Review: 5.11 Tactical COVRT 18 Backpack

5.11 Tactical COVRT 18 BackpackWe put the 5.11 Tactical COVRT 18 Backpack through the ringer. It’s one of three packs selected for our 2012 SHOT Show Challenge. We even ran the TSA gauntlet with it – sans detainment or other embarrassing incident. Our standard luggage was far less successful and every single piece got molested by the feds. Once at SHOT 2012, we stuffed it full of food, water, shooting stuff, and tech gear for Media Day at the Range. Then, for three more days, we crammed obscene amounts of SHOT Show marketing and press collateral into them. And a veritable boatload of cool giveaway goodies. Then we brought it all home. In other words, we subjected it to a regimen designed to create a high risk of pack destruction.

A look at the 5.11 COVRT 18

5.11 Tactical COVRT 18 Backback laptop sleeveThis is a full size combination cubicle-tactical bag – suitable for use in the field, on the road, or for your office junk. It’s got a really interesting combination of features that make it a great crossover pack for field gear AND electronics.  The COVRT is designed to “blend in.” Offered in 5 different color schemes, it looks right at home in any urban environment – by design. While loaded with plenty of tactical features like drag handle, concealed weapons compartments, QuickTact straps, and lots of external attachment points, the COVRT does not scream tactical. While it offers the features, it’s not nearly tactical looking enough for fully qualified mall ninjas. Only real covert operators and regular folks looking for a quality backpack need apply for this one.

Internal laptop sleeve

The COVRT 18 fits a 15″ MacBook Pro perfectly in the vertical position. Just for reference, this computer is just about 14.3 inches wide and 9.82 inches deep. Oh, and this sleeve is padded. The internal laptop sleeve also offers a strap that will hold smaller notebooks, netbooks, iPads and the like in place. it wouldn’t fit around the MacBook Pro, nor was it needed for larger devices like full size notebooks.

Dedicated sunglasses / goggles pocket

5.11 COVRT 18 sunglasses pouchThis is located at the very top of the pack behind the grab handle and is lined with soft fluffy material that won’t scratch your ESS Crossbow Eyeshields. The pocket is sized for just the eyewear and won’t fit extra large cases. The whole point however, is that you don’t need to lug your eyewear case around. This is a feature that sounds unimportant, but turns out to be really handy.

BBS weapons pocket

5.11 COVRT 18 BBS holsterThis pack uses the 5.11 Tactical Back-up Belt System. That allows you to carry a gun holster, magazine pouches, and other gear compatible with the system in a hidden pouch. The BBS pouch is accessible through zippers on both sides of the COVRT 18 so it’s handy for both righties and lefties. This weapon storage method appears to be more useful for transport and deep concealment – it won’t help you win any speed draw contests.  We tried it with a Glock 32 and a couple of spare magazines and there was plenty of room and the gun was held securely. 5.11 offers a variety of pouches compatible with the BBS System – holster, magazine carrier, handcuff pouch, collapsible baton pouch and a mace / pepper spray or flashlight pouch.

Quick access flex-cuff channel

Sorry but as this is a PG rated publication, we can’t comment on our use of flex cuffs while in Vegas. But if you’re a law enforcement, military or private security type, it’s a nice added touch to have quick access without rummaging through the pack.

Pockets, pockets, pockets…

5.11 COVRT 18 backback rearThe COVRT 18 offers enough pockets to keep us organization freaks busy for months. Main compartment; laptop sleeve; two mesh zipper pouches in the main compartment; hydration bladder compartment; four additional zipper-enclosed exterior pockets; and more. We’re pretty sure that the COVRT 18 can handle more gear than the Bat Utility Belt. As we recall, even Batmans belt did not have specialized storage for beverage containers (or smoke grenades) in exterior mesh pockets, Tide-To-Go pens, or business cards. Not that Batman ever needed business cards – those sexy tights were always a dead giveaway.

Straps

One of the standout features of the 5.11 COVRT 18 is comfort. Not only are the main straps wide and well padded, they make use of cinch straps to secure the main compartment load. An adjustable sternum strap helps keep the shoulder straps right where you want them. The integrated grab handle has both tactical and non-tactical uses. Mounted between the shoulder straps just before they connect to the pack body, the grab handle is thick and well padded. And sturdy. After three days of SHOT Show, the My Gun Culture staff had to resort to dragging me off the show floor in a comatose state. Oh, it’s also handy for quick moves and carries without fully mounting the pack over one or both shoulders. Nice feature – not just because it’s there, but because its well designed.

The final word

This is one of the most functional and diverse packs we’ve every used. Equally great for toting office gear around airports and shooting gear around the range. Love it.

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