Can I backpack with SlingFin’s Honey Badger?

One of the things I love about the Honey Badger is its versatility as a bike pannier, a stylish yet durable day pack, and an urban tote bag. But I wanted to make sure it could also hold up on a backpacking trip. Why not get 4 birds with one stone, right? The SlingFin guys let me try out the Honey Badger, and I put it to the test on the Skyline to Sea trail (in our case, we chose to take the Sea to Skyline direction), a 30 mile thru hike from the surfers at Waddell beach through the redwoods at Big Basin State Park, and exiting out at Bay Area rock climbing hotspot Castle Rock.

First obstacle: Would all my gear fit?!

I’ve been downsizing my gear little by little for quite some time now, getting my base weight to 12–14 pounds depending on the pack weight. And since I’m already on the ultra-light spectrum, my gear had no problem fitting in the pack.

Just a note about my gear, my brother carried the rest of SlingFin 2Lite Trek since I had all the other gear. However, the 2Lite could fit inside of the Honey Badger, too, as long as I strapped my water bottles to the outside.

If I didn’t have any ultralight gear, I would need to strap some items on the outside of the pack to make this work.

Second obstacle: Would it be comfortable?!

Hiking 20 miles on the first day, I would be hitting that constant stride with no breaks and having a comfortable pack was key to maintaining that pace. At first, my shoulders hurt — I have quite sensitive shoulders and prefer no weight on them at all. I was able to adjust the hip belt to take more of the weight, and because the frame of the pack is pretty tall and super stiff, I could completely reduce the weight on my shoulders. No discomfort for the rest of the trip!

The biggest place for improvement here would be to swap in a backpacking belt with easier strap adjusters, pockets, and padding. And that’s what is so great about this pack — the versatility allows you to actually swap that in if you wanted.

Totally got some style points

One of the biggest draws of this pack is the ability to express myself on the pack. SlingFin has been touting art on the outside and LED lights on the inside, which are awesome, but really all I wanted to do was put a nostalgic Philmont Scout Ranch sticker on it. I’ve never been into showing off fancy brand names, but there was something quite satisfying about being able to put that sticker on a surface that others would see.

Also, when we blazed past a group of Scouts, we heard one of the Scouts say, “Whoa check out that pack.” If a teenager thinks it looks cool, it must be cool!

Lantern, Bear Bag, oh my!

We pulled into camp pretty late, and my head lamp and extra batteries were both dead since I forgot to swap them out from my last trip. As a result, I was depending on my cell phone flashlight which gets cumbersome when you need two hands to set up a tent. I experimented with different ways to create a lantern with the Nalgene water bottles, and then I remembered the Honey Badger defracts light really well and it became a large lantern/campfire for all of us!

We also used the Honey Badger to hang our food up. We figured that if a squirrel or mouse got to it, a solid plastic case would be better than a bag. The best part is, I just took the stuff sack out and used it as a backpack to get back to my tent with the rest of my gear. I didn’t think I’d use the stuff sack for that purpose, but I totally needed it when the Honey Badger suddenly became the bear bag!

Is the Honey Badger for you?

If you are an outdoor-urbanite like me that rides their bike to work, absolutely. This won’t just be one of those specialty pieces of gear that doesn’t get used, but it will be used every day on your commute, in the office, and when you hit the trail.

If you’re a hiker that wants some new flavor, a canvas for self-expression, or you’re a tinkerer or lifehacker, then this pack is also for you. I’m excited to go to the SlingFin warehouse and play with their tools and start drilling holes to set up an LED display and attach some extra straps.

I’m a hiker and a tinkerer/hacker, and I really feel like SlingFin made this pack for people just like me, and hopefully for you too!

Overlooking the Santa Cruz mountains
Left to Right: James (Honey Badger), Andrew (Z-Pack), Simon (ULA), Konstantin (some other pack :-P)

— James McBryan

Founder of Track it Forward, GroupCarpool, The Breakaway, and Prep.a.Trip
John Muir Trail Class of 2009, 2013, 2017
Philmont Scout Ranch Class of 2000, 2002, 2004
Eagle Scout