As an army, the Falklands have ingrained into us at a base level that we cannot rely on vehicles to transport us to the battlefield or facilitate our G4. Because of this, we march further and with more weight, across all arms, than virtually all of our NATO allies, and our kit and training reflect this. Yet despite our emphasis on weighted marching and the Tactical Advance to Battle, our Bergen is becoming increasingly outdated – and its replacement, the Virtus Bergen, is by many accounts not fit for purpose in its current incarnation. What, then, are the key criteria for a good infantryman’s Bergen? I’ve attempted to list all the relevant ones below:
Many individuals choose to tailor their issued bergens, the standard modifications being a padded back, wider straps, and a quadruple pouch combo on the front – three medium utilities and a large horizontal utility or “basha pouch”. These modifications are top-notch but don’t come cheap – likewise, you can choose to buy a custom-made Bergen from a range of suppliers, but these too can cost hundreds of pounds.
A final option would be to seek out the issued “Air Support Bergen” with its six front-mounted utility pouches, but these are virtually impossible to get through the system and equally expensive if purchased.
Enter the Karrimor SF Predator. At around £200 it’s a good 30-50% cheaper than offerings from other suppliers, but don’t let this fool you – this piece of kit is bombproof.
Karrimor SF is a distinct brand from Karrimor in its current incarnation and is not owned by Sports Direct, meaning they have maintained the rigid quality control and commitment to high-spec materials of Karrimor in its original form. I have had the Bergen now for over a year and cannot fault it in the slightest. Based on the criteria listed above, here is a breakdown of how the Predator 80-130 performs.
Comfort: The Predator 80-130 is an exceptionally comfortable piece of kit. Its shoulder straps, which are S-Shaped for better ergonomics and mounted on a Y-split, are wide and very generously padded. The back system itself leaves plenty of space for airflow and accommodates all sizes of individuals as it can be fully adjusted with various straps.
The Bergen also features a sternum strap and – crucially – an excellently padded and ergonomically tailored hip belt which can help cut down on the weight that comes to bear on your shoulders. The hip belt is one of the best I’ve used and, because the back system is gravity-adjusted to the height of the user, you can wear it with a chest rig or vest (where it works best) or equally, you can just hike up the belt and do it up above your own webbing if you’ll be tabbing far. You can also tape back the straps or, if you wish, remove the belt entirely. This will leave a sizeable kidney pad in place.
Robustness: This thing can take a hammering. I bought my Predator used from an individual who owned it for two years and took it on a 6 month Op Tour and any number of tabs and exercises, including using it to stash the weight for most of his PDT fitness events.
When I got it, it was in perfect condition and it’s been put through the ringer since, including an overseas training exercise and two international patrols competitions. It’s still going strong and has suffered no failures or malfunctions.
Size: Yes, if you have a large Bergen you’ll fill it. But sometimes you need to carry a lot of kit, and when that happens you’ll need something big to stash it in. A bigger Bergen also means speedier packing, as you can ram stuff into a bigger space and then just cinch it tight in seconds, rather than fight to get something into a snug container.
The Predator’s advantage over other bergens is that it can be made smaller and bigger at will. On the main compartment it has two zippers which allow it to be expanded from 80L to 130L (hence the name) in case you need to pack for a major deployment.
Practicality/Customisability: This is where the Predator comes into its own. Like many civvy bergens the main compartment is divided into two with a drawstring closure, and you can also access this bottom compartment via a front zipper, making it ideal for spare or wet kit. The top flap is generous in size and has an interior zip pocket and a large outer top flap pocket which can fit any number of items, complete with a handy mesh organiser.
The Predator can also fit side pouches, as mentioned before, but an added bonus is that it is fully compatible with the issued side pouches. An alternative is to purchase Karrimor’s Predator Side Pouches, which are subdivided to allow your kit to be broken down more efficiently.
The Predator will also allow you to clip an issue CamelBak behind a side pouch, as with an issued Bergen, and there are two nylon elasticized pockets at the bottom of the main compartment’s sides which can either be used to stash items directly or to hold things such as pick handles, basha poles etc in place without them slipping down.
There are also cinch straps for the main compartment and for the side pouches, should you wish to use them, and a Velcro field for name/morale patches on the top flap.
Finally, the entire pack is covered in MOLLE – front, sides, top pouch, and even the sides of the hip belt (if you fancy mounting snack or water bottle pouches there à la selection Bergen – having used the Predator on two Fan Dances I imagine it would perform very well on the Hills). This allows the user to mod it exactly as they see fit. In my case I went with the classic triple utility and large horizontal utility pouch, and in this configuration it’s served me extremely well.
In conclusion, then, it’s hard to fault the Karrimor SF Predator 80-130. Compared to PLCE or MOLLE II it can feel a bit flimsy, but hard testing suggests that’s emphatically not the case. Although on first look it appears to be incompatible with our belt kit as it’s shaped like a civvy hiking Bergen in most promo materials, by cinching the top flap low and adjusting the back system it fits in more than comfortably with our kit. I plan on using mine until (if) it eventually fails. It’s available in Multicam, Coyote Tan, or OD Green (if you plan on using it for non military hiking, which it would absolutely suit).
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.
*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.
The capacity of the Predator 80-130 is ideal for longer more adventurous expeditions. The Predator pack includes modular webbing which allows pouches to be attached and detached as required.
PLCE side pockets and hydration systems can also be used. The SA (size adjustable) back system allows on-the-back and on-the-move adjustments to reduce muscle fatigue. The dividable main compartment and hooped lower entry zip allows easy access to equipment stored at the bottom of the pack.
KS100e is a 1000 Denier Nylon fabric coatedPredator-80-130-Dimensions
with a Silicone/PU elastomer for improved tear
strength and flex resistance. Finished with a
fluorocarbon durable water repellent (DWR) that
improves the water resistance of the fabric.
Camouflage models are manufactured from 500D Infra-Red Reflective (IRR) fabric.
Weight 3.8kg (Multicam 3.6kg)
- SA back system
- Padded waist belt
- QRM Compatable
- S-shaped shoulder harness
- Sternum strap
- Dividable main compartment
- Hooped lower entry zip
- Compatible with side pockets (PLCE)
- Lid carriage straps
- Zipped lid compartment
- Stuff pockets
- Crampon loops
- Twin ice axe holders
- Compression straps
- Grab handle on side
- Helmet friendly lid compression
- Rain cover included (solid colour coded)
- Rotproof thread
- Reinforced with bartacks
- Durable water repellent (DWR)
- YKK zips