The Vanquest Gear Katara 16 compared to the similar VertX EDC Ready Pack. While both are quality bags, I have neglected my VertX bag since the Katara has arrived.

A year ago, my wife bought me a VertX backpack for my birthday and I loved it. I still love it, it’s an incredible pack designed by a company that only seems to produce quality products. I hadn’t even heard of Vanquest Gear until there was a request for review, and I was sure I was happy with my current bag. When I put my name in for a review I was honestly hoping for a larger bag. What I ended up with was their newly released Katara-16, a bag that was too small to fit my laptop, and with a concealed carry pocket too small for my Glock 17 with Surefire x300.

Just a few of the things this bag allows me to keep organized and ready for a quick dry fire session, and of course display the Spotter Up patch.

This bag doesn’t hold some of my essential every-day items, and yet… I LOVE it! Since this bag arrived it has been with me everywhere I go, to the point that my wife has taken to calling it my man purse. Its small design makes it ridiculously handy, and the pocket lay-out and design mean I can keep all my gear organized separately and yet all equally accessible.

The CCW pouch is hidden behind the smallest compartment, and can be utilized for far more than just handguns.

Before I get any further into what uses I have found for this bag and why I love it, here are the specific features of the bag copied from https://www.vanquest.com/katara-16-backpack/

Specs & Features

  • Total Pack Capacity: 16 Liters
  • Net Weight: 2.65 pounds | 1202 grams
  • Overall Exterior Size (Fully Extended with Handles): 18″ (H) x 10.5″ (W) x 7″ (D)
  • Main Compartment (Interior): 17″ (H) x 9″ (W) x 4″ (D)
  • Top Front Pocket (Interior): 7″ (H) x 8.5″ (W) x 1.75″ (D)
  • Bottom Front Pocket (Interior): 9.75″ (H) x 8.5″ (W) x 1″ (D)
  • Hidden CCW Compartment (Interior): 9″ (H) x 8″ (W)
  • Padded Tablet sleeve (Interior): 16″ (H) x 8.5″ (W) x 0.6″ (D)
  • Convertible from Backpack to a left or right sided VSlinger sling pack
  • Adjustable and removable shoulder straps with sternum strap that doubles as your stabilizer strap
  • Low profile Hypalon MOLLE-Air side panels plus Cordura® MOLLE-Air front panel for modular expansion
  • Hook-and-loop lined main compartment for user configuration
  • Padded grab handle for comfortable carry

Always need to be ready for a work out right? The Vanquest Gear Katara-16 ensures I always have what I need.

  • Tablet / Laptop (up to 12″ Ultrabook) / 2L Hydration bladder sleeve
  • Three way convertible pocket offer top or either side access
  • Front loop panel for Moral / Flag patches
  • Materials: 1,000-D Mil-grade Cordura® fabric on the bottom and 500-D Cordura® for the body treated with Durable WateRepellant
  • High-visibility, lightweight & moisture resistant 210-D Ripstop nylon interior.
  • Durable RC-Class YKK® lockable zippers, reversed for protection.
  • Mil-grade ITW® and UTX-Duraflex® hardware made from high tensile strength Acetal polymer.
  • Spartan Zipper pulls
  • MOLLE-compatible attachment system with PALS webbing
  • Lightweight MOLLE-Air structure for MOLLE accessory attachment
  • Hypalon durable rubber laminate MOLLE panels
  • High tensile strength nylon webbings and binding tapes
  • Finished with high tensile strength bonded nylon thread

Rather than bore anyone into describing every feature listed above, I’d like to give a few details on the features I liked the most. Before even opening the bag, the feel of quality in the design and material is evident. What stood out to me when I picked it up was the overbuilt carrying handle at the top. I say overbuilt as a positive aspect, it is heavily padded and actually provides enough room to get a firm grasp. Both these features are extremely appreciated when juggling a rambunctious infant in the other hand. Even with a lot of weight in the bag, the padding ensures a solid and comfortable grip.

While small, this pack keeps everything organized and easily accessed.

The Spartan zipper pulls also stood out as I finished examining the outside of the bag and decided to look inside. I would say these zippers offer an ease of use that I didn’t think I’d care for, but now whenever I use another bag I find myself wishing for these same zippers. Sure, its a zipper whats the big deal? Could the bag function perfectly without these zippers, yes it could. However, it’s the small details evident in every aspect of this bag that make it so enjoyable to use.

The largest feature of the bag is it’s ability to switch from a regular backpack to a sling bag. While I prefer a regular backpack I knew I needed to at least try the sling style for this review. The straps are secured with hook and loop attachments, as well as a buckle system. There is also a stitched outline to ensure you place the straps in the correct position, which I found extremely helpful. While the sling style was still not my preferred method, the pack did the switch easily and its nice to know I’ll always have that option.

The sternum strap can double as a stabilization strap for the sling mode, however I never felt the need for it.

Each compartment has a zippered pouch attached to the flap of the compartment, which is great for storing keys, wallet, pens, or whatever small items you want secured without rolling loose in the bag. The smaller compartment at the top has several elastic straps, which have been perfect for storing pistol mags.  The main compartment also includes a padded tablet sleeve, which I found great for storing my e-reader. It also serves to make shoving anything else into the main compartment easy to do without risk of damage to my electronics. I’d like to note that while my laptop doesn’t fit in this padded compartment, any electronics with a 15″ screen or smaller would fit with great padded protection.

The padded sleeve offers extra protection for electronics or anything else you might need to give extra care.

While I love the bag, there were a few aspects to it that I didn’t like. Chief among those was the hidden compartment for a concealed weapon, or whatever else you feel you need to hide. It is very well hidden, I honestly forgot it was a part of the bag until I went through the listed features and went back to find it. There are two hook and loop anchor points on either side, enabling anyone to set their concealed gear up in either left or right hand. I carry my aforementioned setup AIWB with little issue, having to downsize in the event off body carry is a necessity is not something I want to do. Due to the size of the bag and the fact that its location is behind one of the smaller pouches I am not sure how this issue could be fixed. It may not even be a failure point for most, weapon mounted lights are growing in popularity, but the majority still do not use one for it to even become an issue. I will also point out that the company advertises that this compartment is meant only for a compact/subcompact frame, so they are not misleading by stating it can do more than advertised.

The padded sleeve offers extra protection for electronics or anything else you might need to give extra care.

Two smaller issues I found were the 3-mode convertible access pocket in the large compartment and the side straps. It is stated for the 3 mode pocket that you can access your equipment from three different directions, or you can simply roll it up and store it at the bottom. I would recommend rolling it up, I tried for a few weeks to utilize this pocket. The issues I found is that accessing it from the top, where it is secured by hook and loop, any amount of pressure to the flap would cause the side zippers to unzip. Essentially every time I tried to shove something into this compartment I had to open up the entire compartment and re-zip the sides after storing whatever I was struggling with. While an innovative concept, it did not function well for me.

The second issue, the side straps, ties back into use of the 3-mode convertible pocket. The issue I have is that they are a bit of a pain to unbutton. They function great and seem very well made, but there’s not enough material to get a good grip when you need to unbutton it. This led to me simply opening the main compartment just enough to access the inside, without undoing the straps. It works fine, but it also makes the 3-mode pocket even more of a pain to use. Adding perhaps 1″ of material to these straps could potentially eliminate both of these issues.

The mag holder is extremely tight, it may take a little work to seat the magazine fully. The pistol elastic can be adjusted for the varying dimensions of most pistols.

Vanquest also provided me with their CCW-Plus-Mag Hook & Loop Insert to use with the hidden compartment in the bag. I used my wife’s Glock 19 for testing use with this, and it worked surprisingly well. While I still would prefer a Kydex holster, this device did its job of holding the gun and spare magazine securely without issue. Even with vigorous shaking and throwing of the bag, the gun was unloaded of course, neither the gun or spare mag came free. I would point out that the hook & loop material is extremely strong, I would advise placing the gun and mag inside the insert before initial set up, as trying to move the insert into various positions to find the perfect placement can be a bit trying. I would advise against using this insert with suppressor height sights. In practice sessions, using pistols equipped with these higher sights caused them to become snagged on almost every draw.

The insert can be adjusted to hold your gun as tight or loosely as you wish. As there is not much extra space inside the ccw compartment there is no danger of the gun being jostled out of position.

As anyone can see from the company’s list of features, there are many more aspects to this bag that I didn’t go into detail about. To cover every bit of this bag would be far beyond anyone’s interest to read, and everyone is going to find separate uses for it. This is a tremendously built bag, and while I do have a few things I’d like to see changed, it’s handiness and versatility make it my constant companion. Perhaps the greatest testament to the quality of this bag is that my VertX bag, which in itself is still a great bag, sits neglected at home while the Katara goes with me everywhere.

Cost: 4/5- This bag is priced on the website at $149.99. I would find that comparable to others, except since this bag doesn’t have water bottle holders, that’s another $20 apiece. I fully understand why they didn’t include them to give the end user more versatility. However, to reach the same level of features of a comparable bag with water bottle holders, it would be nearly $200.

Appearance: 5/5

Durability: 5/5

Functionality: 4/5

Weight: 5/5

Total: 23/25

Poor/unacceptable (1): Worse than expected, or desirable; of a low or inferior standard or quality.
Fair (2): In conformity with reasonable expectations, but in comparison to competitors is may be deficient
Average (3): Common item; item neither lacks from or is superior to a competitor’s item.
Good (4): The item is desirable and has qualities that excel in comparison to a competitor’s item
Excellent (5): Outstanding, possesses superior quality; remarkably good

Material Disclosure

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.

*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.

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About The Author

Ben Johnson spent six years as a USMC Machine Gunner. He deployed three times to Afghanistan as a gunner, team leader, and section leader and left the Marines in 2015. He is currently working towards his bachelors in Business Administration while continuing to learn and discuss firearms with anyone willing to listen. He resides in Maryland with his wife and infant son.

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