Eberlestock J104 Pack Review

Eberlestock J104 Pack

I picked up the Eberlestock J104 pack in the spring of 2006 because I was wanting a pack that could pack my gear and a first load of meat out in the first trip back to the truck.  (Click here for a link to the newer model, the J34.)  I have used this pack quite a bit and it is my ‘Go To’ pack for rifle hunts.  The newer model is called the J34.  The original concept is the same, but a few things have been changed or upgraded from the J104 design.  This pack lives up to its name of ‘Just One’ as being you only need one pack to go out and hunt with, and then pack out the meat. 

Pack Description:

The J104 is a top loading design with an attached top pocket.  There are two vertical large pockets running the length of the pack that are large enough to fit a small or tripod in.  These pockets have both vertical zippers and a horizontal zipper at the top of the pocket, allowing easy access into the pockets.  A key feature of the Just One pack is the vertical zipper that runs down the center for the length of the main compartment.  When this zipper is undone, the pack opens up to an even larger main compartment that will swallow an elk quarter or a lot of gear.  The back panel is a mesh material, allowing meat to cool if placed in the main compartment.  There are two large (2 inch diameter) horizontal compression straps that cinch up the gear.  The top lid pocket has a wide 2 inch strap that connects to a bottom flap of the pack. 

Another key, innovative feature of this pack is a built in rifle scabbard.  This scabbard carries a rifle or tripod very well and provides good accessibility.  One thing to note when carrying a rifle in a scabbard, is when the pack is taken off with the rifle in the scabbard, the pack can’t be set up right due to the scabbard hanging down.  When not needed, the bottom part of the scabbard folds up into the pack.  On the opposite side of the scabbard are two zippered pockets, a hydration bladder compatible pocket on top, and a smaller pocket below the hydration bladder pocket, great for carrying snacks or other small items. 

The J104 has a fixed suspension system (the newer J34 has an adjustable suspension) that utilizes 2 aluminum stays to give support to the pack.  (The newer J107 and Blue Widow packs have additional support built into the pack, making it even stiffer and more supportive capable of heavier loads.)  The hip belt is the standard Eberlestock setup that allows the webbing belt or the PALS/MOLLE webbing to be exposed to carry a myriad of pouches, holsters, or scabbards.  This belt is by far the easiest to attach a pistol holster or camera case to.  The load lifters on this pack are more load stabilizers and don’t really aid in transferring the weight from the top of the shoulder straps to the front of the shoulder straps and hip belt. 

There are multiple accessories  to go along with this pack, from a optional front panel that reverses from blaze orange to camo, the spike camp duffel that attaches to the outside of the pack or slides down in the expanded main compartment, accessory pouches, pack covers, and many other useful items. 

  • Built in rifle scabbard
  • Expandable to carry meat in addition to your gear on the first trip out.
  • Lots of accessories
  • Hip belt gives many options for attaching optional equipment
  • Heavy (has low capacity to weight ratio though which is good)
  • Suspension not adjustable
Uses and experiences with pack:

I primarily use this pack for when I’ll be out all day away from the truck while carrying optics, and plan on packing meat out of somewhere that a vehicle can’t get to.  This is my main go to pack for rifle deer hunts, and it does an excellent job.  It carries a tripod, 15x binoculars, hunt kit, food, water, and anything else I might need for a full day of hunting.  I feel the pack is a bit big for archery hunting, yet I have used it during archery hunts and I never really felt it hindered me.  The weight does tend to ride away from your back due to the scabbard, and it actually seems like the pack carries better with a rifle in the scabbard.  (The newer models have webbing loops that allow the horizontal webbing straps to cinch the load closer to the back.  See the Eberlestock website for more details.) 

As a side note, I have loaded this pack up for overnight (multi day trips) with hopes of using it, but it didn’t carry a 40-50 lb load as comfortable as the backpacking pack I was using at the time (Arc’Teryx Bora 80), so I never have used it for overnight or multi day hunting trips.  I always felt like the load was too far from my back causing me to lean forward too much.  A normal rifle hunting load with gear, optics, water, snacks, and rifle is normally about 30-40 lbs.  This pack handles that weight well, but in my experience, it starts to lose its comfort somewhere over 50 lbs.  The heaviest (weighed) load I’ve carried in this pack is about 80 lbs.  While it did the job of getting the meat back to the truck in minimal trips, I’ve carried more comfortable packs than this one with that much weight.  

Function and Activity Matrices:
(For a description of the rankings and the pack matrices, click here.)

Summary and Recommendations:

Overall, this has become one of my favorite packs, especially for rifle hunts.  It carries everything (and more) needed for an all day adventure, and keeps everything pretty accessible.  While the J104 is a bit larger than I’d like for archery hunts, it will definitely do the job and readily carry out a full load of meat and gear on the first trip back to the truck.  This is a very well designed and well built pack that would serve a predominately rifle hunter well.  (If I mainly archery hunted, I’d probably look a little closer at the Eberlestock Blue Widow.  If I was looking at a multiday pack and wanted to go with this style of pack, I’d probably look closer at the J107, which offers more stability and adjust ability, although in a heavier pack weight.)  One downfall of this pack is the overall base weight.  Your pack gets heavy quick when it starts out at approximately 7 lbs.  Add 20 lbs of gear and you have a 30 lb pack in no time.

A couple of things I wish this pack had is instead of a single strap connecting the top lid to the bottom flap, it’d be nice if there were two straps similar to the way the Blue Widow and X2 connect the top lid and bottom flap.  It would also be nice if the top lid were floating, instead of attached.  This would probably add slightly more weight to the pack, but would also allow the user to reduce the overall weight of the pack if the top lid wasn’t used.  (The Blue Widow and J107 both have removable top lids.)  I would give this pack an overall grade of A. 

Pack in Action Pictures:
The J104 works well for hauling kids around on hunts too!


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