I sure didn't see this one coming. Most of BLACKHAWK!'s packs are specifically designed and built either for military usage or what I would refer to as "high energy" outdoor activities such as rock climbing or endurance sports. This Sling Pack obviously isn't meant for such activities. My first thought when I saw it was, "Blackhawk is making a bookbag?" In reality that's almost what it is perfectly designed for although it certainly has many outdoor activity uses as well. Let's take a look.

Before I get into the specs of the pack I wanted to let you know that this is the pack I carried around SHOT Show 2010 with me. Many people hadn't seen it before and I got a lot of questions about who made it, where I got it and more. Rather than having to answer all those questions I just put a patch on a patch pannel, attached the patch panel to the pack and carried it around. The patch provided the manufacturer name (BLACKHAWK!) and their SHOT Show booth number. I made an observation as I attached the patch panel and I'll share that a bit farther down when we discuss pockets and pouches.

As you can see from the picture above, the Sling Pack is exactly that: it's not made to be worn / carried with the weight on two shoulders like most packs. As the trend grows in contemporary society, BLACKHAWK! recognized it and filled a product need. In doing so they made it their own by incorporating features no other sling pack I've seen does.

The first design feature I liked was the shoulder strap itself. This pack is not just designed for right-shoulder carry, or for left-shoulder carry, but for both. Adapting the buckles from their tactical holster platforms, the shoulder strap runs down from the top center (where there is also a looped carry handle) toward the bottom center of the pack. There it ends in the female end of a buckle. From both bottom corners extends a strap that ends in a male buckle end and that strap is adjustable for length from about one inch up to about a foot and a half (for those of you well heavier or more muscular than myself). If you want to carry the pack on your right shoulder, hook it to the appropriate bottom strap. Switch bottom straps for your other shoulder. Pretty cool, eh? But wait, there's more...

The shoulder strap's main body - the piece that extends down from the top of the pack - is covered with STRIKE (MOLLE) webbing. Past experience has shown me that hearing my cell phone anywhere inside of SHOT Show is a lost cause unless the phone is somewhere close to my ear. I attached the BLACKHAWK! GPS pouch (which perfectly fits both my phone and my digital camera) to the sholder strap with some of the company's speed clips and found taht I could hear my phone just fine. When I slung the pack the GPS (phone) pouch was just in front of my shoulder putting it about six to eight inches below my ear.

Like the face of the shoulder strap, the entire outer face of the pack is also covered with STRIKE (MOLLE) webbing. That said, here's my continuation of thought from above. When I put the patch panel on the outside face of the pack, again using their speed clips to attach it, I found out that it was wide enough that it stretched across four (or more) STRIKE webbing attachment points. If you look carefully at the photo of the pack you'll see that there's nowhere on the pack's face that you can span four attachment points without crossing a zipper. On the face of the pack there are two zippers and both open the same pocket. Which side do you want to access it from? Decide that before you mount anything that will cross over a zipper.

The main body of the pack allows for about 800 cubic inches of storage and, as you can see from the photo above left, has a couple of organizational pockets inside. Two zip closed while the other has an elastic pull-string closure. Note the two gear hooks near the top interior of the pack - perfect for hanging keys or other objects. With the pack's complete clam-shell opening design you can literally lay this pack down, zip it open and fold the top / flap completely back out of the way to load or unload your gear.

I was slightly surprised to see that this pack is not set up for carrying a hydration system. I mean, that's one of the signature design features of a BLACKHAWK! pack, right? Instead, obviously with the market in mind, this pack has a small port incorporated that would allow you to run headphones or other small wired devices, from inside the pack to outside up near the carry handle. Such allows you to carry your iPod or other electronics inside the pack in that top interior pouch and run the wire out so you can listen to your tunes.

All in all the pack served me very well at SHOT Show. At home I can see it serving well in the role of a book bag, relaxed office "briefcase" or laptop bag, or as a general carry all. MSRP is just under $110 but I'm sure you can find a better price on it if you search the web a bit. For more details and specs about it check out BLACKHAWK! online.

Happy Trails!