Khard 30, Assault Pack 30, Big ‘Ol Kitchen Sink. Call it what you want but the 30 liter pack from Arc’teryx is one of those standard bags to which many others are often compared, so when I got the chance to add a lightly used and pre-loved wolf grey version to my closet, I jumped at the opportunity. While the bag was in great shape, it was missing the removable pads for the hip-belt, which didn’t, but now come standard on the updated Assault Pack 30, as well as the elastic cordage that allows for some external stowage.
The Khard 30 is part of the Arc’teryx line of LEAF products, which means that it’s essentially tailored to military use and has a price of around $400USD to match. That being said, just because you aren’t stationed in Kabul or planning to a 3-day, ultra-secret breach on an enemy position doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate some well made products with serious civilian potential. There’s also a 45-liter version of this same pack, and an updated version now called the “Assault Pack 30”, but for my everyday use, the Khard 30 was more than enough.
I’ve always been a fan of “blank-slate” style bags that don’t mess around with a lots of silly organization. The Khard gives the user the opportunity to add their own aftermarket hook-backed pouches or “modules” sourced directly from Arc’teryx or aftermarket makers. While this is definitely a hit or miss, I’m a huge fan of this style of pack and was excited to play around with all of the opportunity the Khard provided.
Over the course of the last month or so, I’ve taken the bag through my standard use cases which means it’s been on some swampy Louisiana hikes, a daily bike commute, and numerous hours sitting on disgusting hospital and emergency room floors as well as it’s share of public transit and general everyday carry tomfoolery.
|Capacity||1830 cu. in.||30L|
|Primary Materials||INVISTA 500d HT Cordura® Plain Weave|
On a scale of 1 to fabric nerd, I’m at about a 3, but the 500D Cordura used here is like no other 500D I’ve ever seen. According to the manufacturer, they’ve used a special nylon weave plus a bit of silicon magic to make it what they call “air-textured”. This means that you get a bit more of a matte color than normal nylon fabrics plus some added abrasion resistance. Add on the beefy YKK #10’s with some surprisingly awesome zipper pulls and you have a seriously beefy bag that seems to resist snagging on branches and can come out of the swamp still looking pretty fresh and clean.
While the website claims that the bags are “weatherproof”, testing has shown that while being very mud and dirt resistant, you might want to pack your electronics in a dry bag if you plan on being in wet weather more than 15 minutes or so.
Quality and Comfort
Let’s get this settled right off the bat: if you’re not into the outdoorsy and/or mil-spec look, this probably isn’t in your wheelhouse. While it’s not covered in tacticool PALS webbing, the bag does a lot more than just hint at its military upbringing. Add this to the fact that it’s only available in black, wolf grey, and “crocodile”, and you’re probably not going to roll up to your investment banker job with this monster in tow. That being said, if you work somewhere where you’re expected to haul some gear, this would fit right in to a patrol car or in the back of an ambulance.
One minor detail that continues to confuse me is the decision to include coyote-colored velcro to strap down any additional webbing. It’s a different enough color to look a bit odd, but not contrasting enough to look like it was done on purpose. For a $400 bag I’m not sure why they didn’t color-match these things, but it’s a small gripe for an otherwise stellar looking product. The updated Assault Pack uses matched velcro straps.
As a 6’2″ skinny dude, I’m usually in a pretty good spot for comfort on most packs and this one is no exception. The Khard’s suspension is minimally padded and just wide enough to be comfortable. Weight is distributed well with minimal adjustment and the hip belt (even without detachable hip pads) is wide enough to comfortably take a bit of load off of your shoulders. The caveat is that this bag is so huge, you can easily exceed a comfortable carrying capacity so keep that in mind.
My 5’7″ wife had a bit of a different experience when she tried on the Khard. For me, the fact that it extended pretty far down my back was a plus, since the hip belt actually fell at my hips, and the removable aluminum contoured back stiffener was perfectly ergonomic. For her, this meant that without a lot of adjustment, she kept hitting her legs on the back of the pack, and even with the shoulder straps all the way tightened, she had a fair amount of wiggle room. Overall, this bag is a bit of a beast and probably better suited for someone of a slightly taller build.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like big empty bags and those who are wrong. In all seriousness, if you’re the kind of person who likes lots of built-in organization, the Khard is definitely not for you. In my opinion this bag toes the line perfectly, giving you tons of space with velcro attachment points to make your own organization, coupled with just a few extra pockets for quick stashes.
One of the most well-executed features of this pack is the semi-clamshell, or as I like to call it, “giant tongue” opening. This allows the user to make full use of all the available space, yet still access just the top, just the bottom, or even one side at a time in a much more elegant way than most of the full clamshell bags I’ve had in the past. As is common with Arc’teryx products, you can see that every feature has been thought through in excruciating detail.
The outside lid zip opens up to a surprisingly spacious interior. Although I appreciate the extra space, I sometimes found things like my hospital ID or keys getting lost in the bottom and ended up chucking my BOgear pouch in there most of the time just to keep things from sinking into the abyss. The new version of the the Assault Pack apparently has fixed this problem with a much less cavernous top pocket.
There’s a small inner lid pocket that is perfect for your wallet, or something that needs to stay a bit secure but can be accessed quickly, which in my mind is a must. Unfortunately, this has been lost in the newest version!
For many, bottle pockets are a make-or-break feature and Khard again manages to come out with the perfect medium by providing dual-sided zip pockets that are big enough to fit a 3L bladder (along with a hidden hydration hose port) or my 1.8L insulated Hydroflask without issues.
I really cannot stress enough how much both these side pockets and the lid are able to expand without encroaching too much on your inner capacity. In fact, the entire 30L system seems to magically expand to accommodate MUCH more than I usually expect for a pack of that size. The only tradeoff that I can really find here is that the pack doesn’t compress much when empty, so you’re always carrying a big looking pack whether it’s full to the brim or just toting around a laptop and light jacket.
- Highly customizable interior lets you make great use of tons of space
- Huge, semi-internal bottle pockets with dedicated volume
- Giant-tongue opening gives awesome flexibility for access and stowage options
- Top lid compartment is almost too big to be used for quick-stash items (note: this has been fixed in the newest Assault Pack models)
- Not great for shorter individuals
- For a $400 bag, velcro webbing straps should have been color matched
Overall, I can see why the Khard has set the standard in terms of quality in the 30-45L department. The craftsmanship and attention to detail are fantastic and although it’s clearly meant for LEO or Military use, it’s quickly becoming my favorite bag to carry to work when I have a big loadout for the day. That being said, if you’re the kind of person who prefers something more fashion-forward or with some built-in organization you should probably look elsewhere. Price is also definitely an issue since you can find similar bags for a bit less cash. For me, this bag fills a niche that will keep in my rotation for the foreseeable future.