Tactical Packs and Bags: Hidden in Plain Sight

A good tactical backpack should easily carry EDC gear and other daily essentials without being a glaring spotlight to others around you.

Tactical Packs and Bags: Hidden in Plain Sight

Thirty years ago when I wrote about sports and outdoors for a daily newspaper, older writers still carried briefcases and younger ones had softer Cordura messenger bags. Both did the job well. Laptops, cords, notebooks, pens and other items fit easily. For a few years, the hot giveaway at golf tournaments or other big events was the messenger bag, which zipped open for easy access. Plus, to be honest, they looked cool. I still have one from the 1992 PGA Championship.

I can’t remember exactly when the tide shifted to backpacks, but it probably was in the early to middle 2000s. They became more common on college campuses, in work situations from Wall Street to daily use, and even at the gun range. Along with a bigger gun bag, I recall a few backpacks showing up here and there. What was inside? I don’t know. You didn’t ask people what was in their backpacks. Could’ve been anything from a medical kit and pistol to a ham sandwich and chips.

Since then, backpacks are everywhere. They’re better now, too, thanks to improvements in fabrics, zippers, stitching, waterproofing and trial-by-fire use. No doubt you remember a highly-touted backpack from years ago that wilted under the strain of hard use in the field. Experiences contributed from military, law enforcement, EMT and other first responders, along with consumers, have helped companies make better gear for everyone.

What will your customers want from a backpack? That’s for you to ask. Some may be professionals with specific needs for size, a lot of pockets, no pockets but ample space, or some other requirements. Others may want or need something durable to use in the field, from humid and wet situations to dry, dusty desert conditions. A good backpack might cover the bases for all those situations, but some packs are specifically designed for them. As with any interaction with customers, suss the details about what they want and discuss accordingly.

I use a couple of different backpacks for my travels. One is Rush 2.0 from 5.11 Tactical. It’s minimal but handles my laptop, headphones, a pullover and extra shirt and socks, and it works great at the range with extra ammo, magazines, muffs and gear. The UTG Overbound from Leapers is a bit bigger, with more pockets and volume. I can stuff more into it, and also take it without hesitation to the range or woods. It’s been on a few hunting trips and worked great. A third is the Gamut 2.0 from Vertx, which like the others has the appearance of a Plain Jane backpack that fits into the crowd. That’s great, because it’s designed for that but with a concealed carry pocket, dedicated pockets for other gear or a laptop, easy-access zipper flaps, along with other solid features. The Leapers and 5.11 packs also have concealed carry pockets. None of the trio stand out in any way. Blending is nice.


Why Sell Backpacks?

Selling bags and packs is fairly simple. Customers with rifles or handguns need cases, large and small bags and range bags. Or they may need a larger bag for travel, or a messenger bag for laptop, briefs and concealment. Backpacks fit these needs, too, with different sizes giving buyers options for use. As mentioned earlier, backpacks now are so commonplace that little stands out in the crowd unless the owner wants it to stand out. Black or gray backpacks? Pffttt, those are a dime a dozen. Something colorful but not glaring, like perhaps a soft green trim with black patterned fabric? That could look good at the office, range, subway or airport.

Backpacks stow easily in vehicles or planes, and sit out of the way under desks. For professional or range work, tougher fabrics resist tougher conditions: mud, water, wind, sticky thorny brush should you be outdoors somewhere, and repeated banging-around use at the range. I’ve dragged my Leapers UTG and 5.11 Tactical backpacks all over the country. At home, if need be, I clean them with a stiff bristle brush and don’t worry about them.

A few things I’ve looked for over the years, and your customers will, too, are better today than in years past. One big thing is the shoulder straps. Are they secured well? Adjustable? Padded, or do they cut into my shoulders or neck? On the adjustment straps, are the ends sewn so they don’t slip through? Another is the drag handle. The Leapers UTG bag has a reinforced drag handle with a smidge of padding. Elsewhere, do the zippers look, feel and zip securely, or do they appear cheap? Do the side pockets have hook-and-loop or some kind of lockdown strap, to keep a bottle or anything else secure?  MOLLE webbing for securing additional bags and hook-and-loop areas for patches also are a plus.

Pockets are a plus, as well. With enough pockets, everything has a place. Your customers will like having the options for gear like this for travel, or for range work with tools, eye and hearing protection, ammo and other gear. Or, if they’re in a professional setting, they’ll maybe need more specific gear for the task.


How About Other Bags?

Should you have an existing stock of backpacks, which is a good idea, consider adding a couple of others such as messenger bags, soft briefcases and duffels for travel. Customers may gravitate to these if they travel, want more gear in their vehicles for EDC possibilities, have professional needs for office or field meetings, or simply want something reliable but nondescript. Two options are the 5.11 Tactical Overwatch Messenger bag, with strategic padding for laptops or electronics, MOLLE webbing, multiple pockets and handle pass-through port for stacking with other luggage, and the 5.11 Overwatch Briefcase, which has similar features and also converts from a briefcase to backpack thanks to stowable straps.

When is a backpack not a backpack? When it’s the 5.11 Rush Load Bearing Duffel. The Rush LBD Mike has 40-liter capacity and the Lima has 56-liter capacity. Both have interior mesh pockets, lashing straps, compression straps and grab handles and can be shouldered or worn as a backpack. The Leapers UTG Ranger Field Bag also doubles as a duffel-backpack. These are solid options to consider adding for customers who travel and need more than a range bag or rifle bag-drag combo.


Hiding in Plain Sight

The Skinner HTF Garment Bag isn’t a backpack or duffel but could be a travel bag. It also can be a simple way to secure firearms in a home or other setting without attracting attention from burglars or anyone else. Sound intriguing? It is very cool, and something I fell in love with the first time I saw it. Who thinks to look at a hanging garment bag for anything like a rifle or personal items? Burglars aren’t that smart.

The bag is constructed of tough, durable Cordura with heavyweight stitching. It has a thick, sturdy hanger that can support a 40-inch long gun, two handguns, three 30-round magazines, eight handgun magazines, a knife, flashlight and other miscellaneous items. Removable holsters allow you to customize as necessary. If needed, you can put clothes in it and use it as a clothes bag for travel. Check it out at skinnersights.com

Consider these bags when you’re thinking about stocking shelves this year.

Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 CC

The Rip Ruck 24 CC has two compartments: zip access to a separate laptop and document sleeve, and Rip-Zip panel access to the drop-in compartment with a loop PALS panel for firearm, magazine, and MOLLE accessory attachment that features magnets for securing when the zippers are not being used. Other features include interior mesh divider pockets for magazines or other accessories and a center front zip that allows full access to the main compartment. It has a reinforced drag handle, molded body panel, fixed harnessing and document sleeve for accessories. www.mysteryranch.com


Elite Survival Systems Smokescreen

The Smokescreen is a concealed carry backpack with the look of a civilian sling bag backpack. But a hidden holster compartment perfectly conceals virtually any handgun. An adjustable TwinWing frame and pass-through holster compartment allows comfortable, ambidextrous draw and carry. The single strap design allows the pack to easily rotate to the front, putting the handgun compartment instantly in drawing position. www.elitesurvival.com

GoRuck GR1

The GR1 backpack from GoRuck is loaded with features that survived extensive testing in the field under rugged conditions. The GR1 opens flat, making it easy to pack and organize, and it comes with extra-padded shoulder straps, glove-friendly zipper pulls and multiple internal and external pockets. The laptop compartment next to your back is doubly reinforced, has a false bottom for when you set the laptop down, and a removable, hard-plastic frame sheet for stabilization. MOLLE attachments allow for customization. The bag is rainproof; that means water resistant, not water “proof.” It is TSA compliant and comes in 21- and 26-liter sizes and in six colors. www.goruck.com


Condor 3-Day Assault

The Condor 3-Day Assault Pack boasts a large 50-liter volume for gear, tools, accessories and more. It has a removable padded waist belt, adjustable body contour shoulder straps with padding, and a padded back panel designed for natural ventilation. It is hydration-compatible, up to two 3-liter or 22-inch bladders. www.condoroutdoor.com


Alps OutdoorZ Ghost 20

ALPS OutdoorZ new Ghost 20 is a hybrid that can be used as a backpack, briefcase or messenger bag, in a smaller size than the original Ghost 30 pack. The new Ghost 20 has an ambidextrous, zippered pocket in the back panel lined with a material that works with common hook-and-loop style holsters. This allows users to securely stow a handgun discretely and within easy reach. The bag’s main compartment panel is similarly lined with hook-and-loop material, providing an alternative location for concealed carry, spare magazines or other gear. It is made of 500D Cordura, has built-in adjustable shoulder straps, is water resistant, and can be worn as a backpack or over-shoulder, or carried as a bag. It handles laptops up to 16 inches. www.alpsoutdoorz.com


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