Product Review: Condor Outdoors’ “Urban GO Bag”

Let me just cut to the chase and say that I’ve had this bag for roughly 8 years now, and I’ve put it through some abuse. I’ve camped many places, and rucked hundreds of miles with this thing, often carrying upwards of 50 lbs in it. It’s been dragged, kicked, dropped, thrown, sat on, laid on, covered in mud, hosed off, and dried in the sun. I’ve not been kind to it.

Still, it never holds a grudge against me by refusing to do what I ask, ok,…demand of it. It takes what I dish out, shrugs it off, and if it had a voice, I swear, it would simply say to me, in a nonchalant/matter of fact tone, “what’s next, boss”?

I know it sounds pretty dramatic for a bag to speak, but when something spends as much time on your back as this thing has spent on mine, you’ll understand.

It all started some years ago when I was looking for an affordable bag to take camping. Up until that point, I was using an old Marine Corps issue ALICE pack, and some other military surplus bag I picked up somewhere. While I loved my ALICE, I felt it was time to retire her, and let her have the rest she earned while holding a place of venerable statesmanship among my gear.

I came across this Condor. Back then it wasn’t called an “Urban Go-bag”, it was called a “3-day Assault pack”, or something (“prepping” wasn’t quite a “thing”, yet). I wasn’t too familiar with the brand, having never owned anything by them before, but the price was right (about $70, if memory serves me correctly). Plus, it seemed well made, having a rugged feel with its heavy cordura fabric and well executed stitching.

pack run
Training with my pack circa May, 2008.

I began to take her out for gear runs. I’d load her up full of gear and go running on a local set of trails nearby. I do this for firefighter training, as our SCBA & bunker gear (fireproof pants, coat, helmet, mask, and gloves) weigh in at about 60 lbs or so (even more once they get wet).

Immediately, I loved this pack. The weight distribution across the shoulders is excellent, while the removable waist-belt offers great support at my lower back. Again, I loved my ALICE, but she immediately got re-categorized into the “almost obsolete” arena. It hurts to say that, but it’s true.

The other things that make this pack work for me are the beefy handles at the top and on the sides. I could do PT with the pack, holding it over my head, doing flutter kicks much easier with it than any other pack I had at this point. This came in extremely useful when I discovered GORUCK, which is a story for another post, but trust me on this.

Yes, that's a brick in my pack. Visit www.GORUCK.com for more info on that.
Yes, that’s a brick in my pack. Visit www.GORUCK.com for more info on that. April 2015

The pack has JUST enough pockets/compartments to be effective, without overdoing it, like some manufacturers tend to do. One main compartment holds gear like my Klymit Sleeping Pad, some rope & carabiners, MRE’s, a dry bag of extra socks/clothes, gloves, boonie hat, pancho, the occasional bottle of Makers Mark, and even a hydration bladder.

The two rectangular shaped side pockets run vertically up the side of the pack are great. They’re not too big, not too small and have MOLLE webbing on the outside that I keep my Ontario RAT-7 attached to. In one side pocket I keep a fire kit, and space blanket, while in the other I keep navigation tools like compass, protractor, pace beads, headlamp(s), and a dry box to keep my cell phone in.

On the outside of the main compartment is a smaller one, that is PERFECT for a full service medical kit, complete with tourniquets and even a CPR mask. (I may like you, hell, I may REALLY like you, but it doesn’t mean I want your vomit all over my face if you respirate it after some medical emergency. Sorry not sorry.)

Running horizontally along the bottom of the pack, directly beneath the smaller outer compartment, is a third rectangular pocket. In here I keep snacks, electrolyte tabs, tools, 550 cord, ranger bands, and other miscellaneous items.

All these compartments, with the exception of the 2 vertical side ones, have organizational netting with zippers, or pockets built into them. This makes organizing your gear that much easier, and organized gear is that much faster to deploy when a situation calls for it. Especially your med kit, when seconds matter.

The last convenient compartment is almost hidden, and to be frank, took me some time to find it (don’t ask how long, I swear I won’t tell you). It runs the entire length of the “back piece”, with a vertical zipper that runs up the side of the pack. This compartment you could use to install a kydex support frame into, or as I do, stash laminated area maps in it. This accomplishes two things, it keeps me adherent to rule #2 “never get lost”, and prevents the sweat from my back from easily transferring to the main compartment.

You will notice the stitching on this pack is extremely well done, with redundancy in many high stress places, like where the shoulder straps attach to the bottom of the bag, and on the MOLLE webbing. Last thing I ever want to endure is a Jansport-esque strap failure of epic proportions that will leave me scrambling to find a way to carry my gear.

Plenty of “moisture wicking” mesh placed in strategic places, like where it rests on your back, and even the bottom side of the shoulder straps, make for quick drying. I’ve noticed no matter how wet this pack gets, those areas will dry quickly, making putting it back on later, when you’ve rested and dried off, a much better experience. (we’ve all been there, your shirt dries out, but your pack stays wet/sweaty and putting it back on at that moment feels about as pleasant as putting on wet underwear, and don’t pretend you’ve never done THAT).

All in all, this pack delivers. I am fully aware that there are other brands out there that cost more, way more, and that military gear elitists may point you towards some of those brands. Screw that, and screw them. Sure, I own some of that gear, had to buy some of it used because it was so expensive, but I swear I love this one (mostly because Condor, as a brand, gave me great VALUE when I bought this). When gear works, it works.  Like I said, I look for 5 things when I buy equipment:

  • Does it work?
  • Is it reliable?
  • How easy is it to use?

And if it passes those three tests, it moves on to the bonus round:

  • How much is this going to cost me?
  • How much real estate will this take up? (can translate into weight, too)
2015. Continuing Education, location confidential. Photo cred: David L. Thomas

That’s it. Bottom line. End of story. It passes all these tests, and to answer the last question, the profile on this pack is very nice. Doesn’t’ extend up higher than your shoulders, or down past your waist. Horizontally, it doesn’t stick out off your back so far it becomes a hindrance in more robust wilderness, like some packs will, getting snagged on branches you duck or crawl under. Like Goldilocks’ favorite oatmeal, this thing is “just right”. So right in fact, I bought 2 of its younger, smaller siblings for shorter trips, as this one will last me as long as I need it to in the wilderness.

The only suggestions I would make to Condor after all these years of owning this pack are these:

  1. A better clip inside to hold up the hydration bladder (the Velcro strips are “meh”)
  2. A better strategy for routing the hydration tube
  3. Vertical, reinforced MOLLE webbing on the shoulder straps for carabiners (used to keep you upright and prevent inadvertent inversion during rappelling)

Specs:

Main Compartment 18″H x 12″W x 7″D
Top Front Compartment 8″H x 8″W x 2.5″D
Bottom Front Compartment 6″H x 12″W x 2.5″D
Side Compartments 11.5″H x 5″W x 1.5″D

Capacity: 2928 cubic inches (48 Liters)

Colors available: Black, tan, OD green, Multi-cam

Final rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

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