First Tactical may seem like a relative newcomer to the busy tactical softgoods market, but the team behind the name are anything but. Hailing from a diverse range of backgrounds they boast decades of industry experience. Since they were founded in 2015 they have produced an impressive portfolio of products and garnered a loyal following.
The Executive Briefcase is a bag aimed squarely at people who move between tactical environments and the office. I am not this person. My background is a Firefighter/Medic who is now at University as a Paramedic. I also work part-time for a private ambulance / patient transport company, and this bag has become my daily driver from the office to the ambulance to the plane. However, the mix of “business” oriented features – padded laptop compartment, iPad-sized slots, and a loop to make carrying it on a suitcase easy – along with the rugged “tactical” nature of other elements make this a good choice for anyone who has office gear but is still hard on their gear, or needs to take it places other than the boardroom.
It weighs in at 1.2kg (2.7lbs) which while not heavy, is not the lightest in the category. Considering it boasts approximately 26L of storage (1586 CI) That said, you can’t argue with the build quality. Zippers are solid, and the addition of an optional extra Velcro closure for the top is a bonus.
The first thing I discovered with the Briefcase is that it’s carrying capacity is almost Tardis-like. I quickly learned in fact that it was easy to overpack it. The shoulder strap is insanely comfortable and lulls you into a false sense of comfort. It may feel comfortable at first but you can easily pack a lot of weight in and then carry it all day on one shoulder.
The two front “admin” pockets worked well for carrying the day-to-day small essentials. I ended up using one for things I used regularly (phone, wallet, keys, pens, headphones etc) and the second for smaller less-often used essentials. Think boo-boo kit, multitool, torches and the like. There is also a small amount of MOLLE/Velcro real estate on the front of one of these. Personally, the MOLLE was too small and exposed to be of much use to myself, and due to the gaps in the Velcro, not all patches work well.
The main compartment is easily accessed through the double zipper pulls which open it very wide. This lid also has a glasses pocket which works well, except if there is something particularly large in the main compartment which may occlude the space available – here’s a pair of standard Apple earphones inside it.
Inside, three larger-than-expected open pockets are on the front side to organize your gear – these have turned out to be actually very useful, keeping things like glasses cases, food, a rolled-up rain jacket and bigger headphones. The back has a slip pocket which is just over A4 size – useful for loose documents but there is a chance of creasing them. I tended to use this for an A4 notebook. Even with all these packed there is still plenty of space in the middle – I would often manage to fit multiple textbooks with the other pockets full.
Behind this is a specific laptop compartment – Macbook users have nothing to worry about but after 4 months with this bag I changed laptops to a large Dell Inspiron 7000 (17in). was too tall for the actual pocket and as such, I have had to revert to using a laptop sleeve in the main compartment. There are also two iPad sized pockets which are also lightly padded. One wall of this compartment is also lined with hook material, again – more organisation you can bring to the bag.
Finally, there are two “secret” pockets – one on the front between the two admin pockets and main compartment which is velcroed shut. It is a plain pocket with no Velcro or webbing and at first, I had no use for it. However, I have recently found it carries my laptop cable well. I can shove it in without having to pack it up too neatly and it doesn’t obstruct the rest of the gear I have loaded in. On the backside of the back is a dual-zippered pocket. I have never really had much of a use for it, besides the rare plane-ticket.
Also of note are the drink bottle pockets on each end. They are – in a word – huge. In fact, when zipped all the way open they are often too large. They comfortably fit basically anything I’ve thrown at them. However, you can do them up once something is in to secure items better than elastic bottle holders.
The construction of the bag, as already mentioned, is bullet proof. The material used is what you have come to expect from any tactical bag, the ubiquitous 1000D Cordura with YKK zippers and Duraflex hardware. The build quality is best described as bombproof, I have no doubt this bag will outlast almost any other briefcase in a more rugged environment.
That said, the double pull on one of the bottle pockets on mine did break. This was a simple and easy fix, however, and was probably associated with me using it to pull the whole weight of the bag in and out of ambulance crew stowage lockers! The interior fabric is a light gray, which provides a good amount of contrast for most items.
The bag is almost exclusively black on the exterior, with the exception of one tiny logo on the shoulder strap. First Tactical has made this bag blend in excellently, shying away from garish logos or falling into the trap of trying too hard to look “untactical” that some brands seem to fall for. The muted logos are minimalist but don’t look out of place – and the sweet First Tactical Zipper pulls are an extra touch of sexy!
I bloody love this bag. I was never a huge satchel/shoulder bag/briefcase person until now. The only complaint I have is with the laptop compartment. If it was just a tiny bit larger – maybe 2cm / 0.7 inches in all directions – it would be able to fit even massive laptops like mine. However, if you’re not an idiot who insists on carrying an almost 3kg / 6.6lb laptop then you won’t have this issue. Also, if we are being really picky, the pen slots could either be a tiny bit wider or narrower – they are juuuust big enough to fit two decent thickness pens at a stretch, but not practically. This means however that sometimes having one pen in there it will wander about a bit within its pocket. Whiny, I know.
This bag has served, and will continue to serve, as my daily driver for 90% of the year for me. It doesn’t bring anything particularly revolutionary but it’s ability to blend into the office environment while still maintaining the features and ruggedness of a tactical bag. There is enough organisation without Pidgeon-holing you into specific gear choice, and the shoulder strap is the most comfortable strap I think I’ve ever used on almost any bag.