Finding the right pack is a pain in the ass. There are a ton of options out there, and today Stafford brings us through one of them. Read up. Mad Duo
Cavorting with the COVRT
I’m on the hunt for the best everyday pack out there, and I’m dragging all of you along with me.
I admit it, I have a pack problem. I love me some backpacks and have boxes of them to prove it. Getting rid of an old DRMO pack with no top or hip belt? I’m your guy. Cleaning out your garage and ran across that ratty old ALICE pack? Yep, I’ll take it.
Here’s the deal, though: much like Zima and the Colt All American 2000, all good things must end. I’ve reached a point where I want to simplify. I want three packs that will do what I need without taking up a whole wall in my garage, a corner in my closet, and a lot of space in my shed. This means that I need to find the three best packs for three very different missions. Each pack will be used exclusively for at least thirty days within its own mission.
- Every day carry and carry on travel
- 3-day or “assault” style
- Moderate sustainment and treks
This first series of articles is going to deal with my quest for the every day pack. The every day pack is the trickiest, because I have the most demanding set of requirements for it.
Size – Small enough to easily fit under an airplane seat but large enough to carry a reasonable daily or travel load-out.
Look– Must blend in to my environment; it can’t look out of place or scream, “Look, I have a gun!”
EDC– Must securely carry and provide reasonably quick access to a firearm. I don’t need to be able to quick draw, but I shouldn’t have to take the whole damn thing off to grab a blaster.
Tech Compatible– Must have dedicated compartments for items such as a medium-sized laptop or tablet, charging cables, and peripherals.
Hydration compatible– Must have a dedicated compartment for a hydration bladder or a Nalgene type water bottle.
Easily available– Can’t be a limited edition or custom build. Also can’t cost an arm and a leg.
The first pack I’m testing is the 5.11 COVRT. The COVRT is available in a multitude (insert grunt joke) of different color options and has the exact look an everyday pack should have. The pack a nice, suburban dad would bring to Disneyland with his family. With a Glock in it.
My test pack was the Navy Blue and Asphalt (dark grey) version and I liked the way it looked immediately after pulling it out of the box. The pack is constructed from a 500D Denier Nylon and is fairly lightweight without feeling flimsy. The interior is lined with 420D Nylon which adds a robust feel to such a lightweight pack.
The stitching is double rowed where it needs to be and is professionally done, with straight, clean lines. I’ve seen some spotty 5.11 stitching in the past, but this pack is really stitched well with no missed stitches or loose ends. The material itself is water repellent, but if the volume of liquid is substantial, it will leak. The bottom is also very well stitched, but I think that 5.11 missed an opportunity here, as it is only a single layer of 500D. An additional layer of 500 or, even better, a layer of the rubberized material located on the lower back portion of the pack (to keep it from sliding around when worn), would have really toughened the pack up without adding too much weight. While I haven’t had any issues with the bottom wearing out or slipping, this is a common online complaint about the pack.
The straps are yoke style with an integral grab handle and are very well padded with 3D mesh on the inside to promote airflow. The front of the straps have a velcro strip that can be used to attach additional pouches. There is also an elasticized sternum strap, a much-appreciated small detail that’s invaluable when moving quickly through third world shithole airports. The same 3D mesh is attached to the rear of the pack for cooling and comfort. The rear bottom of the pack has rubberized portions to keep the pack from shifting while moving, which, again, is much appreciated when moving quickly through third world shithole airports.
The pocket layout is OK. I don’t love it, but don’t hate it either. The main compartment is great, coming in at 19″H x 12.25″L x 6.5”D, with a laptop sleeve that is padded on the front, back, and bottom. It is a large sleeve that easily covers 3/4 of my 15″ laptop, with a velcro strap that fastens from the top down. A 17″ laptop would fit easily. The compartment easily fits not only the laptop but also the peripherals as well as a light jacket and a change of clothes (always a good idea when stuck in one of the aforementioned third world shithole airports). The ubiquitous fleece-lined pouch on the top is cavernous, but the problem with that is that delicate items like phones and sunglasses move around quite a bit. The bottom of the pouch also intrudes quite a bit into the main compartment, so be wary of loading too many things into it as that can make removing larger laptops a pain in the ass. The admin pocket at the top front is set up really well with plenty of room for small writing notebooks, chargers, GPS units, etc. It also has a stitched-in key keeper which is helpful when trying to find your car keys after getting back home from the aforementioned third world shithole airport.
The specialized pockets are where I have just a little bit of an issue with the layout. For one, I think that there are too many of them. by the time you get through the big front pouch, the two smaller slit pouches and the pistol pouch, the backpack really starts to protrude out and the multitude of accompanying zipper pulls becomes somewhat of a cluttered mess. If the two little slit pouches were removed it would definitely help streamline the pack and allow it to fit just a little bit better under airplane seats. This is a small complaint, but it bears mentioning. The front compartment zips all the way open and can be rolled all the way down and secured, allowing the user to access the rows of MOLLE webbing attached.
Theoretically, this allows the pack to be used as a hasty assault pack, as magazine pouches and the like can be affixed there. The problem is that this puts all of the weight on the outermost portion of the pack, causing it to sag outward and pull away from the wearer. Using the attached compression straps can mitigate this somewhat, but that slows down access to the main compartment as those straps intrude onto the zipper way. The pistol pocket lies behind the front zippered pouch, and while it is certainly large enough to accommodate any reasonable blaster, the velcro patch used to secure the holster is a tad undersized, limiting holster placement. Also, I prefer to pull down on the zipper to access the pistol, with these zippers you pull up to access it.
There is a hydration bladder compatible compartment at the rear of the pack with a semi-rigid backing. Keeping with the pack’s main mission of being covert, I’d personally like to see all the MOLLE and velcro moved there. This would not only reduce the amount of zippers and bulk up front, it would place the weight closer to the wearer for a more comfortable carrying experience. The loss of the bladder would be mitigated by the Nalgene compatible mesh pouches on the sides of the pack. Besides, no one wants to look like boot-ass Lance Corporal rolling through the ville with a hydration bladder.
Set up as is, the pack has done everything I asked of it. I purposely overloaded it, and while it did have a tendency to pull away from the shoulders due to the aforementioned issues, it remained comfortable enough to wear for several hours at a time. I even loaded it up and took it for a little four-mile hump in the local hills, where it performed just fine. I know it sounds like I’m nitpicking, but I really do like this pack. It’s going to be tough for another low profile day pack to beat it, but we’ll see. I know people like to smear 5.11 up, but this pack is definitely up to the task.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: Jeremy Stafford is a truculent old school LEO and a combat veteran of the Marine Corps. He has just one beady eye (the right), a single shriveled testicle (the left) and is rumored to be the adopted son of Burt and Heather Gummer.(Grunts: truculent) Probably only part of that’s true, but really does it matter? Jeremy has been serving with the Los Angeles Police Department for nearly 20 years, both on the road and in specialty assignments. He is currently a senior instructor at the LAPD Firearms and Tactics Division, is a Krav Maga instructor and probably the guy responsible for those few times you see some Hollywood type actually handling a gun correctly. He’s written for several publications like SureFire’s Combat Tactics Magazine and is one of the main reasons we started reading Guns & Ammo again. (The other is Mudge.) Stafford teaches for the SureFire Institute, mentors local youth (including kids doing the Spartan Race) and he runs many courses himself (think marathons, Tough Mudders and assorted other needless exercises in self-flagellation). Follow him on Instagram here (@jestafford).