This year, I got an early Christmas present: a Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack E.D.C.
If you’ve been reading QRPer.com for long, you’ll know that there’s no cure for my pack addiction, so in a sense, there could be no better gift!
I’ve been a long-time customer of Texas-based Spec-Ops Brand.
I first discovered their gear at the Wright Patterson AFB Air Force base Military Clothing Store with my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) in 2013. I purchased their Pack-Rat pouch and reviewed it on the SWLing Post.
Since then I’ve purchased numerous products from Spec-Ops Brand.
I’ve owned the Spec-Ops T.H.E. Pack Tactical backpack since 2013 as well. You don’t see that pack in my field reports because, frankly, it’s just too big for most of my field radio applications. It’s designed for armed forces deployments and has a lot of capacity. I primarily use it for camping and extended travels.
Spec-Ops introduced an EDC (Everyday Carry) version of the T.H.E. Pack Tactical in 2015 or after so many customers asked for it. The EDC version is identical to the larger T.H.E. pack in every respect, just smaller in every dimension.
It’s very early days, but I suspect this pack will become my choice Summits On The Air (SOTA) pack.
In terms of size/capacity, it’s ideal for summit day hikes and the thing is just covered in Molle (Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment) straps, so very adaptable if I need to attach extendable masts, hiking poles, water bottles, or basically a Molle pouch or accessory.
The best part, though, is that it sports the same two ports/openings Spec-Ops puts into the larger T.H.E. packs for field antennas and hydration.
The Chameleon MPAS Lite whip, for example, fits through the antenna port perfectly:
So does my Wolf River Coils TIA telescoping whip.
This is huge: I’ve never been a fan of strapping telescoping whips on the outside of my pack because they always seem to catch on branches much easier than if they were mostly contained within the main compartment of the pack.
My GoRuck GR1 USA pack, as much as I love it, only has Molle on the lower third of the pack front which makes it challenging to attach a whip or telescoping pole since there’s no connection point on the top of the pack as well.
With the GR1, I’ve been placing the MPAS Lite whip inside the pack and leaving a portion of the main compartment zipper open, then threading the whip through my HeroClip to hold it in place as I hike.
This isn’t ideal because it leaves a large opening on top of the pack–if it rains, it’ll get wet inside, else I’ll have to remove the whip and carry it in in my hand as I hike.
The T.H.E. Pack EDC solves this by having not one, but two dedicated and reinforced ports for antennas.
Being a picky pack connoisseur (understatement alert) I always take a close look at stitching. Much can be revealed when you invert a pack and see how much attention to detail was taken when the pack was sewn together.
As with all of my Spec-Ops packs, I didn’t find any unclipped threads or wonky seams, and all possible stress points are doubly reinforced.
The T.H.E Pack EDC is made of 1000D Cordura Nylon 6/6 fabric and the clips are all US-made “Battle Buckles.” The main compartment and two exterior pockets sport YKK #10 self-healing chain & zip closures.
These are some of the most robust materials and components you’ll find on a pack. Period.
In short? This pack is, if anything, over-engineered. It makes sense, though, because their target market is active duty military personnel; pack failure in the field is simply not an option.
I’ve yet to take the EDC on a SOTA hike and activation, so I’ll save comments about comfort and field experience for a future post and/or one of my activation videos. I have loaded up the pack however using the main compartment for my radio gear and antenna, the lower exterior pocket for emergency/first -aid supplies, and the top exterior pocket for essential creature comforts like my field coffee kit, alcohol stove, extra fuel, and snacks.
It feels great on my back so far.
An excellent value
Those of us who purchase US-made backpacks and gear are prepared to shell out comparatively big bucks for items that rely on pricier US labor and US-made materials. I can confidently say that in the tactical market, Spec-Ops Brand offers the best value.
I would expect US-made tactical packs of a similar capacity and quality to retail for $275-$375. The Spec-Ops Band T.H.E. Pack EDC retails for $179.95 US. In the past, I’ve even found this pack on sale for less, but with rising costs all manufacturers are experiencing these days, I wouldn’t expect a sale anytime soon. I’ve no relationship with the company other than being a customer, but my guess would be that the price could even increase if materials and labor costs continue to climb. I mean economic reality, right?
Many US pack manufacturers are keeping lower inventory levels during the pandemic and some are only making items to order with a multi-week lead time. Spec-Ops still has some inventory of various color configurations of their packs and pouches. I felt lucky that they had stock in Olive Drab which was my choice for the EDC pack. (My larger Spec-Ops tactical pack is black.) Make sure to explore their online catalog for various color options and availability.
Again, I can’t wait to take this new pack on a proper SOTA hike. I’ve a number of activations in my schedule to take advantage of SOTA winter bonus points, so this EDC pack will hit the field soon enough!