Kelty Falcon 2850
To say that I know a thing or two about military packs is an understatement.
For this review, I am going to base this pack on the tried and true ALICE pack.
Capacity - The Falcon loses to the ALICE in this department, but as "Joe Civilian" now, this is exactly what I was looking for. I no longer carry NODS, MOPP and ammo, so the Falcon is the perfect size for both short and long journeys. For a week plus trek, just run the bladder external, and with all the MOLLE webbing, attach the stuff that won't get thrashed external. Holds snowshoes and an ice axe like a champ.
Durability - The ALICE is so bulletproof, it is almost not fair to compare the two, but here goes. The Falcon runs a very robust nylon compared to an Osprey for instance, but while the ALICE runs a "thin" nylon construction, the weave is super tight, so it is extremely resistantant to abrasion and tearing.
The ALICE utilizes all metal hardware, and this is where it has the Falcon squarely beat in my opinion. Plastic "Fastex" like hardware can fail, and the weak link is usually the buckles for the straps- if you jam a pack to 60+ pounds, and hoof it hard, the straps will contantly slip, especially if it is wet out (raining etc.) With my "civilian" loads in the 25-45 pound range, I have not had any issues with the Falcon.
The zippered compartment that accesses the main compartment has me a tiny bit worried, but I have a Military issue pack made by Eagle that has been going strong for 20 years, so zippers can be durable, just depends on the make/installation.
Comfort - The Falcon is so comfortable, I still cannot believe it! This pack rides so secure and balanced, it is mind-blowing. Compared to an ALICE there is no comparison, and compared to a North Face or an Osprey (ones I have to compare it with) the Falcon blows them out of the water. This pack rides like a dream!
Construction - Stitching looks really good, and the shoulder/back pad/waist strap system is very robust. Draw strings and pulls are heavy duty. Bottom is reinforced, and top flap is great.
Conclusion - If you have to pack 80 pounds for a re-supply run, bring your ALICE, but if you want to haul ass in the woods and enjoy the Great Outdoors, run the Falcon. It does have a "Military" look, so peace freaks, and vegans beware.
I really love this pack, and it is a constant reminder of the good and bad times that I had in the US Military.
Update: August 20, 2011
More miles followup from previous review.
Still going strong!
Feature rich beyond belief, used my glasses/goggles specific compartment for the first time, and it works perfectly!
The inner central "hidden" compartment holds a Glock 19/23 perfectly, and is easily accessible.
Fit is superb, and I had zero comfort issues on my last trip.
This is a real backpack.
Kelty has made another winner here.
Still love this pack. Comforatble and strong. A liitle "heavy" but who cares. Super happy with this Kelty pack.
Price Paid: $300
This bag is one of the best backpacks I've been able to find. It incorporates Kelty comfort with Military grade durability. A major advantage of a bag which was designed with the military in mind is the "Molle" webbing. This webbing enables you to take your bag to whole new level, by giving you the opportunity to customize your backpack with YOUR needs in mind.
I'm not quite sure why the camping/ mountaineering community hasn't caught on to systems like these as it gives you a way to "change your backpack" so that it works best with what you're doing.
Granted, there are tons of "Military bags" out there, but for myself at least I have never been able to find one which had everything that I was looking for. This bag is not too big, not too small. After you add on a couple Molle pouches on the sides for your water / snacks etc. you're looking at just over 3000. which for me is perfect for a week long trip.
This bag is VERY comfortable. Kelty has been building quality backpacks for years, and in that time I think they've really figured some stuff out. This bag is versatile. With the addition of the molle webbing, you really have a chance to play around with different configurations and ways to organize your gear.
And finally, this bag is tough. That's where that whole "military grade" thing comes in. this is not the lightest pack in the world, but for myself I think I'm willing to carry a few extra ounces knowing that not only will this bag not fall apart on the trail, but its going to last me the next twenty years.
Price Paid: $300
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