In Part 1 (see it here), we inspected an example of this backpack sent by GearBest.com for review. From inspection, it looked like a pretty impressive option to use for a BOB (bug-out-bag); let’s see how well it actually works.
– Load test: I put in three old military ammo cans filled with weights to give it weight and “sharp” corners (to assess durability) and filled up the rest with miscellaneous clothing. The test weight was 65 pounds. As expected, it was unpleasant to carry by the handle, but it did work. Putting it on my back, it was quite comfortable. The only problem was the waist belt; it twists easily as you put it on, so needs to be checked before you close the buckle. As expected, the padded waist pads were not excellent, but they were adequate. Although this weight is less than my own 25% theoretical maximum of 75 pounds, it is more weight than any sane person would try to carry for long distances. The pack seemed to stand up to it though (no punctures or stress from the “sharp” metal edges), and the load was pretty stabile. The height of the pack with the hood at maximum was okay for me. It might stick up past the head of someone of normal height, which should be avoided in a BOB. Fastening something to the top of the hood should be avoided unless it is not at full height, or the attachment is temporary and you are not in an environment with things sticking out which can snag the item.
– Volume test: Measuring the dimensions as packed for the load test, I get about 50L. This is without anything in the pockets, except for the main hood pocket, and not filled to the maximum thickness, so “60L” or even more seems possible based on the claimed maximum width and thickness. For that matter, I’m not sure that 60L is even the true rating. The label on the pack says “55+10” which seems to add up to 65L, not 60L, and I verified this is the same model sold by other sources as “65L”. If you take the claimed width and thickness, and the actual maximum length, you do get 65L.
– Minimal Load test: Although the primary purpose of this pack is intended to be as a BOB, which will tend to be full or near to that, I did check to see if the pack is fully functional if loaded lightly for some reason (injury, lost equipment, used up supplies, and to allow other uses). By cinching all the straps as much as possible, I got it down to around 23L. For the most part it was happy with this, except the hood was down over the back and would project too much if the pocket were filled, or flop around a little if it were empty. Not to mention the long strap ends dangling; rolling them up and fastening with duct tape (or ranger bands or wire or twine) would take care of that. For that matter, the duct tape would probably help with the floppy hood situation as well.
– Use test: “Laboratory” testing is fine, but does it work “in the wild”? I filled it up with the survival gear, a hydration bladder and some clothing.
a. It turns out my fears about the slots in the compartment separation flap were valid; I put a flat item against the flap in an attempt to block off the slots, but the edges of the item oozed through; fortunately the slots were not big enough that anything came through all the way. I can see that they provide the ability to have long skinny things.
b. Originally, I thought I would not be able to find anything in the main compartment, but the pockets on the front, sides and hood handled the small items very well. Plus, I filled them first and they expanded inwards as much as they expanded outwards and with the reduced space inside, the main compartment organization of larger items was pretty decent. Note that if you fill the main compartment first, it will be difficult to have full utilization of the pockets.
With the total weight at 37.5 pounds (half my theoretical “maximum” and 1.5 times the “ideal” weight theorized by some experts), I went for a hike. The pack worked quite well. It was comfortable throughout the hike and with the exception of the hood, very steady. The weight was noticeable, but not debilitating; though I’d want to be in better shape before attempting a hike with much climbing. The padded hip pads and the waist belt were entirely adequate and the shoulder straps excellent. The back pad was comfortable and well ventilated.
I. There was an annoying rattle, but it turned out to be the contents of a small cook kit and a couple of items loose in the hood pocket. Shake everything before you pack it, and wrap loose things in socks or the like.
II. As mentioned, the hood shifted around a little. It is fastened to the pack by points at its bottom, so needs to have the pocket filled to capacity to avoid the top shifting. If you don’t have it filled, stuff in some soft, light things for “padding” (clothing works well).
III. I had a compass fastened to one D-ring, but it was too high on my shoulder to be convenient to use. Of course, I needed to have the shoulder straps near their maximum extension, so it is likely a smaller person would find the D-rings better placed. Even with this high location on me, the hydration bladder tube through the other D-ring was easily usable.
IV. The hydration bladder worked fine and suffered no apparent damage from the frame bars. It still concerns me, but I’ll live with it until visible damage is found.
V. Organization when packing will provide the best load AND the best access. For the gear, you will need quickly use pockets dedicated to that equipment (for instance, a “severe bleeding” pocket) or have bigger such items at the top or front of a compartment. Things you will need often also should be similarly located, so you are not always pawing through the bag.
– Water Resistance test: The original rain cover was pretty much useless. I could not come close to getting it on with the pack filled to full length, as the cover is easily a foot or more shorter. I removed stuff until the pack was the same length as the cover and still could not get it to go on. The hole in the cover is surrounded by elastic which could not be stretched big enough to get it over the pack near-maximum thickness and width. GearBest told me that the factory will include a bigger cover on new production and send replacements for the bags they have in stock. Other vendors may not have a solution for this problem. As for the pack itself, I set it in the shower for 5 minutes after making sure all zippers were closed and protection flaps properly located. One obvious problem is the water tube port. With a tube in place, the protecting flap is pushed upwards, pointing a 1″ diameter hole at the rain-laden sky. I would duct tape around the tube or otherwise shield this hole, or just not use a hydration bladder. The water resistance test was performed with the hose removed so that the hole is covered by its flap. The results were varied.
a. Worst were the belt pockets, whose contents were soaked and retaining water.
b. The bottom compartment was fair, with surface stuff being wet, particularly at the bottom of the compartment.
c. The upper compartment was pretty good; the surface stuff against the back was wet but not soaking and the rest was dry.
d. The remaining pockets were very good; the contents were but slightly damp at the surface.
Overall, this is “water resistant” as advertised but by no means “waterproof”. For BOB (or any serious) usage, pack things in waterproof bags (even the best pack will leak if dumped in water).
– Rain Cover Test: GearBest sent me the correct cover (blue this time). To test the water resistance of this cover, I turned it inside out and filled it with water. After a half hour, there was no dampness on the bottom, so the cover can be considered to be “waterproof” or nearly so. It did nicely cover the pack, and putting it in the shower, did a pretty good job. The front of the pack was dry, except an area where the showerhead happened to be set to high intensity, and even there it just had a patch or two of mild dampness, which did not make it inside. The bottom was not covered much, and was sitting on a surface which collected water, so was a bit wet. The hood was not completely covered, and the bottom part was also a bit wet, which worked its way through, but did not have enough left to dampen the contents. If the pack was not at the maximum length, the top could have been better covered. So it appears this cover is a great help; the greatest area at risk is the back of the pack at the top. I’d consider investing in a backpacker’s poncho to keep you dry as well as the pack.
Pricing and Availability
I could only find this particular color at GearBest (although what appears to be the same model is sold elsewhere, but only the bright colors); and the price at the time of writing was $39.94 which appears to be hard to beat. This was a sale price; the latest price was $40.59 and the other colors were $44.16.
The link to this pack is: here
Update: General backpack sale starting 11/11 here
Local Lion appears to be a quality brand, although I disagree with their rain cover policy. You should get the correct one now, but if not, see if GearBest can send you one, or check out the one in their catalog. Getting a desired color is a matter of luck, not that it matters that much. The only time you would use the rain cover would be in heavy or long rain, when visibility is poor and many of the two legged predators won’t be “hunting”.
All in all, this is a quite useful larger pack, suitable for expeditions, and as intended, a BOB. My wish list for improvements would be, in order:
1. A way to close the slots in the compartment separation flap (There is an advantage to them, but having Velcro or zipper or snap closures would remove the disadvantage without eliminating the advantage)
2. An internal pocket more suitable to hold a hydration bladder (or the frame bars to be further apart to allow better use of the existing pocket) and better rain protection when a hydration tube is installed
3. Better (water) protected waist belt pocket zippers near the top of the belt, so contents can’t spill out (though I did not experience anything falling out)
4. A more accessible, padded carry handle or at least a wider, longer strap
5. Better waist pads and belt
6. The ability to move the shoulder strap attachment point up and down to allow best fit on all shapes and sizes of bodies (though it was actually pretty good for me).
But this is just nitpicking. For the price, it is an excellent bag. There are better bags, of course, but unless you are using them “every day” or are rolling in cash, they likely will not be worth the 400% to 600% higher cost.