For the urban prepper who doesn’t want a tactical pack, the Athabasca 24from Granite Gear is an amazing find. It’s a small pack built like a large one, so it will carry a heavy load comfortably, but it also has all the features of a technical hiker. The result is the ideal urban everyday carry pack. This pack will carry your 17-inch laptop and a travel coffee mug on the way to work, or a hydration bladder and ice axes for a quick climb in the afternoon. The hip belt pockets are even large enough to hold a small handgun, which allows much faster deployment than carrying it in the main compartment. I don’t think there is a better Urban EDC pack anywhere.
There has been a lot of interest in the tactical/non-tactical look I first discussed in this article about urban kits. Tactical packs come in colors that blend in with natural environments; black, earthy greens, tans, browns, and so on. But part of blending in is an awareness of the cultural environment. Many preppers use tactical packs for their… well, tactical advantages. They tend to come from military and/or hunting backgrounds, and the tactical look of a tactical backpack is a seamless fit with their culture. But everyone needs to prep, even if he or she doesn’t have the same affinity for tactical-looking packs, clothing, and other gear. If you’re looking for an everyday carry bag but are not a tactical pack kind of person, Granite Gear has you covered with the Athabasca.
I have been carrying the Maxpedition Falcon 2 for over three years now, and it has held up beautifully to heavy use (mental note: do a long-term review of this bag), but I’m switching for awhile to the Athabasca to give it a long-term test of its own.
Overview of the Athabasca 24
Granite Gear labels the Athabasca (named for the glacier in the Canadian Rockies) a “crossover” pack because it works both as an urban day pack and as a technical hiker. As a technical pack, it has features you don’t usually find on packs this small:
- front and side compression straps.
- wide padded removable hip belt
- hip belt pockets
- hip belt stabilizer straps
- built-in rainfly
- front and side mesh pockets
- ice axe loops
- hydration bladder/laptop compartment.
- removable internal frame for load stability
It’s a small pack built like a big one. It has a wide hip belt and a flexible, removable internal frame to stabilize and transfer a large load to the hips, where it belongs. It is rated for a 30 lb load — that’s very unusual for a 24-liter pack. It is also fully featured as a technical pack, what with all the adjustments, attachment points, and high load capacity.
This combination of features makes it perfect as an EDC pack that doesn’t look tactical. Everything you need in your EDC kit will probably fit in 10 liters of volume, but that’s where the compression straps come in. Cinch them down to keep the contents pressed against your back, then loosen them to expand the pack and add more stuff.
Your laptop fits into the hydration bladder pouch, which is raised three inches off the bottom of the pack to protect the laptop when you set the pack down.
Hip belt pouches hold snacks, multitool, lip balm, phone, and even a small handgun like the Sig Sauer P238 shown in the video.
The Athabasca Distinguished from Tactical Packs
Tactical packs have more pockets, compartments, and dividers; use heavier, more rugged materials; and have many more attachment points. For example, my Falcon 2 is covered front, top, and sides with MOLLE webbing.* Admittedly, this all adds up the weight, but since I’m nowhere near my comfort limit, it just doesn’t matter. I can attach stuff all over the pack, and I love that flexibility.
The many pockets, compartments, and organizers in a tactical pack are another advantage. They give you more options to organize and segregate gear.
Tactical packs often have hook-and-loop (“velcro”) fields in one or more pockets so you can attach modular accessories like a handgun holster. It’s better to retain your handgun in a holster than to let it slide around in a large compartment; you don’t want to be fishing for it if you need it in a hurry.
*I know, I know; it’s PALS webbing, and it’s a MOLLE load bearing system which uses PALS for its attachment points. I use the terms interchangeably — it’s incorrect, but I’ve given up trying to drop the habit.
There’s no question that tactical packs have certain advantages to offer, but if you don’t need those features and still need an everyday carry pack, I can’t recommend the Athabasca enough.