Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Platatac - PIB Platypus Insertion Bladder

The Easter Goldfish left something better than Lincoln Logs in my sock drawer, this year. Following the announcement of their own entry to the hydration bladder game, I got my sticky paws on one of the PIB's from Platatac.

I've been a big fan of the Source bladders and have used them in my Bravo and Bullock Echo packs to stay hydrated on the go, and having witnessed the demise of many Camelbak bottles on both Tough Mudder and Stampede courses I have been very happy with the 3L Source bladder. However, when this came out I was quick to jump onboard and check one out. I've been using it in my Light Field Pack and taking it to kendo to rehydrate after training. It looks like there are in-line filters available for the Platypus range of bladders, presumably these would fit as well. Very important for disaster stricken and less-than first-world conditions.

One of my workmates also got a Platypus bladder the same week, one of the civilian looking ones. The first thing we did was to check the fittings, both valves and mouthpieces seemed to be fully compatible. The bladder features a reinforced connection point, where the hose fits into a clip-lock, and is placed such at the last drops of the reservoir can be sucked out as the bladder flattens. The hose itself is a resilient plastic, which is covered by a length of tan colored neoprene, stitched to form an insulation and protective sleeve for the tube. At the drinking end, a stop-switch is a great addition, even before reaching the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece itself is also at the end of a clip-lock, and is a rubber bite-valve, protected by a plastic cap with a hefty retention tab. No losing this in the field!

The filling point is a really sizable screw-cap, big enough to allow you to get your whole hand inside, should you ever need, but more importantly, wide enough to make filling from taps, hoses, streams or pipes very easy. Also fitted with a retention tab, you needn't worry about losing your cap, even when opening or closing the bladder with gloved hands. The deep finger recesses make opening and closing the cap a breeze. Another great feature is the combination clip and handle. The clip on the top allows hanging and fitting of the bladder to a variety of bags, packs and vests. As I've said, I've worn bladders in my Bravo, my Bullock Echo, but also in the back of my FirstSpear OAGRE, and in my Light Patrol Pack. Having a good attachment is the difference between continuous water pressure, or a sagging, clumping, uncomfortable bulk in the small of your back. On the bottom side of the cap, the finger grips give you a sturdy means of holding the bladder to be filled, carrying it about. It naturally hangs to balance the open bladder for filling. I was very happy with the seams and finishings, giving me no reason to doubt it's resilience. Marry it with Platatac's Utility Hydration Cover, and you're GTG.

Molded right into the satiny plastic of the bladder is a measurement strip, incremented in 500ml all the way up to 3L and 100oz. Warnings also decorate the bottom of the bladder, admonishing the user to not to use it above 50oC or below -20oC, not to fill it with fresh fruit juice, or alcohol, or milk, if I am translating the glyphs correctly. I found the satin feel of the bladder very pleasant, and easy to grip, when I was filling, fitting and removing it from my packs. Low glare and friction, and in subdued colours meant it was easy to use, and not a glaring, gleaming unit to have standing out in the field.

I gave it a petty hard workout, jammed into the Light Field Pack and pressed by my kendo armour, and the only trouble I had was once when I fitted it, I didn't re-seat the hose-to-bladder connection quote solidly enough, which lead to a dribbling leak and puddles. A quick adjustment and all was well again. I'll be taking this bladder to ConFest over Easter, both for the long drives up and back, but also when roaming around the site with Tactical Baby and Triceratops Girl needing a lot of running around after.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Aquayak - Snapper Pro

I was driving past a series of shops recently, and stopped at a set of lights and looked over and there it was, my local Kayak shop. I felt it was time, given the water only five minutes down the road from me and the fact that I haven't really covered any sort of transport caught my mind. I have used kayaks before, mostly in lakes and rivers in Canada, in the Rockies.

I dropped them a line after looking over their website and I was delighted to be offered the chance to trial a couple of their models. The first is the Snapper-Pro, the fully kitted version of the Snapper.

This is a 2.7m (8'10") long ‘sit-on-top’ kayak with a range of features, including coming in a range of colours, all in their propriety 'alkatuff polyethylene' material, which holds a UV certification for maritime plastics. Pretty impressive. 

The hull is deeply molded and 0.8m (2'7") a the beam. It also only weighs 18kg empty (just under 40 lbs). I lugged it out of the shop, lashed it to my vehicle (more on this later), drove it home and looked it over before taking it out on the water.
I wanted to get a closer look at the hull cross section that had been hinted at on the website. It did indeed have a very interesting profile, and I was keen to see if this unique low-drag underwater shape that provided the speed and tracking through the water without the need of a complicated rudder that they advertised.

The last kayak I had used was a "sit-inside" type, you traditionally see, and required "eskimo-roll" survival training in the event of capsizing. On the AquaYak boats, you just climb back on like a surfboard.

Here is a cross-section of the hull, sitting as a display in the shop. The polyethylene hull is both spacious and well reinforced with supporting pillars scattered throughout. The pillars seen here actually form part of the self-draining system the boats share, as scupper holes that allow sloshed in water to drain back though the boat. The hull is around 6-8mm thick, and has most of the major features molded right in, with very few cuts or holes drilled into the body.


The kayak has a capacity of 120kg (265lbs) and as long as you keep in mind the operator (for me, that's 85kg, leaving 35kg of gear haulage) however, after handling it in the water, I wonder if that might be a very conservative rating. There are three storage ports built into the hull, fore, central and aft. The turn-lock sealed ports allow you to store a variety of gear in the hull, away from the worst of the elements, and keep your center of gravity low at the same time. 


For the fishers our there, the central port comes fitted wit ha removable, drop-in bait bucket, all the better for catching the fishes with!


As I mentioned earlier, I didn't have any trouble moving it around, even on my own. I keep a couple of karate-belts i have collected over the years in the boot, which make for excellent roof-rack ties. The smooth edges of the hull laid right on the roof of my car and I lashed it through the built in safety lines. Getting it up and down was a pretty simple exercise, the biggest trouble was doing so in the high gusting winds I had on my paddling day. I have roof-rack rails, which aided in lashing, and I could, if i needed, have put a specialized kayak carrier on, but it didn't really need it.


Here's where I went, a little sheltered bay on Port Phillip Bay. You can see that it wasn't a very clear or fine day, it was drizzling on and off, a strong wind was zipping in and there was a bit of chop. There was also a fair bit of a hill to portage the kayak over. All part of the test I wanted to give it.


 I got the Snapper-Pro off the top of the vehicle, put on my vest, and helmet,  grabbed the paddle and trotted down the hill to the beach.



Getting it down on the beach, I unfolded the padded seat, and latched it to the loops bolted to the hull with the brass clips provided. With two forward, and two behind this padding fitted in nicely to the deeply molded internal seat. Webbing straps form each of these four points  and allow you to customise the fit and feel of the seat. I opted for a slightly lent back approach, because i'm so tall. I sat in it on the sand to adjust, then got ready to push off.





 It wasn't overly cold, but with the wind, even the bit f spray I got would be chilly, so I dressed for the occasion in my Platatac Microfleece half-zip top and matching Microfleece Sniper pants under my North Face pants and Paleo Barefoots.

I knew I wouldn't stay dry,  but I wanted to stay light, and warm.

    Pushing off, I moved through the shallows, and was amazed at the very shallow draft the kayak had. in barely more than ankle deep, I was floating just off the sand, and with a gentle push of a paddle, I was afloat.
    Paddling out into the bay, it took me a few minutes to remember how to coordinate arms to hips, to ensure stability, and not to dig too deeply when on the shoreward side of waves. 

    All along  the rim of the Snapper-Pro is a safety line, a heavy cord, mounted securely to the  hull by a series of hard plastic loops. There are also two drag handles, fore and aft, to assist with hauling and climbing back in, should you go over. You can see here that my feet were right up to the front of the cockpit, as I have really long legs.
    It wasn't uncomfortable, but an extra few inches would have made a difference for me.
    One thing that I hadn't anticipated was the scupper holes letting water into the cockpit, and right into the seat of my pants. As I say, I had anticipated getting wet, so this wasn't a problem, but just be sure that you bear this in mind. For those with shorter legs than mine, there were a series of channels in the sides to act as in-situ footrests, which was a really cool idea.

    I found that I could access the center port with no difficulty, but the fore and aft ports were moslty out of reach.

    The kayak was very stable in the water, and responsive too. I haven't paddled for 15 years, and quickly found myself zipping over waves, from end to end of the little bay, against the current, against the wind, and across both. It was only when I over-paddled and over-balanced that I had any troubles controlling it. 

    You can see over my shoulder, the elastic cargo netting,  which I left empty for my trails, but would fit a decent sized pack, like my Platatac light field-pack or a child quite happily (obviously, you don't put the child under the straps). You can also see the aft drag handle. Both the inter-hull cargo compartment, and the external cargo compartments in the aft and between my knees, so there is plenty of space to haul cargo, or passengers. Bear in mind the weight limits, and get your bug-out -kit waterproofed!

    I had a couple of tumbles whist finding my water feet, and found that I could quickly (if not easily) haul myself back on board.

    Not only did the kayak handle well, and was easy to right, haul and lug, it was sturdy and stable. I feel I could have fished happily off it (using either of the two built in rod-holders in the aft) although I would need practice to get my cast coordinated so I didn't dunk myself.

    I had a real blast with this, and I think I will be trying to include more watercraft skills in the future in my planning.I also took a bunch of Contour Cam footage, and have included it below:

    Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    100,000+ views!

    I just noticed a pretty amazing milestone, I've cleared 100,000+ page views sometime today, and I just wanted to say thank you to my readers, and to the people who have helped me out since I started it at the beginning of December 2011

    As you can see, I've had some great items, and topics to cover, and I couldn't have done it without the support of some people I wanted to give a shout out to...

    To the guys and gals of (in reverse alphabetic order):

    Zombie Tools
    Tactical Tailor
    Snow Lizard
    SARGlobal Tool
    GoST Barefoots
    Global Gear
    5.11 Australia 

    and to anyone else I may have missed ...
    thank you all for your support, encouragement, reposts and putting up with my crazy questions, requests, and wacky alternate uses of your gear.

    Review: Tactical Tailor - Concealed Carry Sling Bag

    This is the second item in my series for David Reeder of KitUp! and Casey Ingels of Tactical Tailor, and I am thrilled to be getting my hands on another pre-release item, which made it's way over the Pacific to me here in Australia. Due to be released later in March, hopefully this review will stir your interests and imaginations.

    I'm always keen to include inconspicuous items to my repertoire, both in my EDC, and how I go about lugging it. Recent air flight trips reminded me that having a high density and easy to store carry-on bag is very desirable. My trial of the Zombie Outbreak Hydro Pack was a good experiment, but when it comes down to it, I want something rock solid. I am happy to say that the Concealed Carry Sling Bag by TacticalTailor is that. Made predominantly from a 500d Cordura, in blue-grey and black, this is a sporty looking pack that has a sting in its tail.

    This is an ambidextrous pack, with a single central main padding shoulder strap, with twin detachable straps, with an interesting styled clip at the end of each, anchoring to a ring at the end of the shoulder strap. Each of the detachable straps features a long webbing, sufficient to create a "third leg" style wrap around connection, to keep the pack stable on your back when running, climbing and generally adventuring.

    The shoulder strap is heavily padded with a breathable mesh covering, giving both really solid padding, broad coverage over the shoulder and a wide attachment to the body of the pack, giving a very stable connection. The top of the strap to pack connection also features a very sturdy carry handle. It appears to have a Helium-Whisper compatible loops down towards the strapping end, but I don't have anything compatible to test that out on.

    Another nice feature is that both detachable straps have a padded "wing" for where the webbing would otherwise dig into your kidney, both of which have webbing stitched in, not quite PALS/MOLLE proportioned, but certainly compatible, if you wanted to affix an accessory. Topping it off, there is a pocket behind the wings on both sides to stow the detached strap, if not being used as a "third leg" to get rid of dangling cords for a more streamlined fit.

    Inside the main compartment, which has double zipper pulls, each with a hefty cord pull-assist, which works to give out a full opening compartment, which as you can see can fit a variety of goods. When filled, this compartment nicely fits the depth of my Zombie Squad Nalgene, so that makes a good guide for how much stuff you can lug in this section.

    Inside the front compartment, which is fitted with a long daisy-chain of webbing loops running vertically over it's surface, and sporting another two cord-fobbed zippers for closure, you'll find the first of two hidden surprises is pack had to offer. Fitted to the loop field that makes up the entire of the back surface, is an adjustable pistol holster. This hook-backed panel loops around on itself to give an adjustable width, and has an accessory strap to accommodate the length of your pistol. Off to the side of the panel is an elastic loop to hold a spare magazine. I've not decided what I will use this holster for, not having a pistol to carry, myself, but I'll be sure to find something to use it for. This compartment easily holds a Nalgene bottle, with some spare room at the sides.

    At the very back of the pack is where the real secret lies. Behind a very inconspicuous zipper, blended right in with the seam of the grey Cordura and the meshed-foam backing is another cord-fobbed zipper, (one for each side of the bag for true ambi action) is the final compartment, held snug against your body, for the concealed carry win.

    Again as with the front compartment, this has a broad loop-field panel, encompassing the entire back, and comes with a very thorough admin panel, but this can be fitted to the front compartments panel, swapping out to suit your needs. Currently I am keeping my iPad in is compartment, until I can think of a better use for it, but as it is, it's a very secure and stable storage pocket, with a billowing inside backing to accommodate your packing needs, without giving away your secrets.

    Here is that admin panel, showing off its five internal elastic webbing loops, for pistol magazines, flashlights, multi tools or a variety of other chunky items. On the outside, two more wide elastic loops run lengthways, each topped out with a second, narrower elastic bang, sectioned into two, ideal for pens, glow sticks and markers. Finishing it off is a zippered pocket, giving you a very versatile and being hook-backed, modular piece of accessory to suit your needs and loadout.

    Lastly, here's a shot of me having slung the bag from back to front, showing off how level it rides. From here I could quickly access all three compartments with a yank of the cord-fobs, and get at my needfuls. Ideal in a travel situation, ideal in a hazardous situation. When I'm hauling a big load on my back, but still want access to my iPad, papers, food or EDC kit, this functionality, being able to have a comfortable, slung pack at my belly comes in very handy. Whilst a bit too small for my comfort as an everyday pack, (because I haul a lot of junk around) my partner Omega was quick to snaffle this one up as an out-and-about pack, that wouldn't weigh her down, be too "hooah" looking and tough.

    This sling bag is all of that. And more.

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Review: Shemaghs and Furoshiki

    I had a request from a reader to cover the myriad uses that the Arabian headcovering, the shemagh (or keffiyeh, or ghutrah as I learned the word) has. Rather than just covering the one form of "big square of fabric" I thought I would mix in the very similar, but culturally diverse Japanese multipurpose carry-cloth, the traditional Furoshiki.

     Whilst fairly divergent in purpose, each style relies on the same thing: a single, square piece of fabric.

    Fabric is everywhere, and whilst patterns, weaves, materials, sizes and shapes may differ, it is a fairly simple thing to be able to put your hands on. With the increased Western military presence in the Middle East (yes, its been 22 years since the First Gulf War,) this fairly ubiquitous piece of  Arabian attire has worked its way into the mainstream western culture. I lived in Dubai between 1989 and 1991, and the red-and-white ghutrah in the middle there was from then.

    Starting up kendo in 1997, I was exposed to the use of squares of fabric to bundle up our keikogi and hakama, in furoshiki style, which allowed us to keep it neat, tidy, transport it and also letting the often very sweaty clothes dry after a hard session. At least, far better that it would if stuffed into a plastic shopping bag, or gym bag.

    I wont spend a lot of time on furoshiki, as it is an art all to itself, rather I will show you a couple of links. This picture was produced by the Japanese Ministry of Environment as a means of demonstrating the many ways different sized packages and items can be bundled into a square of fabric, offering stable, padded and accessible wrapping for a variety of goods.

    I've mentioned shemaghs before, as I picked one up off the street her ein Melbourne as part of my eagle-eyed urban-salvage mentality, but I have quite the collection of them. Warm in winter, shady in summer, easily stowable and highly variable in wear and use, the shemagh is a versatile and essential part  of being apocalypse equipped.

    There are a variety of sites that can show you "how to tie a shemagh like the military"so I'm not going to go through a step by step, rather, I will show you some of the ways that I have worn mine, and that you might find useful.

    Most of these involve folding the square into a triangle, which leaves the little dangling tassels on the short edges, rather than the forwards long edge. I learned to wear min in Emirati and Bedouin style, which usually consists of a single triangular fold, and topped with the double ringed agal but any cord or banding could suffice, and keep it on your head, whilst providing much needed shade.

    Even without an agal, it is possible to keep it on your head in fairly easy terms. Just flicking one of the corners around your neck and towards the back will give it enough weight to hold it down onlt your head, and less lifting surfaces to blow off as easily.

    You can wear it like this to cover your nose and mouth, both as a dust/sand/debris hand smoke filter, as a sun-block, but also to obscure your identity if that kind of thing is useful to you, say if you were throwing rocks at tanks in Gaza or new York...

    I've worn mine like this in the sun, rain, hail and snow, and have found that it's a very versatile piece of clothing able to be adapted to meet the ever changing Melbourne weather.

    Rolled loosely, that same triangular fold gives you a long length of insulating material I wrap around your neck, whether it be to trap heat in the cold, or soaked in water to give evaporative cooling to the wearer. In this way, it acts in similar fashion to the HeadSox and HeadOver tubes, but far lower-tech.

    It's worth noting that certain colour patterns may be more significant than you might think, and it is well worth looking into when you are traveling, but there isn't really a hard and fast system in place. If in doubt, ask a local, or wear something in "modern" patterns.

    Pulling up the front of that self-same scarf, you have a very functional face-shield to guard against identification, sun, dust, sand and debris, even some (it has been often claimed) dispersion agents like CS gas with a vinegar treatment, apparently.

     A slight tug and it's either up or down, and you can also cover your ears with the same fabric.

    I've also used mine as a sieve, putting fruit in it and washing them through it...

    Having also spent a bunch of time holidaying in south east Asia, I've seen similar fabrics worn wrapped around the head in a ring, more as a sweatband than as a sunshade. Worn with the tassels on the outside you also have built in bug-bothering dangles not unlike the mythical cork-strung hat of the Australian bush.

    Not just a piece of clothing, however, the shemagh can be utilized in a variety of ways  (such as in its Japanese configuration, for furoshiki) and I hope I can show you a couple of these too.

    So here is me having using my shemagh as a triangular bandage to immobilize an arm, something I covered recently in my First Aid Certificate Level 2 course (yay, skills ...)

    Depending on the circumstance, and the need, this can be done extremely quickly. I moved from the SE Asia head wrap to this sling in about 15-20 seconds. If you take a little more time, you can make a much neater, much more supportive sling.

    Similarly, I could have rolled it into a tight rope, and used it as an emergency tourniquet, or as the binding of a splint.

    Other uses that I've had for it is as a shade cloth, picnic tablecloth, as a belt, a child-toy-leash and as a mondo wet-towel-snapper.

    When folded up, a cotton shemagh makes a quite reasonable bandage, either as a deep square, to stem urgent bleeding, or to hold down dressings. Filled with ice they make cold compresses, left alone they make good padding for bruises, sprains and bites.

    All in all, whether it be for headware, packaging, or all manner of other applications, this simple piece of cloth, however it is names, coloured or decorated, is an essential piece of kit, that I wouldn't want to travel or adventure without, let alone survive without.

    Thursday, March 14, 2013

    Review: Global Gear - Zombie Outbreak DeadHeadvest

    Here is another fun piece from the Global Gear's Zombie Outbreak "Tactical Response Gear", which I've already covered some items from, the Hydro Bugout Pack and the Grunt Plate Carrier.

    This time, it's another chest rig, the Dead Head Tactical Vest, in the same multicam looking pattern as the Grunt Plate Carrier, and in this case, is very similar tot he look of a couple of other vest's I've seen come up recently on Dvor: and OpsGear as well.

    However, Global Gear is local, and I'm always keen to cover things that local businesses  stock. No point having to wait 6 weeks shipping when the zombies come, is there?

    What can I tell you about this vest?

    Firstly, like the Grunt Plate Carrier, the pouches are made of a textured vinyl, finished with nylon webbing. This isn't as big an issue for me on this vest, as the backing is a nylon mesh material, to which the pouches, webbing and other panels are sewn.

    The left side front panel of the belly of the vest is covered with loop-field, to which is attached a twin magazine pouch panel, with a retaining loop of webbing. This can be swapped out for the included "fast draw" pistol holster, which for some reason comes attached over the left shoulder. (More on that later). As well as the removable twin-pouches, the left side features a single fixed magazine sized pouch. Above these are a triplet of pistol magazine / flashlight/ utility pockets, and a small radio pocket at the left shoulder.

    Over on the right side, over the fairly chunky mid-line zipper, are three more fixed magazine pouches, each with the elasticized sides, hook-and-loop fixed lids and drainage grommets that this line features. Above these lays a wide admin type pocket, that has a panel of four shotgun shell loops of elastic attached to the lid with hook-and-loop. these could be removed to put a nametape or ID to the chest. The right shoulder is fitted with a thinly padded patent-leather panel, as a shooters-rest.

    The back of the vest features three sets of three reinforced bands of nylon, like a kind of "super PALS/MOLLE" which is apparently for fixing larger tools to. This is actually a pretty good idea, as I'd like some way of attaching my Stanley FUBAR, my DeadOn Annihilator Superhammer my Fiskars log splitter or the ever needful Deuce by Zombie Tools to my rig, and these loops offer a means.

    You can also see the "quick-draw" pistol holster that is currently attached to the back, left shoulder. Why you'd put a pistol holster here is a bit beyond me, unless its there for a buddy to draw, but I made use of it anyways, slotting my RangerHawk axe in it because I'm fond of keeping something handy for close encounters....

    The pistol holster includes a small pouch for an extra magazine, or perhaps in this case, a sharpening stone. A hook-and-look lashing secures the holster through one of the d-rings present on top of each shoulder.

     A couple of neat features are that inside each of the front panels is a zipperable pocket, for paperwork, or items you want to keep more secure. The main back panel also features a hydration pouch pocket, behind a hook-and-loop seal, although there are no attachment points to hang one.

    The vest comes with a wide belt, adjustable by virtue of being hook-and-loop sandwiched between nylon webbing, with a big fastex style buckle. Each side of the belt features a removable single pistol magazine/flashlight pouch, and is mounted tot he vest by virtue of a set of press-stud and hook-and-loop loops.

    You can see here the three size adjustment straps for the the torso, fairly standard, but a great add to be able to adjust to fit yourself comfortably. One issue I had was that the chest piece seemed too tall, in that the front and back sagged a little, although I may need to adjust the shoulder pieces, but this only does so much.

    I found that this vest was a  higher quality construction than the Grunt plate Carrier, mostly by virtue of not being mostly all vinyl, other than the pouches, and it certainly would suit a costumer, recreational hunter, weekend adventurer or MilSim player very well.

    Sunday, March 10, 2013

    Review: Platatac Light Field Pack

    Time to have a look at some of the big-bags!

    When I started doing more camping, whilst in Calgary, I got my first "big" backpack, (which I may dig out and go over, some day soon). Whenever we traveled as a family as I was growing up, we had a policy "pack only what you can carry" so I got pretty good at packing well, and also lugging heavy bags. A better bag means better packing, as well as easier carrying.

    Having learned these lessons, I have frequently loaded my EDC bags to such a point that they became unwieldy, leading me to downsize from my Crumpler Messenger bag, to my faithful and very versatile Platatac Bullock Echo but there are times when you really do need to haul a bunch of stuff, either bulky items, or in high quantity. When this is the case, a little day pack just wont cut it. You need a proper backpack.
    This is the Light Field Pack from Platatac, and it does the job!

    First up, like almost all of the Platatac bags, this one is made from the rugged 1000d Cordura I've come to expect. Slick and hardy, no rough finishing, just an all over, well put together package with quality materials. The pack comes in two main components; the main body, and the removable helmet cradle and internal organiser.

    The front of the cradle has 6x8 PALS/MOLLE, including a 4x2 loop field for name-tape, patches and the like. It has Fastex style buckles to connect to the compression straps on the main pack in three different locations, top, middle and bottom.

    The strap-side of the pack is a sculpted, heavily padded and well fixed set of straps, with built in D-rings, adjustable and movable sternum straps and well placed, Fastex-style clips at the base of the traps for both quick release, but also comfort when wearing.

    Here's a side view, showing off the 35L  capacity of the main pack, as well as the extensive 5x8 PALLS/MOLLE channels. The compression strapping is maintained on the sides by sets of Web Dominator clip. The flap at the top right of this picture is an access port, for hydration tubes, cables or running line. 

    You can also see the triangular "wing" that the shoulder straps connect to the pack via on the bottom right, as well as the helmet cradle. My OpsCore style bump helmet fits nicely in the cradle, but I've also used it extensively as an "extra cargo spot" to carry my bundled kendo keikogi which is both bulky and needs airing, after training, I can tell you.

    I've found that I have been able to rapidly adjust the tension of the compression straps to fit my load with a quick pull and readjusting of the leftover webbing via the Web Dominators. The nylon eyelets the webbing runs though doesn't interfere with the PALS/MOLLE channels, which is great for those who like their pouches as much as I do.

    The inside of the fully openable main compartment is also fully PALS/MOLLE lined, for all those pouch-addicts I just mentioned. As well as a 3/4 length zippered pocket on the inside, the outside of the  main compartment flap also features a deep zippered pocket, and another, very large loop-field, for more patches, ID and the like. 

    You can see here that I have stored my kendo armour in the main compartment, with the big helmet, gauntlets, chest-plate and groin plates wrapping the lot up. It was a tight fit, but once the pack had loosened up, I have been able to cart my whole kendo setup (baring the shinai/bokken) in one bag, with a drink bottle attached by PALS/MOLLE to the outside

    Inside that main compartment there are a vast array of options as well. On the right side, a very large zipperable pocket, good for documentation, maps, briefings and the like. The bottom of the pack features another of the zippered pockets, good for tools and other heavy items. The back face includes a third zipperable pocket at the mid-line. 

    As well as the zippered pockets, there are two elasticised hydration pockets, one at the back, and another on the left side. loops throughout the internals give a variety of dummy-cord, or shock-cording options, as well as acting as hanging points for hydration bladders. I'll be fitting a bladder to mine, to take the place of that externally attached bottle holder. 1L just isnt enough water for me after training, and the added weight going in isn't an issue. It will get lighter before I get home, that's for sure.

    There was one more zipper, hidden away at the bottom of the back of the inside of the pack. By turning the pack inside of itself, you gain access to the built-in, moldable lumbar support.

    This stiff plastic body has a reinforcing aluminium bar, inside a nylon sheath. This can be molded to offer the best support to the pack, and it also gives the whole thing a considerable amount of rigidity, making for easy packing, unpacking, and sitting up, when being accessed.

    Drainage holes throughout the pack ensure that unexpected (or deliberate) dunks don't leave you hauling 35L of bilge around with you either. Stitched or grommeted, I'm glad they're there.


    Another great hidden feature is the hip-belt pad, which as well as featuring a 3x4 PALS/MOLLE surfacing, and deep padding. The hip belt will clip together to give a very stable belt, perfect for long hikes with a heavy load. For those times when you don't need this kind of extra support, and don't want all the extra real-estate hanging out in the breeze, they have their own little pockets, which are hook-and-loop closing. When tucked up they are hardly noticeable and certainly don't add to bulk, or take away from storage space in any appreciable way.

    Here's the inside of the helmet cradle, showing off the webbed "hinge" between the PALS/MOLLE attachment and the front flap. This forms a very useful "bucket" that you can drop your helmet, or other cargo into, secure in the knowledge that it will stay put, and you wont loose any little items"out the sides" between straps as you might in a open-bottomed beaver-tail. 

    You can see here the three sets of compression clips, as well as one of the multiple loops for running a retention cord, or shock-cord through. Loads of extra features!

    Here's the inside of that helmet cradle front-panel. "The Office", as Sam from Platatac called it.

    On the inside of the lid, are two mesh-lined, zipperable pockets, one running the whole length of the panel, the other, midway.

    On the bac of the compartment, two more zipperable pockets, the lower of the two being bellowed for easy stuffing as well as three elastizised pockets at the bottom.

    This is a serious admin pouch, and there is plenty of versatility to cover all your gadget storage. I have carried my iPad, chargers, pens, paperwork, and food in this section, but be aware, having a helmet in the cradle will press up against the contents... pack wisely!

    As with the rest of the pack, all the zipper pulls are threaded with paracord, for ease of grip, and deadening the metal-on-metal clinking.
    Here is the whole pack from below, you can see the grommets on the cradle, both inside and out, as well as the sewn-in drainage eyelets of the main compartment.

    You can also see the PALS/MOLLE connectors of the cradle piece tot the main pack, with four tabs, in channels 1, 4, 5 and 8. Bear this in mind if you plan on trying to swap the cradle onto any other packs.

    Lastly, check out the 3x8 PALS/MOLLE on the bottom. This pack is BUILT for accessories!

    Lastly, I wanted to give you a few shots of the pack on me, whilst bearing a load.


    Sitting happily in the back of the pack, with two sets of compression straps securing her, Tactical Baby was comfortable enough to be walked around for a while, until asked to stand up and wave.

    At no point was the pack unstable, or did I feel any way at risk of spilling my precious cargo, (although I made sure I was over the bed when she stood up)

    She just held onto the built-in drag handle and I have my very own Pink-Yoda ,

    This is a serious pack, good for times when you need more than just a day-pack, but not quite the kitchen sink.

    If I had any gripe with it, it would be the way I was using the bottom compression straps when I wanted to open the main compartment, they held it shut beyond the zipper pulls a little, but not so much as that I couldn't easily unload, just not "flat".

    It is thoroughly dependable, comfortable to wear and haul loads in, even in the muggy Melbourne summer, slings on and off easily, without snagging and is filled with features.

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