In a word: roomy. The Propper Expandable Backpack has space that just won’t quit for a pack that can be squeezed into the average airline carry-on limitations. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to put this pack through its paces over the last 2 weeks on a cross-country trip through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon. This trip involved a little bit of everything: hiking, camping, caving, climbing, and shooting. I was able to use this pack in several roles: as a hiking day-pack, overnight camping pack, and range gear bag. To be honest, I was barely using all of the space this pack has to offer. The nice feature of all that room isn’t necessarily so that it can be stuffed full of heavy equipment, but when packed with all of the essentials, everything is very quick and easy to find and access. Also, when the elements change on us, this pack has the capacity for all of that lofty, insulated stuff we need to stay warm and dry.
From the outside, it’s a good-looking pack without too much of an uber-tactical look that will attract attention, a few small Velcro patches and some strips of PALS webbing notwithstanding. Let’s face it though, just like neckties, military practicality finds its way into common fashion and most folks don’t even blink at PALS webbing on stuff anymore. Carrying this bag around a college campus or down the main street of your town isn’t going to attract undue attention depending on what kind of ancillary gear you attach, or morale patches as the case may be. This bag’s appearance is very suitable for a low-profile “get-home” bag.
The Propper Expandable Backpack has two, zippered pouches on the front (9” tall X 10” wide on the bottom and 8” tall by X 9” wide on top), and medium-sized (9” tall X 5” wide) zippered pouches on each side. Most of the zippers have heavy-duty rubber pull-toggles on them.
The main compartment is huge, 20” tall X 12” wide X almost 5” deep, with a 9” X 7” zippered mesh compartment up at the top where I keep a folding Emberlit stove and a pocket down at the bottom big enough to hold an extra-large poncho and SOL heavy-duty emergency blanket. I barely used the rest of the space in the main compartment most of the time. If more room is needed for carrying especially bulky items like extra clothing, winter coats, mittens, etc… there is a circumferential zipper that releases an extra 2” of depth in the main compartment.
The only way to really find out if this pack works well was to try it out. I probably didn’t need a pack for some of the hikes I was on, but I took it along just to see how comfortable, durable, and user-friendly it was.
In Utah and Nevada I did a lot of scrambling climbs up the rock formations, aided by my Crawford Staff – also an indispensable piece of gear for this kind of terrain in my opinion. I found that the Proper backpack, modestly packed at a total weight of about 18 pounds, didn’t interfere with my balance, stayed where it belonged, and was unexpectedly comfortable.
I give the Propper Expandable Backpack a thumbs-up and I plan on using it to replace a larger bag that I am currently using for my “get-home” bag. If you need a durable, expandable backpack with plenty of capacity, that is still small enough (correctly packed) to meet most airline carry-on bag limits, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Propper.