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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