SHOT Show offers peek at new military rucksack trends

The 2015 show made clear that industry is moving forward on several of their own innovative designs

SHOT Show offers peek at new military rucksack trends

AttackPAK jungle rucksack (Photo courtesy of Scott Gourley)

There are two areas where warfighters seem to have extreme personal preferences. The first one is rations. The second is in rucksacks. One big difference is that a bad MRE will be gone – one way or another – in several hours. But a bad rucksack can burden your back for eternity.

It’s no secret that the U.S. military is interested in new rucksack concepts, as evidenced by the recent U.S. Army request for information on potential new jungle rucksack designs.

Not surprisingly, the 2015 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, held 20-23 January 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada, made clear that industry is not only responding to that type of service interest but is also moving forward on several of their own innovative designs to make tomorrow’s rucksacks and tactical load bearing designs more functional and comfortable.

One representative glimpse at possible new trends in military rucksack designs was found at the “Range Day” event held immediately prior to SHOT Show in Boulder City, Nevada. One of the new exhibitors at that range event was AttackPAK, who used the range venue to unveil their response to the Army’s recent jungle rucksack request.

The AttackPAK design begins with a load-bearing belt with a “pocket” design that allows insertion of a plastic, carbon fiber or even ballistic pack frame “plate” to transfer weight from the soldier’s shoulders onto their hips. Other features include a customizable design that can be configured for various tactical loads.

“Nobody has seen our jungle rucksack design before today,” offered Alex Klein, owner and developer of the AttackPAK system. “We will submit this with our response to the RFI.”

Klein said that his take on the RFI was that the Army was looking for lightweight materials, which was interesting, “because they really need to be looking at lighter weight load carriage. Because you can save a couple of ounces on materials but you can save pounds with a better load carriage design.”

“If you compare our design to the industry leaders it’s three to four pounds lighter,” he added. “One of the frames out there is four pounds by itself. This one is 3 ½ pounds complete.”

Other new rucksack designs are emerging from a redesign of the entire CamelBak “Maximum Gear” line. Although the new line won’t ship until October 2015, Seth Beiden Marketing Manager for CamelBak Products, LLC, provided an early look on the SHOT Show exhibit floor.

The redesign has resulted in two brand new packs: the 47-liter Rubicon – an extremely large multi-day pack; and the 33-liter Skirmish.

“What’s unique about these designs is what we call a ‘lumbar reservoir,’” Beiden explained. “It’s a 3-liter reservoir with a unique shape that loads through the rear of the pack and puts all of that water weight low and stabilized on your hips around a really nice load bearing waist belt with additional compression. So you put the waist belt on, then click your compression to tighten it down and really cinch that water tight to your back.”

“A lot of the other packs don’t design the reservoir compartments the same way,” he said. “They kind of push the water further out. And that throws off your balance a little more. So we think that the lumbar reservoir in the Skirmish and Rubicon will really help.”

Another new feature evident in the redesigned “Maximum Gear” line is the use of “laser cut composite MOLLE,” in which the ubiquitous MOLLE straps used to affix additional equipment are replaced by cut-outs in the top fabric.

“It’s lower profile, lighter weight and, what I like about it most, it hugs the pack really tight so you’re not going to snag on things as much,” Beiden said. “It’s also really easy to weave the webbing through it. The camouflage printing is also a lot cleaner on the new design because you are basically just cutting from a full sheet rather than adding strips of MOLLE that don’t match as well.”

Another example of the laser cut MOLLE pattern was seen in the redesign of the TacTec plate carrier from 5.11 Tactical.

Program representatives explained that the re-tooling of the popular design was “based on operator feedback” and involved the new MOLLE design as well as a quick release system and an extending “grab drag” strap that allows dragging an injured fighter out of harm’s way while still retaining a tactical physical engagement profile.

It should be emphasized that the examples cited here are merely representative of new concepts and designs that popped up across SHOT Show 2015. Due to the incredible utility of tactical rucksacks as well as the extreme user preferences involved, future columns will likely return to the subject with more examples of new developments and trends of what may be strapped to your back in the coming years.