This post is dedicated to the VEP’s function as a backpack. When I was shopping around for a small 24hr pack I found no clear photographs of the backpack straps or any information on the viability of it being used as a dedicated backpack.
I wanted to replace my current Mystery Ranch ASAP as my significant other has done a rather good job at co-opting it.
Once I have more experience with the VEP in an armor attachment format I’ll post that as a separate review. I’ve taken some closeup photographs of the VEP’s features as well to supplement this review. Anyone looking to potentially purchase this product will find it useful as First Spear very rarely releases a lot of photographs for their products.
The VEP is light enough to hang on the wall by a small nail. It features no frame or stiffener except for a small band of stiffener at the top to ensure the opening is always accessible.
Despite its flaws one of the accessories it comes standard with is one of my favorite things about the bag. Whatever you wanna call it, day lid, hammock, helmet sack, the mesh expanding beaver tail is quickly adjustable and rather light weight.
One of the problems I’ve had with the beaver tail is the top G-hooks often come undone whilst there is no load in the beaver tail. The slack allows the G-hooks to come undone and your beaver tail will promptly start flapping around. I fixed this issue by taping the top two G-hooks closed.
The retaining straps for the beaver tail are both webbing and elastic so even completely tightened there will be some stretch to it.
The length of adjustment for the beaver tail comes with bungee and a pull tab to quickly manage your extra slack. You’ll find this potentially quicker to use than velcro one-wrap or a length of elastic tube to manage slack webbing.
The beaver tail connects at the bottom of the bag with light weight MOLLE bars. The bag itself makes use of these throughout the design. This may not be quicker to don and doff than the snaps used on the Mystery Ranch equivalent but it might be lighter.
The handle to assist you in pulling the bag over your head uses this small plastic bar as well.
The reverse side of the bag is adorned by two MOLLE channels. This is where the optional M4 shingle goes. It uses the MOLLE bars as well. Overall the lack of MOLLE is a good thing. If you shed the beaver tail it becomes a rather slick bag.
This is also a wonderful choice by First Spear and not typical of their usual habits of ostentatious branding. Unlike their holsters and other bags that have massive First Spear logos on them this is the only tag or logo you will find on the VEP. I have asked First Spear before if they would consider making sterilized versions of some of their other branded products and only received a resounding no. I’ll count my blessings that the folks at First Spear didn’t deem this pack worthy of receiving a massive embroidered or inked spear head.
The bottom of the bag is complete with two drain holes in case you decided to leave the roll top open.
The roll top is completed with First Spear’s proprietary tubes system. This clasp is one of two, complete with guiding marks for the anchor point. I don’t mind the tubes system on this bag but I feel it’s almost innovation for the sake of it. I can’t open this bag one handed with the tubes clasps, unlike my Mystery Ranch ASAP which I can open one handed. I realize that First Spear most likely included the two zippered pockets for this reason.
Slide a finger under the lid and simply pull up. That’s how easy it is to open the tri-zip. Coming from this set up I might be a little jaded having to use both hands to open the VEP. I’d also like to point out, in case anyone was wanting to use the VEP for an overly designed hydration carrier. There is no way for you to use a hydration bladder in conjunction with the VEP. There is no elastic access port, zippered closure or any option for you to do so.
The actual backpack straps are really, really, basic. These are possibly the biggest drawback of the bag itself. I understand it’s not supposed to function primarily as a traditional backpack but it is an advertised function and selling point. The bottom of the straps use a very primitive D-ring tie off point.
First Spear did install a nice elastic sleeve to go over the metal D-ring to ensure the cold steel wont touch your skin in case you don’t have a shirt on. This also has the added benefit of decreasing any clinking from metal on metal contact during night operations.
The bottom portion of the backpack shoulder straps ends at the top with a standard fastex buckle and elastic sleeve. I rolled some of the length of with electrical tape as I was having a little trouble getting the sleeve to hold the slack.
The top portion of the shoulder straps are a significantly wider piece of webbing that slides through a static slider. I do not have the length of this taped up at all because I found you need to constantly readjust your straps depending on what you are carrying since there’s no frame sheet. You will see the bags shape can change dramatically. This is one of the leading reasons that I’d say that this bag is most definitely not designed to carry more than a few bits and bobs.
I don’t find that these stay on my shoulder well at all. There’s no compression strap either to prevent them from constantly slipping off. These behaved so poorly I’ve thought about buying replacements.
As you can see, if you stuff this bag with all manner of equipment it tends to take the shape of some sort of pill bug. This can be very, very uncomfortable on your back if you do not have body armor on. This can carry a lot, and I have used it to transport comparatively massive loads but I wouldn’t recommend it. It is not comfortable.
If you have a need or desire to store tactical gear in a tactical bag, this can work. I didn’t want to get into too many what-if scenarios with different examples of bag load outs for the VEP, but I at least wanted to give some sort of visual indication of what it can carry.
One of the best features of the VEP is how packable it is. Used in conjunction with other bags it can become a great augmentation to your load carriage. Pictured, is the VEP rolled up and tucked in between the main bag and sleeping compartment of a Mystery Ranch ruck sack.
If you approach the VEP as one of those packable bags, usually made out of pack cloth or paclite, you’ll find that it is completely over engineered for the job. Personally, I’ve found it very useful to take with me when I didn’t want to bring a full blown 24hr bag in conjunction with a duffel bag or rucksack.
Despite this bag completely missing the mark with my initial intentions of fielding a replacement to my Mystery Ranch ASAP I’ve been able to find it useful in other roles. Its shoulder straps for the backpack configuration are absolutely dismal, so if your primary mode of carry is to be as a backpack I’d say this bag is inappropriate.
In order to justify the price point for this bag I’d say you’d need to fully utilize all its features as there are cheaper, equally sized purpose built backpacks out there (Mystery Ranch, Crye, Mayflower). This is something that I will do once First Spear or a third party releases a carriage adapter for other armoured vests as I do not currently utilize a First Spear vest.
I will be posting a separate review of the VEP in its direct attach role when I have an appropriate amount of experience and time with it in that role.