If you ever wanted to own a backpack that’s the same as the ones used by the Marine Corps, then this is it. This is the second generation USMC ILBE, produced by Arc’teryx, and comes with the detachable assault pack.
This pack is one of the best I have ever used and costs much less than others of similar construction. It includes: main rucksack, assault pack, hip belt, hydration system, radio pouch. The exterior Molle webbing is a big plus over comparable framed “civilian” packs which usually cost at least twice than this one costs. And price has dropped lately. These can be bought now in the range of $169-$229.
If you are doing a BOB (Bug out Bag), this is a great choice because of the size and how well the bag is made. The extra ammo pouch is excellent if you have to set up a base camp and need a day bag and do not have to carry all of your stuff.
The quality of the materials and the fit and finish are beyond compare. The main pack is huge and can be used as one open space or sectioned off into two compartments. The assault pack is much smaller and can be used either attached to the main pack or used separately since it also has shoulder straps. The radio pouch can be taken out or used to store some smaller items.
What I like a lot is its adjustability. The suspension system consists of shoulder straps sewn to a yoke, a flexible plastic frame sheet, permanent fiberglass stays that go halfway up the pack, full length, removable, contoured and bendable / adjustable aluminum stays that ride in sleeves on the pack and pockets in the removable waist belt that is also secured via a wrap-around panel that also includes the lumbar pad. The shoulder strap yoke is attached to the frame sheet via a large panel of velcro, and the frame sheet in turn is attached to the pack the same way. This all happens under the large back pad panel and it means that they are both adjustable independently for torso length, allowing for quite a bit of adjustability.
The comfort is great, and the padding is ample and well contoured throughout, with the waist belt being the thickest and best contoured I have seen. The waist belt, due to its attachment system, is allowed to tilt with your hips separately from the rest of the pack. This really makes it more ergonomic and it moves with your body as you’re walking. The patrol pack is also comfortable with a flexible frame sheet and a length that allows the unpadded waist belt to ride on the waist / hips instead of the middle of the stomach like most small packs do. It actually distributes the weight well and doesn’t sag, this being one of the best small packs I have tried on.
The pack is constructed of fairly thick and heavy-duty nylon that is waterproof-coated on the inside, with a double bottom. One interesting thing is that there is a heavy mesh panel on the bottom/back of the pack where the waist belt is. I guess this is meant to quickly drain a swamped pack, but would also very quickly let water flood the pack when dunked. This is however protected from rain or splashes.
In my opinion, this pack is a proven winner. Works well for what the men and women in the USMC do, and it will do well for you. Here’s what you get, in a nutshell:
- Large size and a lot of room;
- Lots of webbing to hang things from;
- Extra deep pockets for good storage;
- Internal frame for excellent support;
- 2 different packs;
- Fits securely;
- Very adjustable.
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Other military-issued backpacks: