Blackhawk Hunting Packs BlackOak Fanny Pack
By Chuck Hawks
I wear a fanny pack to carry the essentials that I think I need when hunting, so when Blackhawk Hunting Packs (the Company motto is "Honor as a way of life") offered to send me one of their BlackOak hunter's fanny packs for review, I jumped at the chance. When it arrived a couple of weeks later, I was astounded. The padded belt and back pad assembly attached to the BlackOak is bigger and heavier than my entire fanny pack! The BlackOak fanny pack has as much capacity as my "hunting and 72 hour emergency" daypack. I proved this by emptying the contents of the knapsack into the BlackOak with room to spare. In fact, I can stuff my old hunting fanny pack (filled), including the binoculars and hunting knife dangling from its belt, into the BlackOak along with the contents of my knapsack. (See the article "Deer Hunting Gear: A Minimalist Approach" on the General Firearms and Shooting Page for a list of all this stuff.)
This is a truly huge fanny pack and there is a wide (7.5" tapering to about 3.5"), thick layer of padding intended to cushion the small of the back and encircle the waist. The approximate outside dimensions of the cargo carrying pack itself are: 18" long, 8.5" wide and 8.7" deep, not including the thick side pads and belt assembly. Its "wingspan" from tip of side pad to tip of side pad (not including the belt) is about 33.5".
The BlackOak is not for the lazy hunter who wants to travel light. Rather, this fanny pack is for the hunter who wants to carry everything but the kitchen sink on his or her person. It weighs about 2-5/8 pounds empty on my scale. That is about two pounds heavier than the empty weight of the soft leather fanny pack I usually carry in the field. Filled with all the stuff mentioned in the paragraph above, it weighed 10 pounds.
The BlackOak supplied for this review is made of tricot fabric that is water resistant as well as softer and quieter than regular pack nylon or Cordura. It is dyed in an Advantage Max-1 HD camo pattern, although Mossy Oak Break-Up is also available. I was not able to find a tag anywhere stating where the pack was made. Nor was I able to find that information on the Blackhawk web site (www.blackhawk.com). In any case, the BlackOak appears to be well made, with double stitched seams where strength is required and tough looking nylon zippers.
Here is the way Blackhawk literature describes the BlackOak: "A must-have for the hunter on the go; gives you the cargo space and versatility to change from season to season." The features of the BlackOak fanny pack include:
The BlackOak is really the heart of a packing system. It integrates with a number of available at extra cost Blackhawk accessories, including the Organizer Pouch, Muzzleloader Pouch, 10 cartridge holder, Nalgene Bottle Carrier Pouch, Turkey Organizer Pouch and Rangefinder Pouch.
In addition to all of the above, there are two mesh pouches inside of each of the external compartments on the ends of the pack and tie down straps across the top of the pack so you can lash on something too big to fit inside. These might work well for a hunting jacket on a warm day if the BlackOak's main compartment was already full. There are two layers (yes, an inner layer and an outer layer!) of what look like nylon cartridge loops on the super-wide, padded belt. I found these to be about right for 20 gauge shotgun shells; a AA battery size MagLight would also probably fit in these loops.
Most "fanny" packs are actually worn in front to give easy access to the contents, but the BlackOak is clearly designed to be worn in back. It is simply too large to comfortably wear in front. This means that the BlackOak must be removed to gain access to the contents. You will also need to remove the BlackOak to enter a vehicle. The 50mm Stealth quick-release (Fastex type) buckle at the ends of the two inch wide nylon front belt makes this less trouble than it might be otherwise.
The BlackOak will have to be worn outside of your hunting coat, as there is no way you are going to be able to zipper your coat over this fanny pack in inclement weather. I conducted a non-scientific test of water resistance by simply pouring a glass of water over the BlackOak. The water beaded and ran off and the cloth remained dry. I guess I will find out how waterproof the BlackOak is in the real world this fall when the deer hunting season opens in my rainy home state of Oregon.
In conclusion, the BlackOak is a well thought out, excellent design that covers all of the possible bases. Its limitation is simply its size. I would like to see Blackhawk introduce a scaled-down, 1/3 capacity version without the heavy back and side padding. A simple two inch wide nylon web belt with a 50mm Stealth quick release buckle would do nicely. Such a "BlackOak Jr." could be worn in front for easy access to the contents and it would allow the hunter to get in and out of vehicles with the pack in place and generally be more active.
Copyright 2008 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.