The big bag. The one you’ll take across continents or on multi-week treks across wilderness. The bag that says you’re serious enough about this trip to require a passport and general delivery. The I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) pack. This time – the Black’s Creek Remedy 7 Solution. Is it the solution for you?
When you’re ready to buy a backpack that’ll last more than a season, something you can really rely on when the chips are down – you don’t go to your local mall or big box store. You need something with a lifetime warranty made of the best materials with the best craftsmanship. I have just finished a short 4 day trek with the Black’s Creek Remedy 7 Solution in rain, wind, lightning, and sun and I’m ready to share first impressions. Naturally, there will be followups over the next few hundred kilometers.
This 100% US-Made backpack weighs in at a hefty-seeming 4kg (9lbs). It is designed to handle massive loads of gear and game, more than my knees can handle. It goes for $500 complete in Coyote Brown, Realtree Max-1 camo, or Predator Deception camo. That’s for the complete frame and pack – it’s only $250 if you already own the Grip frame, but more on that later.
Here’s the specs from the manufacturer:
- 4,800 Cubic Inches (78.6 Liters)
- 9 lbs (4kg)
- 1,000D Cordura
- Military grade hardware
- YKK zippers
- 14 pockets
- External optics pocket
- Sleeping bag compartment w/built in water resistant stuff sack
- Detachable lid
- Detachable day pack
- Detachable rifle/bow boot
- Main compartment access in front and top
- 6 compression straps
- Draw string weather collar top
- Rainfly pouch (rainfly not included)
- Water bladder pouch (water bladder not included)
Optional gear includes hip belt pockets, rainfly, additional shoulder padding, etc.
This review will be a lot like the previous pack reviews, and cover these sections: Fit, Build, Comfort, Performance, Hiking, and Value. This is being done by two people over a four day hiking trip, so we’ll be covering ground, hiking then re-loading and swapping packs half-way through to get a good comparison. This means both of us got a chance to carry the pack under heavy loads. We covered about 32 km (20 miles) of ground and 670 m (2200 feet) of elevation going down the Arizona Trail from north-west of the San Francisco peaks down to Marshall Lake.
We carried a LOT of gear. Honestly, far too much. I was able to fit my usual load-out into this pack with so much room to spare it was laughable, so in order to test it properly I then added my wife’s usual load-out as well, a 2-person tent (the Teton Sports Mountain Ultra 2) plus extras of everything. With water and far too much food, that brought my pack weight up to 20kg (44lbs). This was not happy going on my knees, so I plan to never carry this much again – but there’s no doubt this pack will carry everything including the kitchen sink.
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 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 pack, but it’s not as adjustable as some of the other packs. It is however, a lot simpler.
There were no fit or comfort issues with my pack. The weight was a bit much for me to carry this distance, but the backpack itself couldn’t have cared less.
- Second: Build
Durability, weight, design, layout, and comfort are all vital to a backpack
This pack lives up to exactly what I want from gear Made in the USA. It was fully taped for proper water resistance, well thought out, versatile, and solid.
Let’s go over some of the basics:
It has a great little daypack for taking water and basic items while stalking, tracking, or doing a little sight-seeing. The daypack has the huge centerline zip, plus some pockets on the other side. It also serves to stabilize the pack when you’re hauling out game.
These yellow tabs and the great zipper pulls make it super easy to work with, the buckles are small but solid.
There’s also the Grip frame itself – similar in concept to the Mystery Ranch NICE frame, but far better in implementation.
As you can see here, and in a great little video on the Black’s Creek website, the Grip frame is not only extremely fast and easy to access (just 2 zippers and 4 clips), it also has a well-designed shelf and straps for carrying game. It takes just a moment to add/remove a pack from this, swap a different pack onto it, or load it up with game and then reattach your gear. Superb, absolutely superb. I hope the other companies are taking notes, because they just got schooled.
The Solution pack itself boasts exceptional storage room, lots of pockets, an easily removable top bag with an interior well-sealed map pocket, and every single amenity I could think of asking for. The hydration routing works well, and it can carry 2 bags side by side, but one hangs just fine if you pack the gear around it well.
The sleeping bag compartment with built-in water resistant stuff sack worked really well to compress and protect my spring/fall sleeping bag even in the rain.
- Third: Comfort
Comfort is highly subjective, but for once we agreed entirely
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. I’d like to be able to say more, but my feet still ache from carrying all that weight over that giant mountain.
- 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?
It rained on us, thunder rolled all around, and we almost got caught above the treeline by lightning. I was always optimistic that the rain would pass quickly, eschewing my rain fly or rain gear. It never passed quickly. Despite my stubbornness, I came through it with no leaks in my pack. The only wet things were the ones I was wearing. All of my gear performed exceptionally well – I just couldn’t have been happier. The pack didn’t chafe when it was damp, and dried out quickly when the rain did let up.
My enormous 2-man tent disappeared into the cavernous mouth of the Solution without a trace, which kept it well secured and completely out of the rain. Thanks to dry nights, I never had to worry about putting wet gear back in. 4 complete outfits fit easily, along with my mess tent and large med kit. There was nothing I had to debate leaving behind when I packed this bag. The side zippers had good access to the interior and didn’t even leak.
With my usual load-out (more appropriate to a Black’s Creek Antidote or Teton Sports Hiker 3700), I’d happily add half a deer to this pack.
I took no special cautions with tree branches, rocks, or setting it down willy-nilly. Not a scuff or mark mar the 1000 Denier exterior.
- 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.
Easy to load, easy to pack, nice on my back. My feet are sore, but my back, shoulders, and hips are all just fine. I can’t think of anything better to recommend a backpack than that. It is a breeze to access gear and the only thing I’d like to see is perhaps some hip-belt pockets. Which are available for an extra fee.
The bag is clearly more focused on hunting, but I feel that they left no stone unturned making this comfortable for hikers too.
- Finally: Value
What are you really getting for your money?
Here’s the deal – $400 to $500 is what you’re going to spend for any INCH pack worth having. That’s just economics – and with a lifetime warranty and an expectation of 10+ years of use easily, it’s really about $50 a year for a bag. That’s not much. Arc’Teryx wants $480 for their Altra 75, Mystery Ranch expects $600 for the Marshall, even Osprey – made in Vietnam – asks $330 for the Xenith 75.
Price and build wise, Black’s Creek stands easily with them all, and is made right here in the USA. Idaho, to be specific. The Grip frame is either a $250 investment which allows you to swap out several different packs, or just an excellent part of a frame depending on perspective. Only the Mystery Ranch pack of that whole list allows you to swap out packs, meaning that on features alone those two companies are ahead of the pack when it comes to future proofing and versatility.
In my considered opinion – you are paying a very small premium for a US Made backpack that leads on features, durability, and quality. All you are losing is some trendy gadgets that were designed to appeal to bored latte drinkers at Outdoor Gear shows.
To me, it’s obvious that the Black’s Creek Remedy 7 Solution is an amazing pack worth every penny. So what are you waiting for?