Gear Whores Anonymous is an experienced company that has been reviewing/creating products for years. They have spent the last seven years working on creating their own instalment into the everyday carry USA made market. The Citadel is definitely a well thought out pack with unique materials, and well-balanced design.
Total volume: 24L
Weight: 2.2lbs / 997grams
Dimension: 19″ L, 11” W, 7″ D / 48.26cm L, 27.94cm W, 17.78cm D
Material: 1000 Denier Invista Cordura, 420 denier pack cloth (liner), Tweave Durastretch
The Citadel is right in the perfect size for my use, its wider than other packs but with the space going wider it gives the back a more compact look especially from the side view. It does have two side compression straps that could be used to tighten the pack down if needed. They do a good job of keeping the pack slim when loaded with bulky items like a jacket. One thing of note is you can see the bottom front pocket and the bottle pocket is made out of a different material (Tweave) that is a durable stretch fabric that is used by high-end tactical companies in some clothing items. This being the first time I’ve seen it being used in a pack I was quite pleased with its durability and I’m quite interested to see how it retains its flexible qualities after long-term use.
Starting with the top of the pack you can see the grab handle is substantial, but the design makes it hold itself close to the pack while still being able to grab quickly and firmly. At roughly two inches thick with padding then entire length and width I’ve never experienced a grab handle that felt so good to hold. Smaller hands may have a different experience since the handle is so thick. The Citadel uses #8 YKK zippers throughout the entire pack with good sized zipper pulls. The zippers are reversed on the outer part of the pack and are very smooth and easy to use right out of the box.
The other side features a water bottle pocket made out of the Tweave material designed to hold up to a 40oz bottle.
Probably the most used of the Tweave material it easily holds my 24oz with no slipping. I tried a 32oz Nalgene for a few days to see how it held up, and in my experience, I found it was difficult to get in and out. That may change after the top elastic has loosened up a bit.
One thing I noticed that could be improved on in future iterations of the Citadel was the pull tab on the bottle holder. With all the double and triple stitching on the pack, I’m not sure why they opted to only use a single double stitch on the pull tab. I found myself using this a lot, especially when using a full sized bottle. This feels like a weak point that could fail after long-term use. A double stitch on both sides of the tab would give me more confidence, as well as putting the tab on the inside of the Tweave material would give it a cleaner look.
The Citadel rides very comfortably with heavy or light loads. I carried heavier loads for hours at a time multiple times and never felt uncomfortable. The straps are curved to hug the body, and at first, I wished they were maybe two inches longer – but in practice, I found the length was just fine. There is a place for a waist belt with a hook and loop panel behind the lumbar pad. With a pack this size, I never felt the need for one but the option is there if you so choose.
The Citadel has three raised pads for comfort and airflow between you and the pack that work great and are decently comfortable. There is also a grab handle on either side of the pack for extra carry options. They stay out of the way and you don’t really notice them when you’re not using them. Given how much I like the top grab handle it would have been great to see that similar type of handle on the side handles. It doesn’t need to be as thick but a single padded handle that lays close to the bag would be very pleasant to use. There is no frame sheet on the Citadel and that might be my biggest wish on the pack. This pack was never uncomfortable, but a removable frame sheet is one of those staples that most medium to high-end manufacturers use in most packs. On lighter loads, it would give the pack a more substantial and secure feeling.
The straps have a layer of the Tweave material on the underside to give the user a softer grippier feeling. When I use other packs with one strap over one shoulder I’m fighting to keep it from sliding off. The Tweave stretches slightly as the strap tries to move holding itself onto your shoulder even with heavier loads.
The Citadel has two similar front admin pockets on the front. The top is behind the big hook and loop field and measures 8.5” L x 11” W – which in my opinion is a great size for their intended purposes. Both admin pockets are fairly simple with three sleeves roughly 3” wide and 5” deep. The sleeves are a decent size for most items and if there is an item that is too big for the sleeves there was still enough room in the pocket to carry any items I needed to.
The bottom pocket is made with the Teave material and measures 10.5” x 11” with the same three sleeve organisational system that the top admin pocket uses. The Tweave material is supposed to be able to stretch around bigger items that you slide into the pocket giving the pocket more versatility than a normal Cordura pocket. The one big issue with the way this pocket is designed is the zipper is all the way at the top so when opened you only have about half of the opening you have in the top pocket. With only about 2-3 inches of an opening to slide items into the pocket, which makes it difficult to slide bigger items into the pocket to get the most out of the Tweave.
The main compartment features a full clamshell opening giving easy access to the entire space of the pack. The Citadel has two wide strips of hook and loop panels going the length of the pack. Making it easy to organize and have a well-balanced load with the addition of compatible pouches. The interior is also lined with a 420 pack cloth giving it a durable smoother feel than normal Cordura.
The opposite side has two pockets made of the same 420 nylon. With the top pocket measuring 9.5” x 11”, it is a simple zipper pocket with a good amount of space for storage. The bottom pocket is expandable which is useful for bigger items such as gloves and a beanie.
The far back zippered pocket offers a fully padded laptop sleeve that is capable of carrying up to a 15” laptop. The laptop sleeve does run all the way down to the bottom of the bag but the entire base of the bag is padded for protection. The rest of the compartment is a shallow pocket that runs to the bottom of the bag. Perfect for flat documents, an iPad or thinner clothing items. The unique part of this pocket is the attractive red interior, it’s definitely a more improved option over the normal black or tan options with other competitors.
The Citadel is definitely a well designed well-made pack. I love the sleek look and intuitive organization. The Citadel is $280 which put itself up there with other high-end tactical EDC manufacturers like T.A.D. or Goruck. Like those other manufacturers, the Citadel uses 100% American labor and materials, down to the thread they use is US created. The Citadel is different in that it obviously is made by people that use and care about packs themselves. They are bringing new high-quality materials into a well thought out design making, in my opinion, a great pack that has found its way into my rotation of my favorite packs to use. I would highly recommend the Citadel and Gear Whores Anonymous in general. They know what makes good high-quality gear and I can’t wait to see what else they create in the future.
* This bag was provided at a discounted price for review.