Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Maxpedition Sitka Reveiw Update

Maxpedition makes tough gear, and the Sitka fills a need nothing else does. Outdoor activities that include frequent access to tools, field guides, clothes, etc can be conducted at a rapid pace with the Sitka.

Here is the scenario: You are making your way through the woods, looking for mushrooms, or interesting photo subjects, hunting, geocaching, or birding. You also are covering ground, either on or off trail, with an objective to cover a certain amount of territory in a certain time frame. This is not a walk for the sake of a walk, but one with a purpose that drives you to stay moving. During this activity, you may use a camera, or field guide, or map, or fuel for your engine, or have to add and remove layers continually.

Backpacks have served the purpose for years. I also know I have made all sorts of modifications to mine to meet these needs. I have hip sacks carried in front, a long gear pouch attached to my shoulder straps so it carries across my belly, pouches on the hipbelt, a hipsack carried in back under my rucksack for support and additional space, pouches on the shoulder straps. I think I have tried every manner there is to keep certain gear accessible while moving. Some of these "solutions" work well. My best mod is a big pouch that attaches to the lower part of shoulder straps via quick release buckles. It is about 200 square inches, if that means anything to you. The big issue? When taking off the backpack, the thing swings around, endangering everything inside, including optics.

So this is where the Sitka comes in. For that matter, any of the Maxpedition Gearslingers would work. I chose the Sitka. I liked its size, and that the bag resembles more back pack than messenger bag. I was looking for something that would support a day hike with all of the gear I like to take. The bigger version, the Kodiak, looks like it would carry more than I want to sling over one shoulder, and that it is a bit awkwardly large for my mid sized frame.

First, Maxpedition quality is very, very good. They overbuild gear smart, meaning it isn't just heavy, but materials that are as heavy as they need to be and reinforcements that are thorough. As well, the seams are all taped. Design of the bag emphasizes organization over mere size. The pockets work, and are not for the sake of making it look good, as you see in some packs that have a proliferation of pockets for pens and tube shaped objects. As well, Maxpedition installs Mollie strapping, not on every surface, but in places it makes sense to attach pouches. In these small packs, this takes some thought.

My Sitka usually carries the following:
Emergency kit , First aid kit
Poncho, Hat, gloves, windshirt
Pot, Water bottle, Coffee, Bars
Knife, GPS, Map, Radio
Multi tool, saw, whistle, compass
Pencil, Pad, Bandana
Camera, Tripod, Filter
Headlamp, Batteries
In addition I have strapped on hip boots, fleece, or jacket.

Does the Sitka like all this? You bet it does! I have always been partial to top loaders and rucksacks, so the kind of load compartmentalization this pack allows is something I have to get used to. The only thing is that the weight of all this pushes my limits for one shoulder carry!

So how does the slinging of gear work? Really, really well! As I walk along, I don't defer digging in my pack for something. Field guide? Dig it out and check out that plant. Need a bite to eat? Sling it around and dig in. Want that map for a look on the go? Whip it around and pull it out. Need to stow or add a layer? Go to it. I used to delay these things because they meant a stop, and I hate to stop, or I had to bug my hiking partner to help.

One thing I am on the fence about- water. The Sitka is well set up for a bladder, with a zip compartment and passage for the hose. If the pack is really stuffed though, this makes the back too round, and the one strap style means it stays that way, it doesn't pull back in to carry close to the back. And I really like that pocket for maps. Plus, that big round pocket is so perfect for a Nalgene bottle, which nests inside the pot in the bottom of the pocket. Too tempting to not use.

Oh, and there is the matter of style. Maxpedition offers bags in colors I like. Such as digi-cam. Olive. Black. Khaki. Foliage. And my favorite, Khaki with Foliage webbing and trim. Cool combo.

I bought mine at GMS Tactical, in Arizona. They are a small shop, with some good gear, and did a great job, including being available for personal assistance with my order.

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