Exos Gear Bravo
For the last 5 years or so, a growing trend of so-called “tactical” gear has cropped up in the outdoor sports market, and I don’t mean just among the hunting and fishing segment. I’m talking about everyday people who identify with loving the outdoors in the myriad ways one can love the outdoors. It’s all out there now: super high-end cutting tools, flashlights bright enough to blind a Sasquatch, combat-style hiking boots and clothing (especially pants), and packs with enough external webbing to fashion an emergency fishing net.
I’m not going to make a judgement on tactical gear’s popularity in outdoor spaces. People have their reasons for whatever pack they choose to carry. Whether for fashion statement or simple practicality, to each his/her own.
I recently had the opportunity to try out my first piece of tactical outdoor gear: The Bravo Series backpack from Kentucky-based Exos Gear (exos-gear.com). Bottom line up front: the Bravo is a very functional, inexpensive ($38), and versatile backpack for almost any outdoor activity.
Until recently, the most tactical thing I owned was a waterproof pen. Now I have a pack upon which I could attach said pen in 91 different places. I may have missed a few.
Seriously, the Bravo has more places to affix gear and accessories than you could probably use in a single outing. It uses what’s known as the MOLLE webbing system. MOLLE is a military acronym–surprise! It means modular lightweight load-carrying equipment.
In addition to the fixed MOLLE webbing, there are two compression straps on each side of the pack and one that runs the length from top to bottom. These allow you to customize pack volume to your needs. Frankly, I found the top-to-bottom strap to be unnecessary, but it is easily removed and can be stowed in any of the pack’s four zippered pockets.
Stowability: a story of pockets
Two smaller accessory pockets on the pack’s exterior are great for smaller items you might want to have handy, like snacks, a headlamp, or a pen–that is, if you haven’t attached said pen in one of the other 91 places on the bag. The lower of the two pockets is larger and has an organization pouch to help you keep things orderly.
The medium-sized compartment behind the two accessory pockets also has an organization panel with a couple of mesh pockets. The main compartment is roomy enough for any day hiking needs. Jacket, socks, field guides, ghillie suit. You know, the usual stuff. <wink>
A fifth zippered pocket sewn into the padded and ventilated back panel is intended for a hydration bladder. I carried a 3-liter Platypus with room to spare. Now, I say “intended” because you could also port a laptop in there. My 13-inch Macbook Air fits perfectly, though the pocket is only padded on one side.
A few other features complete the package for the Bravo series tactical pack. Two straps on the bottom of the bag could be used to carry a camping pad, tripod, or other narrow item. Elastic bits on the compression straps and suspension help keep unused webbing in its place, and detachable sternum and waist straps help you customize a comfortable fit.
I took this pack on an 8-mile trek up Notch Peak in Utah’s house range and was impressed with its performance. It was comfortable, even on a pretty hot day, and the fabric managed to resist abrasion from all of the pokey, rough jaggedness the Great Basin could throw at it. One thing it didn’t resist was the afternoon hailstorm, but that’s my fault for not brining a pack cover.
This is not a technical pack. It’s a “tactical” pack with some technical features. It’s tacticality–my word–works for whatever you want it to be. A few unmentioned features (metal D-rings, spots to attach patches) will please those looking specifically for a tactical pack. For the rest of us, it is what it is: an extremely serviceable and very inexpensive day pack.
The Bravo is available in four colors: Black, Coyote Tan, Gray, and OD Green. Check it out at Exos Gear online.