Let’s get the day thing out of the way with regards to outdoor pursuits.
Camp is the place in the outdoors where you play and sleep. If you don’t sleep there, it’s called day camp. There is no such thing as (or pressing need for there to be) a sleepaway camp. It’s a redundancy as we already have a perfectly good word for the place in the outdoors where you sleep … it’s camp. I’m not sure how sleepaway camp ended up in the English language. Continual infantilization of language maybe.
I’ll admit that sometimes you end up sleeping over at a day camp, but that has an easy wordy solution, “We went to the day camp, but suddenly found ourselves surrounded by angry bees so we were stuck inside and ended up staying at the camp for several days.”
Now, if you are heading to a day camp or just spending a day in the woods, then you need something to carry your stuff. And that something is a daypack. Whether scouting, hunting, fishing or hiking, daypacks have just enough space to carry all your immediate needs yet remain light enough not to burden you.
I needed a new daypack and SJK Gear was kind enough to send me their Hone Backpack to try. While they call it a backpack, due to its size and weight – 3.3 lbs. and 33 liters – I really think this falls into the daypack category. Of course, the first thing I did was overload it for a weekend fishing outing. “I took that daypack out for a fishing trip but found myself on an island surrounded by angry brook trout, so I ended up using the pack for several days.”
Daypacks are challenging things. Too small and they are useless, too large and you end up filling them with things you don’t need. I gravitate to a slightly larger option as I tend to overpack and the Hone fit my needs perfectly. It carried two rods, reels, fly fishing equipment, waders, boots, a change of clothes, simple food and water. It was well loaded but immediately comfortable when I threw it on my shoulders with no dead space under the straps. Once it was cinched down, it stayed in place. Under load and with the hip and chest straps secured, I had no issue moving quickly or bending over. The pack stayed where it should, and the combination of the aluminum stay and HDPE frame sheet kept the load manageable.
Unusual in daypacks, there is a second smaller pack – they call it a Beavertail – that attaches to the main pack via compression straps and secures either a rifle or rod between the two. There is a pouch at the bottom that holds the butt of the gun, bow or in this case, two rods. Additionally, the bottom straps on the beavertail can be tightened while the upper straps remain loose to create a shelf to load in bulky items or packed-out animal quarters. Though I didn’t try it, my guess is that you can fit a small tent and bag in there.
Gear Carrying System
Some will say that the option to carry a rifle isn’t necessary or useful in a daypack and that a sling over the shoulder is better. Sure. But for rod cases which are a pain in the ass to carry, it’s unbeatable. I have other packs that hold rods along the sides, which work fine but I found this to be less of a burden and felt that the rods were a little more secure.
There are two pockets on the beavertail with a groove between that can be used as a rifle rest, as well as two large pockets on the sides and two smaller pockets on the hip belt. The main compartment has a clamshell opening which allows easy access to the inside, though you would have to unclip the beavertail to fully open it.
Lightweight and reasonable means certain sacrifices. I would have loved beefier shoulder straps attached to the pack instead of the 2” webbing, as I have had light packs fail there before. I think it would have benefited from being slightly longer. It is 21.5” tall with a width of 15” and depth of 11” and with the hip belt properly cinched, the pack sits lower on the back. Adding a few inches would have also allowed the shoulder straps to come into the body of the pack versus the top as they do now and have something for a rain cover to catch on. Tougher double zippers on all the compartments would be great. There is a lot of molle webbing, but to me this is just for show. For a hunting pack, I don’t want that many things bouncing around on the outside of my pack.
Under load and in warmer weather you will sweat, and the back panel just isn’t designed to wick and disperse excess moisture, and I felt that after an hour of hiking.
Some have said that the material isn’t ultra-quiet – bow hunters be warned – and with the hip pockets full, your arms will rub and make noise. But how often are you stalking with a full pack? I really think this is a non-issue. I will take it into the woods during deer season, so I may change my mind on that. But I doubt it.
It’s a good-looking pack but it would be much more versatile and attractive in a solid color. Camo in a field pack is overrated and I feel like an idiot walking through an airport with a camo pack. SJK Gear reached out to say that they are continually evolving their packs, so maybe there will be some solid colors coming.
The Hone is an affordable – retail of $169.95 – and solid, lightweight pack with a well-thought-out option for carrying a heavy load and awkward gear that will cover you for a day in a deer stand or weekend fishing trip. I’m really happy to add it to my collection of useful things. As I write this, I am packing it up for a few days of salmon fishing on the Mörrumsån in Sweden.
I’ll just have to deal with the airport stares.