5.11 Covrt 18 Backpack

5.11 Covrt 18 backpackI spent New Year’s Day getting caught up. Don’t want to start the new year already behind schedule, right? My wife wanted my to get our living room/home gym organized so that’s what I did. In the course of that, I needed to find a better place for my Covrt 18 backpack. Lately I’ve been using it as a piece of exercise gear so it was sitting on a stack of weight plates next to the lifting rack. I’ve wanted to write a review for awhile but never got around to it. Anyway, I realized I’ve owned my Covrt 18 for over 2-1/2 years so I guess that’s long enough to have an informed opinion on it. OK, time to write a review…

My 5.11 Covrt 18 Military/Tactical Backpack Review

The Covrt 18 was the second backpack I bought when I first got into prepping, and as I said I’ve had it for a little over 1-1/2 years. According to 5.11, the Covert 18 is:

Designed to appear subtle and inconspicuous, the COVRT18™ is a full-sized covert backpack that provides superior tactical utility and a low-vis appearance. Ideal for CCW use, the backpack features a TacTec System™ compatible hidden pistol pocket, Roll-Down Assault Compartment (R.A.C.™) for MOLLE or web pouches, and a main compartment with a built-in padded laptop sleeve and roomy primary and secondary storage zones. Built from rugged 500D and 420D water resistant nylon, the COVRT18 is made to last, and with a fleece lined sunglasses pocket, QuickTact shoulder straps, adjustable yoke shoulders, compression straps, a flip-down ID panel, and a reinforced grab handle, it’s made for everyday use. There’s a quick access flex cuff channel, too.

I bought it mainly for the CCW compartment and the low visibility (non-tactical) appearance. I decided soon after that putting a gun in a bag that’s easily separated is a really bad idea. Also, I really prefer camo to covert. Camo is not a negative in my area. The Covert 18 quickly got demoted to utility bag status. As such, it gets used and abused a lot. More than any of my other bags in fact… Over 2-1/2 years of abuse, the Covrt 18 has held up remarkably well.

Use and durability

The first use I put it to was my truck bag. In this role, it was always loaded with two heavy water bottles (one in each side pocket), seasonal clothing, and seasonal gear. That means dense stuff (pistol, ammo and magazines, etc.) in summer and bulky stuff (jacket, serape, tarp) in winter. Mostly carried by the carry handle instead of putting it on my back. Usually tossed on the floor or in the back of my truck.

I’ve also used it as a travel bag. In that roll, it was loaded up with my laptop and related gear, 2 meter HT and charger, books, notepad, and pens/pencils. In other words, somewhat heavy stuff with sharp corners and pointy ends. It held up well.

Lately I’ve been using it for rucking. I have 20 lbs of weight wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in the main compartment. I’m 25 lbs overweight, so it simulates carrying a 45 lb pack. Cheaper than a GuRuck bag and more versatile IMO.

Comfort and wearability

The Covrt 18 has nice vented padding on the side that rides against your back, so ventilation is good. The shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable. There is no waist belt, so all the weight is going to be on your shoulders. So far (up to 25 lb load) it’s been OK. I loaded it to 33 lbs (including weight of the pack) once as a test and don’t think I’d go over that. With no weight transfer to the hips, that’s right at the comfort limit.

This pack has a yoke-style shoulder strap system. It’s very comfortable once the pack is on, but the carry handle holds the shoulder straps close together at the top which makes it kind of a pain to get your arms through. Also, the carry handle attachment doesn’t look very strong. I don’t use it when the pack has a heavy load.

Details and specs

The Covrt 18 has a lot of organization. So much that it might even be a little over done. There’s a space for a hydration bladder in front of the main compartment. If you don’t carry a bladder, it’s perfect for stowing maps or a thin, flat notebook. The main compartment itself is roomy, and can hold about as much as you’d want with a 20 lb payload limit. There is a laptop sleeve at the front that can hold up to a 15″ laptop. If you’re using this as a bugout bag, the laptop sleeve is also the perfect size for stowing an all weather space blanket.

Back to the outside of the pack, there’s a fleece lined sun glass pocket on top of the main compartment. It’s actually big enough to hold a lot more than just a pair of sunglasses. Besides my sunglasses, I also keep a pair of readers, a head lamp, and a couple pairs of foam earplugs in a 35mm film can. There’s still room to spare.

Directly behind the main compartment is the EDC/holster pocket. It’s accessible through zippers on both sides and has a velcro panel for attaching a holster. I don’t use my pack for CCW, so it’s another good place to stash a map or other documents. If you do use this for CCW, the pocket is large enough to hold a full size pistol like a 1911 or Glock 17.

Behind the CCW stash point are two smaller compartments: a small stash pocket on top and an organization panel on the bottom. I keep my cell phone and charger in the stash pocket. In the large organization panel, I keep some pens, a notebook, and a shemagh.

Covrt 18 – bottom line

The Covrt 18 has turned out to be a really useful pack for me even though i’m not using it for its original purpose. It works great as a utility pack, range bag, and a rucking bag. It would also work great as an EDC pack. For a bugout bag I’m not so sure… in warm weather, yes. There’s not really enough room inside for a sleep system though, and no easy way to lash one to the bottom of the bag. If you might have to bugout in cold weather, this probably isn’t your pack.

For what it does well, it does very well. Mine has held up to over 2-1/2 years of hard use with no damage and very little wear. I can find nothing bad to say about the quality of this back and would recommend it.

Peace out,

Related link:

5.11’s Covert 18 page

Versatile 3 pack system, cheap

It’s easy to find cheap packs and easy to find quality packs. It’s just not easy to find quality packs that are cheap. I put together a 3 pack system for about $300. Cheap enough for me at least. It’s based on the USGI ALICE pack system so the quality is there too. I saved money by using some used parts, shopping around, and sometimes putting up with crappy customer service. For my trouble, I have a versatile 3 pack system, cheap. It gives me a cargo frame, day pack, and an external frame pack. If you don’t mind all used pieces this kit can be put together for about $210. If you want everything brand new, plan on spending $375 to $400 – still cheaper than a single Kifaru

Pieces and parts for a cheap and easy 3 pack system

You’ll need 2 ALICE pack frames and 2 packs. At least one of the packs needs to be a medium. The second can be medium or large, your preference. You’ll also need 1 set of ALICE shoulder straps and an ALICE pack frame cargo support shelf. Besides the ALICE pieces you’ll need 2 MOLLE waist belts and 2 sets of MOLLE shoulder straps. When you get the MOLLE shoulder straps, make sure they’re complete sets with both upper and lower straps. A MOLLE sleep system carrier is optional, and I also picked up a can of dessert tan spray paint for my cargo hauler.

I paid $91 for a Hellcat kit from Old Grouch’s Military Surplus. This gave me a used ALICE frame and pack, and new MOLLE waist belt and shoulder straps. (I never received the MOLLE sleep system carrier it was supposed to include after multiple contacts with customer service) For my second pack I went with a brand new USGI surplus medium ALICE pack and frame from Sportmans Guide. With shipping, it set me back $130. I bought the rest of parts from different vendors on Amazon – $19 for the cargo shelf, $22 for the MOLLE waist belt, and $30 for the shoulder straps. Add $6 for a can of spray paint from Home Depot and my total cost is $298.

Putting together the 3 pack system

The first thing I did was clean up the used frame that came with my Hellcat kit. After cleaning it, I spray painted it and the cargo shelf with dessert tan. Once the paint was dry, I followed these instructions and attached one set of the MOLLE shoulder straps and one of the MOLLE waist belts to the frame. This makes a nice pack frame that’s really nice for packing things that don’t fit inside a pack very well.

The second thing I did was remove the ALICE shoulder straps and waist belt from my new ALICE pack set. I left the pack attached to the frame and used the same instructions to attach my second set of MOLLE straps and waist belt. Finally I attached the MOLLE sleep carrier system. With a medium ALICE pack this setup gives you about 2400 c.i. in the main pack and another 1600 in the sleep system carrier. (If you use a large ALICE pack, main pack capacity is 3800 c.i.)

Finally, I took the ALICE straps from my new pack and put them on the used pack that came with my Hellcat kit.

Best bushcraft backpack?

The other day I read a post on another blog listing “The 10 Best Bushcraft Backpacks for 2018.” There were some nice packs on the list (and they all had convenient links to buy them on Amazon) but none of them are what I consider to be the best bushcraft backpack. Day hiking? Sure. Backpacking? At least one good one. But a good backpack for buschcraft? I didn’t see one on the list.

What makes a good bushcraft backpack?

The things that make a good pack for anything are pretty basic. A good pack will do a good job of distributing the weight. It should give good ventilation for your pack. Obviously it needs enough room to haul water, food, and all your gear. To be good for bushcraft though, that’s not enough IMO. A good bushcraft backpack should also be rugged and easy to reconfigure as your load changes. So what’s wrong with the packs on the list?

Every one of them is an internal frame pack. That means you’re pretty much stuck with the out of the box configuration. There’s no frame to tie stuff to (or use stand-alone). One of the packs has MOLLE webbing for attaching accessories, but the rest have no easy way to attach stuff if you need to. Some of the packs on the list don’t have a decent paddied waist strap, so forget about transferring some of that weight to your hips. Most of the packs on the list seem light for their size, which probably means material was selected for weight over strength.

What makes a good bushcraft backpack?

It has to be rugged and flexible. If it’s going to fall apart, it’s not going to be a good pack. You should be able to configure it, not just pack all your stuff in it. IMO there are only a few packs that are decent for bushcrafting. A good backpack for a bushcrafter, especially “the best bushcraft backpack,” should be able to hold up to hard use and even abuse. It should be easy to modify. It would be nice if it was cheap. Is there such a thing? Yep.

And the Best Bushcraft Backpack is…

In my opinion, the best bushcraft backpack is the USGI ALICE pack. I don’t think you can find a more rugged pack for anywhere near the price of a surplus ALICE pack. You can get a brand new one for $130 – $150 and used are much cheaper. Right now you can get a used ALICE pack and frame with a Hellcat upgrade for less than $100, including shipping.

The ALICE pack can survive air drops while heavily loaded, so it probably can take anything you use it for. It has an external frame so it’s easy to strap things on that won’t fit inside. You can use the frame with just the shoulder straps and belt for packing things with sharp corners that would tear up an ordinary pack You can use the pack and shoulder straps without the frame if you have a light load. It has lots of attachment loops on the pack (not as many as a MOLLE pack though).

It’s not the most comfortable pack in the world, but it’s probably the most bomb-proof and flexible pack you’re going to find anywhere, at least at an affordable price. I can’t think of any pack that would be better for bushcrafting. In fact, I’ll go so far as to call the ALICE pack the best bushcraft backpack you can get. It might not be the best pack for camping, general backpacking, or day tripping. For a bushcraft pack though it’s the best, at least IMNSHO.

Peace out,

Holy MOLLE!!!

I need another pack like I need a hole in the head but sometimes I can’t help myself. I was looking for some ALICE gear for me Hellcat pack and I stumbled across this desert camo MOLLE II large pack for sale. Big deal, they’re all over the place right now. Except this one was only $86.98 plus shipping. Oh, and it’s brand new and genuine USGI. Holy MOLLE!!! How can I pass up a deal like that? I can’t. When I see something like this I lose all self control. I mean, come on… Brand New. Genuine USGI. And $87??? It would be a waste of money to NOT get one.

My new MOLLE pack…

(This will be just a quick overview, a full review will come later) With shipping, total cost was about $110. It is indeed brand new and comes fully assembled. I couldn’t find any obvious problems when I gave it a quick look over. It was missing the “US” stamp on the back, so maybe the government considered that a defect? For civilian use I think that’s a plus. It doesn’t include sustainment pouches, but it’s a big pack so I probably don’t need the extra storage. If I do, MOLLE II sustainment pouches are cheap and easy to find. Desert camo isn’t my favorite color, but that price…

To put this in perspective, this is a brand new MOLLE pack being sold for less $$$ than a new surplus ALICE pack. Heck, it’s cheaper than some used ALICE packs I’ve seen. And definitely cheaper than I’ve found MOLLE II packs anywhere else. (The more expensive ones I’ve found come with 2 sustainment pouches, but those aren’t worth a $70 higher price tag).

I’m really glad I found this deal. Usually I find these things just after the seller runs out so maybe I got lucky this time. It should make a really good long term camping or bugout bag. I just wish mine was ACU like the one in the video instead of desert camo. BTW, this guy’s (Reallybigmonkey1) YouTube channel has lots of good bushcrafting videos…

Peace out,

The big green tick…

large ALICE packSo I’m looking for a pack. I already have packs but this time I’m looking for something that can be my Get Out Of Dodge pack. You know, something I can pack enough stuff in to survive, thrive, and defend with. For at least a week… I wanted something tough and cheap. Style is subjective anyway. After looking at lots of bags, I settled on a large ALICE pack, aka the Big Green Tick.

I generally don’t trust product reviews. Most seem like they’re written by people who (a) hope you’ll buy what they’re “reviewing” so they can make a commission, (b) like to brag about how much they can spend, or (c) are trying to justify a purchase. So reading this post was kind of refreshing. Agree with him or not, at least he does a good job of explaining why he likes what he likes. Or doesn’t like what he doesn’t like. Based on his comments about the A.L.I.C.E pack I decided to try one.

Thing is, there are two A.L.I.C.E packs – medium and large. Some call the Large one “the big green tick.” Don’t know why, but it does kind of look like one. The pack I ordered was advertised as medium. Picks and measurements published by seller say it’s Large. Their FAQ say it’s Medium. I ordered hoping it’s a Large and yes it’s a Large. Genuine USGI with an NSN.

I see some debate about A.L.I.C.E medium vs. large. Fans of the Medium say it prevents them from over packing. Whatever. Fans of the Large say the smaller is too small to carry a realistic load. Whatever. I guess the only way to know for sure is to try them both and see what works for you, so I ordered a Medium A.L.I.C.E pack yesterday. It will be fun to compare them.

Peace out,

Kelty Raven 2500 – first look

kelty raven 2500 first look - insideSanta Clause in the Big Brown Truck delivered my Kelty Raven 2500 yesterday. I haven’t had a chance to take it on a hike yet, but going over it – I’m really impressed so far. I’d say quality is on par with my much more expensive Kifaru Urban Zippy. Plus it’s genuine military issue which is always a plus with me… if something is good enough for the US military then it sure as heck is good enough for me. Any way, this isn’t a full gear review of the Raven, just a quick look and my first impressions of this pack.

Kelty Raven 2500 – first look

The first thing I noticed is the weight. The Raven is heavy – 5 lb 5 oz without the radio holder. The second thing I noticed is the stitching. All very solid with no loose thread ends. Third thing is comfort. This pack is more comfortable with 35 lbs in it than my 3V Gear Paratus with only 20 lbs. I guess that’s what a real suspension system does for you. Zippers work great. Kelty doesn’t say if they’re YKK or something else. Who cares? They work great. If they break, Kelty has a lifetime warranty. Overall quality is great. In fact, this pack makes some other highly rated “operator packs” look like a joke.

The Raven is designed to carry a military satellite radio, so there are some things you might miss. The main thing is a hydration sleeve. The Raven 2500 has one, but it’s on the access panel instead of the back panel. Also, a padded eyewear compartment has been sacrificed for a radio access panel.

Other than those two small quibbles, the Raven 2500 is a great pack. It’s a bit expensive ($270 direct from Kelty or $202 from Amozon), but IMO the high quality makes it worth the price. This would make a great pack to build a bugout bag or get home bag around. It’s big enough to use on one or two night camping hikes too. I’m looking forward to wringing it out and writing a full review soon.

Peace out,

Related links:
Bugout bag or get home bag?
Kelty Raven 2500 product page

Giving up on Kifaru customer service…

urban zippyI usually buy inexpensive stuff, but in June I sold some crap I wasn’t using and had enough money to buy a pack I’ve wanted for awhile – Kifaru’s Urban Zippy. I placed my order and waited. It was better than expected. I have a some low end and medium range packs, but this was my first high end (high dollar) pack. I was happy. The quality and styling was better than my other packs by a long shot. Looking closer though, I saw a problem… the side zippers were missing the pulls. OK, no big deal, right? It’s just paracord, and any self respecting backwoodsman should have plenty of cordage on hand. I know I do. But then I got to thinking that a $300 pack ought to have matching pulls. So I sent an email to Kifaru customer service…

Dear Kifaru Customer Service…


About a month ago I ordered an Urban Zippy in Ranger Green (order #nnnnn). I really like the pack, but the 4 zippers on the side panels are missing the paracord pulls. I have some paracord, but it would be nice if all the zipper pulls matched. I don’t want to return the bag to have the pulls installed, so I was wondering if you could send me enough matching paracord to put the 4 zipper pulls on the side panel zippers.

Thanks, …

The next day I got a reply apologizing for the missing zipper pulls and a request for my address. I replied and waited – for over a month. I know their shipping times so I thought I’d give them some time. After about 2 months from first contact I started to think maybe they forgot. I sent another polite email explaining the situation. Their response was they’d already sent them, didn’t know what had happened, but would send out more. That was over a week ago. I’m starting to think I’m not going to get them. I guess I’ll give them a couple more days and try one more time. I love the pack, but disappointed with their (so far) lack of customer service…

Would I buy another Kifaru?

Yes, absolutely. As I said, the quality of the bag is great, and I’m not going to not buy good quality stuff over something as stupid as a missing zipper pull. However, I am disappointed in their lack of customer service. I mean we’re talking about a $300 bag. How hard would it be to send me 4 short pieces of paracord that matched the other zipper pulls? Or at least tell me what brand and color they use so I could just buy some and take care of it myself?