack using any thread. Instead they chose plastics. Actually, it is Arimids. Arimid threads are some of the strongest substances known in the science world. Just a single strand of this “super” thread can lift 110 lbs. and are easily located by their yellow color. The reason for the color is due to the density of the thread. It is so dense it cannot be dyed.
Hippy Hippy Shake
I have several backpacks that have pockets on the waist belt. The only problem with them is I need eyes on the side of my head and arms that stretch like rubber bands to actually reach them. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I put on the Summit and was able to reach the waist belt pockets. These large pockets are great for grunt tubes, calls, extra headlamps, GPS units, etc. The pockets are also reinforced near the zippers with the Hypalon technology. If I could change anything about them it might be to add a small zippered compartment on the inside. Honestly though, I’m just being picky because I can’t find anything about this pack I dislike.
Bottom But Not Last
Located on the bottom of the Summit are two gear lashing straps, or bed roll straps, that are perfect for attaching sleeping bags or extra clothing. The fact that these straps actually open up means one thing….you can pack a lot of gear down there. I have loaded an insane amount of clothing on the bottom portion of my Diablo simply due to the fact that these straps have a snap closure. This allows you to lay your gear on top of the straps, compress it and then “snap” the strap closed.
The bedroll straps on the bottom of the Summit offer an additional, immeasurable amount of carrying space; adding more to the 4700 cubic inches of storage capacity already available.
Composite Back Bone
The heart of the Summits load carrying abilities is the lightweight, high strength Polycarbonate Frame located beneath the new AirTrack suspension. This suspension system is designed to maximize air flow along the back and hips and increase overall breathability during those long hikes to secluded hunting locations. The Polycarbonate frame is also removable for those times when you may want to wash your backpack.
The “spine” of the Summit is a lightweight, removable Polycarbonate frame that fits the contours of your back nicely; allowing heavier loads to be carried with less effort.
When the engineers at Badlands set out to replace the 4500 one of the goals was to lower the overall weight of the new pack. The Summit achieves its lightweight design (3lbs. lighter) thanks largely to the fabric. This fabric, 900D Ripstop, is arguably the strongest, quietest most water proof fabric in the hunting world. On top of that, its Teflon membrane allows it to remain soft and subtle in even the coldest environments.
The Summit’s 900D Ripstop fabric is quiet, ultra-light and water-resistant. What more do you need in a pack material.
I have seen a few reviews from other bowhunters who complained about the added noise associated with this pack. In all honesty I think the increase in noise between the Ripstop fabric and other fabrics is minima at best. In fact, I found that the more gear I stuffed into the Summit the quieter it became. After all, if an animal is close enough to hear the faint noise of my backpack it should be dead anyway. In my opinion noise is a non-issue with this pack.
The Summit is loaded with features that will help make it more comfortable to use. For starters the pack comes in two sizes, Medium and Large, to fit a variety of torsos. Second, the shoulder straps are more slender and feature an adjustment system that allows users to raise or lower the position of the strap for a more custom feel. In addition, Badlands load lifter straps (located on the top portion of the pack) are great for pulling the load closer to the back and transferring weight straight down to the hips. In addition, the front chest strap is highly adjustable thanks to a movable, hard plastic rail system. This allows users to find the perfect location for the front stabilization strap. Like I said….it’s the little things.
The Summit has enough adjustability (like the shoulder strap adjustment shown here) to make it the perfect pack for just about any body type.
During testing I placed a ton of gear inside the Summit. I added a 45lb. dumbbell on top of all of that and began playing with the adjustment features until the pack felt perfect on my back; then I did some hiking. I can honestly say that at no time did I feel like one part of my body was handling all of the weight. The Summit did an awesome job of distributing the weight evenly across my shoulders, back and hips. As a result, fatigue was kept at a minimum.
Over the years I have found Badlands packs to be thinner and lighter than most others on the market. This allows them to sit closer to my body’s natural center of gravity which means I can carry heavier loads more easily and efficiently. The Summit personifies this technology in the fact that it has so much carrying space, yet looks and feels extremely thin. I mean it is one thing to build a pack with 4700 cubic inches of space, but it’s an entirely different thing to build one that is streamlined and fits the contours of your body. This model does both extremely well; all while tipping the scales at just over 6 lbs.
Although the Badlands Summit is drench in exclusive technology that will ultimately make you a better bowhunter, it is the attention to detail and the “little things” that make this a dynamite backpack.
The second thing I noticed about this pack was how “neat” and organized it is. There is nothing I hate more than a backpack with a dozen or more straps dangling off of it. Sure every pack has straps, but not all packs have a method for keeping the excess strap material tucked away nice and neat. For example, the compression straps that are attached to the removable lid don’t simply dangle off of the pack. Instead, they run the length of the pack and are tucked away beneath the Hypalon material attached to the piggy-back compartment. Other excess strap material is attached to itself yet is easily moveable thanks to a bungee-like attachment system.
The new AirTrack Suspension on the Summit makes those climbs in and out of big timber more tolerable and much cooler.
In short, the Summit is just plan wicked when it comes to carrying insane loads in a package that is sleek, lightweight, extremely functional and highly adjustable. Truthfully, I can’t find a single fault with this pack. It is the perfect replacement for the legendary 4500. Badlands describes it as “One Bad Mo Fo”….I would have to agree.