Early in the year 2013 Arc’teryx LEAF (Law Enforcement & Armed Forces), a military-tactical division of Arc’teryx — a well-known Canadian company — introduced to the public one of its today’s most popular backpacks. The backpack’s design came out to be so original and effective that several third partiers patterned it after. As the original manufacturer declares, when the designers were working way thorugh the line of the Khard military-field backpacks, they were searching for the golden mean among compact dimensions, relatively light weight, overall convenience, durability and multipurpose for the user could independently decide for the backpack contents arrangement.
The today’s line of the Arc’teryx LEAF Khard military-field backpacks comprises three models: Khard 30, Khard 45 and the new Khard 60. The items primarily differ in overall dimensions and effective capacity of 30, 45 and 60 liters correspondingly. This review refers to the medium backpack model — Arc’teryx LEAF Khard 45. The dimensions and construction of this pack allow its comfortable employment both as a one-day pack and a fully functional three-day expandable pack.
The backpack is manufactured of several materials. The outer layer is traditionally of Cordura nylon with the declared overall density of 500D maximum; the internal surface is coated with waterproof polyurethane. The backpack internal lining is produced of a less dense material with a ripstop armoring. The front and side parts of the backpack are trimmed with soft foam that constitutes some general frame of the backpack and protects it from possible mechanical damages from the outside. All the zippers are by YKK; the external zippers are trimmed with cables provided with large rubber holders.
The suspension system of the backpack with the given capacity is provided with a rather developed construction. The back part is formed by a composite framesheet inserted in dense flexible foam making the overall width of 6 mm. The sheet is added with two anodized aluminum arcs, each 20 mm wide and 5 mm thick. The suspension system consists of two quite rigid shoulder straps (75 × 10 mm) with a quick release system, pectoral movable strap and rather a compact load-bearing belt (90 × 10 mm) that is fastened with a broad plastic buckle. The shoulder straps and belt pads are internally lined with SpacerMesh voluminous netting.
Despite the seemingly modest dimensions, especially those of the belt straps with soft pads, the load-bearing system is very effective. With the load of 25 kg during testing the weight was quite evenly distributed in the waist area without causing any inconvenience on the move.
Prior to proceeding to the description of the backpack compartments, I’d like to provide a brief summary of the Arc’teryx LEAF Khard 45 external construction. Exteriorly the backpack is provided with two pairs of adjustable compressional straps the free ends of which are fixed with Velcro holders. Besides, the backpack front part is furnished with an elastic cord, pulled through fortified nylon chains along the sides. The cord may be used for retaining clothes, headgear and etc. There are no traditional PALS-straps in the backpack. Instead the item is provided with minor vertical straps, both on the sides and at the top. These straps are ideal for accommodation of additional elastic cords or fixing bands that will provide for attachment of a tent, coat, jacket and the like on the side or top part of the backpack.
The Arc’teryx LEAF Khard 45 backpack is equipped with only five pockets: four of them are accessible externally, and the fifth one is positioned inside of the primary compartment. The voluminous utility pockets on the sides extend along and across the backpack (54 × 22 cm) and may serve as housings for three-liter drinking system reservoirs, whereas the upper part is furnished with hydration ports.
The backpack top is provided with one more extended pocket of general purpose, 30 cm wide, up to 35 cm deep through the front part, the inlet width is 24 cm. This pocket is very convenient for immediate access to some items, such as individual medical kits, headgear, gloves, raincoat, glasses, mobile devices, etc.
The main compartment structure provides for three modes of goods transportation minimum: as an ordinary cargo bag without any partitions and organizers; as a complex of utility pouches attached with Velcro straps, and as an effective combination of both modes that was actually used by me. The key peculiarity of the Arc’teryx LEAF Khard 45, apart from Velcro items, is that it may be unzipped completely, revealing access to all the gear at once, or partially from the sides and top zone of the backpack with two large bidirectional zipper closures.
The overall manufacturing performance of the Arc’teryx LEAF Khard 45 backpack may be ranked very high with reference both to the material, material composition and to the quality of the hardware. The item’s stitching is even, without ruptures, protruded threads or any other defects. The zippers and plastic hardware operate without fails. The backpack dimensions are 54 × 25-30 × 20-22 cm, the total weight is almost 2 kg.