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December 12, 2012 Comments Off on Scouting Around: The Scout Backpack by Drago Gear Gear & Equipment, Reviews

Scouting Around: The Scout Backpack by Drago Gear

The new Scout Backpack by Drago Gear made this hunting season one to remember. Although I didn’t get my buck this year, the usual hassle of trekking in, setting up and fishing out my gear was a breeze with the sleek, spacious and segmented Drago Scout.

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The Form

Offered in three colors including tan and black, my Scout Backpack came in versatile olive drab.  Yet despite the army green color, and though the Scout Backpack is a MOLLE-enabled tactical rucksack, the attractive carryall appears less paramilitary than similar products.  In fact, at first glance, the compact Scout Backpack resembles a book bag on steroids more than a hiker’s day pack.

But don’t let first impressions dissuade you from giving this equipment the respect it deserves.

With the pragmatic book-bag-like design, you’ll feel unencumbered in spite of carrying your weekend getaway on your back. With two large compartments and two front-facing outer pouches, the Scout’s compact 16 x10 x 10 inch design frees you to duck, dodge and scramble through dense forest as easily as open trails.

Contributing to the book bag look, the Scout’s sturdy rust-resistant zippers are amply protected from the elements by wide zipper flaps. This was more convenient for shedding weather than what other packs use: three cubic feet or more of fly material strapped over the bag, making every pocket inaccessible. With the Scout, I don’t have that problem.

The Scout functions equally well as a bug-out bag, overnight luggage, hiker’s daypack or book bag, making this the only bag you really need for short-term sojourns. It’s your weekday ‘possibles’ and nightly gym bag that will pull double duty as your no-nonsense weekend pack.  And though the pack feels as tough as the dragon on its logo, the Scout’s civilian appearance should appeal to the doomsday preppers among us who don’t want to stand out in a crowd.

The Function

After crossing this lovely pack off my holiday wish list, I loaded it with everything I would need for an upcoming hunt.

Previously I used a fanny pack or haversack to tote my gear into tree stands, but things were easily lost in those large pouches, unsuitable for organizing gear. Without being able to sort items into logical groupings, I spent more time hunting for the gear I needed than the deer I wanted.  In subsequent years, I secreted gear in pockets scattered among layers of clothing. You can imagine the resulting bulges around my midsection, as inconvenient as it was comical. The added girth made me too wide to fit the confines of my climbing tree stand and, much worse, made locating and retrieving items stashed deep in the inaccessible layers of pants and vests impractical and often impossible.

But organization is where the Drago Gear Scout Backpack excels.  Luggage-quality 600denier polyester is double-needle stitched to shape the Scout, comprising two spacious storage compartments, two zippered front pouches and one hydration sleeve, most of which are equipped with internal pockets, slots and pouches for neatly sorting and storing a variety of gear.

Drago’s Scout saved my pockets from growing crowded this year. I kept only a few essentials in those pockets, making the items easy to locate in the dark.  For instance, because my sandwich and apples were stowed in my pack, the safety ropes and strings I use to raise to my rifle and tree stand were close-to-hand in my vest.

Bulky gloves, hat and folding saw were packed into the large rear compartment, where I tucked lighter gloves and facemask into the rear-most internal sleeve and put water bottles into the mesh pouch opposite.  Today, as I pack for this week’s overnight hike, this rear chamber is where I will store my mess kit, food and clothes.

In the center section I slid gear with shallower profiles, like my hunting regulations booklet, pull rope and the screw-in hook that I used to hang the bag from my tree.  A shallow pocket is situated high in the back of this section, and here I stuffed wet wipes, zip ties and latex gloves, with plenty of room spare.  Attached to the surface of this handy pocket are two mesh pouches where I placed a Bic lighter and tea candles into one side and a tape measure in the other.

In the front and top of the bag, the smaller zippered pouch was ideal for my mini-LED flashlight, cell phone and truck keys, with room left over to stash my headlamp after the sun rose. Below, the larger front pouch had ample room for my lunch, snacks and more. In the back of this handy area is an internal pocket where I inserted my first aid kit, and stitched to the front of this sleeve are slots for pencils, pens and markers.

And as if all that space is not enough, there is yet another zippered slot at the very front where I stored my knife and a few slim essentials.

In fact, the more time I spent with this pack, the more useful features I discovered. I constantly use the handle on the top of the bag, but at each end of this is a stitched loop. My dad discovered the D-rings on the shoulder straps, which he used to clip the cord that I used to pull the pack up into my stand (although the next time I went up, I easily managed the climbing stand with the Scout pack on back).

The Scout even sports a hydration-pack pocket positioned on the back of the pack between the shoulder straps.  Wish I’d discovered that before I packed in the water bottles!  Recently I slid my Camelback into the sleeve from the top, where Velcro secures most of the mouth, leaving a slight opening on each side for the drinking tube to snake through. At the center of the opening is another stitched loop, and to each side above that are two Velcro loops, all of which enabled me to position and secure the drinking tube.

Two sets of compression straps are built into each side of the bag, and two more compressions straps hide neatly beneath. You can put these to other uses, like cinching a sleeping bag and pad, and I’ve also used similar straps on other packs to carry a bundle of kindling wrapped in a trash bag. Securing lightweight items like these lower on the pack and heavier gear toward the top keeps the weight balanced high on your frame were you want it.

And of course, PALS webbing, the MOLLE System-compatible straps on the sides of the bag, offer even greater carrying capacity when desired.

If you’re waiting for the caveats, I don’t really have any, other than the usual hilarity of trying to reach the second shoulder strap after you get the first on. The zippers, being zippers, were noisier than I like for a hunting situation, but much like a sleeping bag zipper, the double-slider arrangement enabled me to leave each section opened on the side nearer to me, so that my gear was accessible without rain or snow filling the pack.

The Fit

Before the first day of rifle season, my father and I walked our shotguns around the old farm, doing some small-game hunting while we scouted the area.  At no point during a long day of walking, climbing, ducking and shooting was the snug pack ever a hardship.

On opening day, I toted the Drago Scout into the woods and up to my tree stand.  I was able to adjust the pack quickly and easily in the dark before dawn, and was pleased to find that the straps fit over layers of winter gear, even over the padded straps of my tree-climbing harness.

The heavy-duty polyester and double-needle stitching holds the shape of this frameless design. The gusseted seams, reinforced webbing and robust zippers provide a formidable architecture that holds contents in place. I’ve actually been carrying soup in plastic containers at the bottom of this bag all week without one sloppy mishap.

The chest strap not only adjusts to your chest measurement, but each end slides up and down so that you can manually position the height of the buckle to wherever you find most comfortable.

Similarly, the padded shoulder straps have an impressive range of adjustability, and with a little practice I could easily adjust each strap while wearing the bag.

The customizable fit enables you to optimize the overall position of the bag – high on your frame and close to your core, transferring weight to the upper body and parallel to the spine, where it belongs – while the wide, padded straps disperse the load evenly and comfortably across the chest and shoulders.

Significantly, the back-relief panel does its job exceedingly well. Drago Gear claims the padding will provide “maximum comfort during extended use,” and my experiences with this bag confirm that claim. What’s more, the corrugated pads form channels that allow air to flow, which should help keep your back cool in summer.

This form-fitting pack hugged my hide so comfortably that I usually forgot I was wearing it. The only inconvenience at all was that the quality straps were so firmly padded that I had to adjust my lean when bringing my shotgun or rifle up to my shoulder – but that won’t be an issue for most uses of this bag, and besides, I soon became accustomed to the change.

The Verdict

The Drago Scout Backpack is sturdily built, roomy yet compact, and highly adjustable to be form fitting.  The cornucopia of storage areas enables you to organize and find everything you need: Roomy rear compartments easily accommodate larger equipment like axes and cook kits, while external pouches make critical gear like keys and mini flashlights easy to retrieve and replace – as do the numerous pockets for securing all-important maps, first aid booklets and other slim essentials like hot chocolate packets.

Though you can find other tactical packs that retail for $45.99, the Scout Backpack delivers more for the money than most, and comparable bags can retail much higher. Drago Gear describes this as a grab-and-go bag optimized for mobility, and I found it to be exactly that.

http://www.dragogear.com/products/backpacks/scout-backpack.html

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