Despite our writing team being based in the US, UK and Australia, The Perfect Pack’s worldwide community throws up some interesting connections from time to time. An example is this: a unique offering designed for Strato Gears, a niche tactical concept store based in Singapore. Strato carries a selection of quality tactical goods but their flagship line of packs has been produced in collaboration with Chinese manufacturer Lii Gear; the 25L Viper pack is the largest in their lineup, hitting notes for a functional daily carry or a lightweight dayhike bag.
Although intended for urban use, the Viper’s styling and features put it firmly in the ‘tacticool’ bracket. The aggressive look caught a lot of attention while I was testing, attracting comments from co-workers who’d spent time in the military, folks at a games night I was attending, and also just a random guy in a shoe shop I was in. In particular I felt the camouflage (paradoxically) made the bag stand out. That can be good or bad, depending on the wearer’s preference, but for folks who want a less prominent look, this pack also comes in plain colours including a simple black, with the same features built-in.
|Capacity||1525 cu. in.||25L|
Dimensions provided by Strato Gears. Weight measured by reviewer.
|Primary Materials||500d Cordura, X33 X-Pac|
Quality & Comfort
Typically when discussing a tactical daypack, the term evokes some kind of rugged backpack covered in PALS webbing and loop velcro, built to withstand artillery fire and, consequently, weighing nearly as much as its own contents when loaded up. Certain aspects of the Viper’s construction pull it that way: Strato Gears’ version differs from the Lii original by increasing the webbing fields to accommodate MOLLE-compatible pouches and accessories across the bag’s front and lower-sides. Plastic attachment loops on the bag’s face, and others on the straps, imply functionality for the few that will use it, but in reality I wonder how practical they may be. These additions may be small in isolation, but cumulatively bump up the bag’s mass, even without the bulk of further attachments mounted onto the exterior.
Mercifully, those cons come with pros. The Viper feels tough. Bar-tacking in key areas such as the pack’s grab-handle (at the top) are a reassuring sign of durability. The hardware is premium, with YKK zips and Duraflex buckles, happily meeting the standard we look for here. The weight of the militarized features is offset by a lighter, more technically sophisticated fabric: the X-Pac used for much of my bag’s exterior is reliably strong and water resistant. I can’t speak as highly for the material Strato Gears have used for the interior pockets however – they’re made of a lighter 200d Nylon, and feels rather flimsy – these being in areas of low exposure might put them at a lesser risk, but it would be a shame to find a weakness in the midst of all these quality components. My testing turned up no problems with any part of the build, but I wonder whether issues would appear over a longer period.
I’m often skeptical about bags that are described as being suitable for outdoors activity and urban daily carry, finding that bags are either overcomplicated for carrying my lunch to work, or won’t remain comfortable when worn for a long period. The Viper’s design is unlike anything else I’ve used, and consequently hits a rare point of versatility across these roles.
The straps are attached to the main pack body by long velcro strips, meaning they can be pulled off and fine-tuned along these tracks to fit the wearer’s body, before fixing back on securely. I’ve used adjustable harnesses before but never been able to separately raise or lower each strap, and the result is very comfortable indeed, keeping the stiffened shoulder pads and lumbar block in exactly the right spot, every time.
I wasn’t able to simulate any ‘accidental’ movement in testing, even swinging the bag with a heavy weight by the straps, though I’m aware that the integrity of hook and loop attachments can degrade over time, especially in the face of snow or dirt. The straps themselves are structured with dense foam and well shaped, resulting in a remarkably comfortable carry. What’s more, the separation of the straps creates an airflow channel along the spine, and folks who find yoke-style harnesses (such as Mystery Ranch’s Futura system) uncomfortable should be able to fit into Strato’s bag without an issue. To cap it all, a quality framesheet (with aluminium stay) can be found inside the bag’s back-panel, directing weight to where it should be.
For trips outdoors, Strato Gears also sells a two-piece belt which fits to their packs via PSI Hinge buckles. I’d never used that attachment before, but found it easy and very quick to operate. When fitted the belt kept the bag stable and close to my back, though it didn’t do much to distribute weight across my hips; I wouldn’t call a belt necessary for this size of pack in any case, but I might have preferred a one-piece system that could pass-through behind the lumbar pad, as found on a number of other designs. The suspension doesn’t quite surpass my favourite hiking bags, but I’m happy to report that the Viper hits a high mark in this category.
Since the Viper is designed for both urban and outdoors uses, it needs to be able to carry a wide range of gear across its lifetime. To achieve this, Strato Gears’ approach has not been to install a series of small, specific pockets, but to keep organisation broad and adaptable. The 25L volume is suitable for most single-day uses, but mounting extras to the outside of the Viper is possible if necessary. PALS webbing opens up a whole world of compatible extras, whereas compression straps and a shock-cord lattice allow bulky items to be secured and grabbed quickly. This is especially handy since the bag’s slim profile can make the 25 litres fill up quicker than I expected, especially when stuffed with something big like a heavy jacket.
The Viper’s design tapers its head backwards in a way which matches up with the upper compression strap, effectively creating a ‘top loading’ mode that can be pulled open quickly to dig into the pack. With the compression straps unbuckled (or removed entirely) the zip will run all the way down, allowing clamshell style access and easy loading. Twin side pockets are well sized for water bottles and elasticated at the top for retention, and one more external pocket sits at the top of the bag’s front behind the loop panel, for quick access to sunglasses, keys, whatever.
Internally, Strato Gears have taken a similar principle for their pocketing, which I found really pleasant to use. The front panel is backed by two mesh pockets – the top one closes with a zip for security. The lower one is quite flat, but I found it to be wide enough for an A5 notebook. Two more interior sleeves, made from the nylon I mentioned before) mirror the external bottle pockets. They’re loose, but good for holding a pouch or a fleece hat in place within the bag, and the billowing of the outer pockets means the two don’t compete for space until one or both are absolutely stuffed. Folks who do like small-item admin may be pleased to hear that the back wall of the Viper is loop-lined and will accept anything from the plethora of hook-backed accessories on the market (the Alpha-One-Niner ones are pretty cool). Strato Gears also included for me one of their Apex Panel inserts, which made a padded slip for a 13” laptop, or would hold a camelbak bladder. The protection was nice but I had some concerns about how the panel mounts into the bag, using elastic tabs which might be prone to wear out over time. Similarly I felt the bag wasn’t well suited for a hydration bladder in general – the hose ran fine out of one of the small zips at the side of the bag’s back, but floated loose after that since the Viper has no way to route or secure the tube against the straps – even adding my own ITW grimloc didn’t completely resolve that matter.
- Adjustable straps mean a comfortable, stable load for most activities
- Functional organisation features accommodate different types of gear.
- Shallow profile means main compartment fills quickly.
- Slight concerns about long-term durability of some areas, though no issues presented during testing.
In the past I’ve criticized bags for adding features without a practical purpose, and at first glance I was tempted to do the same here. That said, the Viper’s busy look captures a strong, versatile approach. The separately adjustable straps in particular led to a really positive experience using this bag for daily carry, which I think is the true environment Strato Gears expect their customers to work in. For folks who like a tactical colour on their commute, this bag could be their next favourite.
Disclaimer: The Viper 25L used was provided by Strato Gears for this review. The content of this review was not shared with Strato Gears before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.