I must admit that I’m a backpack hoarder, some of which have never been used. I love the utility of military style backpacks because they are durable and offer a lot of options for accessories, but I don’t care for is the ready for combat appearance. I had a vacation coming up and I wanted a backpack for carry on for the flight and some casual use while on the trip. I was not backpacking across Europe, but I was going to be in the tropics and likely to encounter high humidity, rain, sand, and saltwater. I also wanted something durable that would not fail me when traveling and last for years, so I turned to 5.11 (as usual). I found a couple backpacks I liked that were not military style, the HAVOC30 and the COVRT18. Because I already have a collection of 5.11 bags and backpacks, I decided to go with the cheaper option, the HAVOC30 at $95.
I ordered the backpack directly from 5.11 and it arrived quickly. As with their other backpacks, there’s heft to this backpack because of the heavy weight nylon. I quickly noticed this was the smallest 5.11 backpack I’ve purchased, but I needed something appropriate for taking on a plane.
After taking this backup on my vacation, here is what I liked and did not like:
- The straps on the main compartment do not use buckles. Instead, 5.11 calls them “quick access clips.” You will need to watch the video below to see what I mean. I don’t know if 5.11 had complaints of buckles breaking or unintentionally detaching on other 5.11 backpacks, but I didn’t like these as a replacement. The more I used them, the more I disliked them.
- I found the “shove-it” flap handy for stashing a hat or shoes. It kept them separate from other items in the main compartment. I like that it kept my hat from being smashed.
- The pocket on the outside of the “shove-it” flap zips vertically to maximize storage based on the shape of the flap. I found this compartment useful for small items, though I would not keep anything valuable in this pocket when wearing the backpack since there is no way to lock it. Someone could unzip it and steal items in a crowded setting.
- The small mesh compartment inside the main compartment is too small. I could only fit a few small items in there. I would have preferred a little more room, though it would have made the main flap heavy and cause it to flop around.
- I don’t care for the webbing on the glasses pouch or the Velcro material near the top and bottom of the backup. I don’t feel this is the type of backpack where either of these features are useful. I would have preferred regular material in these areas and it would make the look of the backpack even less “tactical.” This is where the COVRT18 has an advantage.
- The materials and construction of this backpack are impressive. Unless I received a defective pack, I have a feeling it will be able to handle a lot of weight, rough use, and harsh treatment.
- YKK zippers are awesome and allow smooth operation. You can also rip open the backpack quickly without snags. Great if you need to get to get to something quick, such as a first aid kit. However, getting beyond the quick access clips will likely prevent quick access…
- There’s a laptop pouch! I love taking a laptop on the road.
- Smaller compartments for organization is lacking, but at least it had narrow pockets along the sides that could be zipped closed. I used both since I needed the storage where I could easily retrieve items on the plane, though it was not easy to see what was in these pockets.
- A hydration pouch is useful, which I occasionally use hydration with my other backpacks. These have been lifesavers at Disneyland and the zoo.
- Relatively casual appearance with military grade construction. Even if you are in some line of work where you deal with weapons or tactical equipment, you do not want to advertise that in urban use. This backpack does not look tactical, but it lacks features for carrying weapons. There’s no quick access for a handgun, no way to mount magazines, etc. You would need to just drop things in the main compartment. Again, the quick access clips may be an issue for you unless you train and train with them.
- This backpack is what I consider medium size. I’m not great at packing light, so I would find this appropriate for a light load of clothes or equipment for a day trip or carry on. I like that it is a bit smaller than the RUSH24, which I found bigger than I need for a day excursion.
- The back of this backpack is stiff with great padding to keep it comfortable to wear for hours.
- The backpack is firm and holds its shape. It can sit up empty, and I like that.
- The shoulder straps are wide, feel sturdy, and shaped so they are comfortable. They are not just padded nylon that hangs straight down.
- The waistband seems like overkill for this backpack. I would expect a waistband like this on a much bigger backpack, so I am glad it is removable. I will not need it most of the time and I would have been seriously annoyed if it were not removable. If I do need it, I will be glad it is so substantial. You can keep a lot of items on the waistband and it could even work as a holster if carrying a firearm. However, I don’t know why you would be open carrying a firearm with this backpack because I don’t really see it as a hiking pack. If I’m in the woods and may need quick access to a firearm, I will be carrying a much different backpack.
- The bottom of the backpack is made of extra thick material. I imagine it would take a lot of abuse to cause actual damage to any of the material.
- Price! This thing cost a lot less than many other 5.11 backpacks.
If you need a backpack that can handle some decent abuse and you mainly really need a main compartment, this may be the backpack for you. However, I’m the type of person that likes a decent amount of main storage space, but also organizing pockets for items like electronics, a knife, flashlight, first aid kit, etc. I want to be able to open a compartment and see common carry items and then have easy access to others. Some of my other backpacks have exterior pockets over the main compartment that I can open and see the mentioned items, but these either look too tactical or are not sturdy enough for trekking in certain conditions.
The HAVOC30 is really durable, but lacking in the smart storage areas. You may be able to fit all the items I mentioned in this backpack, but don’t expect to get to them too easily. Out of my four 5.11 backpacks, this is my least favorite. I will be relegating this backpack to casual carry.
You may disagree with me, but this review is based in my preferences and my experience. I would like to hear what you think, so feel free to leave a comment.
I’m going to update a little our of order here. This is because I just saw a sale on the AMP24 backup. I paid $189.99 and it has not yet shipped, but is now on sale for $142.49. I called 5.11 customer service and asked if they would meet that price since the pack has not shipped and was quickly told no. The woman said they would pay for return shipping and I could get a refund. Okay, I guess that’s what I will be doing. I will not be ordering one for the sale price – I will just not buy this backpack. Do I need a fifth 5.11 backpack anyway? I had also ordered a shove it attachment for this backpack on Amazon, which was already refunded.
I started using my HAVOC30 backpack for carrying clothes for the gym, along with and other miscellaneous items. This made me realize this backpack doesn’t work for me when used this way. The only thing I really liked was the shove-it flap because I could keep my shoes out of the main compartment with my clothes.
I went back to the 5.11 website to shop around. I had previously looked at the AMP line of backpacks and these looked like they would fit my need for daily carry to the gym, carrying clothes and gadgets for a short trip, or using as carry on for a flight. This line of backpacks came in three sizes with the 24 in the middle. Though I think the 24 will be slightly bigger than I need for daily carry to the gym, but I thought the 12 looked a little too small for other needs.
The AMP packs come with their HEXGRID webbing found on the AMP line of products, which does look less tactical than MOLLE, but I did not want any webbing. Luckily 5.11 had a solution that will be functional and make the pack look less tactical – an optional shove it flap! The webbing comes off and allows attaching other pouches. I almost purchased the 2 Banger Gear Set, which would be great for all my gadgets I like to take on trips, so I may still end up getting it. The webbing that is removed from outside the pack can be placed inside the pack for holding gear. Handy if you do not need to carry clothes, but want some webbing attachments.
I will post a review of the AMP24 once I receive it and familiarize myself with it.