The number one complaint that you hear from those who use tactical packs on a daily basis is the fact that they can’t seem to find a pack that will work perfectly for them. Some need a large pack with tons of pockets for organization of equipment, while others need a large pack without many pockets so they can store a large amount of clothing or other gear inside. Sometimes pockets just get in the way. Then you have the operator who needs a small and compact pack that won’t weigh them down, but some need lots of organizational pockets and others prefer a streamlined design without so many pouches. The bottom line is that, when it comes to tactical packs, there is no one pack that will work for everyone.
Enter the Propper UC Pack. UC stands for “User Configurable” and the pack lives up to its billing. You can customize every single aspect of the pack. This is not the first time that a company has attempted to create a one-size-fits-all pack, but the alternatives are all the same: the majority of the exterior is covered with MOLLE webbing for pouch attachment and then the inside has an assortment of different organizational pouches and compartments. This is where the UC pack sets itself apart from the competition: the UC pack is a blank canvas inside. Lined with high quality loop material, the inside of the pack is completely empty – making it possible for you to place pouches and pockets exactly where you want them.
I went through the Propper UC Pack from top to bottom and took it out for a spin to see how it performed in the field. As always, I analyzed the pack based on three criteria which I call “The Three Fs” – Features, Fit and Function. How did it perform?
- Exterior covered in MOLLE webbing to hold user-preferred pouches
- Interior lined with loop facing for hook and loop accessory attachment
- Padded shoulder straps and sternum strap are fully adjustable
- Hook and loop pass-through openings flank the top handle for hydration tube pass-through
- Base cinch straps secure gear in place internally
- Streamlined pockets on top and side fit small items and don’t protrude out
- Isolated storage pocket on the base for wet or dirty items
- Material: 1000 Denier Cordura Nylon
- Measurements: 20″ H x 13″ W x 6.5″ D
When you look at the pack for the first time, the element that immediately jumps out at you is the sheer amount of MOLLE attachment points. Placed across the front and sides, as well as on the bottom, you will be able to attach a MOLLE pouch virtually anywhere you want to without issue. This enables you to completely customize the exterior, instead of being forced to adapt to pocket placement built in from the manufacturer. To ensure that all photos would display the pack in its most basic form for true transparency, I opted not to attach any pouches when I took it out in the field, but suffice it to say that I could have attached several of my MOLLE pouches without running out of space. As an added bonus, the MOLLE webbing on the bottom allows you to expand the pack downward if you need more storage space. At 20 inches high and 13 inches wide, this pack is large enough to fit what you need without being bulky.
Inside, the entire pack is lined with soft loop Velcro material. The front and back, plus the sides, are completely covered in Velcro, save a small portion at the top where the zippered pouches open. The fact that the pack has so much loop facing and nothing else was a huge selling point for me. I couldn’t tell you how many packs I have bought that are absolutely loaded with organizational pouches and pockets inside. At the time of purchase, I was excited that I wouldn’t have a ton of equipment shifting around inside unorganized; once I started using the pack, though, I found myself using a small amount of the storage pockets and growing frustrated that the rest were in the way and taking up space.
With the UC pack, you are able to add as many, or as few, organizational pouches and panels as you need without going overboard and sacrificing valuable space. Instead of a pocket for every conceivable item you could ever need, the pack can be fitted with just enough to get the job done. I cannot stress how great this element of the pack is to me. Trust me on this one; sometimes less really is more. What about those zippered pockets I mentioned earlier? No, those aren’t the big bulky pockets that you end up never using because you just toss your gear in and go. These pockets serve a purpose and aren’t meant to add (bulky) storage space to the pack. Up front, the zippered compartment holds a foam pad that provides cushioning for the items inside. This prevents damage if the front of the pack takes a beating during use. In the back, the zippered pouch holds a slim frame sheet that provides structure without becoming bulky.
The only pockets that come built-in to the pack are two small, streamlined pockets meant for holding essential accessories that you need easy access to frequently. The first pouch is on the side and is sized to perfectly fit a modern smartphone, a set of keys or other items of similar size. This enables you to access your phone or keys without digging through you pack. The second pouch is located on top, right in front of the carry handle. This is the perfect compartment for a pair of sunglasses, but it will hold other similarly-sized items like a wallet or cell phone (if you have one of those ridiculously oversized iPhone Plus’). Both of these pockets hold items internally, so they will not protrude out and the items will also be well protected inside.
On the base of the pack is a divided compartment that is lined with moisture-wicking material. The compartment is also fitted with six built in drainage vents – three on top and three on the bottom. These vents allow moisture to easily escape, keeping the pack dry after each use. The compartment also has cinch straps attached, keeping all gear in place. With so much attention placed on making this compartment water resistant and breathable, it is natural to assume that this would be the best place to put any wet gear that you don’t want touching the rest of your equipment. One issue that I noticed would be the fact that any moisture escaping the compartment through the base vent holes would be contacting any gear below if you chose to attach an additional pouch. This is also a common place for the attachment of a sleeping pad – and no one wants their bed to be wet. All in all, it is a minor logistical issue that only comes into play if you are carrying wet items or expanding the pack via attachment at the base.
Finally, I’ll cover the bells and whistles. As I discussed earlier, sometimes a pack can have too many. In fact, I would argue that most packs have too many. This is not one of those packs. The bells and whistles on this pack are represented on a short list, but these are absolutely necessary to have on a pack that you would want to use. First, padding – lots of it in the right places. Anyone who has ever used an ALICE pack with an external metal frame knows that you can never have enough padding. With metal rubbing you in all of the wrong places, a day carrying an ALICE pack on your back can make for some awfully uncomfortable nights of sleep after. With the Propper UC Pack, the shoulder straps and back are fully padded and breathable to keep you comfortable. This feature cannot be underestimated. Carrying weight in your pack can lead to a sore back – but the padding helps a whole lot.
Rounding out the extra bells and whistles are a few features that I consider essential for any pack I purchase. First, the pack has to have a sternum and waist strap. These two are included on most packs designed to carry a heavy load, but for some reason many people choose not to use them. These two items help to secure the load and distribute the weight evenly across your body – making it easier to ruck without issue and in relative comfort. Also essential for me is a pass-through opening from inside to out. This allows me the ability to carry my hydration bladder for longer days outside, and I don’t have to cut a hole in my pack for the drinking tube (which I have done before). Also, easily overlooked but really an excellent feature, is the fact that this pack is made from heavy duty 1000 Denier Nylon. This stuff is built to last. Most packs are made from Nylon these days, but not all are using high quality 1000D Nylon.
Any pack you buy has to be comfortable – that is a given. But comfort extends beyond just padding. Many manufacturers will load a pack with bulky padding and call it comfortable, but the pack actually has to fit the wearer. It isn’t just clothing that has to fit right to ensure comfort. I actually found this pack to be slightly difficult to fit to my body initially. Once I ironed out the initial kinks, the pack fit fine – but I found that I had to wear the pack a little lower than I would like. Maybe this is because I’m on the taller side, or maybe because I like my pack to be pretty tight around my shoulders, but this pack wasn’t working out just right at first.
If I tightened the shoulder straps to my preferred level of comfort, the waist belt was actually wrapping around my body at a height midway up my stomach towards my ribs. If I lowered the straps down to where the belt was wrapping around my waist, I felt that the pack was too loose around my shoulders. I split the difference and made it work. It wasn’t too bad once I got through the initial break in period. This is my biggest gripe about the pack, but it proved to be insignificant once I adjusted the pack a bit. All in all, the pack is comfortable – but expect to spend a little time adjusting the straps initially.
The best part about this pack is its excellent functionality. You can use this pack in a host of different applications and never feel like you are trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Best of all, you can actually change the pack depending on the application. That means that you can take this pack with you during a quick trip to the range or on a three day hike and it will be equally as functional because you adapted it to fit your needs. Instead of buying a whole new pack for each application, you simply need to add or remove pouches at your discretion to make it work. This will save you time and money, not to mention the fact that you won’t need to have several different packs on hand at all times. Normally an item that I break down and review is designed to serve a single need and do it well. This pack serves several needs and performs well across the board – that is tough to beat.
Most tactical pack users wish that they could simply design a customized pack to match their exact needs; the Propper UC Pack makes that possible. Check it out!
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.