If you’re new to Spotter Up media, you might not know that Military 1STacross the big pond has been sending some kick ass kit for us to play with. Helikon-Tex has been one of my favorites, and theirs as well. Their bags and packs are forward-oriented, quality made, and work-focused. The Raccoon MK2 pack is no exception. I have been beating it up for over a month – both on and off duty, and this pack has proven versatile and quality-made, despite the initial straight-forward appearance.
To describe the design of the Helikon-Tex Raccoon I was initially lost for accurate statements. To say that the pack is basic, would be a huge understatement. To say it is spartan, would still paint a partial picture, so it’s probably best to jump into the actual description of what it is and how it worked out. The racoon is deceiving. Listed at 22 liters, it seems to pack and hold strong anything I needed to put inside of it. It packs like a 3 day, but looks like an assault pack. The Racoon has a large main compartment, which is a straight-forward 3/4 opening. It’s easy to simply toss in a pair of fins, lunch, or gym clothes. The main compartment offers a mesh organizer which extends about half way down the outer portion of the compartment, and a hydration pocket with a cord-type draw string. The later holds a 2 or 3 liter bladder very nicely, without flopping around, and will also accommodate a tablet, smaller lap top, or a set of rain gear. The hydration port is centered at the top of the pack, just under the carry handle.
The fact that it opens only 3/4, instead of a full clam shell type makes it easy to access on the move, and toss more stuff inside than a full opening would allow. It eliminates the need to compress the pack manually, while trying to manipulate a zipper. The second compartment is slightly thinner in width, and also runs virtually the entire length of the pack. It is more suitable for items needing a faster access, requiring more organization, or just smaller than the main compartment should hold. This compartment is similarly a 3/4 opening type, which again takes care of the concern that items would fall out, and is a nice touch when setting the pack down in harsher environment, keeping out the dirt, sand, and things which can crawl. It also has a small mesh organizer, with a zippered and hook and loop space for pens, spare magazines, TQ’s, chap stick and so on. Those who prefer a more organic organization style will find that separate pockets, such as the First Spear cells, will fit nicely and be required to assist in keeping that space neat. I found that since most things I put inside the Raccoon had their own distinct shape, the direct-opening main and outer compartments were plenty functional and versatile.
Where the zippers on each compartment stop, and about 3/4 way down on left and right of the pack, are several rows of MOLLE webbing. The front is covered in MOLLE as well, and has a generous top loop area for ID patches and morale swag. Overall, the appearance of the Helikon-Tex Raccoon is unassuming, and despite the tactical use of the pack, it is perfect for low key everyday carry where screaming “tactical” would not be desired. The back of the pack has a spacer mash area, which is not overly, yet amply padded. This works perfect for those who find that many of today’s packs are actually overbuild, with no need for extra padding, along with the weight and space restraints which go along with it. I found the amount of padding perfect, as the capacity of the pack will also not require any more.
It is also very comfortable with and without wearing a full kit, and the Raccoon sits very securely on the user. The shoulder straps place their own padding directly on the shoulder area where the weight support is needed, and also offer a very purpose-oriented padding. It is almost a like an extra thick, flat shoulder strap, versus an overly padded variety, which often tends to slide around and negate the proper placement of the actual strap on the user. Keeping true to the above design features, the waist strap is a basic nylon webbing with a larger buckle. I found myself using it on only a few occasions, as the pack was secure and comfortable enough on its own. The waist strap is sewed on and not removable, and like the shoulder straps offers ample room for adjustment. The sternum strap adds to the security of this pack, and is a perfect compliment to keeping everything comfortable. This is especially true when loaded to capacity and going the distance. All of the straps have perfectly spaced hook and loop keepers. The bottom of the pack offers additional straps for lashing items, and the bungee cordage running through the from webbing is also a nice and functional touch. Every small feature of the Raccoon makes it more capable than the understated nature of its design.
Unlike many smaller packs, the Helikon-Tex Raccoon is made to stand upright and keep its shape. This is accomplished by a Kydex insert positioned behind the hydration pocket, and at the back wall of the pack. While I found this feature very handy, allowing the pack to stand open on its own when accessing the contents, some users may want the flexibility of having the Kydex sheet removable. As it stands the sheet is sewn in, and I believe future design variations would benefit from a simple hook and loop closure which allows the sheet to come out. Buckles and zippers are solid and smooth, without snags. I found no loose threads or fraying nylon despite trying to overwork the Raccoon. While the zippers have nice rubber pull tabs, I wish that they were larger. At least for the main compartment. This would make them easier to manipulate, especially under stress or in gloves. It is easy enough to customize with some paracord, but having the rubber pulls larger with the same design would be a nice touch.
The two side compression straps are also very functional, and not just for looks. They not only keep the pack together when loaded to the max, but are in the right places for the load and support. The lower of the two straps is adjustable but has no buckle, yet allows for plenty of expansion and cinching. This is a nice touch, as there is really no need to undue it, with it being below the zippers. The top handle is also sewn very securely, and I found myself grabbing the pack by it quite a bit when accessing the Raccoon in a hurry, especially from tight spaces in vehicles. The Raccoon also offers a feature which has become a neglected design in modern packs, accept for some GI issued rucks. The shoulder pads are attached to the main pack via a thick and solidly sewn extension webbing. Keeping the padded portion of the shoulder straps lower, this allows the straps to lay flatter on the user, and looks very nice.
Overall, the Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK2 is a military backpack which works harder than it looks. It has enough features to be functional, placed in the right place for the right reason. At under $100, this is a perfect balance of style, function and quality. You can find it on Military 1ST here at $67 USD in black, OD Green, Wolf Grey and Coyote. Military 1stoffers free shipping to the US, and has great customer support. Considering the possible future modifications for the zipper and Kydex frame, I would still give the Racoon 5 out of 5 for design, value, features and quality, simply based on the purpose-driven nature of it. Helikon-Tex is a Polish company, offering a variety of products made in Poland. For additional details on other Spotter Up content on Helikon-Tex and Military 1st, please visit www.spotterup.com
I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.
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