For me, good enough isn’t good enough. No matter what I’m doing I am always striving for perfection, and I expect the gear I use to meet that same standard. Whether it’s a rifle or a backpack I don’t want something that will just meet the bare minimum requirements — I want something that is perfect for the task at hand. I think First Tactical’s newest creation, the Tactix 1-Day Plus Backpack, might just be the perfect backpack for my needs . . .
Starting on the outside, the bag is already head and shoulders above my last flight bag. Instead of the standard MOLLE strap system that 5.11 and others are using First Tactical has transitioned to the Lynx laser-cut MOLLE/PALS compatible attachment system. The idea is that instead of using row upon row of sewn-on material to provide the attachment system for the MOLLE webbing, the material itself becomes that webbing. This allows for twice as many possible attachment positions compared to normal MOLLE rigging.
Just about the entire external surface of the bag is covered in this platform, so you’re free to stick whatever pouches you want on the outside of the bag, wherever you want them. I’ve got a radio pouch on one side for a backup handheld VHF air band transceiver and an enclosed pouch on the other for a backup battery for the electronics, but you can slap whatever you want on the bag with ease. There’s also two sections with Velcro on the front of the bag for your name tapes, and even more on the inside for storage.
The front of the bag features two slim zippered pockets, side-by-side. The idea is that you can store things in here that you might need to quickly access, things that might get lost in the larger compartments. For my bag I’ve stuffed one side with audio equipment (a BlueLink GA headset adapter and an audio cable and digital recorder for in-cockpit recording) and the other side with an external Bluetooth GPS and small ASA multi-tool fuel tester. The zippers keep everything ordered, and there are even some small dividers and pockets within these compartments to further organize all your stuff.
RF is gunna pull the plug on this review if I don’t start mentioning gun stuff… Oh! The pouches fit standard AR-15 magazines! Yeah, you can totally cram a few AR or GLOCK mags in there for your bug-out bag or backpacking trip. It’s also useful for things like a CAT tourniquet or a small blowout kit — stuff you’d need to access in a hurry.
Just behind those two pockets is your standard admin pocket. There are a few dividers in there for papers and pens and such, and each bag comes with a matching keychain that fits inside this pocket.
There’s three layers in here. First there’s the main compartment where you can keep rather bulky things like my Universal Kneeboard. Then there’s a slim-ish pocket with an open top that fits all my charts and tech quite nicely, including VFR Sectionals, IFR Low Enroute charts, and even my Nexus 9 tablet that I use (with Garmin Pilot) for navigation. For things that you don’t need regularly but still fall into that “paperwork” category there’s a zippered pocket at the back. I use it to keep fuel receipts. In short, you can cram a whole ton of stuff in there without much of an issue.
Behind and above the admin compartment is a zipper that leads to a deep slim compartment that isn’t really noticeable unless you’re looking for it. It perfectly fits a slim metal kneeboard, but you can use it for other things as well. Other things like… (gotta be something gun related…) a gun! Concealing a GLOCK 19 is no problem in there, just in case your hiking trip gets a little hairy (in either the human or animal sense). Or even for pilots, a GLOCK might not be a bad idea. I usually roll a little more heavily armed, though.
At the top of the bag is the standard junk pouch, perfect for small items that you might need to find in a hurry. In this pocket I have a couple suction cup instrument covers (for failed instruments in IMC), a Surefire E2D LED Defender with red lens filter for night flying, and lip balm. All things I might need in a dire emergency.
Just above that compartment is the zipper for the main compartment of the bag, and above that is the zipper for the glasses compartment. Some bags (like the 5.11 bag) don’t really put a lot of effort into this item — they sew in a felt covered pocket and just let it hang into the main compartment, allowing your precious eyewear to get battered by the contents. First Tactical took things a step further, sewing the felt covered pouch to the roof of the bag to ensure that your glasses will never be squashed between heavy books or other bulky objects. It’s a nice touch that I really appreciate.
Another nice touch (literally and figuratively) are the zipper pulls. First Tactical designed different feeling zipper pulls for the different compartments, and they did that on purpose. In areas like the top of the bag here, it’s possible that in the dark you might mistake one sipper for another and open the wrong pocket. With the haptically differentiated zipper pulls that is no longer an issue.
The bag unzips further than 180 degrees, allowing the entire thing to be splayed open for easy access. This main compartment measures 12 by 19 by 8 inches, which is plenty for the average one day adventure. There’s two halves to this compartment, and I’d like to discuss them individually.
The front section of the compartment has two things going on. At the top there’s a large strip of felt that Velcro backed pouches can latch onto, and First Tactical provides two such pouches with the bag. These are perfect for little things you’ll need to take with you separate from the bag, things like toiletries and charging cables. I’ve got one filled with spare rechargeable batteries and the other holds my sunglasses case.
Just below those pouches are two zippered pockets, roughly the same size as the two compartments on the front of the bag but much less accessible. These could be perfect for things you probably won’t need in a hurry like charging cables, or even things that you don’t want accessed easily like valuables and travel documents.
The other side of the bag is setup for bulk storage, and is perfect for keeping a change of clothes and other objects. I usually only keep my David Clark headset in there (and maybe a GoPro), but if the need arises I can fit two full days worth of clothes in there. That’s perfect, since it takes about two days to fly from here in San Antonio, Texas back up to the family in New England. Having that much space available means I only need to grab the flight bag when I head into town after a long day of flying and the proper Big Bag ‘O Clothing can stay in the cargo compartment.
The back of the bag is covered in the same felt material that we’ve seen before, and it can accept more of those Velcro based pouches for all your gubbins organization needs. Something else legitimately gun related back here are two pockets built into the sides of the main compartment that appear perfectly proportioned to take two AR-15 magazines. Ammo all over the place in this bag, it seems! The pockets can also be used for other things I suppose.
Just behind the main compartment is a slender compartment designed with one thing in mind: rifles.
The compartment has a zipper on the top and the bottom, with some hooks inside. The concept is that you can get one of First Tactical’s rifle cases, slot it into this compartment, and use the hooks to secure it inside. This allows you to have all your gear on your back for long duration hunting trips, keeps your gun clean and secure, and is a really nifty way of doing things. Eberlestock has a similar backpack that I’ve used for 3-gun competitions and extended travel, but their version has the gun compartment built-in to the bag which means you’re still carrying that weight and bulk even when you’re not using it for guns.
The compartment might be perfect for guns, but I’m using mine to carry even more special cargo. That compartment is the perfect size for either a laptop or one of CountyComm’s Manfolios, in which I have all the paperwork I need to go flying. Logbook, aircraft registration, insurance documents — it’s all in there, in one easy to find compartment where there’s no chance it will get lost or get in the way.
The back of the backpack features padding to keep from digging into your back, as well as a compartment for your water bladder should you choose to install one. There’s also a Velcro strip along the back that is ideal for a name tape for positive ID on your bag even if the patch on the front is gone.
I gotta say, I’m a big fan of this bag. There’s a pocket for everything and not one pocket more — just enough for my needs without going overboard. The way that they laid out this bag is extremely well thought out, and the little touches all over the bag just make it all that more useful. For example, there are compression straps on the sides of the bag that the end user can move to suit their needs or remove altogether. The grab handles on the top of the bag are available either directly attached to the bag (for pulling the bag alone) or attached to the straps (for pulling the bag… and a buddy if needed). There are also a set of grab handles on either side of the bag for easy handling. Plus the thing just looks visually stunning.
For me, this is the perfect pilot’s bag. I can pop this in the back seat of my Piper Cherokee and the way the pockets are laid out and configured means I’m no more than a couple seconds from accessing whatever bit of kit I need. It’s easy to use, easy to access, and definitely easy on the eyes. It’s a winner in my book.
Specifications: First Tactical Tactix 1-Day Plus Backpack
Price: $179.99 (direct sales only)
Capacity: 2470 cubic inches
Construction: 500D/1000D water resistant nylon
Zippers: YKK® zippers
Ratings (out of five stars):
Build Quality * * * * *
I can’t find a single thing amiss with this bag. The construction feels exactly as you’d expect from a company that just started to pivot from the world of high end equestrian accouterments back into the tactical field.
Price * * * *
About $50 more than the equivalent 5.11 backpack, but worth every penny.
Overall * * * * *
It’s perfect for my purposes as a flight bag, but it would be equally good as a bug out bag or a weekend hunting pack. In fact, I’m probably going to buy a couple more just to replace all my existing packs.