As my wife can tell you, I have a lot of packs in my basement. She refers to it as the REI pile. I have several packs that have been issued to me over the last 20 plus years. There are military style packs designed to carry very heavy loads, hiking packs for trips anywhere from 1 to 5 days, packs designed to carry rifles and handguns and many day packs. They range from heavy Cordura® with molle straps to thin nylon ripstop. They come in browns and olive greens to blues and reds. As I have left the enforcement side and moved into the training side of operations, I still want the functionality of the military packs with the appearance of a civilian day pack. I carry a lot of stuff with me on a daily basis, whether it is for work or pleasure. This includes first aid kits, personal defense items, sustainment necessities and the items required for the primary task that day. This requires having clothing or packs that can haul all that around and provide easy access to them.
The Dart24 Pack fits those requirements. It’s a 30L pack with a water-resistant 420D nylon exterior, top loader, full of features. Starting with the main compartment, it comes with a removable laptop sleeve with elastic loops of varying sizes over a low padded pocket at the bottom. I was just barely able to squeeze my 15” laptop in and secure it with the Velcro® retaining strap. The sleeve has a rigid back with Velcro® so it can be placed in the main compartment, rear compartment or completely removed. The rear compartment has three access points: the top with dual zippers covering the top 1/3 of the compartment, or through either side with 8.5” zipper slots. The side zippers have a bulkier pull on them to differentiate them from the top access zippers. The inside of the compartment has a Velcro® H to attach the laptop sleeve or a Velcro® holster. This compartment was designed to store your pistol of choice. As with any off-body carry, this will cause some delay to retrieving your pistol. When secure, the side zippers and the top zippers are only an inch or two apart, even with the tactile different pulls, I grabbed both zippers initially and then had to secure the correct one.
I picked up the 5.11 Holster Pouch because all on my Velcro® holsters are universal loop style with no retention mechanisms. With the size of the rear compartment and the large shift in orientation when removing the pack to access it, the holster needs retention. This design allows for custom user configuration; allowing for change in orientation, adjusting the locking strap (thumb break style) both in length and which side the snap is on, and the ability to fit pistols from sub compact (S&W M&P Shield) to full size (Glock G17, the S&W M&P 9 fit but the rail snagged on the draw). The limitation to the Velcro® in the pack is both in the shape and that it is only on one side of the compartment. If he Velcro® was a full 6” X 14.5” panel and on both sides of the compartment, it would allow for more customization of mounting the holster and possible to mount accessory pouches (i.e. magazine pouches). For me, establishing a good grip around the pistol was diminished by the Velcro® being on the pack side of the compartment and not on the back. I’m right handed and tried several variations to get a good grip, but could not because of the limited space between grip and Velcro®. With the pack on, you could feel the pistol but it was not uncomfortable, even when the pack was full. There is generous airspacer mesh padding on the back that allows airflow and pads against the bulge of a firearm. As with any off body carry configurations, there will be some required training and repetitions. It will not be fast.
The pack has two admin pockets on the front of the pack with side entry. The left-side entry has very small admin organizer pockets and a key clip. The right-side entry has three rows of molle with eight columns across. These pockets have opposite zipper directions for easy identification and on the right-side it has an over-sized zipper pull (same tactile feel as the side zippers for the rear compartment) if you chose to use a MOLLE style holster to carry your pistol in this pocket. There is padding between the pockets that will cut down on printing, however they share the same space in the pack. What I mean by that is as you fill either pocket, it occupies space in (bulges into) the other pocket. Each side of the pack has two pockets for quick use items. They overlap a fixed pocket for slim items like maps or energy bars, with a stretch pocket that is big enough to hold a 1 liter or a 16oz water bottle securely. The main compartment is large enough for a couple days’ worth of clothing and some other travel essentials. There are adjustment straps that will cinch the compartment top down and allow the pack to fit under the seat of most commercial aircraft. Other key features include a fleece lined sunglasses pocket with waterproof zipper big enough to fit todays smart phones, quick-release padded shoulder straps, and low-profile branding (just a little square logo patch on front and a 5.11 tag on the bottom of one shoulder strap).
Final thoughts on this pack are it is a sturdy pack, with features that allow you to safely and securely carry a pistol and many daily necessities, all while keeping everything dry. With the pack’s many pockets and a rear compartment, with zippers on top and both sides, you can pre-stage gear for quick access without losing other items while retrieving them. The pack is well made and will endure the stress of daily use whether at the office or traveling the globe. This has been my carry-on for my last several trips. It is light and comfortable enough to carry a couple days’ worth of clothing, a light jacket and anything you might need as soon as you step out of the airport. The pack retails for $119.99 and comes in 4 colors: Lunar Heather (the new trendy light grey), Black, Grenade (an olive green) and Night Watch (the blue version I have).
By the numbers:
Comfort – 5/5 It was comfortable to carry from home to office and as a carry-on while traveling
Durability – 5/5 The 420D nylon exterior is both durable and water-resistant. The quality construction will last constant, daily use
Functionality – 4/5 Even with the consideration of it being an off body carry configuration, the limited amount of Velcro® in the rear compartment seriously hindered my ability to mount my holster in a way I would be confident in my draw. That coupled with the fact that the two front pockets share space, took away from all the overall function of a well-made pack.
Weight – 4/5 Comparable to other nylon packs this one is a little heavier to accommodate the weight of a pistol and other mission essential gear. I wouldn’t want it any different.
Value – 5/5 This is a fair price for the quality of construction and the fact that it is water-resistant. It’s just a bonus you can securely carry a pistol in it.
Overall rating: 4.6/5 I will continue to use this as both my daily commuter and carry-on pack, while carrying my pistol by other means.
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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