Recycled Firefighter "The Battalion 12hr" Backpack Review

Over the past few months, mamy readers mentioned Recycled Firefighter to me. They said their colletion of backpacks and other gear is quality built in the United Stated and that I should try them. So, after some reading, I decided to test the 12 Hr Backpack, the smallest of their backpacks. The shape and the idea of the backpack suited perfectly my idea of an everyday pack.

The pack, according to the website:

"The Battalion Series" of backpacks are made from 100% Military Spec 1000D Cordura and USA made hardware. This 12 Hour pack (12 Liters Volume) is designed to be that quick and easy smaller bag that you just grab and go for your typical work/play day.

Featuring reverse #10 YKK Mil-Spec zippers on the entire bag, it opens and closes smoothly under any circumstance. With 1 main compartment, 2 inside mesh pockets, and 1 front zipper pocket, this bag has ample storage and organization without getting overly complicated.

It is exactly what I look for in any pack: simple, tough and well designed.

So, after a few weeks of using the 12 hours, here are my thoughts. Please bear in mind that this is my opinion, and yours might vary. The good and the bad are based on my own experience with this backpack and having been using and abusing backpacks for the better part of 30 years.

The Good

Right out of the box you can see the pack is carefully made, with quality materials and proper stitching. I have a feeling this backpack will last.

The form factor of the pack is well thoughtout. The size is great: 12 liters is that sweet spot for me, where 10 liters is often not enough and 15 liters might be too much. The pack reminds me a little of the GORUCK Bullet 10, but with differences.

The fabric is a durable good choice, and the zippers are easy to open. The pack flat opening is great and allows for proper access to everything. The straps are well padded, and they seem to be sewn properly.

The handle is a piece of webbing folded on itself. Suprisingly confortable. Given the weight you might carry on this backpack, this is more than enough. Good choice, in my opinion.

Well, this is where the good stops, unfortunately.

The Bad

Let's start from the outside.

The straps have good padding, but they do not tapper much towards the end, causing a lot of friction on the biceps and chest, where the bottom part of the straps hit. Not a biggie but if you are walking a lot, with a tshirt, you'll notice some chafing.

Speaking of straps, given that this is not a hydration pack, or it doesn't support carrying a hydration bladder, I don't understand the D rings on the straps. What's the point? Furthermore, the webbing pieces keeping the rings in place are too tight, often causing the rings to stick out. I asked Jake (the maker of the backapcks) if he could build one without them. His reply was "I can't make custom packs". OK... I'll cut the rings myself. All I was asking is that on the next batch of backpacks he would omit placing the rings on one of them... But ok.

The bottom of the back is slightly curved inward, towards the lower back, and as you walk it keeps on pulling on the top you're wearing, tshirt, jacket, whatever, and in a matter of seconds, your top is up all the way exposing either your lower back, or what you're wearing under it. I've experienced this with other backpacks, but the combination of the shape and the roughness that Cordura 1000D has, makes this a more prone to happen thing. Not good since I tend to walk a lot, especially on urban recon outings.

Now, the webbing you use to adjust the size of the straps is WAY too long. Again, this is for me, it might be OK for you. During rides on a subway, or while placing the backpack on the floor on a coffee place, people and myself kept on stepping on those. I was going to trim them a bit, but I decided to make a few loops with elastic and folded them instead.

OK, moving to the interior.

What the fuck is that horrible, eye-sore color?????

I knew that the bag had a high-visibility color fabric in the interior. However, it's so bright, so hideous it hurts your eyes. I mean, you can achieve the same high-vis effect with tan, with grey, with anything, just not a fluorescent color like this. Especially when the bag is dark. Every time I open the bag is a shock!

It's everywhere, in the back of the main compartment, the inside of the internal mesh pockets and the outer pocket.

Speaking of the outer pocket, it's HUGE.

It's - I think - designed to be worked from the side, keeping one of the straps on, as you rotate the pack and opening, but this whole backpack is mostly designed as a normal pack, so which paradigm is it? Anyway, two things: as you open the pocket, and because it's so huge, things tend ot fall out. They are all crammed at the bottom and boom.

When I am on the train, or subway, or a normal day to day, I need to be careful when I open that pocket. Also, because it's SO BIG, it's hard to find anything. I had to put a pouch inside, with all the little things (which aren't much) so I wouldn't have to fish for anything.

Moving back to the main compartment. There is a little piece of webbing forming a loop on top of the back panel. Again, since this is not a hydration pack, what is this thing for? I put a banner on it and I attached my laptop sleeve. Which, by the way, serves as a way to not only carry my laptop safely, but also keep my sanity in check from having to suffer that bright orange-pink color.

Now for this zippers. YKK, funtion perfectly. Easy to open and close. However, they are so big chances are dirt will build faster in them. Also, they don't close all the way to the end. Look at the picture below. It's annoying, since 1) the orange shows up, and 20, the more you move, the more it slides down. The main two zipper pull on the main compartment don't really come close together either, and sometines water gets in.

Final Thoughts

So, what do I think? I think this is great, quality back. it's the right size and has the right form factor. However, the things that annoy me or, in my opinion, were not tested well enough, overpower the good things. So, I'll give it another try, but most likely I will end up selling it.

In any case, Jake at Recycled Firefighter makes great stuff and yes, I will recommend you buy from him. Madew in the USA by hand, it's awesome.


Because multicam, and because blending in is the thing....


Download multicam here, multicam black here, and multicam alpine here.

EDIT: adding two new wallpapers based on the latest tshirts.


Download the black version here, and the urban wold grey version here.

GORUCK Bullet Ruck Over the Gens

GORUCK just released the next gen of the GORUCK Bullet 10 (now called the Bullet Ruck).

We've reviewed the original before and used it (and abused it) for pretty much everything, including holding our standard kit on the car, and even packing a whole trip in it.

Since the Bullet is now our daily ruck, when they released the new generation with a proper handle, we had to get one. The lack of handles was one of the main sources of complain on the team.

Since we now have the 4 generations of the Bullet, let's write about it.

Not pictured here the 1st generation (you can see it here), which is exactly as the Bullet on the right, but made out of Cordura 1000D. This one pitured here is made of Cordura 500D.

The original Bullet had two comparments, one for the hydration bladder and one for stuff. After that, GORUCK released the Bullet with one single compartment, and a padded/structured bottom. We will focus on this version and the current version, since they are very similar.

But to explain the generations:

  • 1st gen: Cordura 1000D, 2 compartments, not structure, with drain holes, hydration tube hole on the back (top) of the ruck, bladder attached by a paracord and button closure, simple webbing loop for a handle.
  • 2nd gen: Cordura 500D, 2 compartments, not structure, with drain holes, hydration tube hole on the back (top) of the ruck, bladder attached by a paracord and button closure, simple webbing loop for a handle.
  • 3rd gen: Cordura 1000D, 1 compartment, semi structured, bottom is structured, with a drain hole, hydration tube hole on the top (by the handle) of the ruck, bladder attached by a webbing piece with a snap button, simple webbing loop for a handle.
  • 4th gen: Cordura 1000D, 1 compartment, semi structured, bottom is structured, no drain hole, hydration tube hole on the top (by the handle) of the ruck, bladder attached by... D ring? Traditional GORUCK padded handle.

Below you can see the bottom of the 3 rucks.

The new generation, on the left, has no drain hole. This is good if you are looking to use this ruck as a day ruck, or commuter ruck and you constantly place it on the ground.

Like we mentioned, the new gen (on the left) comes with the new handle, which is the reason for buying it. It's a great addition. It's the biggest thing that annoyed us: a great small ruck, with a very bad piece of webbing as a handle. Now it's good.

Now, here's where it begins to get somewhat bad. The new attachement for the bladder is a D ring. Before you could just attach the bladder and it was great. Now, you need to get either a carabiner, or create a paracord attachment to get the bladder attached. We don't know the reasoning behind this, but I'm sure the guys at GORUCK did it for a good reason. We just find it to be not the best solution.

On the outside, the straps are almost identical, except on the new one (left), they removed the webbing loops that help the hydration tube stay on place. Not a biggie, but it was a useful feature to have.

Inside they are pretty identical, except there's that white label... Hmmm... Well, we removed it.
As always, GORUCK organization inside their rucks is awesome. Simple, and to the point: it works.

Now, this is annoying, at least to us. The spearhead. Why? Branding?

We asked if we can get Bullets without it, and the answer was no. It's a simple request, just put a MOLLE webbing without it. But no. So, we are now sporting the spearhead. Not a big deal, but big enough to annoy us.

So, is the new gen good?

Well, we got it for the handle. We carry a lot of stuff all the time on the Bullet and having a good handle is a must. Somehow the whole ruck feels not as good as the predecessors, but we will test and we will get back to you.

Regardless, GORUCK is the brand to follow and their rucks are still the best in the market. Highly recommended.

The Gear doesn't Matter Without the Skills | Red Shadow

A post that aligns exatly with our way of thinking.

You may be carrying your beloved Glock 19, but have you been practicing with it under duress? That slick ITS Fatboy first aid kit is always in your bag, but do you know how to treat a puncture wound or triage a mass casualty event?


Over the past weeks several questions came via Instagram about what I carry, how I carry and where.

A good answer would be: what I need and nothing else.

I tend to go light. I learned to do that a long time ago. The less I carry the better I feel. I rely on my mind, training and the environment. Having said this, I still need tools for my work, personal protection and fun.

Here are few examples of loadouts. From what's on my person, to minimal kit, to activity specific ones.

I carry very little on me.

  • iPhone
  • Saddleback Leather Minimal Wallet
  • Glock 43 and spare mag
  • Rolex Submariner or MKII Paradive
  • Photon Light
  • Emerson A-100 Mini

When I need to go to the office, or when weight and mobility is an issue, I carry very little on a small pack:

  • Laptop and charger
  • iPhone
  • Cable for the iPhone
  • Earphones (mostly for calls when I need to be hand's free)
  • Entry kit (lock picks, etc)
  • Pen

My usual loadout is also pretty small. I carry all in either a GORUCK Echo or Bullet 10:

  • Laptop and charger
  • Phone and earphones
  • Cable for the phone
  • Pen and Notepad
  • SureFire Light
  • GoalZero charger for the phone
  • Emerson Mini CQC-15
  • Entry kit
  • USB Thumbdrive and UBC-C adapter
  • Empty badges (to be used for clonning)
  • Personal trauma kit

This is an example of what I would carry when doing a realtively easy physical security assessments.

  • TAD Rain jacket
  • Laptop + charger
  • Binos, scopes, and other small optics (in the longer pouch and inside the CPL24 pack
  • Notepad and pen
  • RF equipment inside the pouch
  • Knife, gun and trauma kit

I might add a warm jacket and some other random kit, but this is pretty much it.

As you can see, I try to go as light as I can. Rule 7: Simple and light equals freedom, agility and mobility.

Question from a reader

NC asked:

"What clothing do you recommend to wear if you'd like to be well dressed, while maintaining a level of mobility?"

Good question. I tend to wear a lot of techwear. This means clothing that is made out of technical fabrics that provide comfort across many uses.

Here are two examples:

Packing Light and Going Fast

by Uri

I am a big believer in going light and fast. There is even a rule for this: Rule 17: Simple and light equals freedom, agility and mobility.

Packing light allows you to move freely and to avoid many hassles while traveling. Packing light also allows you to adapt better to any situation. Your gear is minimal and you can reconfigure it to what the project needs. In cases where there is an emergency and a quick retreat is needed, having only a few things helps get ready faster.

When I'm travelling, even internationally, I just carry everything with me and I never check luggage.

On the way to the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, I was stuck in traffic for almost 1.5 hours. I barely made it to the airport in time, but because I only had a small pack I was able to return the rental car, run the big airport to my terminal, fly through security and make my gate with 20 min to spare.
Had I have a big piece of luggage, wait for the check-in line to drop the bag and get that boarding pass and then run to my gate, I would have never done it in time.

So, learn to pack light and remain nimble.

Here are some examples of packing light. Some for business, some for recon purposes, some for vacation and fun.

Packing light with a GORUCK Bullet 10

10-day trip

Another multi-day example

Winter 7 day business casual trip with some recon done

And some examples of packing lists. A sort of default go-to list of clothing for different trips.

The big problem arises when you need to bring gear. This in when knowledge and experience comes in. The more you do something, the more you know what works and what doesn't. The more you use gear, the more you know what's actually needed and what's redundant.
For gear, I tend to choose things that have more than one purpose, so I can bring less. For example, if I have a good scope during a physical recon trip, why brin binos? Add to that scope night vision, and now I also killed bringing a night scope.

Try to find the lightest versions of things you need, practice what you can do with them, and select what's needed and nothing more. Do not be tempted to bring all. Add until it's too much, then remove until you are left with the most minimal kit. Then you can go light.

Pack light and go fast. It works.


Escape gear: how and why

By Ed Calderon

Tools I usually pick to carry for counter custody applications when moving in non permissive environments are usually dictated by the environment I'm going to be moving in. Gear needs to be endemic specific.

The bondage elements usually present in some places is easy to research and needs to be taken in to account as part of your pre movement planing. What types of restraints are used by criminals in the area? Are the government forces in the area you are moving in friendly to you or are the compromised in some way? Do the carry handcuffs? What brand usually? Is it worth concealing a key to a cuff that is not present in the area? Do your homework ....

Picture number 1 shows some of the tools I have on rotation.

Handcuffkeys, one an advanced handcuff key from Oscar Delta and a plastic key from Shomertec ( redundancy and non magnetic options, it's better to have one of each ), I modified the plastic key with an angle grind to make it easier to use at odd angles.

Handcuff split paw shims from SerePick, Gulag Shim from Oscar Delta. Again redundancy and septate placement on the body. These are always paired with a key, double locked cuffs will make these shim usable so it's good to have options.

SAD Tool by Oscar Delta witch is basically a multy tool that includes, padlock shims, handcuff pick and shim capable bits and easy decoder. This one is a constant with me.

Cutting implements in the form of ceramic razors ( hidden in a tag in this case, thungsten cutting bit and jewlers wire, razor blades, coin Knives and kevlar cordage. All these I try and infuse in to clothing or skin contact concelment options, like latex and new skin mixed media hides. Concelment and access this is the balance. Cutting implements are needed not just for cutting restraints, they can also make other things or modify things around you. It can also be used as a weapon. From rezor boxing to garrote methods with cord. Remember mindset and software can weaponize most things.

Bogota picks. These are just self explanatory.

Mini Chemlights are spread around. Amazingly useful when trying to manipulate things in the dark, mark places or people and signaling. I even used them in conjunction with a mouse trap to spray glow liquid on a permitir Intruder to make them in to glowing targets.

Pictures 2 is an image of some of the most successful concelment spots on the body that I have seen. Remember access and concealment, each one of you has to find this balance in what you carry and how you carry it, what work for me might not work for you.

Avoid concealing anything in clothing that could be lost in a full contact football match. Baseball caps, watches, shoes, jackets, Paracord bracelets etc are all things that usually get lost or taken away in most initial contact and purging portions of an irregular Custody event.

Last picture is of a small concelment tube. This is one of a few I have collected over the years. It came from a drug mule. A very successful one. Interesting about it is the size and materials used ( bamboo) all tried and true. Usually the individual who carried it would put in inside a condom to then conceal up an orifice ( butt ) end of the condom would be tied and used to pull it out when need.

Most of my material has a criminal origin. So some of its detailed elements have a history.

Stillness is death.

Custom Fixed Blade Knife

A few weeks back, I posted on Twitter and Instagram that I was looking for a simple, fixed blade knife, maybe 3.5-4 inches long. With a thick, drop point blade and with a simple, yet easy to grab handle. Either stone washed or coated blade. Not shiny and no markings.
Searching on social media for a good knife maker, I saw what Eric from Trinity Bladeworks (intagram) was making and I thought that he could be the knife maker for this project. I reached out to him and after a few exchange of details he immediatelly set up to design and make the knife I was looking for.

The result is amazing.


  • AEBL steel with full cryo
  • Black G10 rock pattern handle
  • Carbon fiber pins
  • Dark stone wash finish
  • 3.75 in blade
  • 8.15 overall

Eric went above and beyond. Communication with him was excellent, and the constant updates allowed for on-time tweaks to make this knife the exact one I was expecting.

I'm really looking forward to trying this blade and see how it performs on the field. Updates will follow.

Here are some more pictures from the knife maker.

Quote of the day

"Assess your kit, keep what works and discard the rest. Keep it small, minimal and light"