If you were following my prior adventure you may remember that I selected the Fieldline Tactical Alpha OPS Internal Frame Pack, a pack that I purchased from Walmart, to serve as my bug out bag. You may also remember that I quickly became a non-fan of this particular pack, and that I added its name to my lexicon of vulgarities. Now that the frustration and anger have subsided, and I have gotten my full refund from returning it, I have been able to sit down and give an honest review of this item.
My initial take on the pack, as I stood looking at it on the Walmart shelf, was “Frick’n Sweet! And it’s only $40.00? What a bargain!” That and it had the word TACTICAL on it. Everyone knows just having the word tactical on a piece of gear gives you the best qualities of both SEALS and ninjas with none of their weaknesses (inability to defeat samurais for ninjas – inability to say no to a bar fight for SEALS).
The pack looked well-made. I liked the MOLLE attachment points on the pack and I loved the ALICE pack like attachment points on the bottom of the pack. Everything about this pack looked like it would make a solid bug out bag. So I decided to buy it. And then I decided to test it out. Let the good times roll!
I think that the best way to review the pack is to discuss its listed features:
- 2-liter hydration compatible pouch with left and right Velcro® fastener closures (hydration reservoir not included).
- Sure, the hydration reservoir wasn’t included, but that is to be expected. Many of the packs that you find are hydration reservoir compatible but you have to supply the hydration reservoir; which is something to consider when purchasing a bug out bag. I unzipped the enclosure that houses the hydration reservoir and discovered that I could actually fit two 100 oz camel backs into it very easily (almost 6 liters of water!) and the left and right Velcro fastener closures allowed for me to run both drinking hoses out for use. I could then choose to drink out of either camel back (left or right) depending on what side of my brain was functioning at the time.
- Extra-large main compartment with zippered mesh pockets.
- The main compartment was quite sizable and had dual zippers which made for easier packing especially if you are like me and have to stuff-zip-stuff-zip-stuff-zip. The zippered mesh pockets inside the pack were of little use to me, especially considering the amount of gear that I was packing for three days. As I packed the gear in the main compartment, the mesh pockets were smashed against the pack and were not accessible or didn’t fit in with my load plan.
- The main pocket zippers had a flaw. The zipper itself did not fail, but the pull strings did. The plastic tabs on the end of the pull strings were not emplaced reliably, easily pulled free of the string, and fell off of the zipper slider. I soon had few pull strings left on my pack. This was more of a nuisance as I simply took paracord, threaded it through the zipper, and knotted the end.
- Top front accessory pocket with zipper closure.
- This wasn’t nearly as nifty as I thought it would be. The pocket has no sides to it that will allow it to “grow” outward so anything inside the pack (in the event that you are cramming things in) pushes up and out against the pocket, limiting what you can put in it.
- Front panel with multiple MOLLE attachment points.
- This is truly an outstanding feature! It was a welcomed feature as I had to attach an additional pouch to the pack in order to pack all the gear that I felt that I needed to take with me. The MOLLE straps were well fastened to the pack and the MOLLE openings were of consistent width and were compatible with MOLLE pouches and gear that I already own.
- Roomy secondary compartment with gear organizer.
- The secondary compartment, upon initial review, seemed excellent. What I loved about it was that you could pack a good amount of gear in it, even if you had the main compartment stuffed, as the secondary compartment is separate from the main compartment (not connected to or sewn against it). There are two straps, one on each side that can be loosened, allowing the main compartment to grow outward without impact on the secondary compartment.
- The gear organizer is nothing more than pouches and sleeves within the secondary compartment. The partitioning that they create is negated by any bulky gear that you may put into the compartment. In my opinion, if you need to pack a lot of gear, the gear organizer is a near useless feature and is a novelty at best.
- Velcro® fastener closure name-tape and patch holders.
- I cared nothing for this. I could think of no practical use for this feature other to pimp out my pack with some “way cool” military style patches and a name tape that says something insolent, daring, and badass.
- Heavy duty padded handle.
- It was a handle. A comfortable handle. It worked.
- Fleece-lined sunglasses and digital media pouch with headphone port.
- I used this pouch for smaller items that I wanted to be able to get to in a hurry without opening my main compartment (i.e. head lamp, lighters, etc), and not for sunglasses or any type of digital media. This pouch was roomy and quite convenient.
- Yoked shoulder strap system with adjustable sternum slider.
- The yoked shoulder strap system, at initial assessment, seemed like a winner. It seemed to fit fine and the strapping seemed sound. However, it was determined within less than a mile that I was going to have a very long day.
- The chest strap seemed to have been designed for a French runway supermodel. I had to suck my chest in considerably just to fasten it, and the only reason I did fasten it was because it became a challenge to me to see if I could actually do it, and then to snap it by flexing my pectorals. That was a failure. It didn’t break. +1 for the durability of the fastener. I resigned myself to not even using the chest strap.
- The adjustable sternum slider worked well enough. It held tight and showed no signs of slipping at any time. I wish I could say the same for the pack straps.
- The pack straps themselves were a major fail. They were uncomfortable and kept slipping loose. The fasteners failed to keep the straps from slipping through them whenever weight and pressure were applied. This meant that every few steps I would have to hike the pack up onto my back while pulling down on the straps in a vain attempt to secure the pack to my back.
- The yoked harness failed completely at about the 12 to 15 mile area. The stitching along the top of the yoked harness gave way, tearing the harness away from the pack. When the stitching gave way and the harness separated it opened a good sized hole into the top of my pack, revealing the contents of my pack. At this point the pack no longer functioned as a pack and was useless. I couldn’t even use the heavy duty paddle handle as it just would have caused the pack to rip more.
- Side compression straps to stabilize your gear.
- Thankfully these were there so I could have something positive to say about a strap that was on the pack. These straps worked. Go team!
- Dual grommeted bottom drain holes.
- Most of the gear I placed in the main compartment was in waterproof bags so I wasn’t overly worried about water in my pack. I actually liked having the drain holes in the bottom of the pack. Sure, dust and dirt got into the pack through the holes but it was an inconsequential amount. And the waterproof bags also helped protect my gear from dirt. Double win for the waterproof bags.
- Additional left and right side MOLLE attachment points.
- These were great as MOLLE attachments usually are. The only issue I had was with the pouches themselves. They didn’t allow for much gear to be put into them. They were disproportionately taller than they were wide and the MOLLE ttachment points only ran the width of the side pouch. It seemed that they were added to the pack as an afterthought, or because they had some extra material left over that they would get a bonus vacation day if they could use all fabric in a design challenge.
- I feel that the pack design would have been better had they ditched the side pouches and just ran the MOLLE attachment points across the width of the pack so that I could have fastened my own MOLLE pouches to the side. The only use I found for these MOLLE attachment points was to attach a knife sheath or tie in some other piece of gear the old fashion way, with paracord or bungee cords.
- Size: 17.25″H x 12.5″W x 6.5″D / Capacity: 1,400 cu. in. 600 x 300 Denier polyester.
- All things considered, the pack didn’t hold much for how big it looked. I am not sure how they came up with the measurements but it didn’t feel as though they were accurate, unless of course they considered all the internal pouches and pockets to be viable to gear storage. Once I started putting my gear into the pack I knew that I was going to quickly run out of room. The only solution that I had was to attach a daypack to the outside of the pack. That sucked bad as there was no way to keep the weight stabilized as the day pack just kept shifting, especially since I had to continuously hike the pack up on my back to refasten the straps. It was a vicious cycle which ultimately led to pack failure.
- The pack was made in China. What isn’t nowadays?
A feature that wasn’t listed was non-MOLLE attachment points on the bottom of the pack. They were identical to the bottom attachment points that you find on an ALICE pack. Just seeing them brought back countless memories of hikes long past. I knew that with the proper use of paracord or bungee cords I had the perfect spot to attach a sleeping mat or ranger roll.
I had doubts about this pack as soon as I packed it (and attached the additional MOLLE pouch to the front of the pack and an additional day pack) and picked it up. The pack weighed 64 pounds loaded and it looked like a family of 6 after a Thanksgiving dinner. As I hefted it up and onto my shoulder I could hear the sound of stitching popping. I immediately put the pack down and inspected all the stitching that I could see. Everything seemed to be intact and I made a mental note to treat the pack a little more gingerly.
My doubts became realities as I moved down the road. The pack eventually did fail on me, as outlined above and in the articles written about the trek. Even though the pack failed I think that this is still a decent pack, just not for a 72-hour bag.
It does not have the space needed to haul everything that you need in a 72-hour bag, nor does it seem to have the durability needed to haul the amount of gear that you may need. I feel that this particular pack is suited more for a day pack, get home bag, and things of that nature, but for a 72-hour bag I would definitely look elsewhere.
(I try this pack again with half the weight HERE.)