Tag Archives: gear

Messenger Bag Shootout

Messenger bags. Every “evil black” operator needs at least one to organize and carry his or her every day items. In our messenger bag shootout, we set out to find the best bag for the buck from some of the market’s less-well-known bag makers.

Methodology: Each bag was carried daily by a number of reviewers and ranked on our Evil Black Rifle Scale on its appearance, durability, features, functionality, market leadership and value to calculate an overall ranking.

Contenders:

  • Hazard4 Sherman, MSRP $149.99
  • Spec Ops T.H.E. Messenger Bag, MSRP $115.00 (Currently available for $69.95 from the manufacturer.)
  • STM Trust, MSRP $129.95
  • Tom Bihn Ego, MSRP $170.00
  • VVego Helluva Messenger Bag, MSRP $325.00

Hazard4 Sherman

Hazard4 Sherman
Hazard4 Sherman

Appearance: 3/5 Three Rifles

Durability: 5/5Five Rifles

Features: 5/5Five Rifles

Functionality: 4/5Four Rifles

Market Leadership: 4/5Four Rifles

Value: 4/5Four Rifles

Overall Rating: 4.167

Built like its namesake with better internal organization, the Sherman was a favorite of our reviewers. The Sherman consistently ranked as the best bag in our shootout for internal administration.

With a $150 MSRP, the Sherman certainly provides a lot of features for the money. However, if you’re looking for something even the least bit stylish, the Sherman has all the panache of a Panzer. Granted, it does have an external loop field to which a few decorative patches can be attached – sort of like painting nose art on a WWII bomber.

Spec Ops T.H.E. Messenger Bag

T.H.E. Messenger Bag
T.H.E. Messenger Bag

Appearance: 3/5 Three Rifles

Durability: 5/5Five Rifles

Features: 3/5Three Rifles

Functionality: 4/5Four Rifles

Market Leadership: 3/5Three Rifles

Value: 5/5Five Rifles

Overall Rating: 3.833

T.H.E. Messenger Bag is about as meat-and-potatoes as it gets. It is, almost literally, a blank canvas. The interior is a single, high-visibility yellow open pocket covered in Grid-Lok (MOLLE-like attachment panel). The exterior is also covered with MOLLE-like loops. This means that the bag can be configured in a nearly infinite number of ways utilizing Spec Ops’ pouches or virtually any other MOLLE-compatible pouch.

The flip side of the “infinitely configurable” argument is that the bag has almost no internal admin until additional pouches are added. One could argue that, at the current price on the manufacturer’s website ($69.95), this isn’t a very big deal. Priced at $115.00, however, the value begins to fade.

STM Trust

STM Trust
STM Trust

Appearance: 4/5 Four Rifles

Durability: 3/5Three Rifles

Features: 4/5Four Rifles

Functionality: 4/5Four Rifles

Market Leadership: 3/5Three Rifles

Value: 4/5Four Rifles

Overall Rating: 3.667

If you’re looking for a bit more stylish bag for lighter duty, the Trust deserves a look. It certainly won’t (and didn’t ) handle the abuse like some of the other contenders (Durability rating) but it’s a very nice looking bag with decent features and functionality. The main fabric is a 320D brushed poly while the bottom is a 640D reinforced fabric.

The inside of the Trust is a light color, making it easy to find items. There’s also quite a bit of internal organization, including a padded pocket for a laptop and a smart phone.

Tom Bihn Ego

Tom Bihn Ego
Tom Bihn Ego

Appearance: 3/5 Three Rifles

Durability: 4/5Four Rifles

Features: 3/5Three Rifles

Functionality: 4/5Three Rifles

Market Leadership: 3/5Three Rifles

Value: 4/5Three Rifles

Overall Rating: 3.167

Don’t misinterpret the rating on the Ego. Tom Bihn makes quality gear with some unique features. Unfortunately, our reviewers weren’t overly enthusiastic about either the form or the function of the Ego’s design. The bag, itself, is oddly pear-shaped. This pear shape translates to all the pockets and other organization.

Additionally, the fabric of the Bihn was not as stain-resistant as the other bags in the shootout and the large, flat main buckle seemed particularly subject to scratching.

Vvego Helluva Messenger Bag

Helluva Messenger Bag
Helluva Messenger Bag

Appearance: 5/5 Five Rifles

Durability: 5/5Five Rifles

Features: 4/5Four Rifles

Functionality: 4/5Four Rifles

Market Leadership: 4/5Four Rifles

Value: 3/5Three Rifles

Overall Rating: 4.167

If you’re looking for a durable, stylish bag with some fairly unique features, we saved you the best for last. We’ll grant you that this bag’s looks aren’t for everyone. It definitely stands out – OK, jumps out – in a crowd and we understand that some of our readers are looking for more of a “gray man” approach to life.

If you’re not going for the “gray man” approach, we could really only find two faults with this bag – it’s price tag and it’s lack of internal admin. If money is no object and you don’t mind utilizing a pouch or two for admin and you want a bag that stands out, not just because of its color scheme but because of its overall design and durability, we would highly recommend the Vvego Helluva Messenger Bag.

LALO Tactical Shadow Amphibian Boots

LALO Tactical Shadow Amphibian Boots, Desert Color, MSRP $350.00, www.lalotactical.com

Author: Toby Asplin

Contributor: Eddie Baker

Photos: Shelly Lynn

FTC Disclosure: The product reviewed was provided by the manufacturer/distributor.

Overall Rating:  Four out of five Evil Black Rifles (Five is best.)

Four Rifles

 

Appearance: Three out of Five Evil Black Rifles – Very light desert tan color and 1990’s Reebok/Orthopedic Shoe appearance were off-putting to several reviewers.

Three Rifles

 

Durability: Four out of Five Evil Black Rifles – Handled our usual Trek Tech Black abuse over the course of three months with no signs of undue wear. We believe they would hold up well over longer use as well.

Four Rifles

 

Features: Five out of Five Evil Black Rifles – LOTS of features.

Five Rifles

 

Market Leadership: Five out of Five Evil Black Rifles – Exceptional, market-leading functional design and comfort for a water-oriented boot.

Five Rifles

 

Value: Three out of Five Evil Black Rifles – Relatively high price and narrow niche (water immersion-oriented missions) hurts LALO in this category.

Three Rifles

 

LALO Tactical’s Shadow Amphibian boots may appear to have descended from your mom’s 90’s Reeboks but they’re one of the best tactical boots on the market when it comes to operating in water.

For those familiar with operating in water and wet conditions, you know that there are two basic approaches – attempt to keep your feet completely dry or allow your feet to breathe, drying naturally. There are two flaws in the first approach. First, it is virtually impossible to keep your feet entirely dry, regardless of the technology. Second, dry boot technology tends to hold moisture in preventing the circulation of air and slowing the natural drying process.

Fill 'er up!
Fill ‘er up!

As a part of our testing, we spent time walking in creeks, ponds and lakes, filling the Shadow Amphibians with water to see what would happen. What happened was the water drained out of the boots so quickly that we really couldn’t capture the draining process in a photo.

Drain Vents
External Drain Vents

Even when slightly clogged with mud, the Shadow Amphibians’ external drain vents worked well. As expected, testers feet were wet but the boots drained very quickly. The Amphibians also have drain vents in their insoles.

Internal Drain Vents
Internal Drain Vents

Interestingly, although the boots drain well, the uppers don’t breathe all that well. In normal (dry) operating conditions, most testers experienced a fair amount of trapped perspiration.

Our testers had a few other nits and picks. The “Desert” color of the boots is very light. LALO assured us that the color is “a Pantone from the military and is the tan color that the SEAL Teams use” but it was lighter than other desert boots owned by some of our testers. The light tan color looks almost white in certain lighting conditions giving the boots the appearance of an orthopedic shoe.

The tongue flap (see feature photo) protects the boots’ laces and helps prevent them from coming untied.  A nice feature to be sure.  However, in our testers’ opinions, this feature is not as well-executed as the lace pocket on some of Salomon’s shoes and boots (our benchmark for this feature).

The finger loop on the back of the boots is fairly small. Testers with larger fingers struggled to fully insert their finger into the loop. This, coupled with the lack of a speed lace system, makes the boots a little more difficult than average to put on and take off.

Finger Loop
Finger Loop

Overall, however, our testers’ response to these boots was very positive. The fit was generally good out of the box. The boots are fairly stiff, however, and require some break-in time. That stiffness provides support. One tester took his test pair for a run and stepped in a hole that would normally have resulted in a high ankle sprain. With the Shadow Amphibian’s support, he was none the worse for wear.

The soles of these boots are very quiet on normally squeaky, polished floors. While the tread is not particularly aggressive, the boots provide good traction on frosty grass, water-covered rocks and snowy ground.

Shadow Amphibian Tread
Shadow Amphibian Tread

Even though these boots are relatively stiff, the ankle flexes nicely due to the flex notches fore and aft. They are some of the most comfortable boots we’ve tested when it comes to running. The compression molded insole works well for those with a forefoot-strike running stride.

Rear Flex Notch
Rear Flex Notch
Front Flex Notch
Front Flex Notch

In summary, the LALO Tactical Shadow Amphibian is a superb boot for those who anticipate a good deal of water submersion. Water-based special ops missions, GORUCK events and other similar events would be perfect for these boots. Given the Shadow Amphibians’ price, however, potential buyers should give careful consideration to their intended use before shelling out the dough. Most people don’t really need a boot like this. With that said, if you have the resources, can find a bargain on a site like GovX.com or truly need a boot that handles water immersion well … we highly recommend the Shadow Amphibian.

Hill People Gear Umlindi “Guardian” of Your Gear

Hill People Gear Umlindi Backpack, Two-tone Foliage/Stone, MSRP $220.00, www.hillpeoplegear.com

Author: Toby Asplin

Photos: Shelly Lynn

FTC Disclosure: The products reviewed were provided by the manufacturer/distributor.

“Umlindi” means “guardian”, “watchman” or “caretaker” in Zulu. Hill People Gear’s (HPG) Umlindi backpack will definitely take care of your gear.

The ‘Lindi is HPG’s answer to the largest pack that can be carried without lifter straps.

We received an Umlindi with a Prairie Belt (MSRP: $100.00) for testing. The ‘Lindi’s 500d Cordura construction is an excellent blend of durability and weight-saving construction. Very few people truly need 1000d fabric in their packs. The 500d in the ‘Lindi is certainly adequate for the average sportsman or “evil black” user. We hauled the ‘Lindi around through dense brush, thorns and trees with hardly a blemish.

The lightweight nature of the Umlindi is an excellent foundation for a small hunting pack or larger day pack. It would also make an excellent bug out bag or get home bag.

The Umlindi in its Natural Environment
The Umlindi in its Natural Environment

Organizationally, the Umlindi is simple with a unique external compression strap system intended to work with HPG’s compression panels and stuff sacks. The straps also work well for cinching down virtually any other bulky, lightweight item. We used them for tents, dry bags, shooting mats, sleeping mats and a rifle with good success. The tool loop at the bottom of the pack makes sure heavier loads don’t slip out of the compression straps.

The Umlindi's Compression Straps Work Well for Securing Loads Outside the Pack
The Umlindi’s Compression Straps Work Well for Securing Loads Outside the Pack
Handy Tool Loop
Handy Tool Loop

The Umlindi also has dual “wand” (side) pockets large enough for a one quart USGI canteen. They also work well with 1.5 liter thermoses as pictured in our feature photo.

The Umlindi’s interior is comprised of a single cargo area with a half-depth slot pocket on the back side of the pack. Organization is left almost entirely to the user. We used dry bags and stuff sacks to keep our gear stashed just the way we wanted.

It took a bit of work and some experimentation to get the Umlindi’s harness adjusted properly. It’s a great harness but the configuration is somewhat unique. Adjustment is done by shortening or lengthening the upper and lower straps. Other packs have simpler adjustment methods but once the harness is dialed in, there’s no muss or fuss.

The Umlindi's Harness with its Unique Size Adjustment System
The Umlindi’s Harness with its Unique Size Adjustment System

The shoulder straps are nice and flat. They work well for shouldering a rifle while wearing the pack but do not provide a great deal of padding. The width of the shoulder straps spreads the pack’s weight, however, making it relatively comfortable with heavy loads.

Wide Harness Straps Spread the Weight of Loads Nicely
Wide Harness Straps Spread the Weight of Loads Nicely

Due to the combination of the pack’s removable plastic framesheet and the wide straps, we found that loads as heavy as 50 lbs were fairly comfortable – even without the Prairie Belt.

One of the features that we really liked was the external pocket for the hydration bladder. So many packs hide the hydration bladder inside the main section of the pack. This makes removal and refilling a pain. The Umlindi’s hydration bladder pocket is separate from the main cargo compartment, right next to the wearer’s back. An Osprey bladder with a center structural support slid easily in and out of the Umlindi’s hydration pocket.

Easy Access to the Hydration Bladder Pocket
Easy Access to the Hydration Bladder Pocket

Overall, the Umlindi is a high-quality pack that’s easily configurable to meet multiple needs. One of our testers even used it as a carry on bag on a recent trip. The bag fits perfectly in even the smaller, regional jets’ overhead bins and can be stuffed under a seat if absolutely necessary.

Nightstick Announces SLR-2120 Under Hood Work Light

February 2015 | Wylie, TX

www.baycoproducts.com

Nightstick® has announced its SLR-2120 rechargeable work light. This light debuted at the 2015 SHOT Show in Las Vegas where we had an opportunity to take a cursory look. The concept is intriguing whether you’re working on your Kia in your garage or your Deuce and a Half in Afghanistan.

The SLR-2120 features a tubular-shaped LED light bar powered by an industry leading lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The light produces 1200 Lumens in full-power mode and 650 Lumens in (a little more than) half-power mode.

 

Nightstick SLR-2120 Switch
Nightstick SLR-2120 Switch

While the SLR-2120 Under Hood Work Light is purpose built as an all LED, hands-free floodlight for the automobile enthusiast, this rechargeable work light comes with an adjustable cradle that has a pair of spring-loaded, foam-covered grippers that will extend 48”-77” to fit on the underside of virtually any automobile hood. The light bar is then free to rotate 360 degrees to place the lighting exactly where it’s needed. The dual on/off buttons, one located on each of the two handles, operate in tandem with each other. One press of either button turns the light on in Full-power Mode, a second press and you’re in Half-power Mode and then a third press, turns the light off.

Nightstick SLR-2120 Magnets
Nightstick SLR-2120 Magnets
Nightstick SLR-2120 Hook
Nightstick SLR-2120 Hook

Click here for the full media release.

SHplates Steel Rucking Plate

SHplates 35 lb Rucking Plate, MSRP $140.00 (as tested)

www.shplates.com

Author: Toby Asplin

Photos: Toby Asplin

FTC Disclosure: The products reviewed were provided by the manufacturer/distributor.

Strength and Honor. SHplates calls to memory the characteristics of fallen brothers in arms while providing a weighty burden for your good livin’.

You can order your SHplate etched with virtually anything.
You can order your SHplate etched with virtually anything.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “You’re reviewing a steel plate? What is there to say?” It’s steel. It’s a plate and it’s relatively heavy for its size.

End of review? Not quite.

As the popularity of rucking (carrying a ruck sack for exercise, competition or a team-focused event like GORUCK) has grown, so has the market for weights to be carried in one’s ruck. Early options included bricks, often culled from abandoned job sites or found on Craigslist, sandbags or the gear you might utilize during the event for which you were training.

All those things were fine, with a few exceptions. Most, however, left you with little room for anything else in your ruck.

Enter steel plates.

The down side to steel plates was that many of the originals had sharp edges. Some still do. Sharp edges and ruck material – even the toughest of ruck material – don’t play well together. The steel always wins.

Rich Sanders, of Pittsburgh, PA (the steel city, of course) had a better idea – a plate with rounded edges and a coating to keep it from rusting.

Combined with the USPS’s “If it fits, it ships” service offering, a business was born.

Expect your SHplate to arrive looking something like this
Expect your SHplate to arrive looking something like this

SHplates provided Trek Tech Black with a 35 lb plate specifically intended to be carried in the laptop compartment of the GORUCK GR0 and make weight for GORUCK Selection.

When the plate arrived at my house, my mother in-law was staying with us. As I walked in the door after work, she said, “There’s a package on the front step and I couldn’t move it.” I knew, instantly, that the SHplate had arrived. Expect similar responses from mail room workers if you have your plate shipped to your place of business.

Shortly after the plate arrived, I loaded it up and went for a nice little ruck.

The plate is a tight fit in the GR0’s laptop compartment. While it may be a little difficult to close the zipper on the compartment, the tight fit is appreciated when doing PT with the ruck on one’s back. The plate doesn’t shift or move around at all.

While carrying bricks during training and in previous events, I had utilized a pack with compression straps to hold the bricks in place. Even when duct taped together, the bricks moved around quite a bit without the compression straps. The combination of this particular SHplate and the GORUCK GR0 alleviated the need for compression straps.

SHplate's 35 lb plate is a tight fit in the GR0's laptop compartment
SHplate’s 35 lb plate is a tight fit in the GR0’s laptop compartment

Once we figured out a technique for zipping the laptop compartment shut with the plate inside, it was relatively easy to get the plate in and out of the ruck.

Slip your index finger under the zipper and stretch it over the plate
Slip your thumb under the GR0’s laptop compartment zipper and stretch it over the plate

Our technique is as follows:

  1. Open the laptop compartment and drop in the plate
  2. Grasp the fabric and zipper of the deeper side of the laptop compartment, near the corner, between your thumb and forefinger (thumb inside the compartment)
  3. Stretch the fabric and zipper over the plate
  4. Zip the compartment closed while holding the fabric and zipper in place

After about a month and a half of use, I haven’t seen any damage to the laptop compartment or its zipper.

In the GR0, the plate carries close to the back without causing discomfort.

We tried the plate in a couple different, similarly-sized packs. The fit wasn’t as perfect as in the GR0. The plate tended to shift around a bit more – even with compression straps.

If you’re looking at GORUCK Selection … or for a training solution for any other ruck event … and own a GORUCK GR0, we’re confident that the SHplates 35 lb plate will serve you well. With the optional etching, you’ll also be in compliance with special operations forces Rule #1: Always look cool.