It had been a long time coming. You know how it goes. You’re looking for the perfect item to fit your exact needs. You research long and hard and you try an endless supply of models and find that they aren’t just quite right. A lot of outdoormen and firearms enthusiasts go through this when looking for the right holster to carry their handguns, and most of them (including myself) end up with a box of leather or kydex discards because they didn’t quite meet expectations. I went through that same exhaustive search the last couple of years in trying to find the perfect intermediate backpack to meet my needs. Then, one day, I happened to stumble across a website where their main focus was producing knives, but they also made some tactical gear on the side as well. That’s when I found the Mercworx Sniper Pack.
There are all kinds of adventures that one can undertake in the wild. You can go on just a day hike lasting just a few hours or you can go on a three week expedition to the most remote destinations in the world. Dependent on the type of adventure is the kind of gear you need to take. During the past 7-8 years, I’d say that I’ve acquired over twenty different kinds of packs ranging from small lumbar packs from Mountainsmith and North Face to overnight packs from Dana Designs and Kelty all the way up to full size expedition packs including the Arc’Teryx Bora 95. On a week long adventure, I find that the Arc’Teryx Bora 95 meets my needs very well. It’s an internal frame pack that’s very stable to carry, and it houses just over 6000 cubic inches of space to store my gear. As nice as that pack is, it’s a bit much for just a day hike or overnight and it entices me to carry more gear than I really need sometimes. It’s also a top loader with a bottom loading area for the sleeping bag. It also has a rubberized vertical pouch on the outside to allow access to some equipment, but it didn’t really have the versatility I wanted to access a large variety of equipment from the outside without having to open the large main compartment. The Bora 95 also has a weighty and sturdy hip belt and that certainly helps with carrying 6000 cubic inches of gear and not putting all the strain on just the shoulders. I just didn’t need a pack that big for the purposes I envisioned, and it wasn’t as nimble and easy to move about because of the big hip belt. So, I began to search.
As I began doing dayhikes and overnights, I found that I didn’t quite feel secure enough with the smaller lumbar packs or daypacks because they didn’t have room for the requisite gear I felt was necessary to be prepared for the unexpected, whether it’s getting lost or having to evacuate home on a last-minute notice. I like having enough gear together in one spot to make it on a long-term basis. Some of that gear includes a thorough first-aid kit, basic kitchen supplies, a thorough survival goods pouch, and other gear like binoculars, GPS, and water purifier. My problem, though, was that I liked packs with external pockets that have the versatility to add on or tie on additional pouches or gear. For a while, I tried to live with the Dana Designs Bomb Pack, but it was a top loader with no external pockets, and very few daisy-chain loops. I then moved to a Camelbak Motherlode Pack. While it was a rugged pack and had the virtue of an internal water bladder, I discovered it didn’t have quite enough space to hold what I needed, and I felt the external pockets weren’t designed the best way for easy access. This was the older Camelbak design which I believed had somewhere around 1800 cubic inches of storage space, and that didn’t quite cut it. And, quite honestly, I felt it was a pain in the posterior to have to unpack the water bladder, fill it, and then pack it in again. That gets a little annoying after a while. I think the Camelbak packs serve a great function in specific areas, and I will soon be doing a review of a nice Camelbak pack that I like quite well. But, for this particular void I was trying to fill, the Camelbak designs just didn’t work for me. Needless to say, I was getting a little frustrated!
Then came the day that I discovered Mercworx. I actually went on their site to look at their assortment of nicely designed knives, but it was their Sniper Pack that drew my eye. When I first saw it, I immediately knew that was the pack I had been searching for such a long time. Including all external pockets and the main area, this pack allows for approximately 3800 cubic inches of storage. The main compartment is 2400 cubic inches, each side pocket (one on either side) is 240 cubic inches, and then the main external pocket is 520 cubic inches. Add on the two magazine pockets above the main external pocket, and you get to about 3800 cubic inches. Nice!! Finally, here was a pack that had a good amount of storage space and had external pockets for easy compartmentalization of gear, and I was very pleased. But, as I read on, it got even better, so I ordered one right then and waited for the delivery truck. When it finally arrived, I gave it a thorough going over and was very pleased with some of the little extras that I found.
The two side pockets are large enough to put a typical 1L bottle in (such as Nalgene’s famous design) and they are also large enough to store the Jetboil Personal Cooking System that has found much favor among outdoors enthusiasts. But, the sweet piece of design for me was that behind those side pockets are pass-throughs that allow you to slide something down behind the pocket, such as a machete, hatchet, and I’ve even done it with a lever-action rifle. It’s a nice design touch that allows for easy storage of such items, yet keeps those items from being worn on the pack in a clumsy manner.
I like the design of the main external pocket as well as the side pockets. It allows for ample storage of Freeze-Dried meals and food bars with quick and easy access. In the front the of the main external pocket is a second pocket that is just as wide and high, but it’s a thin compartment for storing such things maps or manuals. I have my Garmin 60CSx GPS manual in that thin pocket. Above these pockets on the rear of the pack are two large magazine pouches that can hold AR-15 or AK-47 magazines or they can be used to carry different items if you prefer. One of the side of each of these large magazine pouches there is also a small pistol magazine pouch for a total of two. Again, besides pistol magazines, you can store other items like flashlights, multi-tools, folding knives, or whatever else you can come up with on your own.
The Mercworx Sniper Pack is very stable, and quite comfortable to wear. The construction of the pack and the straps are first-rate. The external material is 1000D cordura fabric along with 500D cordura fabric on the interior. The nice thing about this pack is that it has a rigid shell lining the sides that hold the pack open even if the pack is empty. That serves a couple of purposes. First, it makes it easier to search for things in the pack without having to hold it open with one hand. Second, it helps with another function that gives the pack it’s name. Between the two large magazine pouches on the rear of the pack is a nice, deep valley that’s perfect for placement of a rifle. It’s like having a portable bench rest where the rifle is stabilized from beneath and on the sides as well. It’s a great design touch for those that will be out in the field with a longarm.
So, once I had finally found my perfect “intermediate” pack. I got started packing it and experimented over a couple of days to find the right placement of items to maximize the storage space available. My main purpose for this pack was to be my “emergency camping pack” for those times when I’m invited out for an adventure with little notice. It was also going to serve as my G.O.O.D. (Get Out Of Dodge) pack as well. That’s for those times when a catastrophe happens (anyone remember Hurricane Katrina?) and you need to be able to hit the road in rapid fashion with enough gear to keep you going for a long period of time.
Now, a lot of companies that sell emergency packs or “72 Hour Packs” typically provide basic things that a person or family will need for the short term. I have found in most of those packs that the focus typically is on the short-term rather than the long-term. For instance, they might provide a number of aqua pouches or aqua blocks to provide hydration for a few days instead of providing a long-term solution like a water filter or purification tablets. They might provide a few candles or a lantern that will only last a short while instead of providing a long-lasting firestarter like a fire-steel and striker. In essence, a lot of the gear that’s provided by the company is based on the lowest common denominator, being the average person’s lack of knowledge and skills to deal with such situations. The pack that I tried to design relies more on gear that takes a little more knowledge and skill, but provides enough resources to sustain for a long period of time. Also, I wanted a pack tailored to my knowledge and skill level and personal needs like hygeine and medical concerns. At least that was my goal.
As mentioned, after a little bit of experimenting, I finally finished with what I believed is the ideal pack that I had been trying to put together for a couple of years. I had accumulated all the gear along the way, but I never had what I felt was the perfect platform for it until I acquired the Mercworx Sniper Pack. Now, there is always going to be new gear hitting the market, personal needs will change, and you’ll always encounter better ideas. As I list the gear that I have in my Sniper Pack, I readily acknowledge that some items could change as a result of better ideas or finding a product that’s superior to one that I have. One example of this is when I spoke to my friend Terrill (knife photographer and writer) and he mentioned the idea of keeping some coffee filters in the pack to act as pre-filters to take out dirt and sediment before running water through the filter. Heck, sometimes you won’t have a water filter and will only have the purifying tablets, so the coffee pre-filters would really be appreciated then!
I won’t make you read my gear list before getting to the end of my review on the Mercworx Sniper Pack. If you want to read the gear list, you can go to the next page to see what’s in the pack. The important part for me in getting this all together was having the right platform that allowed for versatility, compartmentalization, and that was ruggedly constructed. Again, I will say that the design and build of the Sniper Pack is absolutely top drawer. It provides enough room to carry the gear that’s needed by the serious outdoors enthusiast without being overly cumbersome or awkward. It allows for the addition of other pouches or gear with the availability of loops of webbing on the pack itself and the shoulder straps.
I was so happy with my G.O.O.D. pack that I just had to show it off to my friend Terrill, and when he saw that pack, his eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas. Terrill is more of a rifleman than myself, and he really liked the platform design that allows the use of the pack as a rest for a rifle. He liked it so much, he went out and got himself one as well. I wouldn’t trumpet a product’s virtues that strongly unless I was absolutely sure about the product and was 100% confident in its ability to do the job. In my opinion, there’s no finer pack on the market today for the particular function this pack serves than the Mercworx Sniper Pack. ‘Nuf said!
Go to the next page to see the equipment list for my current pack.