Product Review: Northern Ireland 30 Litre Patrol Pack

Sam Gravestock tests a classic British army rucksack

Originally issued in the 1990ís and used by British forces in Northern Ireland, this patrol pack has an impressive heritage to it.

Northern Ireland Patrol Pack
Northern Ireland Patrol Pack

The Northern Ireland patrol pack comprises of one large main compartment, two large side pockets and two zipped pockets on the lid, one being a flat pocket and one a box pocket.

It has snow/rain protective covers sewn into the top of the main compartment and both side pockets, these are to prevent snow, rain, sand or dirt from getting into your pack and thus into your kit (soggy or gritty clothes are no fun whatsoever take my word for it).

NI Ruck side pockets
Side pockets with snow/rain protective covers

The side pockets of the NI pack have drain holes on the bottom of the pockets to allow whatever gets in to get out once more; because of this itís advisable to make sure you only have items in the side pockets that you are not concerned about possibly (itís a very small possibility in all honesty) getting damp.

The side pockets are spacious allowing ample storage for a 58 pattern water bottle and cup, a metal mug and cooker unit, mess tins, first aid kit and various other gubbins you might want. With a little gentle persuasion you can even fit a Swedish trangia cooker in a side pocket (by which I mean a bit of pushing and muttering, not swearing, and giving it a hard kick with a size 8 combat boot).

Both side pockets have clip-fastened lids as well as the snow cover drawstring so loss of kit is unlikely even if you forget to clip the pocket shut (not that you will - Iím sure you are better disciplined than that).

The main compartment is again spacious and allows storage of bulkier items like sleeping bag, bivi bag, warm clothing and the likes. As well as the drawstring snow cover it has another drawstring sewn into the exterior to pull the top of the pack closed.

Northern Ireland Rucksack
The lid opened revealing the spacious main compartment

There are two pockets on the lid of the pack, one on top of the other. The bottom one is suited for storing flat items like maps and compasses, notebooks or field guides. The box pocket on top of this has a little more flexibility and allows bulkier small items to be stored in it. Personally I like to put items such as first aid kit, snacks, wooly hat, gloves and head torch in there - items I may want quickly and not want to scrabble around within the side pockets when it suddenly gets cold and dark and I still need to be moving.

The pack has attachment points on the bottom of the main compartment, the front of the rain compartment, both side pockets and the lid to allow more equipment to be attached should the need arise. I usually attach a roll mat and poncho on the exterior of the pack I am using. The roll mat as it is bulky and an unwieldy shape to fit in a main compartment and the poncho as I may want it for rain cover and it often acts as my shelter when travelling lighter than usual (I can do light weight or basic kit camping but it means I canít carry as many toys, erm I mean vital and essential items).

The straps for the main compartment have Velcro strap tidies to prevent the straps flapping around here there and everywhere and potentially getting caught up branches, brambles or scrub. Whilst I am talking about the straps, all the straps are closed using easy to operate (even when wearing gloves) large fastex buckles.

The back of the Northern Ireland pack is padded for extra comfort as are the shoulder straps. The waist belt is rather rudimentary but as this is a military pack the waist belt is only to keep the pack close to the body not offer any weight bearing as it is designed to sit over webbing or an assault vest.

NI padded back for extra comfort
Padded back for extra comfort

The pack is made from IRR (Infra-Red Reflective) DPM cordura material so you should be aware it can take some abuse and shrug it off.

So there you have the detailed description - now for the testing

I spend a lot of time walking to and from work (twice a day in fact) and I occasionally stay there over night or work night shifts so I tend to carry quite a lot of junk with me. I thought a fair test would be to carry my usual sleep stuff in the pack to and from work every day for two weeks (this got me some confused looks from my work colleagues but this is nothing unusual).

Loaded up with a reasonable amount of weight the pack sits comfortably on the back and it doesnít drag the shoulders down or back. And with the padded shoulder straps cinched properly itís hard to notice the pack is there. Obviously you have to follow basic packing rules and ensure that the pack is properly balanced.

Based on this fortnight of carrying it daily and previous experience with another Northern Ireland pack I used to own, I know that the northern Ireland pack is suited for use either as a winter day pack or as a summer pack for two to three day excursions.

Itís comfortable for long term wearing. It offers the possibility of attaching more equipment, has the strange ability to store more equipment that by rights it should and is a hardy pack capable of shrugging off mistreatment through tiredness or just the general rough and tumble a pack experiences through use.

I plan to continue using the pack for light weight short camps or as a winter day pack to ensure I have my comforts and also relevant kit for the possibility I might experience a misfortune and have to overnight unexpectedly. I foresee this pack serving me well for many years and possibly even being passed on to my son when he is old enough to need a pack.

The Northern Ireland pack itís a great pack to be sure!

March 2012

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