Review: Eberlestock S45 Big TrickLet me start with a clear statement: it's a very specialized pack, which answers quite specific needs.
It’s a professional discreet weapon carry platform. Sure, it could be used for other sporting activities, but it was made with shooters in mind.
Quite recently I decided to step into big bore precision airgun territory with my new EdGun Matador R5 in .30 cal (!) so I was looking for an adequate carry option. A standard gun bag was too obvious for me, and I also wanted something more discreet for my new bullpup. I’ve had a smaller Eberlestock pack before so the brand choice was easy… and couple of days later I ended up with the S45 Big Trick in my hands.
What you can see immediately is the quality of the pack – manufacturing, materials, hardware, stitching, all the details… everything is simply top notch! My only small complaint is the lack of any velcro panel for identification or morale patches – not a big deal, but it’d be nice to have it.
DESIGN & DETAILS
From the outside it looks like an alpine mountaineering 32 liters daypack, which is exactly the kind of concealment I wanted. It immediately blends with my hiking outfit and I’m more than sure no one would even think that there might be a carbine hidden inside. But the alpine styling is not just about the look… it’s also, or rather foremost, about the construction. It’s slim, tall, with just two side bottle pockets, and has great suspension – which is exactly opposite to what most ‘assault packs’ represent these days.
To conceal the tactical pedigree even more you won’t find any classic PALS webbings on the outside. But still, the thin irregular webbing lines on the pack (back and sides) are fully MOLLE-compatible and you can easily attach multiple pockets to the Big Trick if needed for a mission.
The main zipper opens the pack in a clamshell style, so you get unrestricted access to any part of the inside and of course to your weapon as well. Actually, there are two inner sleeves so you can carry either a short carbine or a bullpup in the main weapon sleeve and use the other one for a backup, other accessories or tablet. Or you can also carry a bigger weapon system – just disassembled with the lower receiver in the back sleeve and the upper receiver in the other one (or vice versa).
Apart from the protective weapon sleeves you’ll also find a PALS panel inside for customization (usually for mag pouches or an IFAK), a long side sleeve for hydration and two half-length sleeves on the other side for accessories. Plus, of course, quite a lot of storage space for a rain jacket, an insulating layer, etc. The total internal capacity is comparable to a classic 32 liter packs, so it’s just right for an undercover day mission, day hunt or just for visiting your local range.
But the ‘big trick’ itself is hidden behind the bottom U-shaped zipper. On most packs it opens the bottom compartment, but in this case it unzips a fold-down extender, which allows it to comfortably carry carbines up to about 30” in total length (or 75cm if you prefer the metric system). Thanks to this specific color scheme, it also looks natural in the extended form and doesn’t draw any attention.
Behind the side-straps you’ll find long ‘quick access’ side pockets, which could be used to store a bipod, silencer, fixed blade knife or a small spotting monocular. The top zipper opens a huge lid pocket with multiple storage compartments for documents, small items like a multitool or a headlamp. Plus there are two big pockets with elastic keepers, which are dedicated for AR-style magazines, of course.
And last but not least, there is a very unique hidden backpocket between the pack’s suspension and the main bag, which is accessible from both sides with magnet closing. It could be used to carry a map or a similar flat item, which can be grabbed without taking pack off the back. I like this one a lot!
Now THIS is where the Eberlestock really shines. The S45 Big Trick offers a most excellent carry comfort thanks to a full-blown professional carry system. It’s fully padded, with aluminum stays, a ventilated back channel and adjustable torso length.
The shoulder straps are super comfortable, wide, with generous padding and mesh on the inner surface. Actually the straps are connected together and create a kind of harness, which distributes the pack’s weight, not just on the shoulders, but also partially on the upper back muscles – believe me, that makes a huge difference.
The straps are equipped with weight lifters on top, a sternum strap and hydration tubing keepers. The waist belt is just massive, nicely padded, contoured and PALS-equipped. It’s also detachable, which can be handy for short missions in an urbanized area, where a waist belt would stand out immediately. And last but not least there is also a padded oversized grab-loop at the top of the pack.
Wait a moment! Doesn’t that all sound a bit overbuilt for just a 32 liters daypack? Well, yes and no actually. Remember, this pack is intended for weapon carry, so imagine that: a carbine with a scope, couple of mags, spare ammo, bipod, rangefinder, hydration system, rain jacket, radio, binoculars… so despite its moderate volume, a fully mission-loaded pack might weight considerably more than the look suggests. Think about a day hunt in the mountains with 25-30 lbs on your back. That would need some SERIOUS padding and support… and Glen Eberle just nailed it in his design.
I tried the pack in a couple of different scenarios. First of all as a range pack, which of course was easy and the pack passed the test in flying colours.
I also tried it as a daypack in the forest, walking around with typical day hike setup, plus a scoped bullpup – also no problem at all.
What is cool, when you arrive to your shooting destination and decide to grab your gun and carry in your hands, you can zip-back the bottom part of the Big Trick and continue with a classic pack on your back, without the bottom part protruding anymore.
I also checked how much time would be needed to doff my pack, open it, grab my bullpup and shoulder it into fire-ready position. Well, probably less than reading the previous sentence! The zippers work perfectly and the clamshell opening gives full and unrestricted access to the inside. Really well designed.
And last but not least I also checked it as a daypack for winter mountaineering with about 20 lbs inside. As you can guess the pack did really a good job and the carry comfort was absolutely acceptable for such weight. I tried it when walking on snow and ice and didn’t feel any wobble of the pack – it stayed well connected to my back, without unnecessary movement and without causing instability, even when crossing slippery slopes.
It’s a specialized pack for sure. It’s not for everyone and not for every outdoor adventure. However, if you have to carry a carbine or bullpup in a discreet way, especially if that includes carrying it in the rough terrain of a remote area, I can’t imagine a better choice.
Actually, it could also double as a standard daypack, which would withstand any possible outdoor abuse, but at the cost of additional weight. Its bombproof construction and overbuilt suspension make it 6lbs pack. It pays back its weight in gold if you’re hauling heavy metal inside, but for a recreational mountaineering adventure, I’d rather reach for something a little bit lighter and more fast-summiting oriented. Something like the Eberlestock X4 HiSpeed maybe?