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May 18, 2009 Comments (0) Gear & Equipment, Reviews

Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger Review

KodiakGearslinger016aFrom the feedback we get and from my own personal experience, there is little question that most folks that hit the Woods Monkey site are gear hounds as much as they are outdoors people.  They like their toys.  Whether it’s knives, tools, flashlights, stoves, shelters, or whatever else,  everyone’s got their own complement of accoutrements they like to take with them out in the woods.  Also, those same folks like being similarly equipped in a more urban setting as well, when they hit the roads to go to work, do some sight-seeing, or just lounge about the city streets.  Maxpedition has hit the sweet spot for those folks with a line of packs which they call their Gearslingers that can serve double duty in the wilderness or on the pavement.  One of their latest iterations is their new Kodiak Gearslinger.  Unlike normal packs, Maxpedition’s Gearslingers have only one main strap that’s slung over the head so the pack can be carried in the same style as a bicycle messenger’s bag.  I have personally been drawn to that style of pack and have researched several of the high end brands which received rave reviews, however I never found one that met my needs—until now!

Most of the brands I’ve come across are just large bags with a great big open space to dump everything in.  The downside is that you have to dig through everything in the bag to find what you want.  There’s no order or compartmentalization, and to quote some 20th century dictator, “There must be order!”.  Anywho…though I liked the concept, they didn’t meet my needs 100%.  But, it wasn’t too long ago that we received Maxpedition’s newest and one of its largest models, the Kodiak Gearslinger.  I’ll just say up front that I am flat out impressed with this pack and I’m actually pretty jazzed about having used it.  When you see new gear all of the time, especially the same kinds of gear like knives, lights, packs, stoves and the like, it’s easy to get a little nonchalant about things sometimes.  It takes a lot to impress you and get you excited again.  But, from the first moment I started looking over the Kodiak, the excitement was definitely there.

KodiakGearslinger002aKodiakGearslinger001aTheir Monsoon Gearslinger actually has more storage space, and is a bit cheaper than the Kodiak.  But, there’s a reason for that.  The Kodiak is decked out with all kinds of extra features, straps, and pockets all of which require more time and more material to put together.  While the Monsoon has more storage, it lacks the organizational benefits and some of the “nice touches” that the Kodiak has present.  For instance, the Kodiak has a hook and loop “wall” inside of the pack where velcro holsters and magazines carriers can be mounted for easy access and stability.  The Monsoon has a similar feature, but it resides within the hydration bladder area.  The Kodiak has a separate hydration bladder pocket that won’t preclude the carry of a CCW and extra ammo.  For those that are unfamiliar with single-strap packs, the beauty of those versus packs with two straps is that you can easily swing the pack around to your front for easy access to a couple of the main pockets. (See above left picture).  That includes the area where the holster and sidearm would be situated.  So, in a situation where access to your sidearm is needed quickly, it’s a fairly easy process to flip the pack around, unzip side pocket, and draw your firearm.

KodiakGearslinger015aFor my own purposes, I used a velcro backed holster that I had left over from when I bought a tactical parka this past winter.  It didn’t work too well with the coat, but it worked perfectly with the Kodiak.  Once I had the holster mounted on the hook and loop piling wall, I slipped my Glock 19 into it, and threw in a mag carrier with two extra magazines and I was good to go!  The nice thing about the velcro set-up is that you can position the holster at basically any angle you want.  So, it’s very easy to find the right position and cant for each individual depending on how they wear the Kodiak themselves.  Maxpedition carries a universal CCW holster that you can use in the Kodiak, but to be honest, I don’t know how I would like that one.  I haven’t actually used it, but it doesn’t appear to have any kind of retention strap.  That would worry me a bit since that might allow the pistol to slide out of its holster.  The one that I use is nylon as well, but it has a thumb-break retaining strap that keeps the pistol in place during every day carry.  So, check around and be sure of what you want before ordering an accessory holster.

KodiakGearslinger018aBut, there’s a lot more to the Kodiak than just the CCW option.  Once I had it set up, I threw the pack into the truck to take with me down to our PWYP gathering to get a feel for how it handled stuffed with gear, and to get the opinions of others.  At our annual gathering, we have between 75-100 very experienced outdoors people, so their knowledge and opinions are always valued.  Just as expected, everyone that had a chance to look it over was impressed by its construction and by the number of features it offered (the holster was one of the favorites).  But, just about everyone that tried it out commented postively on the number of different pockets available and the options for mounting additional pockets or pouches.  While I was there, I took a couple of shots of Joe Flowers (one of our contributors) wearing it since it would be tough for me to shoot a picture of myself from behind.  Believe me, Joe enjoyed the attention.  As you can tell from the first picture in the article and a couple of others, this is a good sized pack that gives you plenty of space to load up your gear. I carry a lot of gear with me on a daily basis besides just EDC stuff like a folder, multi-tool, etc.  I’m also a photographer and a writer, so I have a bunch of different items that I need on hand.

KodiakGearslinger003a Those items include wires, a digital recorder, mini microphones, PDA, notebook, ink pens, camera flash, lens cleaning supplies, and lots of spare batteries.  Now, on top of all of that, throw in an extra Spyderco folder, a Fenix TK-10, the Glock 19, a survival kit, two spare mags, and a spare Kramer belt scabbard for the G19, and you’re starting to talk about a bit of gear!  But, the Kodiak handled it all with aplomb.  In the large open compartment, I put the clearning supplies, the belt scabbard, and a large Otter Box containing flash cards, wires, screwdrivers, and the like. If you’ll look in the picture, you’ll notice in front of those items is a quick-release buckle.  Behind that is where the CCW is stored.  If you want, you can leave the buckle undone for faster access.  It’s up to the individual how they want to carry their gear.

KodiakGearslinger021aKodiakGearslinger004aNow, on the back of the pack (side furthest from wearer’s back) there are two pockets.  One is fairly large, and the other is smaller, though it can carry a significant amount of smaller gear.  The large pocket can be accessed from the side (the top when the pack is swung around to the front) just like the holster can be accessed.  In there, I kept some of the larger items, and some of the things I’d like to get to without having to take off the pack completely.  Those items included the flash for my camera, my Dell Axim X51V PDA, a Moleskine notebook, small Otter Box containing my microphones and a digital recorder.  This is a good sized pouch and it’s a well thought out design to have a larger compartment that can be easily accessed for items that are used on a regular basis.  It’s just a quick flip of the pack to the front, unzip and pull out what you need.  Once done, you can slide the back back around to its normal position.  Voila!

KodiakGearslinger007aThe adjacent smaller pocket is ideal for all kind of your smaller knick-knacks.  Down at PWYP, I kept it loaded with sample items of folders and EDC lights.  While it can be done, it’s not as easily accessed from the side as the large pocket since some of the items might spill out if you open it too much.  But, that’s not a really a fault since Maxpedition wanted to optimize the amount of space left over by the larger pocket.  Since I got back home and for my every day carry to different places, I use that pocket mainly to pack all my spare batteries.  I’ve got an Otter Box with 16 AA’s (by now you probably know I like Otter Boxes), several spare rechargeables for my digital cameras, and an assortment of CR123’s and CR2A batteries.  So, there’s plenty of space in there to keep me powered up for quite a long time while I’m on the go with the Kodiak!

KodiakGearslinger009aKodiakGearslinger008aHydration an issue for you?  That’s OK, because it’s not an issue for the Kodiak.  Remember earlier when I mentioned the pocket for the hydration bladder?  Well, the Kodiak will accommodate a full sized 100 ounce water bladder.  To access the bladder pocket, you just unzip it from the side, and slide the bladder right in and then feed the tube out the hole in the top of the pack.  You can then bring the tube over your shoulder and attach it to the main strap.  It’s a very easy process, and most outdoors folks know by now how to set up a hydration bladder in a rig like this.  As mentioned earlier, the hydration bladder is in a separate compartment from where the holster and firearm are carried.  So, you don’t have to choose between one or the other.  You can carry them both!  The Kodiak does not come with a hydration bladder, but they are fairly easy to find and pick up rather inexpensively.  There are several companies making high quality bladders, so it’s dealer’s choice as to which one to get.

KodiakGearslinger006aWhile hydration bladders are nice and hold lots of liquid, it’s always good to have a bottle of water on hand as well.  There’s a couple of reasons.  First, in the bottle, you can mix up some of your favorite energy/rehydration drink from powder and not have to be concerned about having to clean that out of the bladder.  Second, if you’re near the end of your day trip or outing and you’ve tapped out the bladder, it’s a fairly quick process to fill up a water bottle for that last little bit you need for the day without having to take off the pack and pull out the bladder to refill it.  And, yes, there’s a third reason.  If you get a metal water bottle (without an expoxy lining) like that provided by Guyot Designs, you can boil water right in the bottle to sterizilize it if you find yourself in a pinch.  That can be done not only to sterilize water, but to heat up soup or some other substance.  Point is, the Maxpedition Kodiak has you coverd on this point as well.  Besides the hydration bladder pocket, there is a large pocket on the side of the pack that will fit a standard Nalgene-type 1 liter bottle.  And, there’s even a little cord lock mechanism that will keep it secure in its nest. Seems like a lot so far, doesn’t it?  Well there’s a bit more to the pack to round out the feature list.

KodiakGearslinger011aKodiakGearslinger012a One of those features is an elastic cord with a cord lock that can be used to secure a poncho, jacket, or rain outfit without having to use the space inside the pack.  Just roll it up and secure it right onto the pack for easy carry.  You could also use it to carry a rolled up tarp or maybe a lightweight sleeping pad.  Another nice feature that the Kodiak offers is the secondary stabilizing strap (right picture).  The user can bring it around and under the left arm to buckle to the main strap.  It serves a couple of different functions.  First, it helps to stabilize the load to keep it from shifting back and forth, though I never found any real issue with this while I used the Kodiak.  It also helps to pull the main strap away from the user’s neck to keep down excess rubbing on the skin.  Now the main strap is padded well and shaped ideally for this type of carry, so there’s usually no worries in this regard.  But, if you’re like me and try to cram everything you own into it, the extra weight could cause a little extra tension around the neck and shoulder.  The secondary strap helps alleviate some of that tension.

KodiakGearslinger014aIf you are like me, and are a true glutton for punishment, the Kodiak offers a slew of options for mounting additional pockets and pouches that you can fill with anything you want whether it’s MRE’s or jellybeans!  If you’ll look at the 1st picture in paragraph three, you’ll see several nylon webbing loops on the side that can be used to attach an extra pocket in that open area.  Also, in the picture to the right you can see the PALS modular webbing on the large external pocket where other pouches or accessories can be affixed.  You might want to put a couple of Maxpedition’s magazine pouches onto the Kodiak or maybe just another pocket or a first aid kit.  Me, I’m kind of partial to the Monkey Combat Admin Pouch.  No matter what your preference is, there are enough different accessories and mounting spots to configure the Kodiak pack in any way you desire.  Probably a lot of what’s going to come into play during the decision making is the intended use for the pack.  The accessories will probably be different for the city (i.e. cell phone, PDA’s) than for the woods.  But, the sky’s the limit! What really impresses me most about the Kodiak is the amount of thought that went into providing different ways to segregate and orgazanize your gear. We haven’t even shown you the wide and slim pockets for things like maps or other important papers.  There are also a couple of webbing pockets inside the back for organizing smaller items as well.  It just looks like someone spent a lot of time thinking over all of the little things that we need and use on a daily basis and tried to figure out a way to incorporate all of them into the Kodiak.

KodiakGearslinger010aOne main example is the quick release buckle on the main strap that allows the user to quickly shed the pack without having to pull it up and over their head.  Another item is the snap-clip on the main strap (see the right picture in paragraph 11) where you can attach a light or other item for easy and instant access. The entire rig is an execution of thoughtful deliberation and utility.  I’ve used and studied this pack for several weeks now, and there’s nothing about it that I don’t like.

Maxpedition has taken their original Gearslinger concept and refined it even more into a highly configurable pack for the individual user. The construction of the Kodiak is top rate.  The pack material if 1000D ballistic nylon and is treated with a Teflon fabric coating to help with resistance to water and soiling.  All of the internal seams are taped and sealed for an even higher level resistence to water/moisture. The zippers are high-strength YKK pulls, and even that’s a nice touch.  I’ve come across too many companies that get cheap in this area just to save a little money.  It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you’re out in the woods needing to get into your pack and the zipper tab breaks off on you.  Quality parts make all the difference in the world, and that applies to the Maxpedition Kodiak.

KodiakGearslinger020a

All in all, it’s a pack with great specs and build quality.  At the $150 price point, I don’t think you could ask for any more than what they’ve provided.  But, even so, they have provided a bit more.  Maxpedition offers a Limited Lifetime Warranty on their packs, including the Kodiak GearSlinger.  That warranty covers all defects in materials and workmanship that would cause the user any problems down the road.  And even if you’re not the type to carry a bunch of tactical gear or a lot of outdoors tools, you can slip a 15.4″ notebook computer into the Kodiak with room to spare, and still have a sporty pack that will blend in with your envioronment.  The Kodiak is available in Black, OD Green, Khaki, Foilage, and ACU Foilage Digital Camo, so you’re bound to find a style that you like!

I’ll have to go back and check my reviews, but I think it’s been a little while since I’ve gushed like this over a product.  Part of that comes from memories of years of frustration trying to find the perfect pack for different applications like a 3-Day pack, an expedition pack, and the best intermediate survival pack.  After a while, you start accumulating a pile of packs that you never use and have just a couple of those perfect “keepers”.  The Maxpedition Kodiak GearSlinger is certainly one of those keepers.  It’ll serve you during the week during your daily travels and routines, and it will easily convert into your trailbag when the weekend comes.  When you factor in things like design aesthetics, construction, versatility, price, and warranty, Maxpedition absolutely nailed it dead-bang–and that’s as good as it gets!

Visit: www.maxpedition.com

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