70 lbs!! Must have been that Estwing. I'm jealous, Brian, though I did have a blast 4 wheeling this weekend. No excuses man, next time you go out, I coming with you (well, provided llife doesn't get in the way!)
The Estwing Campers Axe is a great tool. Notice that it fits perfectly into the bottom side pocket of the pack. The shape of the pocket has been designed to accomodate an axe, shovel, or folding saw. The straps instantly buckle and pull tight to hold the handle in place.
The quality of construction is outstanding. The heavy-duty strap system, and the ability to adjust it, is outstanding. And of course, first thing I did was unzip the weapons compartment! Nice layout. If you look in the pics where the weapons compartment is open, you'll see three horizontal zippers for pouches. I had them stuffed with all sorts of sharp and hard pieces of gear. They are made for stuffing loaded magazines. I expected it all to dig into my back, but I couldn't feel it at all, nor could I feel it when I opened the pack from the topside.
The weapon compartment, as you see in the pics where it is open, is also excellent for stowing tarps, ponchos, and other gear if you don't have a weapon. My version is the "2.0" version of the pack - updated based on feedback from users. The one in the link is the "1.0" version. One of the differences is that the 2.0 version will accomodate other types of rifles in other calibers - not just AR-style rifles. Imagine having your .22 or lever gun in there! Imagine hanging all your favorites knives on those straps, like you see I did with Brian Goode's knife in one pic. The possibilites for use of this hidden compartment are endless. There is a stiff but flexible back to the hidden compartment (right behind the backstraps), and it would be extremely useful as a nice, solid shooting platform once you've deployed your weapon.
I love the access to the main compartment, too. The pack unzips almost completely on top. So, when you need to get a piece of gear out of the main compartment, you lay the pack down horizontally, and unzip. One of my pet-peeves about backpacks is that they are mostly top-loaders: you have to pull everything out to get to something at the bottom. With this system, it's made for instant and easy access to your main compartment items - without having to remove things.
One of the running themes of this pack that is so important is this: you can quickly access and almost instantly deploy any piece of gear from any compartment of this pack. Critical if you are in a SHTF situation. You don't want to be fishing around for magazines or your weapon or other gear, or emptying it out then taking time to refill it. If it is an E&E enviroment, then this pack is THE way to go for that very reason. Quick access and repacking and throw it on your back and you are moving.
Loading it with 70 lbs and doing a real-world hike is an excellent test of its strength of construction and comfort. Plus, I'm working hard on getting back into operational physical condition, something which I haven't really been able to do since my car accident and traumatic brain injury. So 70 lbs is a good weight to get further up to snuff. I usually get up to 110-130 lbs on my pack by the time I am working in operational-level condition, and I can go forever at that weight once I'm in shape.
Checking into a hotel just before a hunting trip? Don't want people to see your gun case and try to steal it from your room? Just transport it in this pack. Nobody will know it's there. Doing a backpacking trip with sheeple or around them and want to have your rifle handy without scaring everyone? Take this pack with you. Are you military and conducting recon and intel-gathering and want to go undercover, yet still armed? Take this pack with you. Are you an LEO sniper who wants to get into place without being spotted as an LEO? Take this pack with you. It is made specifically to NOT look miilitary, in order to keep a low-profile. Want to take your preferred weapon and survival gear for your worst SHTF scenario? Take this pack with you.
So, that said, I have used and owned almost every type and configuration of pack (I'm almost if not completely as addicted to packs as I am knives!), and this one beats ALL of them hands-down. In my 20 years of looking for the perfect pack, I really feel I have found it.
It is worth every penny of its price. I will be testing it out with an M-4, and take pics and/or movies of access and deployment of weapons in a simulated tactical/wilderness environment.
Outstanding Brian! And I thought it was just a pack. I'll need to click on that link. That explains the weight, that .308 ammo is HEAVY. By the way, you are a beast packing even 70lbs up that mtn., I'd hate to see you in peak shape. I start whimpering at about 40lbs nowadays, though in my ground pounder days 70lbs was more the norm.
Kinda the antithesis of the current "fastpacking" style packs which are often not much more than siliconized nylon bags with shoulder straps and a drawstring. It looks pretty burly.
My Arcteryx Bora 80 pack is similar in weight but it fits me very well. Comfort is more important than weight for me so if the pack fits well, it should be worth it once you're loaded up and out in the wild.
My only concern with front-loading packs is cramming it full and putting too much stress on the zipper. If the zipper blows out, you're SOL. I've no idea what kind of zipper it has and how strong it may be, but it might be something to consider.
Thanks for the review! I cringe at carrying that much, but if it's gonna get you in shape and allow you to enjoy the woods better, go for it!