I’ve now gone on two trips with this backpack, and what I can say clearly is that….so far, so good.
I have about 35lbs of gear in there, and tested carrying that weight. It held up really well.
– No buckles broke
– No straps broke
– The seams are still holding
– The rainfly is a must have for this backpack, but not enough.
So, first off, I’ve been testing this pack with a much higher weight and packing list than I need because I wanted to test this not only for camping but also as a bugout bag.
Most of the gear in there is basically bug-out bag multi-day emergency gear ready, and I would likely dump 10 lbs of it on my next camping trip, leaving more room for clothing and food.
As for the rainfly….it helps a little, but is nowhere near good enough. The back of the pack gets soaked, adding tons of weight, which takes more than a day to dry and starts to smell if you’re in damp weather. I would recommend removing it and getting an extended poncho designed to go over backpacks. That, plus some light gators or over the pant rain pants and you’ll keep you and the pack dry.
That extra pocket at the top is really useful for larger get to quick items, and I’ve found the D-ring and extra straps along the shoulder straps particular useful for holding things to access while hiking.
I’m curious though, how much longer this pack will last. The material is fantastic as it’s tough, but the seams and buckles do worry me. Like I said though, two trips at 35 lbs each and so far so good.
This review is rather meaningless since I received it just a few days ago and haven’t taken it out yet, but here’s just first impressions: as a low cost bag that’s a little dated, this should work just fine. It’s missing a lot of features I would have liked (e.g. hydration pack, removable day pack, water-proof seems and zippers, additional cinching straps, pass-through’s for the side pockets). And one thing missing from this and almost every pack is molle webbing. I realize this adds a military feel, but molle webbing is really useful.
There’s an interesting design for an ice pick carrier. It may be a common design, but basically there are two looped straps at the front-base of the pack, and aligned vertically, there are two cinching straps around halfway up the pack between each side pocket and the main pack. You apparently drop the handle of the ice pick through the base loop so it’s just dangling, then swing up the handle and cinch it to the cinch strap. Since there’s a set of loop/cinch straps on either side, I guess you can pick which side you want it on, or maybe it’s to carry two ice picks….dunno. There are some additional loops that are difficult to see in the image, but are located at the front of the pack just above the sleeping bag section by the orange colored tabs. Not as useful as molle webbing, but at least it’s something.
It does include a rain cover, which is semi-useful, tho personally I’ll replace it with a backpack covering poncho since the rain cover would allow rain to get in along the back and then seep into the backpack from the back.
As an expedition pack, it may be an entry level model, but it IS an expedition pack, meaning it’s built tough and designed to last. The material is thick denier on the bottom and fairly tough materials throughout. This bag will not fall apart from you or rip easily when walking through any sort of brush. It’s tough, and that’s something to like. It’s also a lot cheaper than a lot of other bags out there. As a bag that will last and last, you couldn’t do much better on price than this bag.
It’s a top loader, which a lot of people don’t like as much these days, but that’s nothing to scoff at, and only adds to the overall toughness of the main compartment.
The top flap has two pockets stacked vertically with plenty of space. The lower pocket zips along the back and holds the rain cover. The upper pocket zips along the front and there’s plenty of space in there. It could hold an old fashioned mess kit, maps, valuables and still have room to spare. The main section is fairly large and does have a zippered bottom which opens to the sleeping bag section (also pretty big, big enough to hold a 20 degree sleeping back, tarp, and all tent fabrics). You could also undo that zippered flap and have one super long compartment. In front of the main compartment are two pockets, one is very large, and accessed from above (big enough to hold a folded 5 gallon plastic container with room to spare). The front-most pocket is unorthodox, the zipper runs vertically opening to what I think is a valuables section for easy access. There’s an additional elastic mesh pocket to prevent smaller contents from spilling out. I’m not sure why this design was chosen. The large pockets on each side of the main bag are much more spacious than I expected. I’ve got tons of toiletries and extensive first aid kit plus rope and duct tape in one pocket, and the other holds an emergency fuel gel folding stove, my GSR minimalist plus alcohol stove, extra soup tin with holes for starting wood fires, dry tinder, tons of batteries (just in case), and my ultralight knee pads. I still wish there were pass-through’s between these side pockets and the main bag (ideal for trekking poles, or a hatchet) but still oh well.
The shoulder strap system is pretty cool. You can adjust it up or down in intervals of about an inch and change or so, from small to XL. The shoulder straps have additional cinching straps to pull the top of the back closer to minimize movement. Like with many packs, the hip belt is removable. In my short trekking tests, it worked just fine. I can’t remember the name of the buckle technology but supposedly it’s tougher than normal plastic buckles…we’ll see. Incidentally, make sure to cinch everything down before you walk and make sure you adjust the torso properly. In my first hiking test, I notice the top of the bag moved incessantly unless I cinched everything down so tight things started to hurt and I worries about breaking the straps at the seams. Then I realized that my torso length required a higher setting and once this was done, the pack settled nicely without over-tightening any straps and was comfortable to walk with with minimal pressure on my shoulders. In fact, though many of you may find this normal, it was a big surprise to me just how big of a difference the fatigue would be when the waist belt could could carry all the weight and the should straps acted only to balance the top. A pleasant surprise. My final test hike was 6 miles and my shoulders felt surprisingly pain free.
For an almost laughably low price, you’ll get one seriously tough pack that won’t (I should say shouldn’t since I haven’t gone out with it yet) break down on you while in the field. And frankly, while I didn’t want to pay a lot, I also wasn’t going to give up on ruggedness of the bag. So if that’s more important than all the other features, go for this bag. Even if you decide to get another one in the future, this bag is tough enough to last forever and hang around as a back-up back, bug-out bag, or a loaner if a friend ever needs one.