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Civilian Packs for Survival

By: Ronin

Not all of us want or like the military Alice type of pack for one reason or another. For myself and my team we long ago decided to use off-the shelf packs by civilian manufacturers. I will discuss a couple of these packs in this article.

When choosing a pack for a patrol or BOB situation the three major requirements are as follows:

After a good bit of searching I found a pack at a local outfitter. The pack is an internal frame, "Rockies" model by Jansport. When I bought it two years ago (NOTE from WWD: This article is 20 years old)it was around $120US. This pack holds up to 6200 ci of equipment, has three outside pockets (much like an ALICE) and comes in a mix of grey/black/dark green. Other members of our small team have Jansport external and Kelty internal frame packs. Be warned: to find a pack that is the right size, frame type and color is a challenge and some vinegar and Rit brand dye might be needed to subdue the colors. Now let's talk about internal vs external frames.

Internal frames are usually made from bars of aluminum or plastic and sit into pockets in the pack. This type of pack seems to be preferred by climbers and mountain expeditions because it provides good balance. External frame packs have an aluminum box-like structure to which the pack attaches, thus supporting weight. These packs are preferred by backpackers who make long journeys, because more weight can be carried comfortably. Members of our team use either type of pack depending on personal preference.

Selecting a pack: Nothing more important to tell you here than go to an experienced backpacking outfitter! Let these pro's help you find a pack to match your expected carrying weight, and body type/size. We as a team generally have two packs, one is alarge 5000 Cu/in model that is a bugout bag and one small Alice sized pack that is for extended patrolling and carries only ammo and essentials. Next from the assortment of packs that suit your needs look for the following: External pockets, Double or triple stitching in ALL areas, subdued colors (not always possible), Expandability (many newer packs have add-on pouches) , hanger loop, and attachment points (remember your radio case etc?). Packs we recommend are Jansport and Lowe Alpine, these are well made and very sturdy and in the case of the Lowe many have been to the top of Everest and back.

So now you've spent $100 plus on a good pack, WEAR IT! That's right wear it around the house actually go wear it in the woods. You should start out with about 20 lbs in the pack and break it/you in. Find out where it rubs, or if too much of the weight is on your shoulders and adjust accordingly. The total weight of the back should be evenly distributed between your shoulders and hips. Now you can slowly add items until your pack is up to full weight.

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