Drive By :: Colfax Design Works Recon Pack and Modules

Made in the USA, this backpack will become the pride of anyone looking for a versatile bag with ample storage.  Great for daily use and travel, the Recon Pack is built using high-quality material and will last a lifetime.  It’s no surprise to see a high level of design detail if you know the history of the brand.  The founder Adam Shock, a designer with years of experience and a roster of top-tier clients including Nike, Lululemon, Quiksilver, and more, was looking to solve his own search for the perfect pack to fit his Southern California motorcycle commute.  After selling his beloved motorcycle, he was able to fund his new venture.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

I had the opportunity to put the pack through its paces on a recent 3-day road trip while road testing the new 2016 Chevy Camaro and required a pack to hold ample gadgets and gear and here’s what I came to find.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

Who It Suits

Guys that travel, ride (moto or bike), and take pride in American-made product.  Those who like versatility and modular storage.  Gear heads who need to keep their gadgets and devices separate from the rest of their goods.  Those who love the masculine and military aesthetic. 

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

Who It Doesn’t

Anyone who doesn’t want various storage compartments, prefers a lighter carry option, or seeks a more streamlined and minimalistic design.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

The Good

The bag is solid, utilizing weatherproof Cordura fabric and Mil-Spec webbing and components.  The heavy-duty material is tough and durable and can definitely take a beating, and I was never concerned that it may get destroyed while shoving it under an airline seat or in the trunk of the car.  What I especially enjoyed is the extra protection provided by the Cordura with tear-resistant X-ply layer backed by a laminated PET waterproof membrane, which came in handy when it rained for a bit while walking around and exploring the heart of Richmond, Virginia, keeping my camera gear, clothing, and laptop dry.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

What I especially enjoyed is the extra protection provided by the Cordura with tear-resistant X-ply layer backed by a laminated PET waterproof membrane, which came in handy when it rained for a bit…”

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

The YKK weather-resistant zippers, weatherproof Cordura, and rolltop design also helped keep my gadgets confidently dry in the wet weather.  I found them very easy to use as the bungy zipper cord adds additional leverage to opening and closing each compartment.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

What this bag does not lack is space.  Multiple compartments provide ample storage solutions.  The laptop/document compartment comfortably fits a 15″ laptop with the Colfax Design Works sleeve (which we will get into later), but may also fit larger models as well.  This pocket is padded, providing additional security. 

What this bag does not lack is space.

The main compartment is expandable, large and can fit a boatload of items.  In the instance that you need additional height the rolltop can stay open to allow for even more storage.  I was able to stuff in my GoPro with protective case, Sony A7 RII, lenses, hard drive, Apple Magic Mouse, cables and charger inside the Colfax Design Works Mini Dopp Kit, lightweight jacket, and a few other items.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

The top storage quick-access compartment comes in handy and fits quite a bit.  Within this pocket is an additional zippered security pocket that can fit valuables such as a wallet, cell phone, and keys.

And lastly, the bottom shoe pocket can hold quite a bit itself.  I wear a 9.5 and was able to fit a pair of boots rather easily.  For those with larger feet I can see sneakers fitting no problem.  Note this pocket does not have the same weather-resistant zippers, but is offered protection from an overhanging flap of Cordura.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

I found the bag to be comfortable while walking around with a full pack, which was provided by moisture-wicking air-mesh that kept my back dry, as well as rear padding.  The shoulder straps are wide at the top and taper slightly to form to the body, which is always nice.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

One of the strengths of this bag is the versatility with the A.M.C.S, advanced modular cargo system, which allows for extra attachments to be added as needed for quick and easy accessibility.  Colfax has modular cases that work well with each other, but many other items can be attached easily as well.  I tested the system with their Mini Dopp Kit.  The system is simple and easy to use and all that was needed to do was unfasten the snap fastener on the straps from the modular case and slide it through the exterior webbing, which lays flat when not in use, and then re-fasten the strap with the snaps.  I found the snap fasteners to be strong enough to confidently hold the case.

One of the strengths of this bag is the versatility with the A.M.C.S, advanced modular cargo system, which allows for extra attachments to be added as needed for quick and easy accessibility.

A couple of additional details that caught my eye was the use of a contrast red stitch, giving a little added design, and the olive drab colored padded handle.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

The Not So Good

Let’s talk about the weight.  I found the bag itself to be a bit heavy, weighing over 3 pounds. For everyday use placing only the daily essentials in it, this isn’t much of an issue with regards to comfort. However, for more loaded hauls such as this road trip loaded with all the gear and gadgets and an extra pair of kicks, every ounce counts for comfort.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

I would have preferred a bit more padding in the shoulder straps, which are also a bit stiff, but not uncomfortable.

I found the bag itself to be a bit heavy, weighing over 3 pounds.”

I found the main compartment space to be large and open, yet it lacks any internal organization.  My smaller items got lost in the deep pocket and I had to rummage through a filled bag on the fly, which was a bit of a hassle.  One solution that I tried was to pair the bag with additional packing units, such as packing cubes.

I found the main compartment space to be large and open, yet it lacks any internal organization.

One major issue I found was that the laptop pocket while spacious enough to hold a laptop with sleeve, documents, and even a magazine lacks padding at the top, bottom, and sides of the bag.  Without a protective laptop case or padded sleeve one accidental drop that lands in the wrong way could prove to be disastrous. 

Verdict

This pack is built tough and offers ample storage space.  The options are endless by adding modular attachments.  Made in the USA, the design has a military look and feel that some will love. This is a bag that you can confidently carry for your next adventure.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

MINI DOPP KIT

Colfax provided a Mini Dopp Kit to help test their modular system and it became a nice complementary addition that worked very well with the Recon Pack.

Colfax Design Works Mini Dopp Kit

The Good

Made using the same Cordura fabric with a laminated PET waterproof membrane and YKK weather-resistant zipper system, the Mini Dopp Kit is as durable as it is versatile. It was versatile enough to be stored inside the pack as well as connected to the exterior of the pack with the provided matching olive drab Mil-Spec webbing attachment piece that easily snaps into place, making for quick access while saving precious internal storage.

“…the Mini Dopp Kit is as durable as it is versatile.”

This came in handy for storing cords, cables, and other small items such as my keys when not in use.  The top handle makes it easy to grab and go.

Colfax Design Works Mini Dopp Kit

The Not So Good

The Mini Dopp Kit is just that…mini.  I was only able to fit the bare essentials when compared to a more traditional-sized dopp kit for men’s toiletries i.e. a toothbrush, mini toothpaste, and hotel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles.  A full-sized deodorant stick also fit snugly.  Yet anything outside of that was a tougher proposition so I opted to use the Dopp Kit as a cable organizer rather than leave my other toiletry items separated.  The brand tag is also a bit large relative to the size of the dopp kit, which is a little distracting visually. 

Verdict

I am a fan of the Mini Dopp Kit.  It is constructed well and will last a long time.  The waterproof membrane and rugged exterior will help for my electronic needs of storing cables, battery chargers, etc.  I recently attached the Mini Dopp Kit to my belt loop for a photo shoot and it came in handy carrying my extra camera batteries, memory cards, and a couple of lens filters.  This will be quickly added to my daily rotation.

The Mini Dopp Kit is just that…mini.

The price is slightly higher than expected at $34, but the quality can somewhat justify the cost.

Colfax Design Works Mini Dopp Kit

15″ LAPTOP CASE

I was also supplied as part of the Colfax product collection the 15″ Laptop Case. It matches the line-up, is constructed with the same Cordura material and features an air-mesh liner over the PET waterproof membrane.  As with the Recon Pack, the sleeve is made in the USA.

The Good

Highly durable and will last a lifetime.  A universal fit for all 15″ laptops.  I don’t typically run with a laptop shell on my MacBook Pro Retina, but the sleeve would easily fit one.  I was able to keep a few documents along with the laptop in the sleeve.

An external pocket provides additional storage.  I was able to fit my wallet and cell phone in it while on the go, which helps with the dreaded pocket bulge.  The sleeve is versatile and would work well walking down the street or stepping into a meeting with it.  When used in conjunction with the Recon Pack, it makes for a nice matching set and is also modular and items such as their iPad Case Mini can be connected.  With the Recon Pack or other bag, the dual carry handles make it easy to grab quickly.

Colfax Design Works Recon Pack

Colfax Design Works Laptop Case

The Not So Good

The 15″ laptop sleeve is at the top of the price range for sleeves priced at $75.  I found the snap enclosures to be a bit slower to use than a zipper, Velcro, or magnetic enclosure found on other sleeves.

The main drawback is protection for the laptop.  It is very lightly padded and I wouldn’t feel safe after an accidental drop.  

While the dual carry handles are nice there isn’t a handle to carry and secure the sleeve separately or comfortably in a horizontal fashion while walking around. 

The main drawback is protection for the laptop.  It is very lightly padded and I wouldn’t feel safe after an accidental drop.

Colfax Design Works Laptop Case

Verdict

The sleeve is nicely constructed itself and the added pocket is a nice touch, but it lacks the protection I desire to keep my laptop safe. 

*The score below is exclusively for the Recon Pack and not the modules.

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