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Operator Essentials

You’ve heard the term before; tactical backpack.  It’s hard to avoid, in fact.  It’s impossible to deny that “tactical” packs are a trend that isn’t going away any time soon in the carry world.  In fact, at this point it may not even be a trend, but one of the pillar groups.  How did this happen?  Well, as long as there has been military, there have been people who want to use the gear for their civilian lives (the common day tshirt is a perfect example of gear popularized by military design and use).  And just to be clear, civilians using military gear is awesome.  As long as you’re not going around claiming you’re a soldier when you’re not.  That’s not cool.  Otherwise, feel free to enjoy the benefits of these awesome packs and gear.  In one way or another, you’ve already paid for them via taxes!

People are drawn to this rugged gear for good reason too.  Packs, clothing, and kit that is designed specifically for armed forces are all meant to go to war.  Literally.  They’re focused on strength, durability, modularity, high activity, and premium quality materials/hardware.  Fashion is not even considered.  It’s all pure function here.  That being said, some may think tactical packs are a bit loud/attention grabbing, so they’ll want something a bit more subdued.  Everyone has their own preferences, which we dig.

Long story short, in this particular case the term “tactical” is essentially another word for “military” or “military inspired”.

As the title states, this is a breakdown of tactical thigh bag for beginners.  An introduction.  So let’s dig in and explore what makes one functional tactical pack great versus a cheap knock-off for fashion’s sake.

We’re material geeks over here.  And generally military tactical packs all should be made from quality fabrics that can take a beating.  As a general rule of thumb, they should be made from 500D – 1200D CORDURA nylon fabric (or better).  Not 200D.  Not Kodra.  Not polyester.  This is an easy one.  Some packs may even use nicer materials, such as X-Pac (VX) fabric.  Usually these fabrics are heavier (not always), but they’re weather resistant and take a fall down a mountain or twenty.


Look for brand names listed in the pack’s specifications.  Brands to look for are YKK, TiZip, ITW Nexus, AustriAlpin, and more.  If you haven’t heard of the brand (or if it’s intentionally left off), it probably doesn’t have a reputation of having a great track record.  These parts can make or break (literally) a pack, so you’ll want something you can trust.  If you’re deep in the wilderness and a buckle that keeps your shoulder straps attached busts on you, you’re out of luck.

For both professional and recreational applications, tactical vest offer carefully structured layouts that carry comfortably and keep gear secure, even when packed with heavy loads.

A backpack is a bag for holding things. It’s hard to make that tactical, since one bag is very like another. When discussing turning a piece luggage into a lean, combat-equipped fighter, the first question that must be answered is: How? It’s a simple matter to put a few MOLLE straps onto a rucksack and call it battle-ready, but that does not fit the bill. True tactical packs are build with missions in mind, giving operators a lot of customization of the inside depending on if they’re doing recon, hunter/killer missions, sabotage, or simply going on a day hike. Real tactical suits also step up the durability to the point that they’re nigh indestructible, and are replete with hidden stash spots for secreting away a weapon, a jump drive with the Death Star plans, or a message to the wetwork pro who will find your body.

Going in an asymmetrical direction, the Javelin looks a little awkward at first, but the design is intended to land at your body’s natural load-bearing points for an even distribution across your entire back to prevent walking cock-eyed. Built with 1000 Denier cordura and neoprene handles, the large number of small compartments makes this a good field bag for medical, electrical, demolition, or photography work. Top or side access gives it a convertibility that’s welcome in a tactical bag

You’ll never stray far from quality with 5.11’s tactical belt. Though their Rush line gets more attention, the more basic All Hazards Prime has a straighter build. Constructed using input from MACTAC (Multi-Assault Counter-Terrorism Action Capabilities) instructors, the layout is made specifically to give you access to all your gear, and keep it precisely where you expect it to be. Should you drop something, hi-vis orange lining makes it pop out, day or night. 

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