Recently I found myself looking for a carry-platform for my new bullpup air rifle, an EdGun Lelya full power PCP. I searched through many bags, cases, and other options before I finally decided to go with a backpack. It was a great decision and I’d like to tell you about more about my final choice, an Eberlestock S25 Cherry Bomb.
But before I tell you how it carries, let’s start with a general overview of the pack. The Eberlestock S25 Cherry Bomb is a slim, fairly long (64cm) and quite low-volume pack. It holds just 15 liters, but I find this measurement to be very conservative. All of this is done for a purpose, which I’ll explore later. On the outside it looks like a very technical & outdoor-oriented backpack. There are no PALS outside, no tactical looking attachments, no tactical lettering, flags, insignia, etc. It’s one of those packs that doesn’t scream ‘look at me, I’m sooo tactical!’ from well over 100 yards away. However, there is still something in the design that makes it slightly ‘tactically flavored’, but in a discreet way.
The S25 is made of thick, laminated Cordura and lightweight inserts along with virtually indestructible hypalon attachment loops. The stitching, zippers, and details are all top-level and absolutely on par with Kifaru, TAD, and Mystery Ranch to name a few. Everything is just top-notch – no doubt about it! You can tell from the construction that no corners were cut to save cost. I’d say it’s almost overbuilt, but because it’s a weapons pack I’d rather have it that way. The pack oozes quality and definitely says to me that it will offer a lifetime of service.
When you look inside the pack you’ll find two compartments, one called ‘private’ and the other called ‘public’. Closer to the back is the private one and it’s been designed for weapons carry. It’s fairly stiff with a padded back and high divider, behind which you put your carbine – let’s call it a ‘weapon slip’. Eberlestock says you can fit a sub-7″ barreled M4 (with collapsible stock), but you can also put inside all-kinds of MP’s like UZI, MP5 or sub-compact bullpup carbines like the FN-P90. In my case, I use it for discrete carry of my EdGun air gun with a combat-style scope on weaver mount. The S25 seems to be tailor-made for it. The private compartment also has a protective slot for an iPad or Macbook Air.
On the flap you’ll find some space for accessories, paper-targets, keys (with keeper), and a zipper pocket for documents & ID, plus two dedicated pockets for M4 magazines. Of course, you can use all the pockets & slots as you see fit. I carry a small 450 ccm tank with compressed air for my gun, some ammo, targets, allen keys, documents etc. There are also 3 rows of PALS inside, which you can use to personalize your compartment even more with items like a small personal medic pouch, compass pouch, or backup holster with Glock 19. Just attach PALS-compatibile pouch and you’re done. You just have to make sure it’s quite flat. The private compartment zipper is hidden behind a protective collar, and it has the same color as the pack so it’s quite concealed! If you don’t know that it’s there, you’ll hardly ever notice it.
In front of the private compartment you’ll find the public compartment. It’s very visible with contrasting rubber-sealed thick zippers on the outside. It looks obviously like the main compartment of the backpack. Could it be considered a decoy? Hell yes, and it works great! Inside this compartment you’ll find some PALS, zipper pockets, small slots for EDC stuff and a big slot for a 2 liter hydration bladder. Personally, I use this one to store my iPad, but it’s even better suited for iPad Mini. Finally, there is a small zipper pocket on the front flap.
As you can see, there are quite a number of pockets and storage slots! On the outside of the Cherry Bomb there are two side-pockets for items like flashlight and/or silencer. Both are accessible with the backpack on the back, which is quite handy. You’ll also find two hypalon loops with corresponding straps to attach walking sticks, a spotting scope tripod, shooting monopod, or whatever else you need.
Now for one of the most important aspects of any backpack – the harness system. Well, I was surprised to find out that the S25 has been equipped with full-size adult harness system, which you’re likely to find on a backpack 3-times the size! The pack is supported with wide padded mesh panels, with a slot for the backbone. The straps are fairly wide, soft, structured, and fully adjustable including adjustable attachment points on the backpack so you can REALLY tailor-fit the S25 to your torso. This is something not normally found on sub-20 liters packs! Of course the straps can also accept hydration tubes via hypalon loops. The S25 is also equipped with fully padded ‘adult’ waist belt that has small pockets. The belt is detachable, which helps to blend in with the pack on your back while in the city during the middle of the day. On top of that, you’ll also find a chest-strap and carry handle. It’s quite the complete harness system! Overbuilt for 15 ltr backpack? Think again …
Why have such a serious harness system on a small pack? Well, it’s a weapon pack after all. Imagine a short M4 with spare ammo, suppressor, scope, bipod, first-aid kit, basic AR tools, flashlight and some accessories. All of this can easily overweight a 30+ liters hiking pack of an average tourist. Also the steel & alloy of an M4 isn’t very comfortable when pressed against your wool sweater or soft shell jacket, so it must be heavily separated from the backbone. This is where the backbone slot comes handy. You’ll love this feature when running with an M4 on your back. So it’s not really overkill at all given the purpose of this pack. Don’t think of the Cherry Bomb as a ‘Sunday walk’ kind of backpack, it’s a serious, “all business” tool for undercover rifle carry. Last but not least, it’s equipped with rain cover that is hidden in a small zipper slot at the bottom of the pack. For a standard rain cover, it just works. But, when stored, it also protects your rifle butt when putting the pack on the ground so I suggest leaving it there as it weights next to nothing.
Now let’s check out how it carries. First let’s take a look at my needs. I wanted a pack for weekend countryside trips in which I could easily load: carbine, spare 0.5 ltr compressed air bottle, paper targets, ammo, documents, keys, small tools, compact camera and a personal flashlight. I wanted all of this to be carried in one pack. Well, for that the S25 works brilliantly! It’s quite small and very discreet. My neighbours have no clue that I carry rifle in there. I removed the waist-belt as I carry my bag on a short distances usually and it weights about 15 lbs maximum. I can still use the pack as a family walk backpack when I need to. I just have to unload the gun/ammo and load it with some kid’s stuff like binos and a water bottle instead. It’s very quick and easy to go between the various setups.
Any drawbacks to the S25? Sure, as no pack is perfect. First of all, if you’d like to carry your dSLR in S25 – forget it. There are two compartments, and both are fairly flat. I *can* fit my full frame dSLR inside of it with a tele lens, but it’s not comfortable at all and the zippers are really stressed. I’m not really sure if it’d last long as it’s high-stressed in some points. However, outside of my ‘garage studio’ I mainly use a Fuji X100, so for me the size isn’t a problem and I have other packs for carrying a dSLR if i need to. The other issue is that the straps on my pack are quite widely set apart. The straps appear to be designed with big, tough 200+ lb Marine in mind, not an average 180 lb guy like myself. So when I carry the pack wearing a light jacket (or just t-shirt) I prefer to buckle the chest strap for full comfort. It’s not a big deal, but definitely worth mentioning. If you’re skinny guy or gal, just make sure to use the chest strap. However, when wearing a heavy Polartec jacket this issue disappears. Last but not least, if you plan to put your jacket into the pack please make sure it’s just lightweight outer layer. The flat compartments of the S25 are not designed for heavy padded jackets. As I mentioned before, the pack is a purpose-built specialized tool, not your average hiking pack.
OK, time for the action! Let’s check out how it works as a shooting pack. Does the S25 allow to take a good shot? As you might have guessed, it doesn’t disturb the shooter at all. It’s slim, flat, and wears very close to the back almost as if it’s glued on. It doesn’t create any noticeable inertia when moving & turning fast. Heavy backpacks, especially with a center of gravity far from the back, tend to destabilize the shooter when turning fast. It’s just physics – even Sir Isaac Newton knew that! The S25 is almost free from this issue and you can shoot with the pack on the back with ease just as you would do without it. Also, the shoulder straps are well designed for shooting. The buttplate is nicely supported by the strap (that might have been just a coincidence, but it works anyway). It’s a shooter’s backpack after all.
I also wanted to check the versatility of the S25 and how it would perform as a laptop backpack for air travel. Anyone who has had the opportunity to run through an airport with a laptop bag on the shoulder can appreciate a comfortable backpack. On my very recent trip to Russia I decided to ditch my Saddleback Leather Briefcase and use the S25 instead. Inside I had a 15.4″ laptop, all the various cables including the power supply (all in the weapon compartment), Fuji X100 with accessories, documents, magazines (the paper kind), flashlight etc. It was the most comfortable air trip ever and the pack worked great as a laptop carry bag. Also, thanks to the separate laptop compartment it was very easy to present my laptop for airport security control and later on to put it back to the backpack. Try this with your regular tactical small pack and it’s not as easy. It also fits nicely in the overhead bin without any issues.
To sum it up, the Eberlestock S25 Cherry Bomb isn’t a cheap bag. For the size, it’s quite expensive! $250 for 15 ltr bag is a lot of money, and more or less in line with packs like Mystery Ranch, TAD Gear, Goruck, etc. However this is a very special pack. It’s an undercover shooter’s rifle carry platform, one definitely the only one of its kind! There are some other shooter’s bags, but all of them are bigger and more in line with S34 Secret Weapon pack. The Eberlestock S25 is the only SMALL shooter’s pack and it doesn’t look strange or out-of-place in the city. It just looks good, like ‘any other pack’, but it is still equipped with a superb harness system which lets you carry the heavy load of a weapon, scope, bipod and pile of ammo! Eberlestock built a a no-compromise pack and that’s why I really like it. I wanted a gun carry tool and I got one! For an everyday non-rifle use like a Sunday family walk for laptop carry, I can think of many packs that would serve you much better like a Mystery Ranch Spartan, TAD LiteSpeed, GORUCK GR1, or Arc’teryx Blade 15. However, if your number one use is undercover carry of your sub-compact carbine or MP – I cannot think of a better choice than S25 Cherry Bomb by Eberlestock! I highly recommended it and would even go as far as calling it an “essential” tool.
Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by tribe member Piotr Ma. The Eberlestock S25 Cherry Bomb is a discreet weapons and multipurpose bag designed and manufactured by Eberlestock of Boise, ID. The backpack retails for $249 and is available in Black/Urban Gray, Coyote Brown/Dry Earth, and Military Green/Urban Gray. For more information and details, visit Eberlestock’s website.