tugrik: (Default)
[personal profile] tugrik
Backpacks and I don't really get along; we haven't since high-school. I own one that I use like a carry-on suitcase for the extremely-rare airline travel moment, but even then I tend to carry it around by the handle instead of wear it. In addition to being overweight I've got an extremely broad frame and wide shoulders/back so even the biggest backpack seems to fit oddly at best. It can also be a bear to get it on and off to get stuff out of.

This past summer a friend of mine was visiting from the midwest. When he stepped off the train he tossed me his bag to watch for a moment while he went off to claim the rest of his luggage. Figuring it'd be helpful, I threw it over a shoulder to carry it to the car (a possibly unwise idea after the back injury, but I was trying to look good for a friend). It was a single-shoulder sling and fit perfectly. The pack hung nicely on the back, even though it was stuffed completely full. It's the first time a piece of luggage made me take notice. Weeks later when I pinged him online about it he told me what it was called: a Monsoon Gearslinger by Maxpedition.



(A moment of full-disclosure here: While I adore gadgets, gear and weaponry, to me they're fun and intriguing tools to be enjoyed responsibly; they're not a lifestyle or philosophy. The whole "how many guns/knives can I carry", "urban-warfare" and "bug-out bag!" super-survivalist-wannabe culture just makes me roll my eyes. Yay, go you commandos in your suburban SUVs; may the gub'mint never eeen-freeng on yer 2nd amendment rights and take yer jerbs and land. I bring this up because knowing their market well, this style surrounds the Maxpedition site and other gear-marketers' sites I may be linking to. Do any google research on this bag or its accessories and you're going to run smack-dab into the "look at me, I can carry 5 concealed weapons and blow away the theoretical Robber at the Bank in an instant!" crowd, complete with all the chest-out posturing. Luckily I can ignore those parts and just benefit from the excellent equipment these little paranoid cultures generate and worship.)

The Monsoon is a single-shoulder bag with the beefiest strap of any of the Gearslinger line. It's got a waterbottle holder, a storage pouch and line-clips for a water reservoir (like the Camelbacks have), compression straps and more accessory webbing than you could ever ask for. This means that there are dozens of options you can get that'll lash on to just about any surface of the pack. There are a few pockets inside, a grommet for headphones (if you're still into the wired headphone thing) to pass through and an mp3 pouch in there as well. The lower around-the-side strap has a few pockets on both the inside and outside edges, as well as more webbing right up to the strap. It's big enough to take laptops up to (but not quite including) 17" diagonal screens.



While some of the pouches are suitable for concealed carry (and more can be added on due to the standardized accessory webbing), if you're like me and don't carry guns around those pockets don't get in the way. The bag is teardrop shaped, which means the contents tend to bulge to the bottom and rest nicely against the center back; it's easy to carry a pretty serious amount of weight with this bag. The downside is that this isn't a 'spin around' for chest access (or quick-draw) like their square bags are. Use a Monsoon to haul things, not for ultra-quick access without taking it off. Go for a Kodiak or Sitka instead if you need that functionality.

That being said, the bag is very easy to take on and off; moreso than any regular backpack or shoulder-bag that I've had prior. If you're seriously loaded down or in a tight pinch where you can't swing it around and over, just pop the buckle instead; good for freeing yourself if it gets trapped on something. The geometry of the wide-strap sling makes it so the load stays nicely centered and doesn't shift much, even when big-fat-me lumbers around with it on. This was my biggest complaint about a normal backpack: wear only one shoulder and the load would sway and swing with every step. The bag also has a nice carry-handle at the top of the teardrop to make it easy to pick up and toss into the van when not wearing it.

I picked up the Digital Camo colored one because I'm tired of basic black or khaki, and I detested their military-green color. DFC at least is an interesting pattern that doesn't look all deer-huntery. It's been a joy to wear so far. Walking with a cane (actually, I use a hiking stick as canes aren't tall enough) doesn't interfere with the bag and it's easy to put on/take off with just your left arm. This is good for removing it without having to let go of the stick (helpful when the footing is slippery, like with the rains here right now).

Downsides: It's not as waterproof as I'd like; just water resistant. Heavy-downpour walking would require a raincover, just like my camelback does. Also, it takes a while for the fabric to loosen up and conform to the body better; the first week or so with the bag is an adventure in too-stiff padding and cloth that doesn't want to bend right. Give it some time with a few heavy loads to start feeling right. It's also not as cheap as a normal backpack, but it's not too terrible if you buy it at Amazon.

Later this summer as I get more mobile I'm going to kit this thing out as a camera bag for hikes. It should also ride well while getting back on a bike or a motorcycle. I'll update this little mini-review once those seasons roll around and I get the chance to abuse this bag more. Mostly I just like that it's the first comfy daily-carry-bag I've had in ages that actually fits me. Now I just have to get a travel-sized laptop and start leaving the 17" monster at home.

Date: 2010-02-08 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theassassinnox.livejournal.com
Awww crap. Why would you link the web page? I have such a bag problem. Hehe.

*resists temptation* Thanks for the review!

Date: 2010-02-09 12:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caerdwyn.livejournal.com
A bug-out bag is not about urban rioting when the poor people come after the rich people, or disappearing into the woods when the black helicopters come, repelling blue-helmeted invaders, I mean, zombies. It's for "you have to evacuate now because of hurricane/earthquake/your house burned down, and it might be a good idea to have a preassembled grab-and-go survival kit". Ask the people in New Orleans whether a bug-out bag is for power-fantasy "roleplay" or a tool for surviving a natural disaster. Do you really think the response to a 7.2 quake on the Hayward would be any less Keystone-Cops than the Katrina response?

Yeah, I have a bug-out bag that lives in the trunk of my car. No, it doesn't have a gun it it. No, I don't have it for waging guerrilla warfare against the "gummint that took my jerb". Neither does anyone else I know who has a bug-out bag (well, except two, but that's out of about twenty that I know of first-hand). Don't believe everything you read in a marketing message or on the Internet. Some of the people you might be misled into dissing might be your friends.

Date: 2010-02-09 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tugrik.livejournal.com
I figured you would be one of two who'd respond to my mini-rant. :) Please let me clarify a little.

I'll put it this way: I adore being prepared. Being prepared and having a bag ready to rock in case of natural disaster or emergency is a very good idea. You and other friends of mine who are similarly interested in being prepared have my respect.

It's the recreational urban warrior types who started ganking the names "go bag" and "bug-out bag" that make me twitch. It's a faux-warrior culture that thrives on the chest-thumpy nature of the Internet, invading tons of perfectly good gear, advice and information websites/forums. You can't read up on a good storage system or bullet-proof flashlight design without one of these bug-eyed fanatics going off at you about their abilities.

The miniature rant was directed at those types who are co-opting a perfectly good, amazingly sensible practice of being prepared. But I do appreciate the reminder that it might make some of my friends flinch a bit too; sorry about that.

Date: 2010-02-09 03:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kakoukorakos.livejournal.com
I remember listening to the kooks on the USA Patriot radio network a while back. Part of that was just to be amazed at just how kooky they were. Every commercial break was all about gettin' your Catadyne water purification filter and K-rations to keep in your bug-out pack. Some of the conspiracy theories were really out there. When Clinton was in office and the so-called Patriot/Freemen movements were in full-swing was when I realized just how out-of-touch with reality conservatives really are. A number of them seem to live in a perpetual state of panic for some reason or another. It's telling that the first thing they start talking about when they lose political influence is running for their guns to overthrow a repressive, liberal gubmint so they can shoot all those "jack-booted government thugs" (to quote Wayne LaPierre of the NRA). Ahhh, memories.

I'm with you here. To me, emergency preparedness kits are emergency preparedness kits, bug-out packs and go-bags are militant survivalist terms for militant survivalist gear. If those terms didn't start that way, they've certainly been co-opted.

Date: 2010-02-09 07:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] araquan.livejournal.com
What's really fun is to see all the T-shirts, signs, books, and other goodies at gun shows. I can't tell you how many bad photoshop jobs I've seen substituting Obama's head for Hitler's. Liberal/Democrat hunting licenses are usually seen at a few tables. Some of the conversations one overhears are... chilling.

It's enough to make me want to buy more ammo and guns myself... just in case the kooks ever do try to 'rise up'.

Date: 2010-02-09 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kakoukorakos.livejournal.com
It is quite a paradox for someone like me who has guns, but would really not be willing to use them against other humans or really any living thing. I guess the kooks would have to demonstrate they're sufficiently inhuman (conservative ZOMBIES) in order to escalate the arms race and get even more and cooler guns.

I think this round of conservative kookery is less-amusing than the Clinton-era one. At least back then, the hysteria was just over the top. Like how the USAF was training UN shocktroops at Rammstein AFB, who would then invade the USA and disarm the citizenry, and all the routes to the UN Concentration Camps for Subversive Conservatives were marked with little stickers on the backs of road signs. And then when some of their own went batshit and started terrorizing others, they came up with even more fanciful conspiracy theories about how they were framed. Most of the anti-Obama crazy talk is indeed more scary than hilariously absurd.

Date: 2010-02-09 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] araquan.livejournal.com
Yeah, I've got 'em too. I don't relish the idea of having to use one for defense, if it came to that, but... well, I just keep hoping it never comes to that, while trying to be prepared in case it does. Hunting, though, I have little problem with provided it's done humanely and within ecologically sound limits. Deer, for example, are overpopulated around here, and since we've managed to eradicate their natural predators, hunting is one of only a few things between them and the misery of a malthusian catastrophe. My own participation in hunting is all but nil for two main reasons... I don't have the patience and drive to do it, and I don't have the skill or facilities to deal with the quantity of meat I'd end up with if I was successful.

I agree that the conservanoia is a bit more serious this time, but there are a couple reasons for it... 9/11 is probably number one (you've heard the assorted conspiracy theories I'm sure, and that's the kind of event that had even sane people wondering, for a while, if maybe the millenialist doomsday prophets were right...) and, hate to say it, but the fact that Obama is black is a big one also. Then again, I think the fringe has been steadily getting more fringe as time goes on anyway... Eh.

Date: 2010-02-09 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foofers.livejournal.com
It's the recreational urban warrior types [...]

I had a co-worker like that. The funniest part is that when he'd start talking about this stuff, he'd (probably unconsciously) subtly adopt a special accent for it, a little deeper and more gravely than normal chit-chat voice. Like he's Batman or something.

Damn role-players. :)

Date: 2010-02-09 01:17 am (UTC)
ext_646: (Default)
From: [identity profile] shatterstripes.livejournal.com
Ask the people in New Orleans whether a bug-out bag is for power-fantasy "roleplay" or a tool for surviving a natural disaster.

Hi! I grew up middle-class in New Orleans. I don't live there any more, but I was there to have all my crap destroyed by Katrina.

My family never had a "bug-out bag". Whenever a hurricane's path looked scary, we grabbed what we absolutely positively couldn't bear to lose and threw it in the trunk of the car in the days when the weathermen were still hemming and hawing about whether it was going to hit the city. As to the rest of the city? Well, I dunno. I can bet you that most of the people who were stuck in the Superdome sure didn't have an extra bag hanging around in their car for the sole purpose of getting out; most of them didn't have a car. Nobody I knew in the city has ever mentioned having such a thing.

I mean, hurricanes, you can see coming for weeks. They're not an "oh shit instant unexpected tragedy I have to go NOW" event.

Just saying.

Date: 2010-02-09 07:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] athelind.livejournal.com
Quakes, on the other claw ... I really need to get better about having emergency food and water on hand, and a go-bag just in case.

I also like having a go-bag for the occasional "Hey, long weekend, let's hop in the car and JUST DRIVE" events that are, alas, even more infrequent than quakes in my life these days.

Date: 2010-02-09 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ben-raccoon.livejournal.com
Maxpedition makes some pretty impressive gear. I used to have a man-purse by them and used the conceal-carry pouch to hide my old pocket PC.

Date: 2010-02-09 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snobahr.livejournal.com
That is a very cool backpack, and I have put it on my amazon wishlist. It would be great to toss stuff into for a day at Disneyland.

Date: 2010-02-09 01:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tombfyre.livejournal.com
Yep, gotta love Maxpedition bags. I worked with them for a while during a stint at an army surplus and supply store. I always got to poke through a lot of their new stock as it came out, and pick and choose what we'd bother carrying. :3

I don't think I ever had a single person return one of their bags once they bought one. I'd occasionally have soldiers or sporting types come back to get a new one, but usually because after a year they'd destroyed the things doing one thing or another. One idiot thought it would be a good idea to hang secondary bags off the compression straps, and wound up tearing them. Durrr.

I have a positive review as well...

Date: 2010-02-09 01:32 am (UTC)
jecook: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jecook
I bought one of Maxpedition's Colossus versipacks for hauling around my netbook back in June last year as a carry case. It has provided a lot of use, and it soaks up the dings and other abuse I fling at it with hardly a complaint. I am still amazed as just how much crap thing thing can hold! I generally carry a small tool kit with me (I do IT support for a living, and my old habits as a field tech are not going away any time soon), and it holds it all.

Date: 2010-02-09 07:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ionotter.livejournal.com
I grew up on the east end of Long Island, NY, and I used to drive on the beach. There are simply some things you need to have in your car, and I always have them. Shovel, air pump, tow strap, snap line, jack, tire gauge, flares and first aid kit. When I started riding in the back woods, I discovered illegal dumping sites and also trail sabotage, so I had to add a tubeless tire repair kit, with an extra box of Master Seals. Since then, I've also included a 12V/400 watt voltage inverter, pliers, machete, magnetic emergency flashers, fire extinguisher, tire chocks and extra fuses.

Mind you, I don't store all that in my bag, it's all sequestered in the compartments of my vehicle.

I bought mine back in 2006, and I paid a lot more for it than $40, but mine was also the military version, and not this watered-down "military" version.

Yeah-yeah, I know, it's from "BUG OUT" gear. Blah-blah, whatever, I agree, there's too much testosterone in some of these websites.

One of the things I tell people in areas prone to earthquakes is to bury a few 5-gallon buckets containing food, water and various supplies in their front of back yards, away from the building. If the building comes down and you're safely out of it, you'll have a cache of supplies.

For those in areas where fires are moving in, I tell them to dig a hole and bury all their precious stuff. Heat rises, and it won't eat through a layer of dirt, so I tell folks to bury their computers, tv's, consoles, pictures and papers under a few tarps. I mean, if you want to get serious about it, dig out a hole and put in a proper storage chest so you'll always have it there.

Carry the critical stuff only. ID, insurance, DD-214, birth certificate, meds and your pets. A "bugout bag" that's so heavy it snaps your shoulders off your torso isn't much good.
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