Many of you would have heard of Triple Aught Design or TAD, and be familiar with some of their popular designs like the FAST Pack Litespeed or EDC. TAD has long been associated with high quality military inspired and targeted designs, both packs and clothing. Triple Aught Design specifically aims to engineer clothing and equipment suitable for those who love adventure and hardwearing gear.
The Axiom 18, designed for traveling and daily carry, slim but very robust with some awesome organization. I would probably use this sentence if I had to describe the pack in 20 words or less. But that would not nearly do enough justice to it. The Axiom 18 is one of TAD’s newest packs in the Axiom line up, subtle ‘covert’ packs as TAD would describe them. Not the usual overt styling you may be used to coming from TAD.
Triple Aught Design has a reputation for producing uncompromising gear and the Axiom 18 is no exception. The Perfect Pack? Maybe, nearly, I don’t know if this unicorn exists, but I do feel that my relentless search for this pack is getting much closer. At the very least the Axiom 18 has provided me with features and design aspects that I would almost certainly demand on all future packs, if and where possible.
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Quality and Comfort
The carrying system for the Axiom 18 is quite substantial for such a small pack which is actually a good thing.
Even though the Axiom 18 has four pockets, 2 main and 2 secondary pockets it still remains quite slim. Being slim however, doesn’t stop you being able to load up some serious weight. Fortunately, the Axiom has some fairly beefy padded shoulder straps. With adjustable load lifters at the top of the straps as well as adjustable sternum strap. I have experienced no pain points along the straps, and are easily adjustable on the run. The Axiom 18 allows you to quickly detach the sternum strap and reattach at various webbing sections along the straps.
During the hot Australian heat I typically loathe carrying a pack, having said that the Axiom 18 would have to be one of the cooler packs I’ve ever owned. The back panel has two main cooling channels that keep the pack off your back and allows some airflow to move through.
Last month my workplace had a team building event, our own version of the Amazing Race. Smart teams drove around the city, however, my team decided to walk/run most places. It was a long 3 hours and I think I covered close to 13km carrying the Axiom. It was about 26 degrees Celsius, for those using the ancient imperial system that’s a cool 80 degrees Fahrenheit, during this time my back was surprisingly not more sweaty than the rest of me.
I was actually very impressed with how cool and how comfortable it was to carry. While I’m not quite ready to do another 13km walk/run during the middle of the day if I had to I would pick the TAD Axiom 18 above all my other packs.
The entire pack is constructed from a material called X-Pac, with two different grades being used VX-21 ripstop for the external material and VX-03 for the internals. I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to get a little nerdy with this.
X-Pac is a laminated fabric with several layers, a nylon face, X-Ply, PET film and a Poly Taffeta backing. The Nylon Face is C6 DWR 210D which is highly abrasion resistant. The X-Ply is a polyester yarn inserted into the fabric at 22 degrees, this is done to prevent a tear running the full length of the section. This gives the pack the cross-hatched look; X-Ply is what is classified as a sailcloth material. The PET film is 0.25mm thick and gives the fabric its awesome waterproofing. And finally, the Poly Taffeta backing helps wick away moisture.
The internal fabric X-Pac VX-03 is essentially the same stuff just less thick and less tough. Gorilla on a Tricycle!, just checking you are awake. Now what all this means is that every part of this fabric is designed for a specific task. Which ultimately results in an extremely tough waterproof fabric that should last a lifetime. The Axiom 18 uses these materials plus a splash of Hypalon throughout.
The Axiom 18 wouldn’t be complete without the best zips the world has to offer YKK zippers with Hypalon Zipper Pulls and water-resistant reverse coils. I really enjoy the zipper pulls and have not once had the desire to cut them off and replace with paracord. I’d call that a win.
Right now that all the technical talk of materials is over let’s take a look at the Axiom starting at the top.
The top grab handle is very slim, so slim in fact that you could easily carry the pack a day or two without noticing it had one. The underside of the grab handle has a section of Hypalon which just gives a nice feel to the handle. The grab handle was specifically designed to be slim so as to reduce catching from stowing under airplane seats or the like. My Axioms grab handle was a bit stiff at first and I found it annoying to use, but after a week or so of use it became a little looser and functions perfectly now.
Just in front of the grab handle is a small pocket that has been designed for sunglasses or other smaller items for quick access. I really enjoy packs that have a sunglasses pocket, so much so that it is now a running joke among my pack obsessed friends. The pocket on the Axiom 18 has been updated from the Axiom 25 to be slightly larger and more accommodating.
The front pocket contains the admin section as well as a mesh pocket and a smaller deep slip pocket. I’ll start with the admin section, now this part is pretty important as admin for me can make or break a pack. Poorly designed admin can render it useless and become wasted space, which to me can be very frustrating. Fortunately, the TAD has nailed the admin section, and I mean NAILED IT. There are two layers of the organization. Three pockets along the front with 5 pockets behind. The front row of pockets are a good size allowing for a leatherman, M2R and fit a range of other more bulky EDC items. I like that these pockets are slightly larger to accommodate a range of items without being too difficult to access. Behind the first row are 5 pockets, two the same size as the front 3 and 3 smaller slots. Coupled with the front 3 larger pockets there isn’t much else required. It clean simple and functional, no frivolous wasted space, just 100% functional admin. What more could you want?
The front pocket also contains a mesh pocket which is nice and deep, deep enough for an A5 notebook or iPad mini lengthwise. As always I use this as a more of a stash pouch, a bit of a ‘junk’ or ‘catch all’ pocket. I find it great for snacks and items that you want easy access to when you load up the Axiom. The ‘slip’ pocket behind the admin section is quite deep, again this pocket can easily hold an iPad mini or A5 notebook. I use this section to carry a minimal office use first aid kit.
The addition of these two pockets really helps organize almost anything you might have under the size of a 13” laptop. Coupled with this you still have the full length of the front pocket to stash items. This front pocket does not clamshell fully open by design. This is to allow you to drop loose items into the pocket and not worry that they will drop out when opening the pack.
The Axiom 18 also has quite a unique pocket, TAD refers to this pocket as an inverted pocket. At first, I had no idea how to use this pocket, to me it seemed useless. The TAD website mentions that this is designed for clothes to be ‘stuffed’ or stashed. This is actually an ingenious and simple idea, it allows you to store a rain jacket or outer layers in a simple easy way. As opposed to stuffing your jacket in the main pocket which typically ends up at the bottom of your pack. Or Packing it at the top and having to push past it every time you want something else under it. You can access this inverted pocket when slinging the pack over one shoulder, making it a quick and easy to access pocket.
The Axiom has two more pockets, the main pocket, and a rear pass-through pocket. The main pocket is quite large despite the Axiom 18 only being 18L of capacity, yeah if you were unsure, that is where the name came from. This main pocket has 4 Helix attachment points and two loops of webbing top and bottom. These together make the main pocket very configurable. The Helix attachment points work with a vast range of TAD accessories, making the Axiom 18 pretty much capable of being whatever type of pack you want it to be. Camera bag with the use of Transport Cube Protector pouches, or the most organised travel bag ever.
TAD’s Control Panel, Admin Panel or Context Organiser all fit as well. The webbing loops top and bottom make the Axiom 18 capable of mounting various MOLLE compatible accessories as well. This is the first pack I have owned with this level of customization. With all this potential organization I have to say it’s making me very excited for what this pack could be. The Helix system also future proofs the pack, as you change what you carry you can just modify the pouches you carry rather than purchasing a new pack. Or if you have a different loadout day to day or from weekday to weekend. The main pocket easily fits a 15” laptop, a jacket, and Context Pouch, making the Axiom extremely useful. I’ve owned a number of sub 20L packs, but nothing comes close to the amount of gear the Axiom will swallow up.
I have been running the Context Pouch for a while now in the Axiom, the pouch can hold quite a lot of gear. I moved my Leatherman and Olight to the pouch to demonstrate how much gear you can actually store in it. The Context would also work for a personal First Aid Kit or toiletries kit.
The Axiom 18 has what has been referred to as an ambidextrous access pocket, or a pass-through pocket. On the rear of the pack, two zips either side allow access to a pocket large enough to house a 13” laptop or tablet. Being that this pocket is hard up against the frame sheet you could also store documents or notebooks. I have on occasion successfully carried loose-leaf documents without them receiving even so much as a crease or folded corner.
The Axiom 18 has a number of very polished and well thought out design attributes. For me there are a few really standout features. The first being the included admin. It was through and simple at the same time. One of the most perfect administration set ups I have ever used. I have been spoiled and this has potentially poisoned me against all other organisation.
Secondly the overall shape and size of the Axiom 18, slim and yet I somehow I never struggle for space. I can attest first hand at how well this pack operates in a travel sense as well. Being able to stow it very easily under bus and train seats.
The back panel ventilation is the icing on the cake, the reason I can’t put this pack down. being comfortable in the Australian heat is not easy and many packs do not design for the warmer climates so this is a welcome change.
One small thing I’d love though would be some grip on the base of the pack. X-Pac is fairly slippery and so it’s near impossible to get the pack to lean against a chair or wall if the surface isn’t sandpaper or shag-pile.
I am aware that being an 18L pack its not necessarily well placed to house a hydration bladder but tube ports would have been a welcome option and a nice inclusion.
The sunglasses pocket is useful and nearly perfect, however, it would be a nice inclusion to have this pocket felt lined so as to protect the lenses.
The Axiom is a nice slim pack making it easy to throw around with ease, stash behind the seats of a very cramped Uber or move around unencumbered on a packed train or bus. The Axiom 18 has been designed for the traveler and active alike and is executed extremely well.
I think I am going to be fairly reluctant in moving on from this pack anytime soon. Does this make it the Perfect Pack? Not sure, but for now, it’s as close as I can get or have ever got.