Bowhunting.com Blacks Creek Antidote Backpack Review

Blacks Creek Antidote Backpack Review

Posted by: Steve Flores on Mar 13, 2014

Steve FloresWhen it comes to the way I bow hunt whitetails I guess you could say the process is sort of an enigma. What I mean is when you compare the way I hunt to the way the rest of the Bowhunting.com staff does the most common denominator is the game we pursue. After that our tactics and methods begin to vary greatly.

For example, steep, rugged terrain is the norm for me every time I walk outside and head to a stand. There are no open fields to stroll across, no scenic views, and most often every piece of gear I have is strapped to my back in an effort to remain as cool as possible during my walk to the stand. Sometimes my hunting areas are so far off the beaten path that hunting them for a few hours simply isn’t an option. As a result, all day sits become the only logical way to hunt those stands and therefore even more gear must be brought along because I must prepare for a number of situations. I guess this explains my fetish for backpacks. I look at them the way my Bowhunting.com brothers might look at food plot seed or the latest piece of farm equipment. In short, they are vital to my success.

The Black Creek Antidote

If you are in the market for a high quality, American made backpack, do yourself a favor and give the Blacks Creek Antidote a look.

The Problem

For me, when it comes to hauling in my whitetail gear I typically look for a backpack that is built for a Western hunter because we are very much alike. That comparison might sound strange but until you’ve hunted where I hunt you can’t fully understand the similarities. You see, many of my whitetail hunts require trips into the rugged mountains of southern West Virginia and with that come the same difficulties that many Western hunters face.

In a nutshell, I need a pack that is lightweight, can securely carry all of my clothes, my essential gear, food, water and also my weapon. It must also balance the load evenly across my back; allowing me to move faster without inducing fatigue. My pack also needs to be tough enough to withstand bone-jarring ATV rides over rocky hillsides and keep everything dry when exposed to rain, snow and mud. In the event I arrow a buck too far from an access road, my pack of choice must also be built to handle a boned-out whitetail. As you can see, typical, run-of-the-mill “whitetail” packs rarely accompany me into the timber. I need a little something more.

Wearing the Antidote Backpack

No matter what your chasing, if you hunt in mountainous terrain there is a good chance that you rely on a quality backpack to get you and your gear in, and possibly a big-game animal out.

The Cure

Aptly named the Antidote, Blacks Creek introduces a backpack that meets all of the challenges that come with big-game hunting in the West, or in my case, whitetail hunting in the mountains. With a robust 3,000 cubic inches of carrying space the Antidote tips the scales at a scant 5 lbs. When you consider the loads this pack is capable of carrying and the amount of space available, this is a very impressive dry weight. Compare the numbers to some of the other popular models on the market and see for yourself how the Antidote stacks up.

The Comfort Factor

It is one thing to build a lightweight backpack that can carry a large load, but it’s an entirely different thing to build one that can carry a large load comfortably. One of the biggest issues with a poorly designed backpack is that the load tends to shift while walking and fatigue usually sets in after a short amount of time. The Antidote addresses this issue with an adjustable Butterfly Harness System. This system serves two purposes. One it allows the user to custom fit the pack to their frame and second, it evenly distributes the weight of the load across the upper back and meshes perfectly with the scapula.

The Butterfly Harness of the Antidote

With its adjustable butterfly harness system, the Antidote can be custom fit to different torso lengths. In addition, the system prevents load shift during transportation of meat, gear or both.

The Butterfly Harness is adjusted by opening up the Velcro closure located on the center core of the pack. Once opened, the harness can be adjusted by sliding the Velcro tab through the desired horizontal webbing rungs and then fastening the Velcro back to itself. The butterfly portion of the harness is designed to spread the weight across your scapulars evenly. When loaded down, this prevents the pack from teetering side to side; the less “teetering”, the less fatigue.

The Butterfly Harness of the Antidote

The Butterfly Harness really adds to the Antidotes stability. It is one of the best load carrying packs I’ve tested in recent memory.

I tested this feature with all of my gear, a 50 lb. dumbbell and my Mathews XS strapped to the pack. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the load to shift from side to side. The butterfly system seemed to do its job by preventing any lateral shifting of the weight. I do acknowledge that the 50 lbs. was concentrated in a small space; not evenly spread out the way you would normally find in a loaded down back pack. However, I still think the test was a good indication of the Antidote’s ability to handle a substantial load and do it effectively. In fact, I think had the load been spread out, the results would have been even more impressive.

The Pack, a weight and a bow

I placed a 50 lb. dumbbell in the pack and headed into the timber to test the strength and stability of the Antidote. I was pleased with the way the pack handled both.

Top Storage

Storage is abundant on the Antidote. Starting at the top of the pack users will find a detachable lid that offers storage capabilities on the outside and inside of the lid. This is good for Western hunters who decide to drop the main pack when closing in on game; allowing them to move faster and with less bulk and then return at a later time. For me, the detachable lid offers a different advantage. While I rarely stalk whitetails in the mountains (different story for a different time), I routinely carry a loaded pack into the stand with me. As I alluded to earlier, this usually entails a laundry list of items. The problem for me begins when I reach my stand.

Detachable Backpack Lid

While the detachable lid addresses one of my biggest concerns regarding the use of large backpacks while hunting whitetails, it also compresses the load vertically as well as expands upward; allowing even more storage space when items are loaded into the main compartment.

Most often, when hanging a stand in hill country you will discover that you are not always above the whitetails line of sight. What I mean, is in steep terrain there are instances that I shoot whitetails that are standing directly in front of me; despite the fact that I’m 20 feet up in a treestand! Try to picture that for a moment. So, depending on the direction deer approach, there are times when they are looking directly in my eyes while I’m in the stand.

Therefore, it only stands to reason that any extra “baggage” hanging off of the tree will easily be spotted. So, while I need a large pack going in and out of my hunting locations, I absolutely hate to have that same pack hanging off of the side of the tree with me; increasing the odds that I get busted. The detachable lid solves this problem beautifully.

Main Storage Features

The Antidote provides easy access to the main compartment by means of opening the weather guard collar located on the top of the pack. The weather guard collar also expands upward (in tandem with the detachable lid) which also increases loading capacity. The collar is closed using a drawstring system and seems very durable.

Assessing the Backpack

The main compartment of the pack is accessible through the top of the pack and is a perfect location for elk quarters, camera equipment, clothing or anything else you want to haul.

One of my favorite features of the Antidote is the side entry, vertical zippers located on each side of the pack. This allows access into the main compartment even while the lid is closed and compressed. Gone are the days when you have to remove everything inside of the pack in order to find that one item you need (usually located in the bottom). Instead, simply unzip one of the side-entry zippers and you can quickly access your item of choice no matter where it is located. Also, these dual, straight, vertical zippers allow entry into the pack without the need to remove your weapon. ANTIDOTE 7 The side entry zippers located on both sides of the pack insures quick and easy access to the contents inside; dumbbell not included.

In addition to the main storage compartment, the Antidote comes with an optics pocket which is located on the exterior face of the pack. This pocket comes with dual zippers and can be opened from the top or the bottom. Inside the optics pocket are two additional pockets perfect for smaller items that you wish to keep close at hand. Located on the outside of the optics pocket are two additional storage pockets.

The Optics Pocket

The optics pocket is large enough to handle spotting scopes or even camera arms depending on what your situation calls for.

The outside of the pack comes with 6 compression straps which is great. In my opinion you can never have too many compression straps. And, in order to keep everything nice and neat, the excess strap material tucks neatly away in a simple, Velcro enclosure system. When the load gets heavy, users will appreciate the load lifting and load shifting straps located at the top of the pack attached to the frame.

These straps adjust to lift the weight of the load upward and relieve pressure from your shoulders and hips. The waist belt on the Antidote has a similar system that attaches to the frame and pulls the weight inward toward the hips. I experimented and played around with this system until I found the most comfortable position while the pack was loaded. A little adjustment here and there really did make a difference in how the load felt.

Improvements

No pack is perfect so I’m not going to act like this one is. However, it is dang near close. If I could change one thing about the Antidote it would be to replace the bed roll straps with those that have a snap closure. The current bed roll straps force the user to compress clothing (or whatever else is being hauled) and slide it in between the straps. Even worse, if you choose to undo the strap and open it up, you have to compress the load while fidgeting to run the strap back through the clip, then pull and secure the load.

In my experience, it is much easier, not to mention allows bulker items to be used, when you can lay your bed roll or clothing across open straps, compress the load, snap the closure, and then simply pull the compression straps further if needed. All of the other compression straps on the pack come with snap closures except for the bed roll straps. I agree this is not a major worry but something I would like to see changed.

Full Picture of Open Backpack

The Antidote is also capable of carrying your bow or rifle thanks to the removable weapons boot.

Overall Impressions

While Blacks Creek may not have the latest celebrity spokesperson endorsing their packs that doesn’t mean they are producing sub-par equipment; quite the contrary. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find a more rugged, highly functional back pack that is also lightweight and carries heavy loads with as much ease as the Antidote. This pack will perform anywhere a heavy load is the rule. That might be on a Western bow hunting adventure for elk or in your very own steep, rugged back yard. Either way, Blacks Creek has the Antidote for whatever situation you find yourself in. Don’t overlook them. The MSRP $350

 

KEY SPECS

  • 3,000 CUBIC INCHES
  • 5 LBS
  • 1000D Cordura or 3 Layer Tricot fabric construction
  • YKK Zippers
  • Internal Frame
  • 9 Pockets
  • Possum Tail zipper pulls
  • Bow/Gun Boot
  • R7-2 waist belt
  • MSRP $350

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