A couple of months ago I bought the Arc'teryx Khard 30, and wanted to review it, but for the most part it only carries a handful of EDC items, my lunch, and a change of PT gear. And it only does that over the short distance from my car to my desk. So, I decided to risk life and limb and take it into one of the most unforgiving places in America....
The Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range
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Disclaimer: Bombing ranges are dangerous, do not enter them without a trained professional for gear reviews or any other reason. You will die! And don't touch unexploded ordnance either, you will die twice for that! All photos in this article were taken by me.
Unlike many other reviews, I'm not going to go through all of the technical features, nor will I bore you with rabbit-hole stories about where I got some nifty pouch and what I like to keep in it, or why I like brand X over brand Y. This will be an in-depth yet down and dirty review. The idea is to hopefully give you some relevant end-user information as to whether or not this pack is for you.
As mentioned above, I do carry this pack every day, mostly over very short distances without much in it. Unlike most Prepper/EDC reviewers on the interwebs, I do not believe in keeping every possible piece of kit for every contingency in my pack at all times, JUST IN CASE. That stuff is heavy.
My pack is not only for carrying the things I have on me, but the useful or interesting things that I may come across along the way.
First things first, the pack and what I carry most days. Are you really interested in my EDC? No! But, I'm going to show you anyway, so that you have a decent understanding of the capacity of the Khard 30.
On the exterior I keep an ITS Trauma Kit with SOF-T Wide Tourniquet. They are attached using a single Molle Stix stick through two accessory loops on the bottom of the pack, and some DIY cargo straps made from ITW G-Hooks and 3/4 inch webbing. Also, the Arc'teryx comes with a shock cord matrix for even more cargo storage.
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The Khard 30 doesn't have a huge amount of interior cargo space, so these straps are really handy for strapping large bulky items (like the tail section of a TOW missile) to the outside of the pack. I used about 3 feet of webbing and 30 seconds of time per strap.
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Next, in the left side pocket I keep a spare mag, some stogies when appropriate, and a book full of handy, work related, quick reference info. This pocket and its twin on the right side are designed to hold a 3 liter hydration bladder each, so there's plenty of room, but hard bulky items will expand more toward the interior of the pack and eat up volume in there as well.
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The right side has a multi-tool, small tape measure, clear safety glasses, another tourniquet, and a Vortex SOLO R/T monocular (hat tip to SONCanEDC for bringing it to my attention) and a pouch for the monocular.
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In the top exterior pouch, is a small key fob light, Mio, Metalious Hand repair balm (also works as Chap Stick), a cheap knife, a small laminated map of the ranges and impact areas that I work in, and sometimes I even throw in a sewing kit. Now, this top pouch is pretty large, and can fit a lot more stuff in it, but then it gets cluttered and heavy, so I try to keep it mostly empty.
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The interior top pouch is smaller (about the size of a paperback novel) and I mostly just keep admin items like spare pens and batteries.
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Now for the main compartment, which has Velcro loop on all 4 sides for being organized and attaching pouches. I'm not very organized, and those pouches cost extra. That being said it is incredibly nice to have the ability to reconfigure your pack in seconds based on mission requirements, and also to have things stay where you put them. In the Maxpedition pouch, I keep some spare cables for electronics, phone charger, and digital camera, etc.
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At the very bottom I keep a Shemagh, and a Boonie hat and work gloves. On top of the soft goods I keep a spool of rope and a 40oz Hydroflask. The Hydroflask is heavy, but having ice cold water all day in August more than makes up for it. On lower left of the pack, I keep my carry pistol with another spare mag. The ITS Holster Insert works wonderfully here, but with my environment and the way I use this pack, dirt can be problematic. Finally, there is a small lock pick set on the upper right side and the notebook slides in behind it all. And there's still plenty of room to spare.
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One of the great things about this pack is its accessibility. If I want my hat, I just run one of the zippers all the way down the side to the bottom, and BAM! I can grab what I want with virtually no digging or fumbling. Likewise, when I want to access to the pistol, I don't have to unpack a bunch of gear that may be in the way. (Note: The pistol is only kept in the pack for transport/storage, not defensive use)
There are also some excellent grab handles on the top and either side of the pack exterior. The handles aren't easily blocked and remain useful should you choose to strap a rifle to the side of the pack.
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Real World Use
My first test of this pack was a relatively short walk on a sunny day in the low 90's over flat terrain in soft sand. In addition to my normal items, I had to toss in half a satchel of C-4 (10 lbs). C-4 is pretty dense stuff, so it's was somewhat akin to throwing in a 10-lb brick for no good reason. All in all, the pack handled it like a champ, the pack stayed nice and close to my back the whole time. The down side is that it holds to your body so well that you end up with a swampy back.
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The next test of its load bearing abilities was a bit more taxing. In the course sweeping the range, my friends and I found an old 2000-lb bunker buster bomb about 3/4 of a mile out in the hills beyond the target area. After doing some research and making sure the thing was a live bomb and not a concrete filled practice job, we decided to blow it up. So the next day, I threw in a 15-lb shaped charge and away we went to send the bunker buster to Valhalla. The following day we decided to go check out the crater and recover a couple of souvenirs.
In the picture above you'll see 50 lbs worth of razor sharp fragments of shattered steel each at about 2 feet long. Imagine those being red hot and ripping through you at several thousand feet per second.
Anyway, I only carried the frag about 3/4 of a mile, but the terrain consisted of many steep hills and loose rock. The pack managed the weight very well, keeping the load vertical and very close to the body. After getting to the truck and snapping that picture, I realized that it probably would've been even better had I used the hip belt, but I wasn't about to haul everything back just to tell you about it.
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First, if you have to carry heavy razor sharp objects the best pack to use is someone else's. That being said the Khard 30 did a fantastic job, but my notebook didnâ€™t fare so well. With just about any other pack you would have to carefully try to steer each jagged edge down through the pack, with a high probability of making a few holes in the process. With the Khard 30 all you have to do is open it all the way up, lay your hazardous cargo down, and zip it all up again.
Second, this pack makes for a good pillow in the field if you lay a fleece between it and your head. Also, I used it like a dump pouch on several occasions, by zipping open the top flap and tucking it under the exterior shock-cord you can just start tossing goodies over your shoulder and into your pack. The top access is also great for food, as you can access it easily without worrying about stuff squishing your snacks.
Third, I hope that I some of you reading this will see how useful a partly empty pack is and quit stressing the seams on your EDC packs. Perhaps you will take out your 3rd medical kit, or your 12th fixed blade knife and a few of your 15 AR mags. Maybe you'll realize that you've never once used the sleeping bag you've been carrying daily for 6 years.
In all seriousness, the Khard 30 is an outstanding day pack, and is big enough to be a useful during multi-day operations (if you pack light and utilize the exterior cargo loops). And while I wouldn't classify it as a Hard Use pack, it can certainly be used hard. The current going price is around $360 but I would hold out until you can find it on sale for less (I snagged mine for $265 at Tactical Distributors).
The following photos are simply your reward for reading this whole review, and donâ€™t have anything to do with the pack.
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