Saturday, September 17, 2011

Eberlestock F3 Halftrack Backpack Review

My previous very lengthy post My EDC Bag For Work was about my decision to use a Maxpedition Centurion Patrol Bag and an Octa Versipack as my every day carry bags. They did work out well for me but I recently decided to make a change. I'm anticipating moving (yep, still waiting for my transfer confirmation) and I will be doing a lot of walking at my new location.

I tried out a couple of backpacks, the Maxpedition Falcon II and a Kelty Internal frame pack, can't remember the model, is a largish daypack. The Kelty was comfortable but had too few pockets. The Maxpedition Falcon II was just not long enough, I don't like the torso length. It's not a serious walking/hiking pack, I think it's more of a cool urban commuter pack. Not what I was looking for in the end.

My new work site will be (trying to be positive) be in a small town in coastal British Columbia. I will mostly be walking to work, distance TBD but could be as much as 5 km. Ideally will be 3 or less. Also may be using public transit or a small car. Climate is mild and generally in the 5-15 C range year round. Extremes appear to be -5 to the low 20s. Lots of rain.

Backpack needs:
- sturdy
- comfortable
- enough capacity to carry a small EDC survival load, lunch, water bottles, etc. 20L+
- water-resistant at a minimum, probably need a waterproof cover

Backpack wants:
- multi-purpose, could be used for travel
- looks cool (hey, why not?)
- lots of accessible pockets
- scalable through use of molle or other straps
- relatively inexpensive
- capable of carrying at least a netbook laptop

Thanks in part to the reader comment on that post, I took a look at some Eberlestock backpacks. I was a bit nervous about spending $200+ on a pack sight unseen but was looking for a new EDC bag and decided to bite the bullet and try one. My choice was the Eberlestock F3 Halftrack Backpack. It had a lot of interesting features and the price was only moderately horrifying. Well, maybe a little more than moderately :)

Information from Eberlestock:

The Halftrack pack, like its World War II namesake, was inspired by necessity. The needs are fairly straightforward: carry heavy stuff, and make the thing that does it easy to use. The halftrack vehicle-type was developed because it could carry heavy stuff, like anti-aircraft guns, and yet it was easy enough to drive that you could turn any knucklehead with a driver's license loose with it.

Our Halftrack, we're proud to say, continues in this tradition. It's well-laid out. Tough. PALS webbing all over the place. Filled with easy access pockets. And, combined with our patent-pending Ripcord Gun Carry System (sold separately), it'll carry a heavy weapon aft of your shoulders, so you'll be more mobile. But what will surprise you is that you can get the gun off of your back while wearing the pack.

We do, however, depart from the old halftrack in one essential way. Our pack is quiet, and made for comfort as much as anything else, because we know what it's like to live out of a backpack.

The Halftrack pack is sister to the Phantom sniper pack, and is built from the same pattern. It's a front-loader, with two levels of varying-sized tuck-pockets lining its interior, PALS racks inside and out, and a fold-down shelf that can be used to divide the main compartment into upper and lower chambers. A plastic mesh flap on the rear wall serves as a radio rack. It will carry two 3-liter hydration kits, mounted in side pockets, or two 2-liter bladders in sleeves inboard of the outer pockets if you want to free the main side pockets for other gear.

Tunnel pockets on either side have a D-ring at the top, which is useful for carrying skis, long poles, or other long equipment. It features a longer waistbelt, with a 6 x 2 PALS matrix on each side. The Halftrack has our unique, hand-sewn support, padding, and ventilation system. You'll need to try one on to find out why so many people tell us that our packs are the most comfortable they've ever worn. The pack has a plastic framesheet and internal aluminum Cellular Stays, which work in combination with the harness and padding to provide you with plenty of support for carrying loads.

The Halftrack includes a lightweight pull-out rain cover, which stows in a pocket on the bottom of the main compartment. It can be used to cover the pack, and will even go over a weapon that's being carried.

My Review

I love the pack. It hits most of my wants and needs very well. It certainly seems sturdy and well made, quality stitching and construction throughout - at least, as far as my inexpert eye can tell. Very, very comfortable, extremely well padded in the back with lots of airflow room. More than enough room to carry what I needed, has some excellent pockets on the side for water bottles as well as hydration pouches. Includes a waterproof cover. It does indeed look very cool. I picked the Dry Earth color, very nice.

The only negatives:

- I don't see a full size laptop fitting in this; my netbook fits just fine.
- It's expensive. Around $229 USD. That's a lot to pay for what is essentially a kick ass daypack. It's debatable whether the excellent quality and functionality would be needed for joe or jill civilian; most of us would be buying it for the cool factor, not because we couldn't get by with a lesser pack.

But it's damn cool. Unfortunately I loved this pack so much...I may have bought two more by Eberlestock. Oops. More on that later.

Note - this pack does not have a rifle carrying system included.

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