My Favourite Rucksacks for Outdoor Use

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in Kit, Resources, Reviews | 2 Comments

I am often asked why I have so many different Rucksacks – by friends, family and colleagues. So I thought I would explain this by summarising my favourite top 5 Rucksacks (in no particular order), whilst also hopefully touching upon my reasoning behind the different load carrying variations.

Predator TECMAC50

Over the years there have been many developments in both the concept and designs of Rucksacks, which are constantly evolving with new materials and technologies. However most variations of Rucksacks are designed with a specific role in mind, based on the type of use and capacity required..
Therefore it is unrealistic to suggest that the same Rucksack you use for winter camping for a week, will be ideal for a short walk in the hills on a summer morning.
Although you could just get a big and small rucksack for the extremes depending on budget, it is the ‘middle area’ conditions especially when outdoors in the British’ weather, which makes it important to have the right size and functional rucksack for the situation. (Especially during our extremely varied UK Autumn and Spring periods)

So I thought I’d kick off my top 5 favourite Rucksacks, with something random that I use daily;

Karrimor Spike25
I have used this Rucksack for every day for over 12 years carrying general work stuff, clothing, waterproofs, lunches, notebooks, weekly shopping and even for light day hikes. With a main sack area and front slash pocket running down the body, it also has some nice elasticated mesh pockets on the side – perfect for stuffing that drink bottle into.
In addition, it has great side tighten straps which can really shrink down the profile if carrying less kit. At only 25 litres, you do have limited space, however for day to day use this is an excellent lightweight and comfortable pack.

I’m not sure where this Rucksack was born in terms of the Karrimor and KarrimorSF split, but this is definitely a well built and tough pack. I have no real ‘tear and wear’holes after all the 12 plus years, although finally one of the zip heads is failing slightly – but I am not complaining!
Best value item that I own in terms of price, use, longevity etc….

US Alice Pack – medium

I first bought a surplus US Army Alice pack back when I was 15, and this quickly became my ‘go to’ pack for many years of use. The US medium Alice pack was the work horse of the US military, which served reliably as a Rucksack from the early 1970s until recently being replaced by newer systems. Though some say they are uncomfortable and heavy beasts to carry, for me it has always sat well on my back.

Firstly, it carries a heavy load nice and high and the light aluminium frame keeps the pack well away from the body. It has a main sack, lid pocket and webbing attachments galore; but it’s greatest features are the 3 big pockets at the front. These can take a full waterbottle/mug cookset type content in terms of size, and are very useful for storing that kit that needs to be in easy reach such as tarps, waterproofs, food etc…

Many people in the prepping world in the US view this to be ‘The Bug Out Bag’, in terms of cost effectiveness, capacity/practicality and it’s durability. A great passionate and far more detailed review can be viewed via youtube here via Scootch00 (clearly a lover of Alice packs), which even shows the additional capability of carrying items strapped straight to the frame system.
Anyway, I love this pack…

KarrimorSF Sabre35
So next is my KarrimorSF Sabre35 which is a perfect and extremely comfortable day sack for all occasions. I wont go into the spec but it uses the most hard wearing materials, rot proof thread and ykk zips etc; and the all the construction is of the highest quality that you would expect from KarrimorSF. It is not a pack that I’m afraid to throw about.

Although perhaps basic in design when compared to newer rucksacks, in some ways I find that the simplicity, is the Sabre35’s charm. It has one main huge compartment with drawstring closure, two generous side pockets which can easily fit your water bottle and mug, with additional map zipped pockets behind¬†plus a huge lid pocket.It also has ice pick type attachments on the front and a nice sleeve up against the back for easy hydration bladder storage linking through special gaps on either side of the sack.

The only downside for me is perhaps that is doesn’t have tensioning straps on the side as with the 45L version which would be nice for light use in terms of strapping it down further. However it is a great and versatile daysack which will last for years, and I can even just about fit enough kit in for a minimal over night trip in reasonable weather.

Berghaus Vulcan II
For number 4 in my fave Rucksacks, I would like to introduce my Berghaus Vulcan II which is my ultimate huge capacity rucksack/bergan AND especially good for long or winter trips.

Although this is an old and tested quality design which again perhaps doesn’t have the ‘bells and whistles’ of modern mil spec ‘molle’ stuff; it is the most comfortable rucksack I own for carrying alot of kit. It has a no nonsense 80L main compartment and 2x 10L side pouches giving you 100L in total (plus massive lid pocket again). Also the detachable side pockets come with yolk straps to make a reasonably comfortable day sack from one or both pouches which can work well with minimal carry.

So this is my ultimate ‘long term’ carry equipment, but also great as I can fit my winter sleeping bag/kit in it without it taking up all the space.

KarrimorSF Tecmac 50
This is my final Rucksack that I’m going to share, as basically I love it…
It was developed via the KarrimorSF Pedator range of hardcore quality backpacks but with the additional ability of being able to strip off the sack and use the back/frame/straps for carrying a radio.

In terms of versatility,it has a main sack which is sealed via a great dry bag type closure which keeps dirt and mud out. It then has a massive lid pocket on the outside and a secure mesh pocket underneath. Importantly it also comes with the side zips etc ready to take either the standard PLCE type side pockets or the new Predator pouches, which although designed more for ammunition carriage, are still useful for any outdoor use.
To be honest, this rucksack is the closest thing to an ‘all round’ rucksack that I have ever used which is tough as anything, as again you would expect from KarrimorSF. You can tighten it down or zip up the sides with day trip loads, or increase the capacity for additional requirements, especially using the floating lid.
Though I would be pushing it with a full winter loadout, I’m sure I could strap enough items to this bad boy to make it work for me…..

One of the only comprehensive reviews on the the KarrimorSF Tecmac50  view can be found via RVops

Hope you enjoyed this and thanks for taking the time to read….

But if you have any comments and ideas in regards to any of these packs or Rucksacks in general feel free to give me a shout, as would welcome your input – thanks



  1. David

    Hello, thanks for the review! I have some questions if you wouldn’t mind answering. I live in the United States, so trying on the pack is probably improbable. So how comfortable is your Tecmac 50? I live in the mountains, so hiking can be pretty challenging, so comfort is very important. Do the hip belts actually ride on your waist? I am approx. 5′ 10″, weigh 210 lbs, with that said I am looking for a rugged pack, that would do an easy 3 to 5 day, possibly longer excursion into the wilderness. I also have seen the SF Preditor pack? I appreciate any advice you could offer!

    • garinc

      to be honest – like any newish milspec pack, it is designed to be predominately worn over new bodyarmour and kit, so never going to be as comfortable as some civvie models these the belt is not padded, but can be tightened very well.
      however, the predator45 is a a great and versatile pack, and the tecmac50 is the ‘turbo’ version.
      It admittedly has a little more weight and bulk, but does have the separate back and front section, which adds loads more options.
      but the hard wearing nature of this pack and karrimorSF detail which makes it awesome – would recommend!

      also – karrimorSF have reps in the states – but if stuck check out @KarrimorSF on twitter – thanks for reading and taking the time to comment – also feel free to give me a shout if any queries/questions


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