I must admit that I’m a backpack hoarder, some of which never used. I love the utility of military style backpacks because they are durable and offer a lot of options for accessories. What I don’t care for is the ready for combat appearance when in an airport or wandering in a city. I have a vacation coming up and I wanted a backpack for nothing more than carryon for the flight and some casual use while on the trip. I will not be backpacking across Europe, but I will be in the tropics and likely to encounter rain. I also wanted something durable that will fail me when traveling and last for years, so I turned to 5.11. I found a couple backpacks I liked that were not military style, the HAVOC30 and the COVRT18. Because I already have a collection of 5.11 bags and backpacks, I decided to go with the cheaper option, the HAVOC30 at $95.
I ordered the backpack directly from 5.11 and it arrived quickly. As with their other backpacks, there’s heft to this backpack because of the heavy weight nylon. I quickly noticed this was the smallest 5.11 backpack I’ve purchased, but I needed something appropriate for carryon on a flight. I have not used the backpack yet, but I quickly had some mild concerns about some of the features. I may change my mind after using it for a week on vacation.
- I don’t like that the compression straps need to be detached to get in the main compartment. I understand this is because the “shove-it” flap is over the main compartment and it can hold large objects, such as jackets, shoes, etc. I may like this feature the first time I get to keep sweaty shoes out of the main compartment.
- The straps on the main compartment do not use buckles. Instead, 5.11 calls them quick access clips. You will need to watch the video below to see what I mean. I don’t know if I will care for this because I have not had issues with their buckles breaking or unintentionally detaching on my other 5.11 backpacks. However, I doubt there is much chance of these quick access clips ever detaching by accident.
- The compartment on the “shove-it” flap zips vertically because it maximizes the shape of the flap. I doubt you would want to keep much in this compartment, but I think 5.11 didn’t intend for that. I think they were just making use of space and this compartment could be used for things like documents, maps, etc. I may find this compartment useful or not useful at all, though nothing was sacrificed for this storage.
- I don’t care for the webbing on the glasses pouch or the Velcro material near the top and bottom of the backup. I don’t feel this is the type of backpack where either of these features are useful. There are certain countries I would not even want this level of tactical appearance. I would have preferred regular material in these areas and it would make the look of the backpack even less “tactical.” This is where the COVRT18 has an advantage.
My concerns over some of the features are minimal at most, so let’s look at what I did like at first impression.
- The materials and construction of this backpack are impressive. Unless I received a defective pack, I have a feeling it will be able to handle a lot of weight, rough use, and mild rain. I just wish it contained a pull-over rain cover like a computer backpack I own.
- YKK zippers are awesome and allow smooth operation. You can also rip open the backpack quickly without snags. Great if you need to get to get to something quick, such as a first aid kit.
- Laptop pouch – because I love taking a laptop on most trips. However, I am going to try and leave it behind on this upcoming trip so I can disconnect.
- Hydration pouch, which I do use with my other backpacks.
- Relatively casual appearance with military grade construction. Even if you are in some line of work where you deal with weapons or tactical equipment, you do not want to advertise that in urban use. This backpack comes close to not looking too tactical, but as I mentioned above, there are some features that do say tactical.
- This backpack is what I consider medium size. Great for hauling a light load of clothes or equipment for a day trip or carryon on a flight. I like that it is a bit smaller than the RUSH24, which I found bulkier than I need for day excursions.
- The back of this backpack is stiff with great padding to keep it comfortable to wear for hours.
- The waistband seems almost like overkill for this backpack. I would expect a waistband like this on a much bigger backpack, so I am glad it is removable. I will not need it most of the time and I would have been seriously annoyed if it were not removable. If I do need it, I will be glad it is so substantial
- Price! This thing cost a lot less than many other 5.11 backpacks.
I will update this post after I get some use out of this backpack.
I took this backpack to Maui on vacation for a week. I took it on the plane, on a boat, to the pool, and generally tossed it around with little regard for where it would land. Here are the pros and cons I noted:
- The backpack is very comfortable to wear and the back panel is padded well enough to keep the load from getting too uncomfortable. I only loaded a couple days worth of clothing and other carryon items for the flight, but I couldn’t feel what I was carrying against my back. I can imagine this backpack being comfortable if carrying much heavier loads.
- The backpack is firm and holds its shape. It can sit up empty, and I like that.
- This thing is built like a tank and the bottom of the backpack is made of extra thick material. I imagine it would take a lot of abuse to cause actual damage to any of the material.
- Smaller compartments for organization is lacking, but at least it had narrow pockets along the sides that could be zipped closed. I used both since I needed the storage where I could easily retrieve items on the plane, though it is not easy to see what is in these pockets. This part belongs in pros and cons at the same time.
- The “shove-it” area was handy, but not a necessity for me. I shoved a few things in it while on my trip, but I would have sacrificed it for better storage.
- It’s a good looking backpack and doesn’t look overly “tactical.”
- The vertical zipping pocket on the outer the “shove-it” flap is not very useful for storage of anything other than very light items, such as paperwork, identification, etc. I kept a hat under the flap for easy retrieval, but that made it difficult to find things in the pocket when the flap was bent over the hat.
- The compression straps are attached to the “shove-it” flap and the main storage compartment. To access the main storage compartment, you first need to detached the compression straps via the “quick access clips.”
- I absolutely despise the aforementioned “quick access clips” and they made it difficult to quickly access the main compartment. The name is a bit of an oxymoron unless you train working with them. I have plenty of other things to deal with and training on the use of a backpack clip isn’t one of them. I would have preferred standard buckles. I will never carry anything I need in this backpack where opening quickly would be a priority.
- The small mesh compartment inside the main compartment is too small. I could only fit a few small items in there. I would have preferred a little more room, though it would have made the main flap heavy and cause it to flop around.
- The glasses or outer padded compartment is an odd shape. This compartment is angled and barely fit my wrap around sunglasses at their tallest part. It also added to the flopping of the main compartment flap when opened. I didn’t care for the MOLLE type webbing either and would have preferred plain nylon. This is supposed to be a somewhat covert backpack so why does it have MOLLE webbing?
If you need a backpack that can handle some decent abuse and you only really need a main compartment, this may be the backpack for you. However, I’m the type of person that likes a decent amount of main storage space, but also organizing pockets for items like electronics, a knife, flashlight, first aid kit, etc. I want to be able to open a compartment and see common cary items and then have easy access to others. Some of my other backpacks have exterior pockets over the main compartment that I can open and see the mentioned items, but these either look too tactical or are not sturdy enough for trekking in certain conditions.
The HAVOC30 is really durable, but lacking in the smart storage areas. You may be able to fit all the items I mentioned in this backpack, but don’t expect to get to them too easily. Out of my four 5.11 backpacks, this is my least favorite. I will be relegating this backpack to the trunk of my car or a storage container with my other unused backpacks (I’m a bit of a backpack hoarder).
You may disagree with me, but this review is based in my preferences and my experience. I would like to hear what you think, so feel free to leave a comment.