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.
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.
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.
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.