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Review: 5.11 AMP 24 (Long)

Discussion in 'EDC Bags' started by 6th0, Oct 9, 2018.

  1. 6th0

    6th0 Empty Pockets

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    I searched for months for an EDC backpack that could reasonably satisfy the dimensional requirements when flying on ultra low-cost carriers (ULCC). A ULCC limits a personal item to 18”x14”x8” before hitting you up for a large carry on fee and part of the fun (?) of one bag traveling is challenging yourself to how inexpensive you can make the flight. The pack needed to be office professional friendly and inconspicuous when traveling. In addition, the pack must be a panel loader, have single large storage area (not two medium storage areas or a lot of internal organization pockets taking up space and adding weight) with a front or top compartment for things I grab often.

    My previous pack was an REI Vagabond 40 which carried very well but was far too tall to be let on ULCCs. When it started falling apart after 8 years of rough handling, it was time to get serious about replacement. A four-month search ensued.

    I thought I found the perfect solution in the Tom Bihn Brain Bag: spot-on dimensions, subdued look, quality build, 36L—and I had it in their website’s cart off and on an embarrassing amount of times. I just couldn’t get over what looked like two mid-sized compartments that would cramp my packing style, and the water bottle carrier placement looked very inconvenient.

    5.11 released the All Mission Pack 24 in mid-August. It looked like it checked most of my boxes, and I was lucky enough to have a 5.11 store locally. The Tungsten gray and lack of molle made the pack sleek and plain, which was the flashless look I was going for. It was the end of the evening, and I “only” had 30 minutes in the store to make a buying decision, so I borrowed the 5.11 store’s tape measure to verify that it wouldn’t raise any eyebrows on Frontier or Spirit, and spent the next half hour quickly shaking the AMP 24 down. Oh, come on—you know you would have done the same…

    Initially, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be for the following reasons:

    • There was little organization outside the pack except for the sunglasses pouch on top and the concealed carry compartment which felt too tight to really stick a wallet, phone, knife, headphones, pens, etc. Even when I removed the Hexagrid off the front and reinstalled it on the Velcro panel inside, the CC pocket was still too cramped for easy access to daily gear.
    • The laptop storage area with side access behind the main storage area and the back panel seemed like wasted space. I would have rather just one big space with a laptop pocket to stuff as I see fit.
    • The side pockets where I would stick water bottles are embedded inside the pack and accessed through zippers. I much rather bottle pockets outside the pack and not taking up internal space. The pockets are “double lined” so that they have an opening inside the pack as well and can be used as internal pockets. They are also awkwardly positioned so a standard 32oz Nalgene couldn’t slip in or out easily when I wear the pack. If I packed between a moderate to maximum internal capacity the water bottle pockets would be useless as they would be smashed against the side walls of the pack.
    • There was no waist belt even though the AMP 72 has one. I’m a big fan of a padded belt for heavier loads during travel. There are buckles sewn in so that you can add your own, though. For almost $189, though, this seemed like a chincy omission.
    • The weave of the material was far more open than the Vagabond 40’s 420D nylon weave. When I stuck my head in the pack I saw a lot more light coming through the fabric than the Vagabond 40. Please—this is EDC Forums so you MUST have done the “head in the pack” test, too, let’s not pretend otherwise. Anyway, I think it will be much less water resistant. I haven’t tested this theory yet.
    • The AMP 24 was heavier than my Vagabond 40 and the internal frame quite rigid. As an ultralight backpacker I spend money to lighten my load even in everyday life—not increase it—but I didn’t have any better backpack options.
    • The AMP 24 had a full 10L less space than my Vagabond 40 and I had serious heartburn about whether or not I could cram a full week’s worth of business casual travel gear in it like I could (barely) do with the Vagabond 40. I had to downsize, though, if I wanted to travel on ULCCs without carry on fees.
    • I’ve never liked yoke harness style shoulder straps that go around the neck. “One size fits all” usually means “one size fits none”.
    Despite all this, the AMP 24 was still the closest to what I wanted in a personal sized pack. The 5.11 salesperson showed me the admin pouch to attach to the front for another $35 which I was both skeptical about (Vagabond had a zippered pouch up top which made grabbing stuff convenient) and a bit burned that I needed to spend more money for basic functionality.

    All in, the AMP 24 cost $244 which puts it into some of the premium travel backpacks’ territory, unlike the Rush 24’s more reasonable price point. That said, and given I was in that price range at this point, none of those $300+ packs really fit what I was looking for and some of them just looked like out of place, expensive, luggage strapped to my back. Not inconspicuous at all!

    Over the next few days of admiring the AMP 24 on my office floor or the front seat of my car, something very odd happened. While online and under the store lighting, the pack was an unmistakable gray—yet every day the damned thing got more and more blue until there was no question: it’s a dark, gunmetal blue. It was like that crazy blue/gold dress. I’ve gone back to the 5.11 site several times: yep, gray. I’ve asked my wife to be an unbiased (and by this point, forgiving) neutral observer: she dubs it gunmetal blue, too. In fact, she still catches me glancing at it quizzically and yells/giggles "It's still blue!" I’ve actually come to appreciate the color, however, because it is less tactical looking.

    The problem, though, is going to be matching any accessories to it. To match the Tungsten color, I am trapped in 5.11’s ecosystem which I wouldn’t be had I bought the pack in just about any other color. And, if 5.11 doesn’t make the attachment—I’m looking at you, removable hip belt—then I’m S.O.L.

    Stylistically, when you add the admin pouch, the gray blue, and the lack of molle, it looks like a grown-up’s version of a classic Jansport. In fact, I’ll be hitting up the local Salvation Army to buy a beat up cheap Jansport, remove the logo, and create a morale patch so that I can attach it when I visit dodgier areas when I travel. I hate being the guy with the backpack that says “well to do jackass with $5,000 worth of gear to steal”.

    I’ve had about 6 weeks of daily carry with the AMP 24, so how does it hold up?
    • I removed the internal frame to make the back more flexible and lighten the load. The daily carry was much more comfortable. We’ll see how this works when I fill it with a full week’s worth of travel gear as I’ve read other packs need the frame to support the shoulder harness to carry comfortably.
    • The day before I bought the AMP 24 I had just come back from business travel using the Vagabond 40. As an experiment to see how much I would have to leave home or how creative I’d have to get to accommodate a 10L drop in space, I moved everything into the AMP 24. Holy smokes: everything fit and it was easier to pack/remove gear! Didn’t see that coming at all. There are three reasons I think this happened:
    1. The Vagabond 40 didn’t open all the way to the top of the pack and had a large “pocket” in the top 10% of the pack that was inconvenient to fill and get things in and out of. The AMP 24 opened all the way to the top, around to the middle of the top panel, and back out and down again. This let me cram in what I needed and get to it easier.
    2. While the main pouch was easier to get into—I didn’t need to! The laptop panel that I thought I’d hate allowed access to the items I would always take out of the pack before I got in my seat on the plane (laptop, Kindle, notepad) while the rest would already be in my pocket (phone, pen, wallet, headphones). I could stuff all I needed in the main pouch without any worry about organizing for access, but focus on organizing for density.
    3. I didn’t think I’d like the admin pouch but have come to really appreciate it both for daily gear access and travel. Some airlines will allow certain items to NOT be counted against personal carry weight and dimension limits—which is an important hack for flying on ULCCs without having to pay carry on fees. As an experiment, I put that type of gear in the admin panel, removed it from the pack as it were a separate item (which is sometimes required on ULCCs), and though the pack would be slightly above Frontier’s dimension limits, I would need to run across a real hard case gate attendant noticing the extra inch to worry about it. Moving this gear out of the main compartment freed up space for other weekly necessities. With the odd top pocket on the Vagabond 40, I would just toss my pocketable EDC stuff in it. The admin panel really does organize well and though my ultra-light backpacker ethos cringes at its extra weight, I secretly like the organization and being easily able to find what I need. The shame…
    • The yoke style straps fits me well, surprisingly. The shoulder straps aren’t as padded as the Vagabond 40 but they are very wide. Still the Vagabond was easier on the shoulders. I don’t know if this is due to padding or the non-yoke harness.
    • The light green interior is very helpful when digging inside the pack.
    • I still don’t like the side pockets one bit. I can’t reach back and easily pull out a water bottle or thermos. This is the one place where I would have liked some molle so I could attach my own external bottle carrier. Not that I could match that damned Tungsten color…If I had it my way, I’d ditch the internal side pockets, not have a zipper, and have external pockets with an elastic band to hold bottles in place. I don’t understand this design choice.
    • A minor quibble is the debossed 5.11 branding on the back pad. As an avowed logo avoider, while I appreciate that a manufacturer likes to advertise and that for the most part 5.11 is generally subtle, the back pad branding is annoying. I’ll remove what few other logos I find or black them out with a Sharpie but there is not much I can do with debossing.

    Any of you that made it this far in the review, I’d appreciate any suggestions on:

    1. Adding an external water bottle carrier.
    2. Any Tungsten colored padded waist belts that are out there. I may just get a grey waist belt from Alpha One Niner when they show up on their website.

    And a huge thanks to all of you who unwittingly helped me consider the pros and cons of innumerable packs by my lurking on this forum for many months and reading your posts!
     
  2. Jay-uk

    Jay-uk Loaded Pockets

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    Pics please
     
    ProjeKtWEREWOLF likes this.
  3. Greenbean

    Greenbean Loaded Pockets

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    What he said,

    Great review man. Appreciate the info.
     
  4. 6th0

    6th0 Empty Pockets

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    Thanks! I'll post pictures this weekend when I have time to figure out how to do it! Anything in particular on/in the pack you'd like photographed?
     
    Jay-uk likes this.
  5. 01bugtruck

    01bugtruck Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks for your review. Pics of all of it please...in and out. I've been considering this pack for a few weeks now.
     
    Jay-uk likes this.
  6. Kevin Plumlee

    Kevin Plumlee Empty Pockets

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    Great review!! Just put my order in on an AMP 24..
     
  7. swedishelite22

    swedishelite22 Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks for the review.

    When you post pictures can you include some of the admin pouch?

    Its amazing that 5.11 has no pictures of the inside of such an item in their website.

    Also, is the bottom free to float (flip up) or are there lower anchors too?
     
  8. 6th0

    6th0 Empty Pockets

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    I finally have some time this weekend and will try to get those photos up. You're right, there are no photos of the admin pouch interior--I'll make sure to post those.

    The admin pouch has loops on the top to attach to hooks underneath the flap that covers the CC pocket, the back is covered by a strong velcro, and the bottom has buckles to clip into the backpack itself. It is extremely sturdy and is not moving anywhere! The hexgrid is velcroed on the front and also has loops to hook on the top and side. Unhook and peel that off, attach/hook it on the back of the main pocket and use it as an organizer, and put the admin pouch on the front.

    I hope this helps!
     
    swedishelite22 likes this.
  9. RoboSim

    RoboSim Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks for the very thorough and extensive review. Would love to see some pics.
     
  10. Jay-uk

    Jay-uk Loaded Pockets

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    How did you remove the frame sheet? Mine's seems fixed in
     
  11. OregonEMT

    OregonEMT Loaded Pockets

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    It’s very, VERY snug. It comes out but you’ve got to work at it.
     
    Jay-uk likes this.
  12. Jay-uk

    Jay-uk Loaded Pockets

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    Thank you
     
    sld likes this.
  13. Jay-uk

    Jay-uk Loaded Pockets

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    @OregonEMT removed the back panel seems to thankfully have improved the comfort on a quick try ,cant wait to see if it's made it better overall.
    Thanks again
     
  14. maillet282

    maillet282 Loaded Pockets

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    just picked up one of these. I have it mostly packed for work tomorrow. just need to find the right gear set I want to throw an IFAK in and call it a day. so far it seems pretty comfy for me even with the internal back panel. only time will tell. I am also starting to look for a belt attachment I can use as required ( possibly keep that part inside the bag until I need it)
     
  15. Jay-uk

    Jay-uk Loaded Pockets

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    I would advise getting a thin waist strap from Amazon and adding fidlocks donr this to all my packs, world of difference no weight and makes the whole affair super quick
     
  16. maillet282

    maillet282 Loaded Pockets

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    Was already planning to pick up a cheap belt from amazon. Was considering one of the cheapest riggers belt with cobra buckle( just for the quick detach option.

    Can you post a pic of the fidlock? Or a link to what your talking about
     
  17. Jay-uk

    Jay-uk Loaded Pockets

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    Once you try it everything else becomes obsolete , its crazy how good they are the ends almost jump together .
     
    maillet282 likes this.
  18. Greenbean

    Greenbean Loaded Pockets

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    Pics please,