Review: First Tactical’s Summit Side Satchel
Years ago I swore I’d never do two things: wear a reflective belt or carry a “man purse.” Thanks to the Army, I had to break my promise not to wear a stupid reflective belt. Last week, thanks to First Tactical, I broke my promise not to carry a man purse. And I feel guilty, because I kinda liked it.
FT’s man purse is the Summit Side Satchel, a modestly-priced yet highly versatile laptop/GP bag. Despite being sort of a knuckle dragger who only carried a backpack as a carry-on, I decided to try out a Summit during a recent work trip. I wound up being impressed as hell by its many features and obviously high quality.
The Summit Side Satchel is a messenger-type bag with five external and ten internal pockets. The tablet compartment is foam padded and can fit smaller laptops (I was out of luck with my 13” Mac, but it did fit in the main compartment). It also has two small admin compartments, one fixed and one removable key hook, a felt-lined sunglass compartment, a sturdy and comfortable shoulder strap, and numerous open-top “dump” pockets.
Here are the specs, from First Tactical’s web site:
- Main compartment 12.5” L x 10” H x 4.5” D / 31.75cm L x 25.4cm H x 11.4cm D
- Approx. Capacity 495 cubic inches / 8 liters
- Weight 1.75 lbs / 0.8 kg
- Pockets: 5 external, 10 internal
- 1000D nylon
- 10mm closed cell foam
- YKK® zippers
- Duraflex® hardware
One of First Tactical’s main selling points for this bag is the concealed carry compartment, which is semi-hidden within another pocket on the outside of the bag. The CC compartment has a hook-and-loop panel for mounting a holster, mag pouch or other EDC items like flashlights. While I understand that not everyone can carry on their body, I’m opposed to off-body carry in principle. I might carry a gun in a backpack or chestpack while jogging, but that’s about it. Carrying a gun in a bag that won’t always be strapped to your body has inherent pitfalls, and I didn’t carry a gun in my Summit. But if you have to carry off body, or for some reason really want to, you can do so with this bag.
Body side of bag, with hidden CC compartment. For demonstration only, I didn’t carry this way.
This bag has a couple interesting features I’ve never seen before. The flap can be closed with either velcro or buckles; if you use the velcro for “quick close” there’s no need to mess with the buckles. But if you use the buckles, the velcro strips on the inside of the flap can be covered by attached nylon strips so they don’t unintentionally connect and make noise when you open the bag. Additionally, the buckles are covered with elastic bands, making buckling or unbuckling almost silent. Not that I think I’d ever have to silently open or close my bag while sneaking up on an ISIS sentry, but someone might have to. Someday. Somewhere.
As I mentioned before, I used to carry only a backpack while traveling. That meant my pockets were always full of baggage claim tickets, phones, dollar bills, coins and boarding passes, because taking off the backpack to get stuff I needed was a pain in the ass. It also meant more time at the TSA checkpoint, because I had to unload everything from my pockets into plastic trays, get through the scanner and then scramble to stuff everything back in my pockets so I wouldn’t hold up passengers behind me. But the Summit changed all that.
The Summit’s numerous internal pockets meant I could easily organize my documents, plus stick everything I normally had in my pockets into my bag. At the TSA checkpoint I tossed my backpack on the conveyor belt, dropped my Summit behind it, dropped my boots and belt into one tray and my laptop into another, sauntered through and grabbed all my stuff in seconds. It was a world record checkpoint transit.
As far as drawbacks go, my Summit has a couple. First, the MOLLE panels. This bag obviously isn’t designed to carry a military ruggedized laptop, it’s for civilian use. So why add MOLLE panels that will likely never be used in civilian life and serve only to draw attention to a bag that might have a gun in it? Second, the color. My bag is coyote tan, which in public pretty much shouts “I don’t want anyone to know I’m carrying a gun but I’m an attention whore so I’ll wear a military color and discretely announce I’m probably armed.” That’s no bueno for me.
As I’ve said before, in my post-military and post-street cop life I don’t want anyone to know I’m armed. When I was traveling last week I wore nothing identifying me as LE or military. My bag was a Vertx Gamut Plus, with plenty of tactical capability but without obvious military or LE “tells.” The only thing that made me look military was the Summit Side Satchel, and that was only because it’s coyote tan with MOLLE panels.
A non-military colored Summit without MOLLE would be perfect for guys like me, but the Summit is currently only offered in black, coyote or OD green. Hopefully First Tactical will decide to cater to those of us who really do want to go low profile, because based on my experience with this bag, FT makes extremely practical and well-built stuff.
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.