Sunday, May 31, 2015

BAD Gear: Arc'teryx Blade 24

Within the past two years or so now, my role has morphed into less time in the field, and more travelling from gig to gig on contracts and consulting work, mainly at the senior manager/security executive levels. You know, working with the BTDT's now flying a desk and pushing paper rather than pounding sand. To look the part and not like I just came in from the afghan moon dust, I had an immediate requirement to acquire a pack that was more slim, low profile, greyman, and laptop-centric. I still required the durability and sexiness of what "tactical" had to offer - so I went with the Arc'teryx Blade 24 Pack.  

The Blade comes in a 24L or a 30L pack. I opted for the 24L capacity as I did not really require the seperate suitcase compartment for overnight clothes. My gigs are usually 3-4 days onsite plus whatever number of days in the field, so I'd ususually have a separate C/O, and any hardware/vest/armour etc...would either be shipped preceding myself or accompanying in a Hardigg or Pelican. 

As you can see, the pack features a very smooth faced texture, and this offers such greate advantage over my standard tactical packs which seems to get its straps and MOLLE caught in overhead compartments, lockers, etc. There's very little strap management required with this.

This pack features a suspended laptop and accessory compartment that is fleece lined and has a laminated computer protector. It also features a large document compartment, a front pocket to hold PPNS and a concealed passport/ticket security pocket.

It also features a removable 6061 aluminum stay/thermoformed backpanel shaped by an HDPE framesheet  for durable back support, a top and side grab handle, and padded bottoms and sides. The zippers are protected by molded zipper garages.

There's also two top pockets - the larger one I use to hold my Arc'teryx Squamish Hoodie, sunglasses, gum, and other things, and the smaller one I use to hold keys, coins, and ear buds. If I'm passing through a detector, I'll throw my wallet and phone into this smaller pocket as well.

The pack uses a dual-density shoulder strap configuration and has these attachment pieces for cell or other portable devices.

The outer material is a 1260D Invista Ballistic Superpack nylon, while the inside and grab handles are 210D nylon and 630D Invista Superpack nylon. The backpanel is breathable stretch-woven.

I've been using this pack for about half a year now, and so far it has exceeded my expectations in terms of capacity, comfort, camo. Yes, camouflage - to go greyman style, to blend in - nothing worse than to bring attention to yourself at the airport and paint yourself a big ass target on your head, "hey look at me, I'm tactical, I might be worth something as a hostage, or I might know company secrets."

Given how slimline it is, there are some considerations needed when packing - it is very tight fitting. Just barely enough to hold a 15" laptop. Then you have to sort of stretch the remaining space to get the rest of your gear in there. For normal folk, that's probably not a problem, but I usually pack some sort of contingency bug out kit as well. So, again in the top pocket, I'd carry my light windbreaker, shooting gloves, balclava, touque, mints, gum, secured USB with all my scanned docs, clear USB for other things, ancillary ident and smartcard access, pills (in its original blister pack = saves hassle at airport), and hand cream (cause I'm gay like that).

I normally carry two passports - one for containing visas for certain places, and the other for travelling through places that don't like seeing visas for said certain places, dog tags, tickets, travel orders, get out of jail free cards, some extra spending cash, etc. These items are secreted away in the bottom side compartment.

Again the smaller top compartment, carries only a couple of things, a set of keys, coins in a bag, and ear buds. The really slimmed down pocket is an accessory holder that I use to hold PPNS, a light, a knife, patches, biz cards, etc.

Now, how much does this pack cost? For retail its about $200 at DS Tactical. Through the LEAF program, the pricing is lower. This is not a lot of money when compared to other laptop bags of premium quality. This isn't just a laptop bag, its my backpack as a personal carry on (in addition to my actual c/o) but because it holds a laptop, its considered a laptop bag ie, a personal item through eyes of the airlines. If you are looking for a sleek, slimline, and sexy pack that can hold a laptop, some clothes, and still retain that tactical endurance, then I recommend considering this pack.

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Full Disclosure: Unless noted, Bad Ass Dad has not been compensated in any means to review this gear. It is all his own, procured through pro-channels, retail, or issuance.