The 2,000 CI is the most versatile size of pack for dayhikes, hunting, camping. Everyone needs one, but there can be big tradeoffs. Closet space. Cheap frames. Poor load support. Bad construction.
There might be an answer – the Black’s Creek Remedy 7 Answer – a backpack that zips right onto the well-made Grip frame, but folds so small you can pack it in your base camp pack.
I will explain why I chose to buy this pack out of the thousands of available 2,000 CI (32.8 L) backpacks. I am an avid outdoorsman and hunter with quite a large range of packs. When I was looking at my overstuffed gear closet, my previous experience with the American-Made Black’s Creek Remedy 7 Solution came back to me. I knew they made a range of different pack sizes that were all designed for the Grip frame. Since the bulkiest part of a pack is really the frame and belt, and the hardest part to get fitted and comfortable is also the frame and belt, it seems so obvious.
It all clicked for me. I could follow up on my Grip frame investment with a daypack that would allow me to economize on space, give me consistent fit with an already comfortable frame, and on top of that would be made right here in the US. So I bought this pack, and immediately freed up quite a bit of room for gear!
Made in the USA and designed for a lifetime of heavy field use, this 32.8 L (2,000 CI) backpack is built around a cutting-edge modular pack system. The backpack itself has lots of pockets, heavy-duty Cordura fabric, a hunting-specific design, and the ability to expand to hold game or even roll-up to be stowed away. It goes for $475 with frame on Amazon, or direct from Black’s Creek for $450 with frame or $200 without. The Grip frame alone goes for $250. It comes in Coyote Brown, Realtree Max-1, and Predator Deception.
Here’s the specs from the manufacturer:
- 2,000 CI (32.8 L)
- 7.5 lbs (3.4kg)
- 1,000D Cordura
- Military grade hardware
- YKK zippers
- 9 pockets
- Internal optics pocket
- Main compartment access in front
- 6 compression straps
- Bottom accessory straps
- Expandable side water bottle pockets
- Detachable rifle/bow boot
- Rainfly pouch (rainfly not included)
- 3L Water bladder pouch (water bladder not included)
Optional gear includes hip belt pockets, rainfly, bladder, additional shoulder padding, etc.
This review will be a little different than my usual gear review. Typically I get together with some folks and we spend 2-6 days in the backcountry hiking, hunting, trekking, camping, and putting the gear through its paces. This time, however, we decided to test two different scenarios with this pack.
Scenario 1: Standalone usage. We took this pack for a variety of hikes and a bike ride, aiming to get a feel for the day use aspects. We then took it for an overnight to see how it stood up.
Scenario 2: Deployable gear usage. We took this pack along – packed in with other gear, and then deployed it for hunting and dayhikes based out of a basecamp. Not something you can do with just any pack.
As always, we’ll cover these sections: Fit, Build, Comfort, Performance, Hiking, Hunting, and Value.
On to the Review!
- First: Fit
If your backpack doesn’t fit and you can’t easily adjust it, what’s the use of owning it?
This pack attaches to the Black’s Creek Grip frame, which I covered on the Remedy 7 Solution review, so no surprises there. The butterfly pads, heavily padded waist belt, and ladder like back adjustment worked just as well as before. This Grip frame adjusts just like every other Black’s Creek pack – via an adjustable butterfly shoulder system. You just undo the velcro and move the back up and down on the ladder-like setup. This worked well on the Antidote and Solution pack.
Not many 2,000 CI packs are adjustable at all, however, so for the Answer this means you’re getting all the nice comfort options of a full size frame without lugging around a huge 7,000 CI pack.
All three of our testers really liked the fit and feel of the Answer pack. To quote one tester directly “It hardly feels like I’m carrying anything”, despite having a full 3L water bladder and basic hiking gear.
The adjustable shoulder straps, belt, and butterfly pads put this backpack far ahead of the crowd when it comes to daypacks. Even though the Grip frame isn’t as adjustable as some INCH packs, it trounces everything in the small pack market.
Fit Score: 9.5
- Second: Build
Durability, weight, design, layout, and comfort are all vital to a backpack
The build quality on the Black’s Creek bags is always fantastic. These are heavy-duty bags meant to take a serious beating. You can drag them, take them through canyons or sharp plants, sit on them, and treat them roughly. They’ll just stand up to abuse other packs would be damaged by. The Answer pack is no exception – the 1,000 Denier Cordura offers extremely high abrasion resistance with reasonable weight. The zippers and buckles are good and solid, I haven’t had issues with either. All seams are fully taped and sealed, and provided pretty fair water resistance. There is, of course, a rain fly pocket for the optional rain fly included at the bottom.
The bi-directional tube routing, plethora of pockets, compression straps, zip AND clip down top flap (with its additional pockets), and highly expandable design earned it top marks from me. I’ve rarely seen a small pack with so many useful details, especially not in one that rolls down to the size of a shirt.
Build Score: 9.8
- Third: Comfort
Comfort is highly subjective, and this bag did very well with our testers
There were a few disagreements on the comfort provided by this pack. One person believed it was a little too stiff for a daypack, another believed the shoulders were a bit too wide. We all agreed it was comfortable, however. For a daypack, the Grip frame does feel slightly unusual. It’s clearly designed for bigger and heavier loads, which is why it feels optimal when paired with a big backpack.
“I found this pack to be extremely comfortable with no load or full load. The straps sit well above my shoulders, the load lifters worked well, and the Grip frame distributed the weight properly. I liked the little touches like the pull-forward straps on the waist belt and the thumb loops on the shoulder straps. These made it fast and easy to get comfortable, and it never shifted once it was set. No gimmicks, it just worked.”
Comfort Score: 8.5
- Fourth: Performance
How a bag lives up to its potential on the trail makes the difference between a bag and a backpack. Can it really improve your trip, or does it just get the gear there?
My testing buddy, who came out for a multi-day trip with a duffel bag for the basecamp and an Antidote for the hunting and day hikes had an a lot of interest in my ability to just pack away an entire daypack in my gear. He also had this interesting comment on the solution of using two packs on the same frame: “If you think hiking has a season, that isn’t the pack for you, but I need one”
I have a lot to say about the performance of this backpack. We put it through a few more hoops than usual, and it exposed some flaws and some brilliance.
- The Flaws
- The hydration bladder compartment is very roomy, and designed with 2 dedicated side hangers and a center hanger that also serves as a top clip for the main compartment. This is a great design, allowing for a lot of bag flexibility, but on the 2015 model of the pack there is no tie-in to the frame. This results in the top of the bag sagging and making it difficult to operate some of the top zippers unless the bag is flat. This will be addressed in the new version of the pack, and Black’s Creek has told me that they will happily retrofit this fix on existing bags, free of charge. I’ll be getting mine fixed shortly.
- The pull-open zipper compartments are an excellent idea on paper, and they mostly work. This is similar to the tri-zip design Mystery Ranch is known for, and it works about as well. Which is to say that while it usually works perfectly, it fails just often enough to be annoying. I love the idea and I hope they keep it up – it just might benefit from a little more fine-tuning.
- The Brilliance
- The pockets on this bag are just genius. I found them to be well designed, well laid out, and I was able to organize my gear very efficiently. I have a pocket for medical supplies, a pocket for my toiletries, a pocket for my rain gear, a big roomy main container, and you can find whatever you’re looking for really fast and easily. The top pockets have water resistant backing to reduce rain penetration, and that means that you can really keep stuff safe.
- The side pockets are expandable. Not “elastic material” expandable like you usually see in small packs – these things are the real deal. They are heavy duty, extremely deep, have expansion zips on the sides, compression straps, and an adjustable top closure. I’ve never felt a need to really comment on a water bottle type pocket before. You can carry anything from a 2L Nalgene bottle to a little bottle of hand sanitizer, or even something with hard edges like a folded stove or tripod and never worry that it’ll damage the stretch fabric or make it saggy.
- The bottom compression straps are such a big thing for me. The simple addition of two underside compression straps means that this little pack can easily have a full sized tent, bedroll, sleeping pad, or anything just snugged up on the bottom. It really expands on the usefulness of the pack.
- The Grip frame expandability. Right now, I can’t seem to find another pack that can work like this – Black’s Creek pretty much owns the market for it. Because of the Grip frame, you can take this little pack, unzip it, expand the compression straps, and fit game, gear, anything you like between it and the frame. You could head out for a day of hunting with just water and essentials, get lucky, and return with the majority of a deer strapped securely to your pack. No need to lug around a full pack for hunting.
- The zip-down and buckle down top flap with pockets. Nobody ever seems to bother putting a pocket on the underside of the top flaps – you usually get a little map pocket, and that’s it. The Answer has 3 pockets in the top flap alone – a top/front access pocket that you can reach while wearing the pack, a water resistant map pocket underneath, and a long slim water resistant pocket down the inside. It’s a great use of normally wasted space.
- The ability to roll down an entire full-featured daypack to about the size of a rolled up shirt. I haven’t seen any other real daypacks that can do this. The Solution comes with a little micro-daypack that is useful for taking items around with you, but it’s not the sort of thing you’d be willing to overnight with. It’s just a hiking pack. This is the whole kit and kaboodle right here.
- The Grip frame itself is brilliant, and of course is what makes this all work so well.
Performance Score: 9.7
- Fifth: Hiking
If hiking is your main focus, you probably care about this section quite a lot. This is about how well the bag gets your gear to the site, how comfortable it is all day, and how you feel about putting it all back in the bag the next morning to hike to the next site.
Hiking with the Black’s Creek Answer backpack was very pleasant. The pack didn’t move around much; it just stayed where it was put. Compared to the more traditional day packs, I found it was less fatiguing because it didn’t rest entirely on my shoulders and ride up and down as I moved. It actually rode like an empty full-sized backpack. The pack doesn’t have a tiny and mostly useless belt, but a real hip belt that actually took the load off my shoulders. The low profile of the backpack meant that it didn’t snag on anything, and stayed close to my back nicely.
There is a pretty wide range of fits and features in this size – some 2,000 CI (33L) packs are basically just up-sized versions of hydration packs, while others are purpose-built. The Teton Sports Canyon 2100 is an example of a purpose-built 2,000 CI pack. The Osprey Manta 36 is an example of an up-sized hydration pack. The features of the Answer pack are much more like a down-sized full backpack, having the stability and comfort that comes with real adjustability and sizing plus actual padding, lots of pockets, straps, and features. Like the Canyon 2100, this pack holds a lot for its size, and makes hiking very comfortable and easy. Like the Manta 36, it is very expandable. The Canyon 2100 is narrower, lighter, cheaper and more maneuverable than the Answer, being a pack purpose built to be this size. The Answer inherits the robust design features of the Solution and Antidote, coupled with the full-sized frame, making it heavier but more scalable.
Hiking Score: 8.0
- Sixth: Hunting
This is where it all comes down to stealth, performance, and maneuverability – but none of that means anything if you can’t get yourself there and then get back loaded down with game.
Black’s Creek makes Hunting gear. Make no mistake – that’s their focus. The Answer pack holds up that part of the bargain better than any other pack this size on the market. It’s quiet, small, stealthy, and expands like nothing else so that you can come home with the kill.
The included bow/rifle foot works perfectly. The compression straps make it very easy to attach a bow or rifle securely to the pack, and remove it smoothly – though it’s almost easier to stow your weapon on your buddy’s pack (and his on yours) if you want fast access to it. Firing while wearing this pack is not quite as easy as it is with the Antidote, since this pack feels a bit wider, and makes it a little harder to take the shot.
All in all, this is my new favorite hunting pack.
Hunting Score: 9.5
- Finally: Value
It all comes down to this. What are you really getting for your money?
I’m of two minds about the value of this backpack. If you own a Black’s Creek Grip frame already, this is an obvious buy. Go now. Buy it. I’ll wait…
If you don’t own anything by Black’s Creek yet, I wouldn’t make this the first purchase. This is not a solid stand-alone product, but rather an add-on for folks who have already invested in their other excellent gear. It’s really about leveraging a great investment and getting a lot more use out of a feature nobody else can touch.
As a person who already has an excellent Black’s Creek Solution pack, I am 100% delighted with the Answer. It is, indeed, the answer to my storage and gear versatility issues. Spending only about $40 more than I would on lousy hydration pack and instead getting a great small pack that leverages my favorite backpack frame is one of my better investments.
Value Score: 8.0