Fair warning: this particularized pack review is replete with pictures (we should know–we had to turn them all right side up. Damn southern hemisphere). So if you’re browsing from your sweet nanna’s computer with her state of the art 56.6k modem, you’ve been warned. Just watch Matlock with her while you wait for the images to load. Mad Duo
Review: Propper – U.C. (User Configurable) Pack
Inspired by the Marine Corps Assault Back, which is just the kind of lineage I like to have in a bag, the Propper U.C. (User Configurable) Pack keeps you prepared. I have a load of respect for Gyrenes. My cousin had several long stays somewhere rocky and unpleasant in OEF, and if the design is tough enough for him and his lads, it’s more than tough enough for me. The bag is designed to be customizable inside and out, allowing you to add any pouches and accessories you need when you’re on the move.
Made from 1000D Cordura nylon and wrapped pretty extensively in MOLLE webbing, the simple straight lines of this pack make it well suited to a variety of loadouts. No tight curved corners to try to jam kit into. The pack measures 50cm (20″) x 35cm (13″) x 16cm ( 6.5″), so you’ve got a lot of capacity to play with.
Hook-and-loop pass through openings on either side of the carry handle on the top of the pack offer hydration tube or cable pass-through porting, and are X-cut to keep dirt and other crud from making its way into your delicates. The pack is wrapped in seven rows of six-channel MOLLE on the front, six rows of four channels on both sides and even two rows of nine channels on the bottom of the pack. Thats a lot of coverage, especially if you have a variety of pouches you can load it up with.
Internally all four sides are lined with soft-touch loop to accept any hook-field accessories, be they holsters, tear-away medical pouches or any number of hook-field backed kit you might have ready to go. Propper was kind enough to send me a few items to test, and they seemed to really work well. Both the inside back and front panel also featured deep zippered pockets running the whole length of the pack to give you a little additional storage, which is good because the inside is otherwise devoid of built-in compartmentalization. You NEED hook-backed accessories to have any fixed storage in this pack, internally.
Here’s the inside of the front panel, showing off both the loop-field real-estate, but also the zippered pocket.
The back panel of the pack was fitted out with a stiff plastic board, to give the pack some structure when standing up. It didn’t get in the way at all, but if you were really keen on shedding weight, you might pull it if rigidity wasn’t essential for you.
Similarly, the front panel featured a thin closed cell foam panel to add padding to the front of the pack. It didn’t eat a lot of real-estate and it added a little body to the flap, but if you wanted to shed weight and bulk it’s removable.
A small hook-and-loop pocket, big enough for a phone, GPS or similar item, is fitted on one side of the pack on the outside, above the MOLLE. It wasn’t super secure, being quite shallow, but is certainly good enough for dummy-corded gear you need to access easily and often.
The top of the pack, just below the carry handle, also has a pocket big enough for folded maps, compass, flashlight or other small kit you might want to have access to. It’s a slightly awkward size for other things, but snacks, maps and meds might well suit it.
One thing I found that the external zipper-pulls, which have rubber grip-toggles fitted (which are good), come tied in a double overhand knot (which is bad). I pulled the knot right through the grip-toggle on one of them opening the pack, and immediately set to retying them all with double figure eights. The pulls are quiet and easy to grip, but the cord used isn’t great and I may well replace them with paracord entirely.
One of the things I really liked about the pack is that there are a pair of cinch straps on the bottom for securing gear. I often find myself with extra gear, or loot, to lug back home, and having a set of cinch straps built in can make all the difference. Like all the main straps, these have hook-and-loop strap-savers attached to secure the excess webbing away when not needed. No more messy tape wrapping.
Inside the bottom of the pack is an isolated storage pocket, fitted with mesh-lined eyelets top and bottom, gives you a place to secure wet, mucky or otherwise unpalatable gear and items away from your main pack. It’s perfect for a sodden poncho or even a mess kit. This is both zippered and covered by the cinch straps that wrap from the back of the pack to Fastex buckles on the front.
Simple padded adjustable shoulder straps which are broad and slightly curved secure the pack to the user, and feature an adjustable sternum strap on sliders on the sewn-in webbing. Three additional cross-bands of webbing on either side give you mounting and cable or hydration tune feed points. Fastex buckles on the straps give you quick release options, and a wider webbing belly-strap is included for secure carriage of the pack.
One thing I really liked was that there are twin padding channels on the back of the pack, giving room for your spine to site between them, and offering air passage for those long hot rangings.
One last feature I’m happy to see on this pack, and many others these days, is the triangular strap attachment flap that gives the webbing and Codura a good purchase by taking the angular strain off the seams. Packs lacking this seem to always come apart here under heavy loads, so it’s good to see Propper taking this little bit of extra thought into their design.
This is a very utilitarian pack. Boxy but solid. You need to be aware that the internals are dependent on that hook-field backing to add any additional functionality, but other than that, this would fit almost anyone’s light to medium pack needs.
For more information, you can check them out here
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: Josh Orth is a second generation expat currently dwelling in the arguably civilized outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. He’s lived in deserts, jungles and urban sprawls around the world and traveled/adventured into assorted inhospitable places around the world and has a keen sense of the speed with which the trappings of ‘civilized Western life’ can disappear. This has led him to begin writing about his interests and observations when it comes to the gear, skills and other necessities of self reliance of being equipped for whatever a capricious, occasionally indurate life might throw at him. This isn’t by any means to say our eccentric friend truly experiences genuine vorfreude about dystopian life, but if he had to he might not complain. Read more by Josh at Apocalypse Equipped.