Maxpedition Versipack - Fatboy JUMBO

By Ken Cook

 

When it comes to outdoor recreational and survival equipment, I tend to have the attitude, bigger is better. It seems I always lean more toward the super powerful flashlight, the bigger knife, the bigger gun, and so on. Perhaps this is a failing on my part but if so, it's a fairly common one among American males. We have all been programmed to believe more is better but often, the reality is, sometimes less is more. Where load bearing equipment, (LBE) is concerned, I naturally gravitate toward the pack that will hold enough gear and supplies to last me for a two month expedition deep into the wilds of South America or Africa and if that's where I'm headed, all is well. If your goal is nothing more than an afternoon jaunt on State Park trails however, you need to be able to "downshift" to a lighter load and a smaller pack tailored to your actual needs.

Most of my outdoor excursions are daily hikes on the back roads and trails near my home. I always spend a little time exploring and creating GPS waypoints for any points of interest I may discover but the main goal of the trip is exercise. There are a couple of nearby mountains I'm trying to slowly grind away using nothing but the Vibram soles on my hiking boots. So far, the hills are winning but I'm persistent. In addition to my daily treks around home, Arkansas has 51 State Parks, countless recreation areas, Wildlife Management Areas, a National Park, and at my very own doorstep, the Ouachita National Forest. Considering my interests and recreational pursuits, the need for rugged and versatile LBE is pretty substantial.

Of course, I'd heard of Maxpedition Gear online and Don had sung the praises of the Fatboy Versipack for years. It was only this last December as I was pondering what to get my wife for Christmas, I took the time to look into what the company offered. My wife Doris is constantly in search of "THE Purse" which will allow her to carry everything she needs to carry on a daily basis and while out hiking or Geocaching with me, so on Don's suggestion, I started looking at the Fatboy and then the Jumbo. Finally, on his recommendation I bought Doris one of the Jumbo Versipacks for Christmas.

The pack arrived several weeks before the big day and I was immediately impressed with it's stout construction and thoughtful design. The materials used are all extremely high quality and the stitching, usually the most likely cause of LBE failure, is immaculate. I immediately started customizing her Jumbo with some hand tied zipper pulls as the original equipment was nothing more than some loops of paracord tied in a simple overhand knot.. I was sure I could fancy that up a bit and set about giving her Jumbo the personal touch women seem to appreciate so much.. I'd originally intended to just tie a few short sennit lanyards but as usual, my enthusiasm got the better of me and soon her Jumbo was festooned with a fairly impressive collection of monkey's fists, manrope knots, square, round, and even triangular sennit knot zipper pulls.

 

While handling the pack to tie all these knots, I was again struck by the truly excellent quality of material and workmanship. The only area where I found any room for improvement was in the zipper pulls themselves and I can certainly understand why a company would forego putting undue effort into such a trivial thing. I spent several hours tying knots on the bag, I can't imagine what the thing would cost if this was done at the factory. Besides, any savvy manufacturer of outdoor equipment will always leave you a little room to "improve" and personalize your kit.

I was, so impressed with the Jumbo I decided I really needed one of these modern day "Possibles Bags" for myself and was trying desperately to find an "angle" which would allow me to splurge on myself so close to Christmas. Fortunately, within a couple of days, Doris came to me and confessed she was stumped as to what she should get me for Christmas and asked me what I wanted. BINGO! With a wicked grin, I informed her that what I'd really like best was if I got the same thing I'd bought her for Christmas! That afternoon, with her blessing, I went online and placed an order for my own "Max Bag." I'd gotten the right-handed Jumbo for Doris but for reasons I'm sure most readers of this website will understand, I prefer to keep my right hand free and my right side uncluttered. With this in mind, I selected for myself one of the new "S" type Jumbos, designed to hang on the left hip. The only flaw in my plan was, I couldn't use the pack until after Christmas lest Doris find out what I'd gotten her!



Christmas day finally came around at last and I handed Doris her "big" present with some trepidation. I'm sure most of the guys reading this article will understand the wary feeling that always comes when giving a woman anything she might consider "guy stuff." My fears were totally unfounded as she took one look and was thrilled with the bag. To be completely unbiased, I suspect the beautiful and intricate zipper pulls had a great deal to do with her eager acceptance of the gift.

I'd bought her bag to be an every day purse pulling double duty as a day pack for our hiking and geocaching excursions. She has in the few months since Christmas decided the Jumbo is a little too large for everyday use and has informed me she really wants a Fatboy for "purse" use and would like to reserve the Jumbo, with it's larger capacity and built in water bottle carrier for our outdoor activities. I was really hoping to "inherit" a second Jumbo but she's not budging off hers. Either way, after 16 years I'm smart enough to recognize an order when I hear one. Her Fatboy is on the way!

As for myself, I couldn't possibly be more pleased with my Jumbo. I've carried it for at least a couple hundred miles since I received it and most of that time, it's been crammed full of gear. Nalgene water bottle, cell phone, PDA, GPS, Moleskine notebook, First Aid Kit, compass, strobe, Met-Rx bars, spare batteries for everything, and so on. I don't have a set of scales but I feel pretty safe in saying the load-out weight on the Jumbo is almost certainly in excess of 20 pounds. This is really pushing the edge of the envelope for any single strap over-the-Shoulder style pack. After several miles of up and down trails, although the Jumbo handles the load with ease, I find my shoulder begins to complain a bit. Simply switching the pack to the opposite shoulder gives my back muscles and shoulder a rest and also helps with even muscular development. It keeps you from looking lopsided when you take the pack off! The Jumbo still rides well on the "off" hip and doesn't look particularly unusual to anyone who is not familiar with the gear. The only drawback to wearing it on the "wrong" side is the zippers are all reversed and so not quite as handy.

As you can see in the pictures, I've personalized mine with some custom zipper pulls as well. I also added a Maxpedition Double Pouch to hold a Leatherman Wave multi-tool and an Inova X-5 flashlight. This pouch is just as well built as the Jumbos are and it rides as if it were sewn to the pack with none of the jiggle and joggle normally associated with "bolt-on" accessory items. It holds the multi-tool and the flashlight snugly and securely so there is absolutely no fear of losing expensive equipment while wading through swollen creeks or climbing around on cliffs and caves in search of well hidden Geocaches. The elastic is fitted to perfection, being just tight enough but not so tight as to overstress the rubber. The number, shape, and location of the various pockets almost seem designed to fit exactly the gear you intend to carry. The "storm collar" tucks away neatly inside the pack when not needed and acts to keep items inside the main compartment well separated and in place. I particularly appreciate the top mounted eyeglasses pocket. On a hot and humid day when your glasses fog up with your exertion, its very nice to have a place you can tuck your specs away without fear of damaging them. When the pocket isn't being used for that purpose, it makes an ideal storage compartment for one or two Met-Rx 100 bars. The creative placement of "Hard Points" as the MOLLE attachment points are called makes the addition of secondary gear very easy. I haven't found a use for the pile-side Velcro on the top of the pack yet but that doesn't mean there isn't one and it sure doesn't hurt any thing by being there.

I also sprang for the velcro "Universal Modular Holster" accessory which fits in the large back compartment of the Jumbo. This simple holster holds my Glock 17, my 1911A1 or my Kimber Ultra Elite very securely. Although I would never care to carry any sort of skeleton holster "on-body" this arrangement is perfect for the back compartment of the Jumbo. It covers the trigger guard as any safe holster should, and with a little fiddling to find the proper fit, will allow for a very smooth and hitch free draw.

Normally, I don't advocate "off-body" carry. And for the purposes of this article, off-body can be defined as, any means of carry not directly attached to your person. In most instances, the people most interested in off-body carry are women wanting to carry their firearm in their purse or men wanting to carry in their briefcase or laptop computer case.

The nature of such carry dictates the gun, along with the purse or briefcase, is often set down and left unattended and unguarded for long periods of time. In addition to the very serious risk of theft, the plain and unpleasant truth is, if you do not have your gun at your side when you need it, you might as well have left it sitting home in the safe.

Things are a bit different when you start talking about traveling outdoors, backpacking, biking, trail hiking, Geocaching, and so on. Because you are constantly mobile, obviously everything you are carrying with you stays with you. This is where the Jumbo Versipack and a Universal Modular Holster really shine. True, these packs can easily be carried by those who live and work in the city or suburbia but they're designed for rough country. You may walk away from your brief case in the office, but you're never going to stray far from your pack out on the trail!

As those who've been reading my work over the years know full well, I'm normally not overly fond of any holster with the word "Universal" in the description as they are never "universal." This model is no different in this aspect. Although it will fit my Glock, 1911s, and even my Makarov, it will certainly not fit my .32 Seecamp . So perhaps "Nearly Universal" would be a more accurate if less melodious description. That however, is the only pickable nit I can find in this very simple, effective, and highly affordable carry arrangement.

The Universal Modular Holster by itself is nearly useless but when you fit it to your pistol and then mount it in the rear compartment of your Maxpedition pack, it becomes a rock solid platform in which the gun won't move until you want it to. The nylon strapping covers the trigger guard completely and the zippered compartment not only hides the gun from prying eyes but eliminates any possibility of "printing" and provides extraordinary protection from the elements. I've worn my Jumbo in the pouring rain and when I got home, the gun inside was still perfectly dry. For that matter, the contents of the Jumbo were the only things still dry!

Overall, I am very impressed and pleased with the design and manufacturing quality of the Maxpedition articles I've handled so far and I am looking forward to acquiring and wringing out a few more Maxpedition products as time and budget allows.

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©2007 Ken Cook

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