Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration Pack Review


When we consider bug out bags, there are the most known larger 3-day SHTF bags and then the smaller “get home bags”.  Get home packs are designed to travel light and fast back home with no more than 24 hours of supplies plus an extra change of underwear like mom told you to. Ideally a great Get Home Bag should be well under 10 lbs loaded.  I have the larger 72 hour bags, but the “get home duffle bag” in my truck needed an update to something more comfortable. While cruising Black Hawk’s site, I found the S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration pack, which is the perfect size for building up a high speed “Get Home Bag” complete with hydration pack.

This 830 Cubic inch pack is small and light.  It is so small some might question what you can really stuff in it, however considering for 95% of us are less than 30 miles from home in our day-to-day lives you don’t need the quantities of survival items like you would in a 3-day pack. Semi-out of shape people can manage 1.5-2 MPH which means at a worst case you are less than 24 hours from your home on foot.  Considering that “it” will hit the fan at the least convenient time, we must prepare ourselves and our family for a situation where we may be treking home to our fortifications on foot.  

Technically all you need for 24 hours of survival is just water, which the pack provides, however there are a number of Security, Safety, Repair, First Aid, Hygiene, Fire, Orientation, Shelter, Clothing, Containers, Water, Food, Power, Communication, Identification, and Payment items which could be critical to that first 24 hours of survival as you make your way home on foot.  WIth water being the majority of the weight, my get home bag focuses on protecting and care of the body during the trek and lightly touching the other categories, after all, I am not looking to set up camp, I simply want the resources to make a beeline for home as fast as possible. My 24 hour items packaged in vacuum packed “Bug Out Cores” plus that extra pair of underwear all easily fit inside the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration pack including a back up firearm.

When I think of what I want in a high-speed low-drag, get out of Dodge, and home in a hurry bag, the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration pack fits the bill perfectly.  It is a rugged lightweight pack which was designed to be comfortable and secure for active sporting or high speed military situations.  Blackhawk is known as one of the most durable and comfortable pack makers on the market and this little pack is no exception. Empty is it extremely lightweight and full it manages loads effectively in a balanced and fast handling manner. 

Slipping on the back and starting to sweat, the IVS molded back channel contour assures the pack provides plenty of ventilation to your sweaty back while adding stability and greatly improving comfort.  The shoulder straps and chest /sternum strap are contoured for very comfortable and secure fit.  This great fit assures if you are biking hard or running from “all hell breaking loose”, the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration pack will not shift around.  I tested the pack through its paces on my bike, during defensive drills, and on hiking training days my wife and I call “the hike” and it stayed put without shifting and provided plenty of adjustability regardless of whether I was wearing a jacket or t-shirt.  

The S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration pack is a high quality fast handling pack, but also comfortable as well. Generally packs this size are typically always pretty full, however I would have liked to have a couple extra compression straps for times when I remove my Bug Out Cores and use the pack for sport and light travel.  A waist strap is not a requirement for a pack this size, however it would make the pack more manageable when loaded to its limits.

The Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration pack features 830 cubic inches of internal storage space between all the pockets which will store about four wine bottles (for Sommeliers bugging out) or a day’s worth of survival supplies plus the included 100 oz. BLACKHAWK Hydration System.

The Blackhawk’s Hydration system included with the pack is famous for flexibility and ease of maintenance.  The drink system features a Bite Me bit value and a patent pending quick-disconnect system tube and bite valve.  The Blackhawk quick-disconnect system greatly speeds cleaning and re-installation in the pack.  The bladder is protected by Microban antimicrobial technology to assure the 100oz hydration bladder does not get all funky if not dried appropriately during cleanings.  The bite valve is simple, easy to use, and drip free. The one weakness of this hydration system as a survival bladder is the lack of a water filter system; it must be fed clean water.  If you can react fast in a survival situation, securing a couple bottles of water or filling the bladder from an available water source before sprinting home should not be a huge issue. I would love to see Blackhawk offer an optional maintainable in-line ceramic water 99.99% filters that could be easily installed via Blackhawk’s quick-disconnect system. 

Use of the hydration pack was simple and easy and the neoprene covered hose could be tucked back into the opposite tube exit hole which allows for positioning on the right or left.  The main bladder stores in its own zippered compartment, however if one bladder is not enough the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration pack’s main compartment can be used for an second optional reservoir.  

The pack itself has a heavy duty reinforced drag/carry handle, plenty of extra d-rings, durable YKK zippers with silent sure-grip pulls, and the exterior is covered with loads of MOLLE straps for complete flexibility and plenty of lashing points.  
The large exterior pocket is 9”L x 9.5”W x 2.5”D.  The pocket is double zippered and opens about half way so all your stuff does not fall out. The interior is covered with a field of loop Velcro for compatibility with any Velcro holster or accessory pockets however it comes with a Velro backed insert which is versatile enough to organize a variety of pens, pencils, sunglasses, cell phones, and even magazines.  

The spacious 16”L x 9.5”W x 2.5”D main compartment is also double zippered and opens half way, however I wish it would open all the way for loading. Interior MOLLE straps cover about 50 % of the back interior for extra lashing, customization and storage and Blackhawk has also integrated a zippered interior mesh bag.  For a pack this size, there are plenty of areas to tuck items you want quick access to.  Even as a daily pack, the main compartment would provide great day to day carry pack for a small laptop.

Mom knew when it hit the fan, it would probably hit the inside of your shorts too, so a get home bag was a necessity then and now.  100oz of water alone is 6.25lbs, so a back pack is highly recommended to improve comfort of carrying that life sustaining liquid which you will need.  Hydration is essential as you cover ground.  Add in a few extras and you can easily have 10lbs of gear where a pack will make your life about 100 times easier and hands free to manage as you make your way home.

Hydartion is THE essential survival item. Personally, I shoot through about .5L every three miles, so this 3L bladder should get me at least 20 miles weather and terrain dependant. Generally I carry my Get Home Bag with the bladder pre-cleaned and dry, but slip a 1L bottle of water into the pack so I know I have some water if needed.  

I do like the idea of a hydration pack in a survival situation and for a “get home bag” I believe it is essential.  Hydration packs have shown to promote water consumption, greatly reduce dehydration, and decrease back strain compared to other carry methods.  Hydration systems also allow less conspicuous water consumption in a situation where lifting a liter of water for a drink in front of a bunch of people dying of thirst my create an issue for you and your family.
The complaints I have about the pack are minimal. I wish the main compartment zipped completely open, a few extra pockets would have been nice, and compression straps would help manage lighter or less bulky loads.

With my bug out contents all vacuum packed into Bug Out Cores, I can pull those out and use the pack as needed and I do quite often. For those who may want to use this as a defensive Bug Out style bag, it can provide hydration, pack a load of ammo and even body armor.  The main compartment or hydration pocket allowed me to slip an optional US Palm 9”x13” IIIA body armor plate into the bladder pocket, which could provide frontal coverage by using the pack as a shield or slinging it forward over the chest. For those with the fun and handy Kel-Tec Sub2000 this is a perfect carry-able gun case for the folding rifle.  Often I have loaded my Blackhawk STRIKE Predator pack with the very light weight Kel-Tec PMR-30 .22 Magnum pistol which provides very light weight with 30 rounds per magazine on tap.

The hydration pack gets used constantly and I can now see why the Blackhawk Hydration pack is considered the best in the business, it is comfortable, well designed, and ready for anything and in the case of mine, it is the perfect sized Get Home Bag.

• 830 cubic inches of internal storage space

• Includes 100 oz. BLACKHAWK!® Hydration System
• Drink system protected by Microban® antimicrobial technology
• Bite Me® bite valve and patent-pending quick-disconnect system
• Additional compartment for a second optional reservoir
• Padded, contour-fit shoulder harness with sternum strap
• Reinforced drag/carry handle
• Durable YKK® zippers with silent sure-grip pulls
• IVS™ molded back panel for comfort, stability, and airflow
• Dimensions (main comp.): 16”L x 9.5”W x 2.5”D
• Dimensions (front comp.): 9”L x 9.5”W x 2.5”D
• Cubes: 750 cu. in. / 12 L Main Compartment
• Capacity: 100 oz. / 3 L
• MRSP - $119.99
• Street - $99.99


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