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Living the prepared lifestyle doesn’t always mean leaving your tech behind and living off the land. It’s about being prepared to handle (or prevent) disaster in all aspects of life, including your everyday routine. Whether you’re a nature photographer on the trail or a sniper/observer gathering critical intel for your unit, protecting your equipment is a vital aspect of your mission. The impact from a fall could result in a broken camera lens or optic, leaving you facing a hefty repair bill at best or unable to complete your mission at worst.
When hauling around high-dollar camera kit or expensive tech gear, we’re typically limited to two options: a heavy, foam-lined hard case, or a soft, padded nylon pack. When stuck with the hard-case option, we usually find ourselves confined to a vehicle, having to leave most of our gear behind when heading out on foot. Opting for the lightweight pack allows us to carry more essential gear, but often leaves us praying that the internal padding is sufficient to keep our equipment in operational condition. Fortunately, Hazard 4 has just expanded our options with their newly released Pillbox Thermocap Photo-CCW Daypack.
As a manufacturer of outdoor adventure and extreme sport travel gear, Civilian Lab has spent many years developing and manufacturing hard-use gear. Over the years, a growing number of users have brought their Civilian Lab gear into professional field use. The high demand for tactical versions of that gear led Civilian Lab to introduce the Hazard 4 line of “Progressive Tactical Gear.”
The Hazard 4 name was inspired by a standard threat-classification index that ranks hazards from Low (1) to High (4). The goal of Hazard 4 is to design gear that will be the “last line of defense” for the user facing extreme adversity, whether it be through environmental, industrial, or man-made factors. To this end, they have taken a progressive approach to their designs.
With a base of operations located in southern California where there is year-round access to mountain snow, dense forest, desert heat, urban congestion, and of course the Pacific Ocean, the Hazard 4 team is able to field-test their products in the most rigorous conditions and adjust as needed to ensure their products are suitable for any environment. The added input of professional end users helps ensure that the most desirable features are incorporated into every Hazard 4 product.
The Hazard 4 Pillbox is a new tactical pack design consisting of a lightweight, thermoformed, padded hard-shell integrated into a Cordura nylon skin. Although Hazard 4 has previously integrated this hard-shell into components of some of their other packs, this is the first pack built completely around the technology. We had a chance to field-test the Pillbox after SHOT Show, and this experience left us impressed with the overall construction and design concept.
The Pillbox is divided into three main sections, each lined with silent pull-tab YKK zippers. The outer sidewall is covered with bar-tacked connection points that are both ALICE- and MOLLE-compatible. A padded back panel with air channels provides comfort and airflow when wearing the pack.
The padded shoulder straps are equipped with quick-release buckles and lined with multiple attachment points. The attachment points hold the adjustable sternum strap, giving the wearer full control over height placement. Each shoulder strap also has hook-and-loop retention for channeling a hydration tube, a feature often overlooked even on dedicated bladder carriers.
The removable waist support belt is fully adjustable and comes with Hazard 4’s original locking side release buckle. This unique buckle has a locking lever resembling an AR-15 safety-selector located in the center of the buckle. Placing it in the locked position will prevent any unintentional buckle release.
It might be overkill for the average user, but to those who operate in hazardous conditions and know all too well the crazy things can happen under stress, this locking lever will likely be a welcomed addition.
The camera compartment features a customizable, internal photo-bag divider system for organizing and protecting camera gear or other fragile items. Those familiar with traditional camera bags with recognize the concept, but notice a significant difference in the quality of the Hazard 4 design. Although we could have used a few more small dividers for improved organization of loose items, the pack configured nicely around our camera, lenses, flash, and accessories.
The laptop compartment, located in front of the camera compartment and directly behind the thermoformed shell, contains an internal padded pouch for housing a laptop or tablet. It’s also appropriately-sized to carry a soft armor panel, like the 11”x14” Spartan Armor Systems Level IIIA panel we threw inside to add some ballistic protection.
The front padded section of the laptop compartment features an assortment of accessory pockets to hold pens, memory cards, cables, and other small items, as well as a MOLLE-compatible panel covered with back-fill loop-fasteners for accepting a variety of add-ons. An accordion-style divider lies between the hard shell and laptop compartment. This area is perfect for carrying books, files, or large accessories like solar panels or light reflectors. The divider can be disconnected on the inside to allow for full opening of the accessory compartment.
The rear section of the pack is lined internally to accept hook-fastener-backed attachments. Hazard 4 offers a number of concealed carry attachments (such as the Stick-Up Modular Universal Holster) that can be used to customize the CCW compartment to your liking. Of course, any aftermarket hook-fastener-backed attachment will work with the system, so your options are endless. We used a generic adjustable loop holster to hold a Glock 19.
The one downfall with the Pillbox’s CCW compartment is the lack of any type of rapid access system. If your only concern is having a convenient place to pack a handgun, then this isn’t an issue. But if your intent is to have a readily accessible, off-body carry option, then this probably isn’t the best choice. You would be better off carrying a hydration system using the built-in hydration hanger. The nice part about the CCW/Hydration compartment is that it is perfectly suitable for housing additional electronics thanks to the generous padding lining the compartment.
The hard shell of the Pillbox has six recessed double grommets for mounting Hazard 4 HardPoint items. HardPoint is a unique series of accessories that bolt into the double grommets to add loops, valves, wire passages, etc.
For example, the Stop Gap-1 (pictured in the diagram above) can be paired with shock cord or nylon webbing to strap additional gear to the outside of the pack.
Other accessory designs are in the works, such as the soon-to-be-released HardPoint external LED light. When not housing a HardPoint accessory, the double grommets can be sealed from the inside using the hook-backed covers included with the pack.
External Dimensions: 19.7″ L x 12.2″ W x 7.5″ D
Main Compartment: 19.7″ L x 12.2″ W x 3.7″ D
Laptop Compartment: 19.3″ L x 12.” W x 0.6″ D
Total Capacity: 1800 cu in
Weight: 5 lbs 2.5 oz
Main Materials: Invista 1000D Cordura, PU x2 Water Repellent Coated
The Hazard 4 Pillbox is one of the best packs we’ve used for the purpose of packing and protecting valuable optics and electronics. Whether you’re on a high-stakes reconnaissance mission or just photographing the local wildlife, the Pillbox provides the ideal blend of protection, function, durability, and comfort to guarantee you won’t break your gear or your back.
Chad McBroom is the owner of Comprehensive Fighting Systems, a company that offers practical training in armed and unarmed combatives. He has over 30 years of martial arts experience and specializes in edged weapons. He also does a bit of knifemaking himself, a hobby he took up to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of blade craft. Follow him on Instagram @cfs_combat.