Beans and Bullets. The backbone of every good Army. Being a shooter, I am always more interested in the bullets. Give a shooter a bag to test, and what is the first obvious test? How many bullets will fit in this bag? The bag in question, The Rambler Cargo Pack from Mission Workshop. It was shotgun day, so I went with slugs instead of bullets. The Rambler expanded so much that I was able to fit over 1000 12 gauge shotgun rounds within its cavernous confines. Color me impressed. The Rambler is classified as a Cargo Pack and made right here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. by Mission Workshop. You can read about their story on their website. The Rambler doubles in size from 22L to 44L with the simple pull of two YKK zippers.
Talk to any boot or leg or grunt, and I am sure they can share a story containing a nightmare ruck march and a 100-pound pack. I still remember my mission ruck from Robin Sage and the INFIL movement over [Hell] Mountain. Heavy doesn’t begin to be an adequate adjective, but it will have to suffice. With HEAVY pack on my back, and shotgun in hand I headed downrange to slay some paper, targets, target stands – pretty much whatever got between my shotgun and the berm. Luckily I didn’t have a Robin Sage INFIL distance to travel. I really just wanted to get a good test on the straps, frame and stitching. The stitching held up as you can see.
When the students had finally worked through all that ammo, I took The Rambler home to plan our next tryst. It turned out our rendezvous would not take long. The Missus and I normally try and get in a 7-mile hike on Saturdays with our son. Being an avid hiker, I normally wear a ruck to keep my shoulders ready for expeditions around Mount Rainier and the toddler mountain exploration pack that carries my son. I transferred an easy portion of my training weight, a 20lb steel plate, into The Rambler. The Rambler is broken down into three compartments: a rear dry-sack type compartment, the middle expanding pouch, and another smaller roll-top dry-sack front pouch. Initially I placed the ruck plate in the rear compartment. The compartment is free floating and not attached at the bottom to the bag. After ¼ mile of flopping plate rhythmically playing patty-cake with my spine, it was readjustment time. I moved the plate to the very front compartment and cinched the strap down, tight and close to the body. The internal frame suspension made the rest of my ruck a breeze. The carbon fiber reinforcement and padding ride smoothly and very comfortably on the back. I was impressed. The weight rode easy. The straps are padded enough for comfort, but not so much that movement is inhibited.
One of the first things that most backpackers might notice is a lacking waist belt. The waist belt is an extra addition at the time of purchase, so be aware if you are a waist belt fanatic. Any soldier who has had the great and bloated tick ALICE sucking their life away can survive without a waist belt. Let me paint a waist belt picture for you the humble reader. It is hot. Southern hot. The air is so humid that it feels like you are walking through jello. We are 60 hours in to a 3-day patrol. The 100 pound ALICE pack is sucking your life away with each shuffling step during movement to EXFIL. Head down, one foot in front of the other. BOOM! “Contact Front, Contact Front, 100 meters.” Gunfire and chaos. Face in the dirt. Avoid incoming fire, get low, seek cover. I can’t low crawl fast enough with the ALICE tick crushing the air from the frantic attempts to take a breath. Thumbs under the shoulder straps, and the ALICE tick flops loose. Air rushes into my lungs with a fresh whoosh. CRAWL. CRAWL. But the Ruck beast is still buckled around my waist and flopping around. Waist belts are a crutch.
I was impressed with the comfort and carry capacity of this pack. My only real wish for this pack is hydration. There is no integral hydration system, or external pockets for bottles. Then again, the toughest SAS bastard I have ever met once told me that water is a crutch. So there’s that.
(Featured image courtesy of missionworkshop.com)