If you’ve ever fallen into the trap of searching for the “perfect pack,” you know how Goldilocks felt, with the exception that one doesn’t always find one that’s “juuuust right.” I’ve gone through a lot of packs in my own search for the perfect day pack and have found that there are many which are too heavy, too small, have too many pockets, not enough pockets, the wrong color, too much webbing or a ridiculous number of features which even the manufacturer could not explain. I didn’t mention “too expensive” but that pitfall accompanies many packs and the ones you might be able to get the manufacturer to build to suit your preferences may not suit your budget.
A simple, durable pack that is big enough to hold a reasonable amount of gear wouldn’t seem too hard to find, but we all have different ideas as to what is a useful feature and what is just in the way, so it’s not easy on the makers either. Just to throw out a wildly unreasonable idea, how about a pack that you could buy for well under a hundred bucks, is durable, lightweight and roomy enough for more gear than you need but doesn’t weigh twenty pounds? To heap it on a bit more, how about a pack you can make any color you want (tie-dye, anyone?), which you can waterproof using your own favorite recipe, whether you brew it up at the campfire or spray it out of a can and to which you can add pockets, ties, straps or grommets of whatever size you choose, wherever on the pack you want them?
That might have been wishful thinking until Jeff Venture, of Venture Tech Sheath Systems, decided to offer just that. Jeff is producing a simple canvas pack without a bunch of extras, which you can modify as you wish – if you wish. Jeff sells the P.A.C.K One canvas pack for fifty bucks plus shipping from his website. ” P.A.C.K. One,” by the way, means Personally Accessorized Canvas Knapsack, Model One. I have been using (and modifying) one for about a month now and love the concept. Incidentally, since mine arrived, the P.A.C.K. One has sold out and the version 1.1 is on its way. I wouldn’t worry about losing any good features or getting stuck with some you don’t want because Jeff thought the first one out very well and the only thing “extra” on version 1.1 is going to be value.
Jeff describes the P.A.C.K. One as “a simple no nonsense light pack that is American made and doesn’t break the bank, The P.A.C.K. One can be utilized as is but is intended to be modified by the user to personalize it for their needs.” I took the concept to heart and dyed the white canvas to a beautiful buckskin hue. Feeling a bit more urgency than nostalgia, I didn’t gather walnut hulls for the tint, I bought a bottle of dye for under three bucks and threw the pack, the dye and a cup of salt into the washer. It was a cheap and simple matter and the pack looks great in the woods but wouldn’t look out of place in the local public library. No ACU or woodland camo, yet it blends right in.
As for waterproofing, well, I sort of cheated on that too. I did not cook down turpentine and beeswax; I bought a four-dollar can of spray-on water-proofing and expended the entire can on the P.A.C.K. One and a boonie hat I picked up to throw in the pack. It won’t hold against hours of steady rain, but I carry a poncho inside it which covers both me and the pack very well. My treatment will get me through a shower or keep the dew from soaking in and that’s what I needed. If you need more protection or more authenticity than that, the beauty of the whole idea behind the P.A.C.K. One kicks in because you can dye it traditionally and make oil cloth of it if you wish; your pack, your choices.
Oh, and I’m not done yet. I plan to add a pocket on the pack under the flap for my fire kit and probably some ties on the bottom in case I want to carry a bedroll or bigger shelter of some sort. I don’t have to decide up front like I would on a custom ordered pack, I can take my time and decide what I need and how I want to address it as I work with the pack.
Again, in Jeff’s words; “Many packs bought today are tricked out with extras you don’t want, to get you a feature that you do. With the P.A.C.K. One YOU personalize YOUR bag YOUR way.” It’s not difficult to make the modifications on the P.A.C.K. One either. The 15 oz cotton canvas dyes easily and can be sewn without an industrial machine or special tools. Most outdoors folks are pretty creative anyway and most I associate with are very adept crafters; handy with a knife, scissors, needles and similar tools so bits of canvas, leather or any traditional material, with which most are familiar, can be used to add whatever feature one’s heart desires.
The P.A.C.K. One obviously has some features and they include good looks, double-stitching at stress points, one and a half-inch adjustable shoulder straps, a web grab-handle, a main flap that covers the entire seventeen-inch by twenty two-inch pack silhouette (giving about 700 cubic inches of volume for ten to fifteen pounds of gear and grub) and some very sturdy (definitely not cheap or chintzy) nylon flap buckle (adjustable) and shoulder strap adjustment buckles.
My Wife, a long-time seamstress and fiber artisan, wanted to see the P.A.C.K. One as I pulled it from the box. Curious, I handed it over and she pawed it, turned it inside out, peered into the corners and pried at the seams. With about a fifteen-second inspection, she deemed it worthy with “well, he sure didn’t cheat on it.” I don’t know a more honest, genuine and picky person (when it comes to working with fiber) than my Wife. She is also brutally honest. If she says something (or someone) is “OK,” it’s passed the inspection of a sharp eye.
The first outing I took the P.A.C.K. One on didn’t require much more gear than a water bottle, some common sense and the normal pocket clutter prudent outdoors enthusiasts have at any given moment but I tossed in about ten or twelve pounds of stuff that I would take if the weather were a bit more fickle – which it usually is. I included a poncho, first aid kit, thirty eight-ounce stainless water bottle, some lunch, an alcohol stove /cook kit and a bunch of stuff to provide some ballast to see how comfortable the P.A.C.K. One would be. I have a rectangle of blue sleeping bag pad foam that I use as a seat cushion and that went in between the back wall of the pack and the gear.
The P.A.C.K. One snuggled into the small of my back and the straps nestled into the juncture between my shoulders and chest – and stayed there. At barely over a pound and a quarter, it’s almost not worth factoring in the pack weight to the gear it carries. Its construction and materials provide some “give” and conformity that makes it fit your body and prevents the straps from digging in or binding. The P.A.C.K. One was comfortable and rode well in spite of the absence of state of the art and up to the minute technological ergonomic features. That stuff’s nice if you’re loading out for a long trek with a bunch of gear, but can be a burden on day trips and short hikes.
The basic rectangular shape of the P.A.C.K. One is very versatile in that it is not shaped specific to a certain object or collection of objects. Managing your gear can be as simple as tossing it all into and dumping it all out of the main cavity, placing items in order of their likelihood or frequency of use or compartmentalizing with various smaller bags or pouches containing items relevant to a given task or activity. I find that a combination of these methods works best for me. The P.A.C.K. One is supple enough that the sides can be pulled out or down view deeper into the pack and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for without having to remember behind which zipper on which pocket lies the needed item. Emptied, the P.A.C.K. One can be laid out flat to serve as sort of a picnic blanket on which you can spread out the gear you are using without having small items dribble down among the forest floor debris to be lost, or used as a partial-body vapor barrier when you doze, depending on how or how well you have water-proofed it.
I embrace technology and welcome improvements to safety, health, comfort, value and durability to just about anything which is actually enhanced by new materials and the innovative application thereof, but sometimes something simple works as well or better than the latest and greatest. The traditional materials in the P.A.C.K. One have served people well for many years and the synthetic portions (the nylon buckles) give homage to technology serving a higher purpose than sales appeal. The canvas is quiet in the brush and comfortable against your body. I have used it as a backrest and a pillow already. Nylon gear with military camo patterns, webbing and patches of hook-and-loop measurable in real-estate terms serve their purposes well and much of the decommissioned military gear is durable and quite a bargain, but there are times when all that’s tactical isn’t all that cool and having gear that is a bit more “earthy” serves certain purposes better.
There are those times when the various camouflage patterns do just the opposite of what they were intended to do. Sometimes, they stand out. “Basic black,” which was once an indication of conservativeness, has taken on a more aggressive persona as “tactical black.” An earth-tone canvas sack (or even tie-died purple and yellow) can serve as better camouflage on a city bus, in a public park, national or state forest and even on a bike ride in a rural area than some of the other choices we have. If you worry that a brown, gray or tan cloth bag might stand out too much for what you do in the woods, lay one down sometime without taking note of a landmark of some kind and see if it doesn’t evade you, at least momentarily, when you wander back into the general vicinity with an armload of firewood.
I don’t mean to disparage tactical gear as I too have benefitted from my share of bargain-priced OD or camo surplus gear, but there are situations and settings in which I do feel slightly self-conscious about being clad au tactical. Not that I would be crushed by a fashion faux pas, but sometimes it’s just not appropriate. That’s just me. What you do with your P.A.C.K. One is your business. Nothing is to stop you from dying it black and sewing on some hook and loop patches, some webbing and attaching a few useful pouches. Like Jeff said, “YOUR bag,… YOUR way.”
The P.A.C.K. One might not be the perfect pack, but mine is seeing a lot of use and that’s about as close to perfect as one gets on such a folly as looking for the perfect anything. There is nothing about the bag that I don’t like and I can add something later if I need to. Check in on Jeff Venture at Venture Tech Sheath Systems and get his perspective on the P.A.C.K. One concept and be sure to check out his Kydex creations as well. Jeff has bent hot plastic into some pretty creative and useful shapes.
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