Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Drago Tracker Backpack Review

Drago Tracker Backpack Review

There a without a doubt a flood of smaller one - three day backpacks hitting the market however the Drago Tracker I stumbled on is a marvelous little versatile pack for a number of reasons. The Tracker is actually big enough to haul around your mobile tablets and even standard sized laptops, can accommodate very small and surprisingly large loads comfortably without everything giggling about, is hydration compatible, has a full strap sternum and waist supported design, is of high quality, and it does this all for a street price under $50. In fact I picked this one up for under $40.

Drago is actually an OEM company that produces packs, cases, and sporting accessories for very big names in the industry, however they also offer their own line of high value products as well which includes the Tracker. I would love it if everything could be made right here in the US, but the price point of this pack dictates overseas manufacturing which Drago heavily supervises to assure their ethical and quality standards are met.

The funny thing these days is that if I turn the labels over on even my “very expensive” brand name packs, they are all made somewhere else. In this case the Drago pack seems to retain the quality without a big difference between those other brands.  All the major quality points are there of straight seams, and hems, zippers are high quality heavy duty versions, and even the materials seem like the same quality I see in $100-$200 packs. As stunning as it may seem, I really do not see $50-$200 worth of difference between the Drago Tracker and other similar packs on the market, aside from a bit higher quality brand name fabric used on more expensive versions such as Cordura  - this is one way they have significantly cut costs.. In fact in some cases the feel and finish is of higher quality. From my testing, the only thing missing on the Tracker packs a final inspection to rid the pack of post production random loose threads here and there.

Where the Drago Tracker really excels is in features. Most packs in this size format are little more than glorified hydration packs with just a larger main compartment. The Tracker backpack has five primary compartments including large and small front admin pockets, a middle compartment (which I lovingly refer to as the CCW pocket), a large rear compartment (large enough for a laptop), and a hydration pocket at the rear with additional sub-compartments within each of those compartments.

The larger front admin pocket is pretty trim for features, however as you can see a Kel-Tec PMR-30 (30-round .22WMR pistol) and ESSE-4 survival knife can easily fit and be concealed in this pocket along with pockets for pens, id and business cards. The small top admin pocket is a handy place to stick a set of earplugs, gloves, sunglasses, extra magazines, or your blowout or medical kit. It is surprising what you can stuff into that little compartment.

The packs compartment sizes stagger just a bit and increase in size as you move from front to back. In this case the middle compartment is just a little smaller than the rear compartment and is perfect for mobile tablets, magazines, or in this case a Keltec Sub-2000 9mm folding rifle and provides a couple mesh pockets for additional loose items.

The rearmost zippered pocket is quite large nearly 4” deep with a zippered rear interior pocket and forward mesh pocket.  The way this compartment is designed, you could add a secondary hydration bladder, however there is nothing to secure it to internally.  Finally the last compartment is a dedicated hydration compartment on the backside of the pack which is accessible via a velcro closure.  All the hydration plumbing can be piped through onto the shoulder strap just as usual.

If you want to attach something else to the back, there are attachment points and webbing all over the Tracker.

User comfort is also huge and Drago has delivered full sided shoulder straps with mesh for cooler user comfort, a sterum strap and even a waist strap. This equates to to ability to move very fast and very comfortably with less fatigue when the pack is loaded to its full weight and capacity.  Users of small to mid-sized packs without the sternum and waist straps will find themselves constantly holding and positioning the straps and slowing the user down. Serious hiking packs have these features for a reason - they work to increase user comfort, lesson back strain and increase mobility and balance which all adds up to more speed on the trail.

Cinch straps are a huge benefit on any multi-purpose pack and I pretty much will not own a pack at this point that does not have them. If you load down a pack full each and every time, then cinch straps are not a big deal, however if you vary your loads as I do, then the straps become essential to smashing down the pack and keeping everything from moving around inside the pack. Without a “hard” tight pack, even moderate weight becomes exhausting to carry because you are constantly fighting the weight shifting back and forth.

The looks are deceiving of this pack in its collapsed down size, because the pack has a roughly 2000 cubic inch capacity when fully loaded. Yes it can handle larger 3-day pack bug out bag requirements. For this price I have actually picked up a couple to for pre-loaded get home bags for our vehicles. Functionally, the Tracker is the quintessential bug out bag and it does it for under $50.

It is a funny thing as we start looking at what bag we should choose for a bug out bag option that can also pull double duty day in and day out as a good old fashioned workhorse pack to carry our books, lunch, beer (yes I do remember makeshift backpack coolers from my college days), or even something as mundane as a couple magazines, an Ipad and a bottle of water. At under $50 on the street, the Tracker is one hell of a good deal and after six months of dragging it around the country on countless work trips, I can say this pack comes highly recommended. If you cannot fit what you need in this pack for a 3-day adventure then you are probably over thinking the requirements of the trip.

Compact pack provides ideal blend of capacity and transportability with compact design and 4 main storage areas
Premium back- relief panel design for maximum comfort during extended use
Internal organization system for securing tools and other items
Reinforced Velcro webbing and heavy-duty non-rust zippers
Hydration-pack compatible
Made of 600D Polyester
Colors: Black, Green, Tan
Premium back- relief panel design for maximum comfort during extended use
Internal organization system for securing tools and other items
Reinforced Velcro webbing and heavy-duty non-rust zippers
Hydration-pack compatible
Dimensions: 18"x11"x11"
Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty

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