SPEC OPS T.H.E. Pack
We spend a lot of time with backpacks, and carefully choose the ones we review and recommend on Bug Out Bag Builder. One pack that we've had for years, and one that remains one of our favorites today is T.H.E. Pack from Spec Ops. T.H.E. stands for Tactical, Holds Everything: and that about sums this backpack up perfectly. This is one of the finest 72-Hour bags you can buy. Let's discuss.
The biggest issue I have with most backpacks is durability. Like so many things made these days, it seems like most are designed to fall apart and be replaced within a few uses. So when we come across a company that makes packs durable enough to be run over by a tank and look better coming out the other side, we pay attention. And when that same product is 100% American made with a Lifetime Guarantee then we know that we're dealing with a company that takes their manufacturing process seriously. And if you are about to drop $180 on a friggin' backpack then it better be worth it, but then with 250,000 sold (many to military folks) it's probably a safe bet they are.
Those were the first things which led us to Spec Ops. Their packs are made from 1000D Cordura Nylon fabric. In case you don't know, 1000 is a lotta D. (The D actually stands for Dernier which is the measurement that is used to determine the fiber thickness of individual threads used in the creation of fabrics.) That heavy thread is a big part of what makes me straight-up love this bag so much. It just feels, and indeed is, rock solid. I know it's not going to fall apart on me, and it will handle the heavy load-out of a full Bug Out Bag.
All that Cordura is held together with double-stitching where it's needed most, which is pretty much everywhere. The MOLLE along the pack feels incredibly tight and reinforced. All potential failure-points solved with good ol' American over-engineering. About the MOLLE on this pack, it's everywhere you'll need it to be. You can go berserk with the add-ons.
Two of my biggest pet-peeves when it comes to packs: weak plastic buckles and flimsy zippers (especially those that get caught in the fabric around them.) Both drive. me. crazy. I am pleased to report that neither of my peeves stand a snowballs chance against T.H.E. pack. The buckles are made from plastic, yes, but are way more substantial than others I have come across. In fact it looks like they are reinforced wth the ribbing along the outside (for your pleasure.) The YKK #10 zippers are enormous and work like a dream. You can tug and pull and yank on them and hell pick up the whole pack with them and they just look at you and laugh. I never suffered a single snag with them and doubt I ever will.
The waist retention strap buckle is big enough for Andre the Giant and get this, there are metal (yes METAL) retention straps on the belt. Who even uses metal for anything anymore? Oh yeah, people who want a pack TO LAST.
Continuing the tough-guy theme, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the top handle. It was definitely designed to "handle" the loads this pack is capable of carrying. Fill the whole damn thing with rocks and that handle feels like it will gladly lift it all...your shoulder would probably give out before it does. The secret lies in the double layering of the pack top and the excessive stitching we've come to know and love from Spec Ops. I've had this pack for about 2 years now and have lugged it all over creation loaded to the gills and that handle is a godsend. If nothing else you can drag the pack along the ground like a caveman should you overload it.
Both sides of the aforementioned handle have access ports if you opt for a hydration bladder in the back sleeve, one on either side depending on your preference. In that same back pocket you can do what I did, and grab a T.H.E. Pack Frame. It makes a world of difference in how the pack operates. It's pretty much a must-have add-on. It distributes heavy weight across the shoulders better and also makes the back of the pack stiffer and thus easier to pack. You can still squeeze a bladder in there with it if you want to, it just gets a little tight. If you get one of these, make sure to read the directions. You have to remove the metal slides BEFORE putting the frame in the pack. Then you install them.
That brings me to my one and only beef with this pack, and I'm not even sure it's legitimate: there are no drain holes on the bottom of the pack should that bladder go south on you and start leaking...BUT that also means no water GETTING IN. SO. Weak beef. Way weak. Non-existent really.
Lets look at the shoulder harness. Each strap is one-piece with a tough foam insert. Again low failure points. There are buckles on the bottom of each strap which are there to either A: save your life if you are drowning with the pack on, or have to remove it quickly for any reason or B: just easier to take off. They are wide and comfortable and also sport a chest strap and buckle should you need it for the long hauls.
We live in a warm place, so I also decided to grab the PT Panel from Spec Ops too. It helps your back breathe to keep you cool and keeps sweat off the pack. Added bonus: lightning bolts! It was nice and cool on this trip so I left it home but it is a life-saver during the summer.
Inside T.H.E. Pack
The inside of T.H.E. pack consists of 3 parts. The main area is lined with yellow high-viz material and is 19" high x 13" wide x 7" thick @ 1730 cubic inches. That's large enough for a 3 or 4 days worth of clothes, a laptop, and a dopp kit. More if you know how to pack right. The load-out below is mostly clothes, some food and a small mess kit (not pictured.) A couple of organizers help me keep the pack tidy.
The front of the bag has 2 more pockets. The top is 8" high x 10" wide x 2.5" thick @ 250 cubic inches. The bottom 10" high x 12" wide x 3.5" thick @ 570 cubic inches. When you add it all up the total interior size of T.H.E. Spec Ops pack is 2550 cubic inches or 42 liters. If you pack carefully, that is enough space for most Bug Out Bag builds. If you need a little extra room, the MOLLE can help. Strap your sleeping kit to the bottom of the pack, and keep your IFAK and coms out there as well. Go crazy if you wish, but if you want to keep the bag low-drag then be conservative with what's hanging out there. Also be mindful of weight! You really don't want to carry more that 25 lbs if you can avoid it, seriously.
Our ESSE 4P sits neatly in the middle of the pack with the stock belt clip Kydex sheath. Our fire starting kit lives in the small pouch attached to the sheath. I sometimes keep a flashlight on the other side using a tactical gear clip. My rain poncho lives in the pouch on the left. One of the things I love about this pack is that the retention straps have enough play to fit over the MOLLE items strapped to the outside, taking some of the wobble out of them when cinched.
Spec Ops makes an organizer they call the Pack Rat. It fits nicely in the bottom pocket, and leaves room in there for other odds and ends. It has lot's of administrative options and stands on it's own as a good EDC if you add a shoulder strap to it (one is not included but it has the hooks for one.) I use mine to hold my survival kindle, some pens, backup lights and batteries, USB key, meds, good vibes and bad attitude.
Another add-on you might be interested in is the Main-Frame pack organizer. I have one of these too, although I don't use it when using the pack as a suitcase. The organizer gets used when I turn T.H.E. pack into an electronics / coms kit. It holds my radios, laptops, cables, antennas, power supply, etc. I have a Pack Rat dedicated to my radio gear too which holds programming cables, instruction manuals, various connectors, a volt meter, etc.
T.H.E Ultimate Pack
Spec Ops makes a different style of T.H.E. Pack which they call T.H.E. Ultimate Assault Pack (UAP) which is $20 more than the original. What does $20 get you? Some differences in design mainly. They moved the hydration pouch to the middle, moved some of the zippers around to make the pockets open differently, and added a storage area behind the straps. They also added velcro to the top. It's up to you which design you prefer. They made a cool infographic which shows how the pack works and it's main features.
All the items mentioned here are available directly from Spec Ops here: http://www.specopsbrand.com/
Be sure to sign up for their email list! They have specials every few months with discounts around 20% or more.