Gear Review: MOLLE 4000 Rucksack

January 30, 2018

Military surplus MOLLE backpacks and pouches and their commercial-of-the-shelf (COTS) imitators have become a favorite purchase item for both the outdoor enthusiasts and preppers. As with most equipment designed for the military, it has limited efficiency when employed for civilian use. For example, the current modular sleep system used by the military will not fit in its entirety into the sleeping bag compartments of most commercial backpacks. Therefore, for the ultralight backpackers and adventure racers, military surplus, such as sleeping bags, are avoided. However, MOLLE backpacks and pouches are purchased and used by a wide variety of people and they work quite well when used within their designed purposes.
In recent years, an interest has arisen in the military for a backpack, whose volume falls in between the current issue MOLLE Large and Medium Rucksacks. MOLLE is an acronym for Modular Light Weight Load Carrying Equipment. The MOLLE system was first introduced in the late 1990s to replace the aging Vietnam-era ALICE (All-Purpose Individual Combat Equipment) system. New materials and manufacturing techniques drives the current philosophy of producing lighter and stronger individual equipment that is procured by the military. Once aging or unserviceable MOLLE equipment is coded out of the military inventory system, it becomes available for acquisition by civilian surplus stores for sale to the general public.

A new version of the MOLLE rucksack called, the MOLLE 4000, is being tested by the military for parachute operations. Some of the early test models submitted by vendors are starting to make their way on to the market for the general public. I purchased mine last year at a military surplus store when I lived in Virginia. These are interesting packs and reflect the genre of the military’s current designs for rucksacks. It is not known, as of this writing, if the military has adopted this particular design of the rucksack. However, it is certain that more of these backpacks will eventually find their way to surplus stores, as well as, internet vendors and will be purchased by interested consumers. What are some characteristics and features of this rucksack?

Characteristics

General Description:
This rucksack falls into the category of an external frame backpack. The advertised volume of the rucksack is 4000 cubic inches making it 65 liters. It is constructed of 1000 Denier Cordura fabric. The frame is made of high impact polymer plastic. The PALS webbing give the added value of modularity. All zippers are the standard YKK-type. The buckles are the standard heavy duty plastic, Fastek-type. The pack has the appearance of an over-sized MOLLE 3-day Assault Pack with a top flap closure instead of a zippered one. I have read others describe it as a kind of modern ALICE pack.

Volume:
The main compartment is 4000 cubic inches or 65 liters. However, because of the addition of the storm flap, the volume of the main compartment increases to 85 liters if fully packed. It has one large access pouch on the outside, similar to the ones on the assault pack and medium rucksack. The outside compartment gives an additional 20 liters in the overall volume to the pack. Therefore, the over all volume of the pack is 90-95 liters.

Features:
The main compartment has a draw-string storm flap closure. There is a zippered access point on the main compartment for easy access to the contents while the main cover is closed. It has a large cover flap for the main compartment that functions as a map compartment with a Velcro closure. There is no mesh webbing on the underside of the main compartment flap as there is on the large MOLLE rucksack. The excess strapping from the two main closure straps can be rolled up and secured in two slots on the top of the main compartment flap. It has two compression straps on each side, similar to the MOLLE Medium Rucksack. The pack frame is the equivalent to the USMC DE1606 MC frame. The frame is much more thick than the standard frame thickness of the MOLLE Medium or Large Rucksacks. The shoulder straps are sewn into the pack with the pack sitting over the frame in a similar manner to the legacy ALICE pack and LC-2 frame. There is a compartment on the bottom of the ruck that stores the parachute rigging. What are some observations about this backpack?

Observations

Because of its intended use, the MOLLE 4000 seems to be heavy for its size when empty. This is because the pack has to withstand larger stressors on it during parachute operations than a normal backpack. The padding on the shoulder straps is thicker than those on the other rucksacks in this line giving it exceptional comfort. The pack does look like a cross between the legacy ALICE pack and current MOLLE rucksack. Initial impressions of this pack are that it has great potential to become a favorite for hikers and backpackers with some modifications for non-military users. How does this backpack perform on the trail?

Performance

This pack performed well on the trail. It felt more like my older ALICE pack on my back the longer I carried it. The lumbar waist belt provides excellent comfort over an extended period of time. The PALS webbing on the lumbar belt also gives additional pouch options. The shoulder straps and the shoulder padding also give excellent comfort. However, some thought needs to be put into balancing the weight of the contents if additional outside pouches are attached. For example, I attempted to attach my Condor Nalgene Bottle Pouch on the side with a full water bottle. It caused the weight to become imbalanced, so I just packed it on the top of the main compartment under the flap closure for easy access, since I did not have another Nalgene Bottle for the opposite side. The weight of the pack with my contents started to get close to 40-45 lbs. in total weight. This was before I added the sleeping bag which pushed the pack to over 50 lbs. What is the best employment of this backpack?

Best Use of This Backpack

This pack is best used for no more than a two or three day hike. The weight of the pack combined with necessary contents for longer treks on the trail would cause the pack to become uncomfortable very quickly, especially for thru-hiking. The pack is ruggedly built, so it would be a good pack for hunters. Its dimensions make it too small to be used as a large game hauler. However, it will easily accommodate varmint hunting or trapping. This pack would also be a good consideration for bushcrafters because of the deep barrel main compartment construction. This pack would also be a good consideration as a 72-hour emergency evacuation or bug out bag. How could this pack be improved?

Suggested Improvements

If commercial manufacturers decide to produce a civilian version of this backpack, here are some suggested changes that could make the pack more user-friendly to the general public.

  • The manufacturer should consider putting in a water bladder compatible inner compartment.
  • The manufacturer should consider constructing a thinner thickness frame to reduce the empty weight of the pack for general use considerations.
  • The manufacturer should consider a titanium tubing LC-2 ALICE-type frame to replace the polymer frame for added strength and durability as well as reducing the empty weight of the pack.

Concluding Comments

Overall this backpack is a wonderful pack for no more than three days on the trail. It will easily accommodate the packing needs of most day hikers or weekend backpackers. The construction of the pack eliminates worry about damage under general-use conditions. Its volumous main compartment allows for any combination of contents for most outdoor scenarios and considerations.

 

Boots That I Would Wear Outdoors: The Danner® TFX

us_army_acu_danner_desert_tfx_rough_out_tan_gtx_2_grandeA boot that I would wear outdoors in North America or Europe would be the Danner® TFX boot.[1] I wore this boot from 2006 to 2014 while serving in the military. This boot is one of the finest everyday-wear boots that I have worn. It is made of top grain cowhide leather (roughed out suede). There are two versions of this boot: a Gore-Tex® lined version and a hot weather version. The hot weather version has small drainage holes on the insteps.  This boot appears to be Danner’s tactical version of their Proghorn series.[2] I have worn these boots deployed to Iraq, the rifle and pistol training ranges, and in the office. This boot was comfortable to wear always. It stood up to the rigors of military life both in the field and out of the field.

Is this boot good for hiking and backpacking? Yes. I have worn this boot hiking and it performed in an excellent manner. It provided stability for my ankles while carrying my backpack. It provided comfort and breathability for my feet while on the trail. The boots work best with a good thick boot or hiking sock. I found that athletic socks made for running shoes work satisfactorily for short hikes, but not for multi-day hikes. Maintenance and care for the boot requires minimal effort; however, one drawback is that if the boot becomes water logged or caked with mud, then it will require several days for it to dry after cleaning.  The laces tend to wear out and break with extensive use. Therefore, replacing them with paracord or heavy duty work boot laces should be considered.  If you are planning to have an outdoor adventure that may involve extensive activity in wet conditions or snow, the Danner Proghorn will most likely be the better boot to wear.

Overall, this boot is a joy to own and wear while hiking or backpacking. If you are interested in this boot, you can find it at the links below.

Enjoy and see you on the trail!

[1] “Desert TFX G3 series”, Danner Boots, online. Accessed March 9, 2017. http://www.danner.com/men/military/desert-tfx-g3-8-coyote.html.

[2] “Proghorn Series”, Danner Boots online. Accessed March 9, 2017. http://www.danner.com/productfamily/pronghorn/men:hunt/.

Gear Review: Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack (M/L)

This is the post excerpt.

January 28, 2017

357caaf2-43bf-4fbb-ab84-5a5b929ed7e0The interest in hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor activities has grown exponentially over the last twenty years. The growth in materials technology has also contributed to a wider variety of gear that is both durable, safe, practical, and economical. The growth in the survival related programing on television has also helped the outfitter industries. One such company that has enjoyed the benefits of the growing interest in the outdoors has been Kelty® out of Boulder, Colorado. One of their signature backpacks is the Redwing 50. The “50” stands for 50 liters in volume.

I purchased this backpack from Amazon® back in January of this year. The reason for the purchase was that I was wanting to get away from the more tactical looking packs with all of the MOLLE webbing sewn on them along with the military looking color assortments. The pack that I was looking for had to have volume, could carry a water bladder, and carry enough essential gear for a good day hike or an overnight stay in the woods. My research revealed that the kind of backpack required for such a short stay in the outdoors had to have between a 45-55 liter capacity. This is the basic volume for a tactical three-day assault pack. The backpack that I was looking for had to also fit within my budget. Most of the quality backpacks that can be found meeting these criteria were as low as $150 USD and as high as $500 USD, depending on the vendor or retailer. To my surprise, the Kelty Redwing 50 came up on Amazon® under $100 USD. This was not a deal too-good-to-be-true. Rather, I learned later that Kelty® had made some minor design changes to the pack and this particular version was being phased out.

Characteristics

The pack arrived in the typical Amazon® logo delivery box. I was immediately impressed with how light and yet sturdy the pack was after it was removed from its packaging. Its empty weight is about 3 ½ lbs. The material that the pack is made of is 420/450 D nylon. This is a tough abrasive resistant material. It also has some water resistant properties but not completely water proof. It holds a 3 liter water bladder. Because it is considered an internal frame pack, it has one reinforcing aluminum stay that runs the center of the pack behind the torso and hip pads. Kelty designed the main compartment to be accessed either as a top-loader or to open the entire compartment like a suitcase. I found the top-load technique to be the most practical on the trail. The other way to access the main compartment is best suited for base camping or hotel scenarios. The additional pockets for storage are handy for holding your Nalgene® bottle with a GSI® stainless steel cup. I prefer the CamelBak® Chute 1 liter water bottle nested in the GSI® stainless steel cup stored in one of the spacious side pockets. The other side pocket holds my fixed blade knife and sheath. The storage pocket on top of the pack is large enough for smaller items such as a fleece cap, map, or snacks. The admin storage pocket on the front of the main compartment can hold a good selection of items for quick access.

Performance

The first opportunity to use this pack came this spring. Freedom 424 hosted a Run for Their Lives 5k run in my town. One of the professors in my Master’s Degree program encouraged his students in his class to participate. My wife, children, and I participated. I decided that this race for a charitable cause was a good opportunity to try out my new Kelty Redwing 50 (M/L) backpack. I packed it as though I was going on a day hike or overnight in the woods. The pack weight about 35-40 lbs. After putting the pack on my back and cinching up the straps, it was quickly evident that this pack was a perfect fit for my back. There was no pressure on my lower back and the weight was distributed evenly along my shoulders and back. It was comfortable to have on. I had the honor of pushing our baby in his stroller. The weight on my back was not overwhelming. I was thinking, “Why couldn’t I have had a pack like this when I was road marching in the Army?”

During the race, in which my family and I walked at a brisk pace, the pack never shifted, pulled, sagged, or rubbed hot spots on my back or shoulders. I was walking at about a 20 min/mile pace pushing the baby stroller over an undulating paved road. The pack held up beautifully. There was a light misty rain off-and-on during the race. The moisture wicking properties of the fabric could be visibly seen. However, by the end of the race, about one hour later, the moisture as beginning to leak through. The contents did not get wet. However, had I been wearing the pack during a torrential down pour of rain, the contents would have eventually gotten wet if not waterproofed prior to an activity. The raised padding on the torso and lower back allowed my back to breath while the pack on being worn. Even though I had worked up a good sweat, the pads did not become overly moist. This is a testament to the engineers who designed the pack for Kelty®. Once the pack was off of my back and out of the weather, it dried out pretty quickly.

Overall, the performance of the Kelty Redwing 50 (M/L) was excellent. It is definitely a great pack for day hiking. It performs in accordance with its design parameters. Abusing the pack by over packing, dropping off of the back on rocky surfaces, or improperly packing objects with sharp edges or corners will cause the pack to fail over time. This is a superior backpack that will last if taken care of properly. I highly recommend this pack for others to consider when looking for a quality backpack for day hikes and overnighters in the woods.

I hope this has been useful for you.

Take care and See you on the Trail!