After I received my Spiritus Mk3 Chassis in grey I also ordered a Haley Strategic Partners Flatpack in the matching (ish) colourway from Tactical-Kit. I say ‘ish’ because the cordura is a slightly different shade to the grey from most other manufacturers, but it’s a minor difference to say the least I just know some of you are even more picky that I am with such things. There’s so many reviews already out there for this thing that I’m not going to attempt another, but I will briefly explain why I think the specific grey variant of the Flatpack is the only one that makes much sense for most people.
The absolute baseline for those of you who might have never heard of the Flatpack is that in its’ compressed state it goes down to something in the region of 1.5L capacity but with the zips undone on both the main and sub-sections it opens up to about 10L, which can certainly give you a good bit of flexibility depending on what you might need to carry, or more importantly what you might pick up/drop off.
The ‘Disruptive’ grey version I have here is the only version which has to be either interfaced with a small chest rig or worn independently as a backpack as shown, though it does have some nice spacer mesh built in which is comfortable and breathable against your back when worn. All other camo patterns and colours from HSP replace the spacer mesh with PALS attachment, with the intention of being mounted to some type of body armour. If you ever intend on wearing just a t-shirt or combat shirt while carrying one of these as a pack/combined with a chest rig then that PALS system isn’t going to be particularly comfortable over time. Given that the shoulder straps are only made up of 1.5″ webbing with no padding, spacer mesh or any attempt to be shaped to the human body, the colours of Flatpack (other than grey) make poor standalone backpacks compared to any decent outdoor brand pack you can buy for much less money that has some bog standard traditional compression straps on its’ sides. That’s not even getting in to how much less conspicuous an outdoor pursuits brand of bag will be by comparison.
By extension this tends to mean that the non-grey Flatpacks are best combined with a plate carrier or other armour carrying vest. In the collapsed mode they work just fine as a pouch for hydration bladder… except you can get a good dedicated hydro pouch for $40 (or less) and a Flatpack costs $140. I’ve lost count of the number of these things I’ve seen woven on to PCs where the expansion zips have literally never been used.
How about carrying your extra gear on the back of your PC with the zips opened up then? Well first off you’re getting very few litres of capacity and a couple of items of clothing will fill it in to the max in no time. Put anything very heavy in there and the front of your vest is going to ride up more than usual and potentially be uncomfortable, affect proper armour positioning and maybe try to choke you out from below. Not to mention you absolutely can’t get to the contents of the pack without removing your armour; which may or may not be a good idea at any given time and can be awkward as hell depending on your armour carrier. Strandhogg or other PC with Tubes? Not so bad. Some issue piece of crap that barely fits over your head? Different story.
‘My team mates can get my stuff out for me’, yep, perfectly valid argument for some people in some situations some of the time, no disagreement, but most intelligent people can already see some potential issues with that plan. The question I come to is why you’d not make use of a normal pack (that actually has a usable size capacity in the real world) with normal shoulder straps over your armour. One which you can just take off at any time and access your own gear while still keeping your soft armour and plates in the place they belong i.e. covering your vitals. I’ve tried both, seen people try both and frankly I only see the Flatpack as being at all useful to a super narrow slice of potential end users. The fact that basically everyone around the whole world just puts on a normal pack over armour rather than attaching it by PALS should tell you a lot.
If you are a high speed guy and do want stuff on your back for your team mates to grab, like various type grenades, you’re going to want to use a panel like the Spiritus Systems Assault Core or Crye Precision Pouch Zip-On’ that is actually setup for CQB and breaching equipment carriage with expedient access. If you want a small amount of GP carrying capacity mounted on your armour then get a FirstSpear VEP that you can flip to your front and access quickly and easily any time while still remaining protected by your armour. If you want just a hydro pouch then spend far less money and get one of the dozens of simple hydro pouches out there. If you want a small pack for the everyday that can adjust in size get a much more comfortable proper outdoors one with compression straps that have been around for decades. The latter won’t compact down quite as small as the Flatpack can, but I’m struggling to see a lot of common situations where that tiny difference would be an insurmountable obstacle.
Where I potentially like the Flatpack is, as mentioned, as a pairing with a chest rig. The shoulder straps are made in such a way with the built in 1″ buckles that they work pretty much perfectly to interface with the top 2 male 1″ buckles on any D3/SS Micro/Vel Sys rig, or indeed any other chest rig that uses the same harness and back strap setup as the above and there are hundreds of such designs out there. The remaining lower parts of the HSP shoulder straps attach to the buckles that would have mounted the chest rig back strap and there are 2 other short straps included with the Flatpack that can be threaded to the pack and fill the remaining 2 gaps on the sides of your industry-standard harness-layout chest rig.
Before some of the throbbing enraged blood vessels potentially burst all over the comments I am not unaware that almost everything has a use to someone, trust me. ‘MY WHOLE TEAM USES IT AND IT’S GREAT’ yeah, I get it, but you need to not mix up the fact that your specific niche has been filled with the other fact that this pack tries to be a jack of all trades and masters none of them. The grey version has the potential to do well with a chest rig and there are after market spacer mesh pads that can go on to all the other versions to help a lot with their versatility, but you’re talking a high price tag by the time you’ve added one of those and a lot of needless bulk and some added weight. As an everyday bag for using around town you’ve still got entirely sub par shoulder straps and frankly this thing is not aesthetically pleasing when expanded.
The concept seems very appealing and the marketing works great, but if you are considering a Flatpack I’d emphasis the advice that smart people always give anyway: Consider exactly what it is you’re actually really needing to do and really look around before committing to a purchase.