Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review: Propper - U.C. (User Configurable) pack

As first seen on BreachBangClear, where they make fun o' me accent, mate!

Inspired by the Marine Corps Assault Back, the Propper U.C. (User Configurable) Pack keeps you prepared, which is just the kind o lineage I like to have in a bag. I have a load of respect for the Gyrenes, my cousin had several long stays somewhere rocky and unpleasant serving in OEF, and if the design is tough enough for those lads, I couldn't ask for more. It’s designed to be customizable inside and out, allowing you to add the additional pouches and accessories you need when you’re on the move, depending on your requirements.

Made from 1000D Cordura nylonand wrapped pretty extensively in MOLLE webbing to accept whatever additional pouches you might require, the simple straight lines of this pack make it well suited to a variety of loadouts. No tight curved corners to try to jam kit into.

The pack measures 50cm (20") x 35cm (13") x 16cm ( 6.5", so you've got a lot of capacity to play with.

Hook-and-loop pass through openings on either side of the carry handle on the top of the pack offer hydration tube or cable pass-through porting, they are X-cut to keep dirt and other crud from making its way into your delicates.

The pack is wrapped in seven rows of six-channel MOLLE on the front, six rows of four channels on both sides and even two rows of nine channels on the bottom of the pack. That's a lot of coverage, especially if you have a variety of pouches you can load it up with.
Internally, all four sides are lined with soft-touch loop, to accept any hook-field accessories, be they holsters, tear-away medical pouches or any number of hook-field backed kit you might have ready to go. Propper were kind enough to send me a few different items to test out, and they seemed to really work well.

Both the inside back and front panel also featured deep zippered pockets running the whole length of the pack to give you a little additional storage, which is good because the inside is otherwise devoid of built-in compartmentalization. You NEED hook-backed accessories to have any fixed storage in this pack, internally.
Here's the inside of the front panel, showing off both the loop-field real-estate, but also the zippered pocket.

The back panel of the pack was fitted out with a stiff plastic board, to give the pack some structure when standing up. It didn't get in the way at all, but if you were really keen on shedding weight, you might pull it, if rigidity wasn't essential for you.
Similarly, the front panel featured a thin closed cell foam panel, to add some padding to the front of the pack. I didn't feel it ate a lot of real-estate, it added a little body to the flap, but if you wanted to shed weight and bulk, its removable.

On one side of the pack on the outside, above the MOLLE, a small, hook-and-loop fixed pocket, big enough for a phone, GPS or other small item is fitted. It wasn't super secure, being quite shallow, but certainly good enough for dummy-corded gear you need to access easily and often.

The top of the pack, just below the carry handle also has a small pocket, big enough for folded maps, small items like a compass or a flashlight, and other small kit you might want to have access to, outside of the pack. It's a slightly awkward size for other things, but snacks, maps and meds might well suit it.

One thing I found that the external zipper-pulls, which have these rubber grip-toggles fitted (which are good) come tied in a double overhand knot (which is bad). I pulled the knot right through the grip-tobble on one of them opening the pack, and immediately set-to retying them all with double figure-eight's. The pulls are easy to grip, and quiet, but the cord used isn't great, and I may well replace them with paracord entirely.

One of the things I really liked about the pack is that there are a pair of cinch straps on the bottom for securing gear. I often find myself with extra gear, or loot, to lug back home, and having a set of cinch straps built in can make all the difference. These, like all the main straps, have hook-and-loop strap-savers attached, to secure the excess webbing away when not needed. No more messy tape wrapping.

Inside the bottom of the pack is an isolated storage pocket, fitted with mesh-lined eyelets, top and bottom, which gives you a place to secure away wet, mucky or otherwise unpalatable gear and items away from your main pack. Perfect for a sodden poncho, or even a mess-kit. This is both zippered and also covered by the cinch straps that wrap from the back of the pack to Fastex buckles on the front.

Padded adjustable shoulder straps, broad, slightly curved and simple, secure the pack to the user,  and feature an adjustable sternum strap on sliders on the sewn-in webbing. Three additional cross-bands of webbing on either side give you mounting and cable or hydration tune feed points. Fastex buckles on the straps give you quick release options, and a wider webbing belly-strap is included for secure carriage of the pack.

One thing I really liked was that there are twin padding channels on the back of the pack, giving room for your spine to site between them, and offering some air passage to the fit for those long hot rangings.

One last feature, which I'm happy to see on this pack, and many others these days, is the triangular strap attachment flap, that gives the webbing and Codura of the pack a good purchase, taking the angular strain off the seams. Packs lacking this seem to always come apart here under heavy loads, so it's good to see Propper have taken this little bit of extra thought into their pack design.

This is a very utilitarian pack. Boxy but solid. You need to be aware that the internals are dependent on that hook-field backing to add any additional functionality, but other than that, this would fit in well with almost anyone's light to medium pack needs.

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