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Pack Articles

Quick Look: Kifaru Antero (Original Gen)

Adam Teeter

Some packs are specialists, intended to do one things very well. Others are generalists that fit well in a variety of roles, often excelling in no one particular setting. The Antero from Kifaru is a generalist that bucks the trend and is a well done generalist pack. Carry comfort is great and the 4-way zip panel loading access is functional and useful. The bottle pockets hold 1 liter bottles securely and do not eat into the packs internal volume. It lacks a dedicated admin area but readily accepts Kifaru’s excellent organizer pouch on it’s PALS matrix and includes a top stash pocket that is great for dropping keys or phone into (it is not fleece lined and my Wiley-X case will not fit in here, though I’ve been told it might be bigger on the slightly updated model). The side and bottom compression straps and grab handle provide for some overflow capabilities and ease of handling. The only real complaint I have is that this pack is billed as an EDC pack, and in 2018, that usually means it should have a dedicated device area with padding for protection- the Antero lacks any such features. Despite this demerit, the Antero is a fantastic daypack, well suited to urban EDC (with the addition of a padded laptop sleeve) or light day hikes and can accept an optional waist belt. Give it a look!

Carry on all and God bless!

- AT

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Quick Look: First Spear Comm Pack (Medium)

Adam Teeter

The Comm Pack from First Spear has been around for years and has gained a bit of a cult-following. It is highly regarded by those who have used it, but those individuals are not easy to find. We will be looking at the medium-size variant in this article, which comes in at 980 cu in or about 16 liters. The main body of the pack features mesh water bottle pockets on the sides (these gladly accept 1 liter Nalgene bottles), a hypalon reinforced bottom, a bead-filled carry handle up top and a mesh covered padded back panel. There is a sleeve pocket designed for a hydration bladder (which houses the First Spear ECP frame sheet nicely) and a hose port for ease of routing. Opening the main compartment reveals a lightly padded laptop sleeve (13" MBP fits here well), an unpadded sleeve on top of that, two zippered mesh pouches on the opposite wall, as well as an access port into the hydration compartment. On the exterior of this main compartment is a full height zippered slash pocket. The bag further incorporates a beaver-tail type area that is not adjustable and features two additional zippered pockets, one on the exterior-most face and one in the side of the beaver-tail. Both of these pockets are the same size as the footprint of the beaver-tail. The pack is carried on a pair of over-padded shoulder straps that do not include a sternum strap, though the user could add one.

Overall, I found the pack well constructed, but the design left me scratching my head at several points. The hydration port is made from a stretch material that does not sufficiently seal the bag's main compartment from the elements, and sits directly above the laptop sleeve. The 3 different external zippered pockets are all stacked on top of each other and are all the same basic footprint. The result is that these pockets provide little means for organization of smaller items (everything placed here just falls to the bottom) and strive with each other for space when packed with anything bulky. The non-adjustable beaver-tail greatly limits it's usefulness. The laptop sleeve is too lightly padded to suit my tastes, and the shoulder straps are narrow and over padded, making the shape too round for comfortable carry, never mind the missing sternum strap. 

The pack is in a sort of odd spot in the market in that there are very few packs under 20 liters that feature built in device protection, and so it must remain in that discussion. However, the consumer must realize the pack is a bit quirky and weird, and may need to adjust the way they organize their gear in order to make this pack work for them. 

Carry on all and God bless you! 

- AT

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Quick Look: London Bridge Trading Day Pack (14L)

Adam Teeter

The London Bridge Trading (LBT) Day Pack (14L) is a simple and low-profile pack designed for lighter days. It features lightweight materials throughout the build, stretch water bottle pockets, two zippered pockets on the face and a cinch-top sleeve pocket on the interior. There are no organizational features beyond that, and the pack is only lightly padded in the back panel. As such, the pack works great for those who have their organization built into a pouch system and who use a laptop sleeve for device protection. The shoulder straps are sufficiently comfortable, though not outstandingly so and the pack really could use a light frame sheet or thicker foam in the back panel for some structure. As it is, it would be well suited to a pack that get's light use for grab-n-go applications, or as a pack that get's packed while traveling, intended to be used as a light day bag upon arrival. These retail from LBT at $129, and that seems to me a decent price for a U.S.-made, although again, not exceptionally so. Overall this pack left me felling just, "meh." 

Carry on all and God bless! 

- AT

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Quick Look: Kifaru X-Ray

Adam Teeter

The X-Ray from Kifaru International is a flexible 32 liter pack that features a top and front opening to allow for quick access you any part of the pack. There is plenty of PALS webbing on the exterior to support the mounting of pouches and removable compression straps across the face and bottom of the pack. Atop the pack is a spacious pocket to organize smaller gear and under the top flap is a zippered mesh pocket. The interior also includes a hydration sleeve, Chamber Pocket and PALS webbing and a zip pocket on the inside of the front  panel door itself. Featuring Kifaru's comfortable shoulder straps, the pack is supported by a pair of 17" aluminum stays and can be further girded up through the use of an optional Omni Belt. It is a great little pack for day use and can be set up for a variety of uses! 

Carry on, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Mystery Ranch Streetfighter (Old Gen)

Adam Teeter

The Street Fighter has been in Mystery Ranch's lineup for sometime now and has carved it's place out as a simple yet effective EDC bag. The bag pictured here is an older generation that included the upper attachment points needed to attach accessories (the webbing loops about 2/3 of the way up on the sides), but is otherwise the same pack as is currently available. It features a simple admin pocket on the face and webbing to lash to across the bottom, while dual stretch bottle pockets adorn the sides (there is a patch on one here). A top loading bag, the interior contains a little pocket at the top of the front panel good for a glasses case or similar items, and the back panel supports two unpadded sleeve pockets for a laptop and tablet sized items. Hung on the Futura Harness, the Street Fighter is a delight to carry with most loads. I have no hesitation in suggesting you check this one out - it looks good, carries well and does what it needs to. 

Carry on, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Hill People Gear Connor

Adam Teeter

When the Hill brothers went to work on designing the Connor, they had in mind a large pocket for use docked on their larger internal frame packs that could additionally be set up as a stand alone day pack. The Connor is the offspring of this union, and it is a good one. The pack is a tall and shallow, preventing it from snagging on brush in either configuration. In pack mode, it features a HDPE frame sheet, single aluminum stay and HPG's excellent shoulder harness. There is a grab handle atop the bag and dual lash straps on the bottom. There are two wings on the sides of the Connor made from Hypalon that are designed to be used in affixing more gear to the face of the pack. These wings are also laser cut to accept small PALS pockets and can be stowed under the pack when not in use. Additionally, the Connor has a shallow bucket type pocket on each side to capture items like tripod legs or trekking poles. The face of the Connor features two large mesh slip pockets and a center zip pocket made from stretch material to accommodate bulky items. The pack opens via a panel zipper that gives the user a view of the back wall, which has been constructed from First Spear's excellent 6/12 material with the fuzzy side towards the interior of the bag. This allows users to configure all manner of PALS or hook backed pouches for further organization. The Connor serves well in the roles it was designed, but many find it really well suited to day pack uses. As one would expect, it carries like a dream given HPG's expertise in load carriage. 

Carry on all and may God bless you, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Kifaru Urban Ruck

Adam Teeter

Kifaru has steadily been adding packs designed for travel and urban use the last few years and their Urban Ruck is what I would consider their best design yet into this realm. It plays off of classic top loading aesthetics, but packs in many features today's discerning users demands. It has a pair of external stretch water bottle pockets, attachment points for a pouch on the lower face, bottom and side compression/lash straps and grab handles on top and bottom. The top lid includes a pocket great for sunglasses or a keys using the attached key clip. Under the lid one finds 3 compartments- a large main compartment, a slim rear compartment, and a basic organizer compartment. The main compartment has no features sans Kifaru's standard Chamber Pocket. The rear compartment is designed for hanging a bladder or using one of the optional Chamber Sliders (you will see the "Organizer" variant pictured in use below) that allows the user to add organization to the bag. The built in organizer compartment is a basic affair, with just a few slots to add pens or tools. The rear of the pack includes Kifaru's familiar and comfortable shoulder straps and a basic removable 1" belt, but the pack lacks any structure or frame sheet without a Chamber Slider installed. The pack sells for $200 and the Chamber Sliders for $35-$50, and I reckon the pairing  a good value for a simple yet capable, good looking, U.S. Made EDC pack. 

Carry on all, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Hill People Gear Aston House

Adam Teeter

When Hill People Gear brought to market the Aston House, it was a departure from the simple and effective backcountry packs they are known for. Intended to serve well in technical roles that require organization of gear, the Aston House is loaded with provisions to enable the user to do just that. The pack is divided into two main compartments, with the outward compartment being lined with First Spear 6/12 fabric on the rear to accept PALS or hook backed pouches and a series of hypalon loops at the top to suspend kit. The rear compartment is lined on both sides with 6/12 fabric as well, but is not PALS cut. Each side of this compartment also features the hypalon loops seen in the outward compartment, and the bottom of this area features a pass through zipper to allow things like skies or a rifle to be carried through the pack. The exterior face of the pack sports an open top sleeve pocket that is also made from 6/12 fabric to accommodate more pouches. Each side of the pack has a grab handle as well as 2 columns of 6/12 material designed to add even more accessories. The Aston House comes standard with HPG's Aston Pocket, a low volume organizer type pocket that houses 3 open top pockets on it's rear panel, and a larger mesh pocket on the interior of it's outer panel. The pocket works well to secure overload items to the pack or can be removed to make the pack lower profile. The Aston House is built around a frame sheet and single aluminum stay, uses their excellent shoulder harness and supports the addition of one of their outstanding pack belts (not included). The Aston House will not be for everyone, but for those who need to have their gear meticulously and carefully packed, it is a winner. 

Carry on, 

- AT  

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Quick Look: Mystery Ranch Bighorn

Adam Teeter

The Bighorn from Mystery Ranch shares the same basic size and shape as their 3000 cubic inch (49 Liter) Big Sky, but it has many more features built in to make it more suitable as a load-hauling hunting pack. It is supported by the X-Frame that transfers weight into the Live Wing waist belt to keep too much weight from being carried on the excellent Furtura Harness. Not only does the Bighorn feature that classic Stick-It for overload items, but it has a top pocket as well as two zippered and two sleeve pockets on the interior for organizing your gear. There is a PALS compatible field on the interior back panel to add anything else you might need. Dual daisy chains, side, face and bottom compression straps and external bottle pockets ensure that any gear can be lashed to the outside of the pack. The Bighorn carries like a dream and seems to bridge the gap between daypacks and expedition packs with ease. 

Carry on all and God bless, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Evergoods CPL24

Adam Teeter

When Evergoods formed as a company there was a lot of hype and excitement. They is made up of former designers from Patagonia and GoRuck, so they were set up well to produce some interesting packs. They launched their first pair of designs on Kickstarter, and this CPL24 was one of them. It is designed to be an urban pack that can crossover into the outdoor realm, and in many ways it delivers on that through it's simple layout and carry comfort. The exterior of the pack features a side zip pocket on the face, a size access laptop sleeve and a carry handle that wraps around the top down one side of the bag. Moving to the interior main pocket, there is a stretch pocket on the back panel that can hold a laptop or hydration bladder (with built-in ports to route the hose to the shoulder straps) and on the front panel there are two zippered pockets to stow smaller items. Comfort in carry is achieved through well thought out shoulder straps that contour well to the users back. Quality is top notch. I missed the ability to carry a water bottle externally, but otherwise I think the pack is a winner for the minimalist EDC crowd. They have an upcoming Kickstarter that is worth keeping an eye on! 

Carry on all and God bless! 

- AT

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Quick Look: Mystery Ranch Front

Adam Teeter

Many users have been looking for a smaller Tri-Zip pack from Mystery Ranch (MR) that has all the right features. The Front from MR is their latest attempt to do that. It's features are in many ways familiar, but they come in a combination not seen before. It sports dual water bottle pockets on the exterior, PALS webbing up high and daisy chains on the face. There is the customary top pocket for smaller items, and on the inside is a bladder pocket and two smaller zipper pockets. The pack comes in colors well suited for both outdoor and urban use, and is sure to be a hit as a day hiking pack or for EDC that does not require built-in device protection. Give it a look! 

Carry on, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Mystery Ranch Big Sky

Adam Teeter

The Big Sky from Mystery Ranch is a 3000 cubic inch (49 liter) internal frame pack. It features the now scarce Live Wing waist belt (which can be stowed away when not in use), the Futura harness and the instantly recognizable Tri-Zip design. This variant also included a built in Stick-It for overload storage (some did not have this feature). Atop the bag is one large pocket and on each side is a water bottle pocket and pass through sleeves for something like skis or tripods. The exterior also has two daisy chains on the face and a pair of compression straps to control the load. The interior is sparse, having only a simple PALS webbing field on the rear above a hydration pocket and a hanging loop and hose pass-throughs. These packs were great for light 2-3 day trips or traveling. They are not easy to find in 2018, but they are worth snagging if you spot one! 

Carry on, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Kifaru Escape and Evade (E&E) - Gen 1

Adam Teeter

The Kifaru E&E has been in their line up for years. It is a small 785 cubic inch (12.8l) pack designed as a grab and go pack or to dock onto a larger bag. In many ways, it's a large pouch that has shoulder straps which can be tucked away when not in use. The E&E is made from 1000 denier Cordura and includes a liner for ultimate durability. This Gen 1 model does not have a full panel loading front like the current generation, but it does include a hanging Chamber Pocket on the interior for organization and plenty of PALS webbing on the exterior for additional pouches. The shoulder straps are basic but adequate, and can be optionally upgraded to full-sized/featured straps. If you need a compact pack that can fill a multitude of roles, check this one out. 

Carry on all and God bless you, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Arc'teryx Khard 30

Adam Teeter

The Arc'teryx Khard 30 is a classic in the pack realm. It's sleek lines and unique ability to lay completely flat when opened make it appealing to many users. It is around 30 liters in capacity and was one of the early packs to include a loop material on the interior to affix pouches and accessories; the pack can be configured in many different ways. The back panel is contoured and rigid, the shoulder straps are thin (in a good way) but comfortable and the waist belt is 2" wide and fixed. It includes a pocket on the top and underside of the top pocket, as well as two large zippered side pockets. It is a great pack for travel or range use or use as a carry on bag for over-heard storage. These are now discontinued, but Arc'teryx has updated it some in their Assault 30 and they are both worth your consideration for a mid-sized day pack. 

Carry on, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Kifaru Urban Zippy

Adam Teeter

Kifaru is well know for their big load hauling and tactical packs, but in recent years they have begun to develop some smaller packs with more Urban or Everyday Carry (EDC) users in mind. The Urban Zippy comes in at around 25 liters and features a unique top and dual side access design. The pack has a zippered pocket on the top flap, and a zippered mesh pock on the underside of the same flap. Each side flap has a drawstring top bottle pocket on the exterior and another zippered mesh pocket on the interior. The pack pictured here has the optional Omni frame sheet installed behind the included Chamber Pocket. The Urban Zippy sports a pair of removable compression straps and includes shock cord on the face for securing a light jacket or similar overflow items. There are other mounting points on the packs exterior for the addition of other accessories or pouches on the face, sides, top or bottom. The shoulder straps are fairly wide and thin, offering a comfortable carry. With the frame sheet installed, this is a sturdy little pack that provides the user many different options for access and set ups. There are some odd points on the construction of the pack such as a seam that was left unbound by grosgrain and the inclusion of a useless dual rain flap on the top external pocket that refuses to lay flat. I think Kifaru could stand to bring in some more modern materials, such as Aquaguard zippers to make their packs a little cleaner aesthetically, but overall this is a solid little pack well suited to traveling, EDC or light day hikes. 

Carry on all and God bless you, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Mystery Ranch Daily

Adam Teeter

Mystery Ranch (MR) has been trying to get into the Everyday Carry and Urban market more and more the last few years, it would seem. One of the earlier bags they developed for this market was the Daily. This pack features 3 main compartments, starting with a laptop section in the rear that is well padded and holds a 15" Macbook Pro without issue, followed by a 3"-4" deep top-loading center compartment and a full footprint admin section on the front with various pockets, slots and sleeves for a variety of items including A4 sized items. On the face of the pack is a small fleece lined pocket and daisy chain. Each side sports a large stretch bottle pocket that easily swallows a 1 liter bottle. The pack is made of lighter materials than I am used to from MR, but the 4 compression straps help to keep things tidy. The shoulder straps and waist belt are sloppy and soft, not at all rigid enough to suit this pack loaded up with books, laptop and water, so while I really wanted to like and recommend this pack, I simply cannot, at least without reservation. They can be had currently on closeout for under $100 at various online stores. I think they are OK in that price range for light use, but buyer beware, this is not in the same realm as you might expect if you've handled other MR bags. 

Carry on all, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Mystery Ranch Spartan

Adam Teeter

If you've been around Mystery Ranch packs much, you may remember the Spartan. It was made in the US maybe 5 years ago for a year or two and then discontinued. Sometime after that, MR moved the packs production to the Philippines and sold the pack in Asia for some time before discontinuing it again. I was fortunate enough to make an acquaintance that had purchased this pack in Tokyo in that window and was willing to sell it and ship it to me form Singapore. This is the smallest pack I am aware of that features the Futura Harness, coming in at just 16 liters or 1000 cu-in. It uses a unique dual zipper and velcro main closure that allows the pack to expand upward some, external and internal PALS webbing, a top pass through zipper and dual internal sleeves. An operator can even pull the Futura harness and dock the pack to a plate carrier. As you might expect, this little pack is quite interesting and a dream to carry! 

Carry on all, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Mystery Ranch Patrol 35

Adam Teeter

The Patrol 35 from Mystery Ranch is built with back country skiers and snow boarders in mind. At 35 liters, it is larger than most light day packs, but that is because it is intended to be used by those doing long day trips, or even over nights out of a hut or other circumstances where a shelter is not carried. It features a dual-pocketed, floating and removable top lid atop a draw strip snow collar for top entry, as well as a zippered back panel access. On the face of the pack is an attached beavertail to assist in carrying over loads, under which is a panel opening pocket containing 3 sleeves designed to carry avalanche tools. It is capable of carrying skis diagonally or on the sides with the integrated straps and a snow board horizontally under the beavertail. The suspension features a version of the Futura Harness and a nicely contoured and padded forward-pulling waist belt with some small pockets. I thought the inclusion of the beavertail in addition to the floating lid made the pack a bit "strapy' and complicated, and would have preferred a cleaner design, but this is a purpose-built pack, designed to suit a very specific user. It fits in that role particularly well.

Carry on all and God bless, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Kifaru Pointman

Adam Teeter

If you have been around the pack world for any amount of time, you have no doubt heard of Kifaru. Based in Colorado, their packs are typically used by tactical and backcountry users that need to haul heavier than average loads and do it in a comfortable way. While the Kifaru Pointman is now discontinued, it is a classic model built with these users in mind. It is a 3000 cubic inch (49 liters) top loading pack built on Kifaru's WrapTech Suspension. At only around 22" tall, the pack is fairly deep and wide, creating a less-than-sleek aesthetic when loaded (it's sort of chubby). There is a zippered access on the top of the pack that feeds into the main compartment as well as a simple sleeve pocket on the back panel of the interior, starting where the Chamber Pocket hangs. The pack also features a bottom access zipper that mirrors the top, so kit in the bottom of the bag can be accessed readily. In true vintage Kifaru style, the Pointman is covered in PALS webbing, allowing the user to load up any number of MOLLE pouches or accessories from Kifaru such as they Dock and Lock Pockets. The built in side and bottom compression straps do a great job of controlling the girth of the bag.

You might see these old packs around still, and while they are not new anymore, they are built like tanks and should endure many more years of hard use. This one actually went on to a contractor who was headed downrange. May it should serve him well. 

Carry on all, 

- AT

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Quick Look: Mystery Ranch 1 Day Assault Pack

Adam Teeter

Available only for purchase in Asia, the 1 Day Assault Pack from Mystery Ranch is a bit of rarity in the US. It is an 18 liter pack designed for light day uses. It features the classic MR tri-zip opening and an internal laptop sleeve. There are an additional two zippered mesh pockets on the face of the laptop sleeve, a loop for hanging a hydration bladder, and two zippered slots to pass hoses or wires through. Atop the pack is a fairly deep clamshell pocket that has and a smaller internal zippered pocket with key fob. It's a fairly simple little pack, built for speed and remaining low profile in crowds. The Futura harness ensures a great level of comfort, of course. They are not inexpensive or easy to find, but if you have a chance to pick on up, it might be a great little EDC pack for you. 

Carry on all, 

- AT

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