We take a look at some of the latest survival gear from Cold Steel,...
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The core of any everyday-carry or go bag is just that: the bag. You can agonize all day long about what to include in your kit, but if the bag itself is an ergonomic hindrance under pressure—or worse yet, it breaks—you're going to have a bad time. Since you don't want to be stuck pushing around your bug-out supplies in a wheelbarrow like some deranged hobo, it's paramount to survival to have a backpack you can trust completely.
Triple Aught Design (or TAD) has made a name for itself by producing apparel and gear that's built to last. Even their name indicates this detail-oriented philosophy. TAD states on their web site, “Engineers and machinists use 000 (triple aught) as shorthand for a thousandth of an inch, which has been the high standard of precision tolerance for over a century. Inspired by that ideal, we apply thorough design, high attention to detail, and strict tolerances to ensure our products meet your most rigorous needs.” In this market flooded by outsourced products manufactured by the lowest bidder, it's nice to see a homegrown company focusing on the details. Every stitch has its purpose.
About eight years ago, TAD introduced the FAST Pack EDC, its first backpack design. The EDC's success eventually spawned a second smaller pack design known as the Litespeed. The EDC provides about 50% more interior storage space than the Litespeed, and has a few additional pouches that help it be better-suited for carrying a wider assortment of gear. These two rucksacks are the only models offered by Triple Aught Design, and both have gone through several design revisions over the years. So, we decided to pick up the EDC, and test it out.
The FAST Pack EDC is a full-size daily-carry backpack, with a 1800 cubic inch (31.1 liter) interior volume. Exterior dimensions are 12″ x 22″ x 7″ (30.5 x 55.8 x 17.8 cm), and unladen weight is 72 oz (2 kg). It includes the following features:
This backpack is made in the USA, and sold at an MSRP of $325. It is available in black, Coyote Khaki, or Foliage Green.
Immediately upon picking up the FAST Pack EDC, we were impressed by the quality of the materials used. You can tell this pack was made to take a beating, with its thick Cordura fabric, sturdy ITW buckles, and quality YKK zippers. The use of name-brand components is reassuring, as it tells you each part of this pack has had actual thought put into its design. Then again, you're definitely paying for this luxury—the FAST Pack EDC's $325 MSRP is almost enough to buy two comparable backpacks from some of TAD's competitors.
Slinging the backpack over our shoulders for the first time, we found it to be reasonably comfortable, but a bit finicky to adjust. First, you'll need to set the sliding adjusters at the top of the shoulder straps, then set the compression straps' length and buckle them in place over each shoulder. While these buckling compression straps seem somewhat redundant most of the time, this design allows you to retain a jacket or sleeping bag across the top of the pack, which is handy. There are two more compression straps on the bottom of the bag, which serve the same purpose.
From a comfort standpoint, the other thing we noticed is that the padded portion of the shoulder straps doesn't reach all the way over your shoulders, only to just above the collarbone. This isn't a big deal until the pack is fully loaded down, at which point the non-padded portion tends to dig in and cause discomfort. We really wish the entirety of the straps were padded (although TAD will change this with their latest revision, more on that later). However, the padded waist belt is extremely comfortable, and we appreciate that its pull-through mount permits quick removal when the waist strap is not in use.
On the opposite side of the pack, you'll find TAD's signature “Transporter Tail” (seen above) attached with two buckles on each side, and two straps at the bottom. This removable panel is covered in PALS webbing, allowing for expansion with MOLLE-compatible gear, and it can be detached and reinstalled inside the pack's main compartment if you prefer. When you detach the four side buckles, the Transporter Tail also hangs down like a beaver tail, allowing for vertical storage of long items like rifles, fishing poles, or skis.
The rest of the FAST Pack EDC's exterior is covered in more PALS webbing, including additional 2-inch webbing that's compatible with quick-detach Tek-Lok mounted sheaths and holsters. Other notable exterior features include a section of Velcro for morale patches (such as our favorite OG patch) and sturdy paracord zipper pulls.
Now that we've talked about the FAST Pack EDC's exterior, we'll get into the compartments. Starting at the top, there's an admin pocket above the Velcro patch, and it includes an organizer for pens and other small items. Another zippered pouch lies below it, behind the Transporter Tail. Each side of the pack has a zippered accessory pocket, but the right-hand accessory pocket also has a secondary zipper at the bottom. TAD calls this a Flashlight Cave, and it can easily be opened while the pack is worn. This allows quick access to a flashlight, knife, or keys, especially when those items are clipped to the pouch's internal D-ring with a gear retractor.
An externally-zippered hydration pouch supports all major bladder systems, and provides a Hypalon-reinforced top exit for the tube. Finally, we unzipped the main compartment, noting that it only opens halfway down the pack. We generally prefer full-size packs with full clamshell opening, since they can be flat-packed on a bench or table top, but others may prefer the EDC's top-loading half-clamshell style.
Inside the main compartment, there's a zip-up mesh pocket for smaller items, and buckles for the aforementioned Transporter Tail (in case you want to put it inside the pack, rather than outside). A small plastic hook provides an attachment point for keys, but its construction is nowhere near as sturdy as the pack's other buckles, and seems like an overlooked detail.
We were disappointed to see that the FAST Pack EDC lacks more internal pouches in the main compartment, such as a laptop pocket. That said, we'll probably end up moving the Transporter Tail inside this compartment, since it can retain a laptop or tablet, and it provides PALS webbing for mounting extra MOLLE pouches.
All in all, the FAST Pack EDC is a very good backpack with a few notable flaws. Here's a breakdown of our Pros and Cons for this pack:
Now, remember how we mentioned Triple Aught Design has a tendency to redesign its existing products? A few weeks after we got this pack, TAD announced the release of a completely redesigned version for 2015. This new version has a number of alterations, including full clamshell opening and a significantly improved fully-padded strap design—both features we were hoping for!
The 2015 update increases the MSRP slightly to $340, but we'd have gladly shelled out the additional $15 if we knew a new model was on its way. The fact that our pack is no longer top-of-the-line has us feeling a bit remorseful, like a customer who walks out of an electronics retailer with the latest and greatest laptop, only to find out a new model made it obsolete the next day.
Instead of immediately replacing the pack we tested with the 2015 model, we wish TAD would have continued to offer the “old” design at a discounted price alongside the new one, providing an option for budget-minded customers. Regardless, we'll do our best to get our hands on a 2015 EDC pack for a follow-up review, and tell you firsthand if the updates make a difference.