Offgrid Gear Review: Allen S&W Lite Force Tactical Sling Pack
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About the Author: The following article was submitted by Sharon Durand, an avid outdoorswoman and auditor by day, wife and mother by night. She's fairly certain her husband married her for either her fried chicken or her skill with an HK USP .45… perhaps both. Sharon prefers a Winchester lever gun to most any AR and uses her 6′ 3″ Wonder Woman tall girl powers mostly for good.
I can't say I wasn't warned. I chose the Lite Force anyway.
There are times when husbands do know best, particularly when said husband is an infantry combat veteran and unabashed gear whore.
I am not unfamiliar with packs, having used many styles of backpacks over the years. I thought the Allen Lite Force Tactical Sling Pack (co-branded with the Smith & Wesson logo for reasons) would be worth trying, primarily because it is less cumbersome than the full rucks I own, and it's a sling style. A sling pack is one I could just swing around for easy access while on the trail rather than having to doff the pack entirely. The Lite Force Tactical Pack accomplished what I wanted, but had some major drawbacks. Of course, I didn't know that when I bought it.
“Yeee-aaaah, I wouldn't recommend that,” my husband Mike said, when I showed it to him. A laconic warning, but as it turns out a good one.
From the Manufacturer:
“The Lite Force Tactical Sling Pack’s sling design gives access to the pack without having to remove it. Conceal-carry compatible and hydration ready, this pack has a 1200-cubic-inch capacity, MOLLE system loops, a large main compression strap, and water bottle and sunglasses pockets. Made with rugged Endura fabric, this sling also has a padded carry handle and a padded adjustable single sling strap.”
Dimensions: 18″ x 9.75″ x 7.5″
Colors: Black, tan, or A-TACS AU camo
My first trip with this pack was a 10-mile summer hike, and it was hot as hell out. The ALFTP has a padded, cool-mesh back, so it didn’t seem to generate additional heat beyond what I was already experiencing during the trek. Conditions on that initial hike were temperatures of 90+ degrees in the direct sun. I liked that I could slide the bag around to reach my water bottle and sunscreen (a frequent necessity) or whatever I needed from one of its many storage pockets and pouches (of which there are many).
The bag is concealed-carry compatible, so it features a large easy-access 7”x7” main pouch that easily fits my HK USP .45 (though I did not take it with me — I live in gun hating “Republik of Kalifornistan” after all) and of course extra mags. Total capacity is 1,200 cubic inches, meaning you can store quite a lot for such a relatively compact bag.
In lieu of the pistol and spare magazines, I carried a permissible weapon (more on that later) and an extra water bottle. The pack is hydration compatible, so you can use it like a CamelBak, but I’ll admit to a certain pickiness. I don’t like the plastic taste the water takes on in those soft pouches, so I stick to hard Nalgenes and the like.
I used the zippered mesh pouch for my extra socks and some first aid supplies, with room left over. There was easily sufficient space for a light jacket (okay, more like a zip-up workout hoodie), a rolled up pair of yoga pants and an extra tank top. I used the large exterior pouch for my wallet, keys, and my ZAP Double Trouble stun gun.
Yes, a stun gun. It beats harsh words and a rape whistle.
The pouch has a nice exterior security feature where you can loop a snap tab attached to the MOLLE-compatible webbing through the zipper before securely snapping it in place. That should make it more difficult for someone to slip up behind you and unzip it, unless of course they're a ninja or something.
The PALS (MOLLE-compatible) loops on the outside of the strap were perfect for my knife and small flashlight. The large V-shaped compression strap on the front kept everything tight and secure across my torso. There’s also the obligatory velcro section on the rear, allowing me to run my Wonder Woman morale patch and name tape. Cool!
At the basic level the bag is very functional. The designers appear to have put a substantial amount of thought into the design process.
Now, for the reason why I advised against this bag — this is the salient point for some of you newcomers who might be reading this. Based on my experience, sling bags are just not comfortable to wear long-term. Those of you who've lived out of your pack for long days and miles are no doubt nodding your heads now, but it was a lesson I needed to learn myself. Even with the padded adjustable shoulder strap, I found that after a few miles my right shoulder strained by the weight.
Unlike backpacks, the weight is not evenly distributed to both shoulders, and any advantage the design provides for access is outweighed over the long term by the awkward way it carries weight. It really begins to drag. I was sore after completing the ten mile trek, though not unbearably so — I earned my tough girl card giving birth twice without drugs.
Despite this experience, I like the Allen S&W Lite Force Tactical Pack. It's functional, and thus far proving to be well sewn, but I particularly appreciated the affordable price point.
This pack's MSRP is $60, and I picked it up for $40 on Amazon. This compares favorably to similar bags like the virtually-identical Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger, which run upwards of $150 retail. It’s a great choice for shorter hikes, the daily commute (it will accommodate a 15 in. laptop), or use as a concealed-carry bag, first aid/medic bag, get-home bag, or EDC bag.
You can find essentially the same bag listed online as the Allen Tactical Lite Force Sling Pack from Allen Company. In the future however, I will stick to dual shoulder strapped backpacks… and possibly give more consideration to some of the advice I get from my husband.