At first glance, the Slumberjack Rail Hauler pack looks a throwback to external aluminum frames from two decades ago. However, this pack is much more than it seems. It incorporates some very well designed features and is one of the most versatile packs I’ve ever used. The Rail Hauler is designed to carry up to 200 lbs. I haven’t tested it to 200 lbs as I’m not sure my back wants to handle that much weight, but I believe the pack is capable of carrying more than I can (or want to).
The Rail Hauler is comprised of two pieces: the aluminum frame, and a 2500 CI roll top bag. The frame has integrated “wings” that will wrap around the roll top bag, or an elk quarter. A vertical strap also extends from a very strong aluminum load shelf to secure your load in two directions. While I’m yet to pack meat in the Rail Hauler, It has proven to be very capable of handling heavy and awkward loads by securing the wing straps and the vertical strap.
I often hunt with one hunting partner. Every year we find ourselves hunting mule deer. We often hunt 4+ miles from the road and from camp. When one of us knocks a buck down and the work begins, we don’t necessarily want to hike back to camp our gear at the kill site while we pack out the deer. So we bone out the buck, split the meat, cape, and horns between us, and try to pack it out in one trip. With two hunters and a sturdy pack — this is usually possible. The biggest issue with typical day packs is space. That’s where the Rail Hauler will be an excellent pack. You can remove the roll top bag, and place the meat on the load shelf against the frame of the pack. Then place the roll top bag on the outside of the meat and cinch it all down with the 4 available load straps. I feel very confident that this pack can handle this, as I simulated it while backpacking in the wind river mountains this year.
I wanted to put a few more miles on the Rail Hauler and test it out on a multiple night trip. The 2500 cubic inch roll top bag didn’t quite fit everything I needed to carry. So I added a dry bag with food and heavy items and loaded it against the frame, with the roll top bag on the outside. The load shelf was long enough to accommodate my entire load for a 4-5 day trip, and was comfortable – which is always a good thing.
The Rail Hauler also features an adjustable torso from 17.5 – 20.5 inches. The shoulder straps are very comfortable and the load lifters, lumbar pad, and hip belt made for a great ride every time. The Roll top bag also comes with shoulder straps attached so you can use it without the frame. Or feel free to use the frame without the roll top bag, and you have an awesome frame pack. (The Rail Hauler frame can be purchased separately).
The tall frame on this pack would prohibit you from shooting prone, or at really steep uphill angles with the pack on, because your head would hit the frame. Although the long length of the frame is very beneficial in providing lift and keeping your load close to your back and secure.
The pack weighs almost 7 lbs empty, so it is not extremely lightweight, although many packs in the 2500 CI class weigh between 5 and 8 lbs. The roll top back also features a weapon carry system for your bow or your rifle. It tucks away when you’re not using it and it is easy to forget it’s there. The pack does not have a lot of pockets. There are two slide in pockets on the inside of each wing (great for tripod and spotting scope), and a single pocket high on the roll top bag that is accessible from the outside of the roll top bag. In order to access this pocket you do have to remove the vertical strap on the outside of the bag. The hip belt is holster compatible and PALS webbing is also placed on the sides and top of the pack for attaching accessories. It is also water bladder compatible, and I often used my Geigerrig hydration system while wearing the Rail Hauler. The SJK Rail Hauler is available in
I picked up the Slumberjack Rail Hauler in early December — since December I’ve put over 120 miles in with this pack on my back carrying loads from 15 to 70 lbs. I’ve never once had an uncomfortable load and have been very impressed with this pack. I honestly didn’t expect it to function as well as it does and have recommended this pack to several of my close hunting friends who are looking for a great pack that still slips under the $300 price point.
While I haven’t had an opportunity, yet, to hunt with this pack. I have no doubts it will carry more than I can handle (120+ lbs). I love this pack for shed antler hunting!
The only change I might suggest for this pack it so place a pocket on the top of the vertical strap that can be accessed easily without un-clipping the straps that secure your load. Although adding an accessory pouch on the PALS webbing would easily take care of that issue and allow access to handy items.