SJK Bounty 2.0 Backpack Review
by Matt Cashell, Rokslide Staff
The day was cloudy and bitingly cold. My son James was shivering in his boots, but still peeking through his binoculars to the expanse of snowy burn below us. At 12-years old, this was his first year chasing elk. We had hiked about four miles in calf-high snow that morning, and finally setup the spotter on a rocky point we refer to as “the glassing spot.” I had already been picking apart the tumbled mess of sticks for about a half an hour when I realized my fingers were going numb.
I looked back over my shoulder at James, still shivering in the cold,
“Want to build a fire?”
The author’s son fights some high-country snow in his first-ever elk hunt
I was ready for a warm-up too. I left the spotter there and swung the shoulder strap of the SJK Bounty 2.0 Backpack over my shoulder. The Bounty, dressed in Kryptek Highlander camo, had a dedicated side pocket for a spotter—it was just enough room for the Swarovski ATX 85 to fit tightly. The spotter pocket doubles with a wing-type feature as well, compressing any long items you need in the slot pocket behind. I used this area for my trekking poles. The other side has a corresponding above-and-below pocket combination about the same size as the spotter pocket that also has the wing-type functionality and corresponding slot pocket. I kept the tripod in the slot on that side and used the upper pocket for water bottles and lower pocket for my first aid/ fire starting kit.
The Bounty 2.0 offers convenient wing-style exterior pockets for easy access to optics and accessories
I pulled my fire-starting kit out of that pocket. James eagerly awaited while I used a tablet to get some red needles going. It didn’t take long and small orange flames were rising along with my son’s spirits. Over the next hour, we took turns going out to the glassing area, and returning to the sheltered fire. On my next trip out to glass, I noticed a couple cows moving through the burn. This hunting district allowed youth hunters ages 12-15 to tag either sex elk, so we decided to make a move if we could. Unfortunately, they were feeding away, so we decided to wait it out and see what else would come out of their hiding holes.
Back to the fire and it time for a snack. The Bounty 2.0’s large main compartment has a U-shaped zipper that can open the Bounty 2.0 like a suitcase when laying the pack on the suspension. While I had the pack open getting my lunch bag out of the main compartment, I grabbed my puffy jacket to further ward off the chill.
A big U shaped zipper offers suitcase-like access to the Bounty 2.0’s main compartment
On the next trip to the spotter, I found two bulls about two miles away bedded in the burn. James wasn’t certain if we should leave the warm fire, but we decided to make a move on the bulls anyway. All the gear was back in the Bounty 2.0 and we were on the stalk. About an hour later, and we were all warmed up from hard hiking through snow, but finally peaked over a cliff to find the elk had moved off, as they often do.
After spending some more time glassing we decided to make our way back to the glassing spot, and to James’ delight, rekindle the fire. Once again the spotter and tripod were easily accessed with the bounty 2.0’s convenient design. Additional glassing turned up more elk, but they were too far to make a move in those snowy conditions. One particularly large group of 50-60 was lined out and moving several miles away.
As the afternoon light started to dim, we decided to work our way back towards the truck, hoping to catch some of those moving elk. I slung up the pack and tightened the HDPE-reinforced padded hip belt using the proven power-pull function. SJK shares their heritage with Kelty, and benefits from their decades of experience making backpacks, including the power-pull hip belt.
The SJK pack relies on Kelty’s excellent power pull design for effective belt tightening
I offered to carry the rifle for my now-tiring 12-year old, and put it in an underarm rifle carrying accessory that I had attached to the PALS webbing on the right side of the hip belt. The Bounty 2.0 has PALS webbing all over the pack making it extremely adaptable. The Bounty 2.0 offers its own weapon-hauling system, in the form of a pouch on adjustable webbing that come out of the back of the pack with a corresponding webbing loop above. The idea is the rifle butt rests in the pouch and the stock is secured in the loop, so the rifle rides between the main pack and the removable daypack. I tried it with my rifle at home, and found that it held the weapon securely. However, it was kind of cumbersome to the get the weapon out of the carrier, so I opted for the third-party gun carrier accessory in the field … for the most part (more on that later).
The SJK offers sturdy PALS webbing for accessories like a third-party gun carrier
With the rifle stowed away under arm, we started the snowy trek back to the truck. As we eased through a strip of green timber next to an open burn, I caught a glimpse of movement in the burn. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed a cow feeding undisturbed about 300 yards away. I quickly grabbed my rangefinder out of the Bounty 2.0’s left side hip belt pouch. I scanned the burn and saw two more elk, spikes, just 140 yards away. I quietly dropped the Bounty 2.0 to the snow, and got James into position resting against a burnt tree. His 7-08 barked once and a fat spike dropped in his tracks.
The left side of the Bounty 2.0 has a sewn-in pouch for quick access storage
Celebration ensued, and it was difficult to work on the carcass with the interference of a serious case of dad-pride, but with darkness increasing, the practicality of getting the elk to the truck became a priority. I somehow managed to get a cell phone call out to good friends that were about 2 hours away, and they were soon on their way to help.
The author’s son was fortunate to tag this bull on his first year as an elk hunter
I pulled the Rokslide Kill Kit out of the Bounty 2.0 daypack, and quickly had the elk dressed. I dropped the heart and liver into a game bag and put it in the main compartment of the Bounty 2.0. Given the slope and snow, we decided to give dragging the elk a try. I knew dragging the elk with the rifle underarm would not work too well, so I moved the rifle to the bounty 2.0’s weapon carrier. This turned out to work very well, keeping the rifle safely stowed away while we fought the elk over burnt logs and stumps. I was pleasantly surprised, and thankful, at just how useful it was.
The author was initially skeptical of the Bounty 2.0’s weapon carrier, but he ended up putting it to good use in the field
It was quite a battle getting that elk down the mountain, and about halfway down, I decided to cut the elk in half for the remainder of the drag. Just after completing the that task, I was happy to see the headlamps of our friends coming to us through the dark. With the arrival of the Calvary, it was a much easier pull the rest of the way, and my son’s “first elk” adventure was complete.
The hunt allowed me to get to the see the pros and cons of the SJK Bounty 2.0. The materials and construction were top notch and stood up well. SJK lists the weight specification at 6 pounds 15 ounces. My scale read right at 7 pounds. A full 1 pound and 1 ounce of that was the removable daypack. The load lifters did a good job pulling the weight in and over the hip belt. While I didn’t haul quarters in the pack utilizing the load shelf feature, I did test it out with my 60-pound sandbag. The pack frame is fully independent and can serve as a dedicated hauler, or use the pack as a compression component.
The pack performed admirably, as I could adequately secure the heavy load and get the weight on the hip belt. The adjustability of the suspension made for much better fit compared to other mid-priced bag-on-frame designs I have tried and seemed much more competitive to the high end made-to-order packs I have used. I did have a few occasions where I had a small amount of shoulder discomfort, but I am still fine-tuning the suspension.
The Bounty 2.0 has a detachable daypack offering additional organization, compression functionality, integrated rifle rest, and can be left at home for a lighter starting weight
Overall, the mid-price backcountry hunting pack market is an interesting place, where most packs have nice features, good materials, and solid construction. Their Achilles heel, however seems to be comfort and heavy load performance. The SJK Bounty 2.0 makes good headway in this area, and is currently the best mid-priced pack I have tested, and makes for a legitimate cost-saving alternative to the high-end packs, with a bit of a weight penalty. Retailing at under $300.00, backcountry hunters on a budget should find it a solid choice.
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