Direct Action is a Polish based company who makes some pretty high quality gear. Their website reads: “DIRECT ACTION® is a project born from combining great design and manufacturing capabilities with an up-close-and-personal understanding of the specific end-user needs of special operations forces.” In recent years I have personally seen their gear being picked up by more and more special operations units in various European militaries. The Italian Army special forces seem predominantly fond of many of Direct Action’s offerings.
Over the course of almost a year I took the Direct Action Halifax out on several day hikes and for a two week mission to Romanian for a military training exercise. I carried the bag daily for the course of a few weeks and then decided that it was much too big for this application. Overall I would say I didn’t abuse the bag, but I did use it to hold some gear and checked it at an airport and it came back in one piece despite the airline’s best efforts.
Primary Material: 500d Cordura®
Quality and Comfort
While Direct Action is a Polish based company, they outsource a lot of their manufacturing in Vietnam and this pack is no different. With that being said the Halifax is very sturdy and well built bag. The primary material used is 500D Cordura. This gives the bag a good strength to weight ratio but I would have liked to have seen something like a 1000D Cordura on higher wear areas to give it some added strength.
While this pack is designed for hard military use it has some very thoughtful quality of life features. The back panel has two small columns of velcro that run up the full length of the pack. There are then two different length foam pads that add extra cushioning to the pack. One size runs the full length of the back panel while the other set is a three quarter option. These padding options allow the end user to increase and decrease the amount of padding depending on what the bag will be used for. Often when a soldier puts on a set of body armour or a plate carrier and then a backpack, the pack can then hang pretty far off the soldier’s body. Being able to take the extra padding off can help alleviate this issue by allowing the pack to be pulled in closer to the wearer’s back.
Overall the quality of the Halifax is pretty solid and so is the comfort considering who its being marketed towards. I wouldn’t say it’s quite as comfortable as similar offerings from companies like Mystery Ranch or Osprey, but again this is a dedicated full time military pack so comfort may have not been the primary concern when designing it.
If you’re someone who likes a lot of modularity in your packs then Halifax has you covered. The exterior face of the pack is covered in laser cut PALS from head to toe. I have to say if a pack has PALS on it these days and its not Laser cut, I’m not interested. The weight savings from old school MOLLE webbing is massive maintaining a lower profile, its a winning solution in my opinion. On the edges of the external PALS are two sections of YKK zippers that are for Direct Action’s optional Zip on panels.
These panels are designed to work seamlessly with the back panels Direct Action makes for their Spitfire line of plate carriers. The system is very similar to offerings from Crye Precision‘s, for example. While Direct Action didn’t pioneer this system I haven’t seen any other company include it on a backpack, to date. I think this is a really interesting option for anyone who has the Direct Action Spitfire back panel as it gives them a great way to move gear from one system to another in a matter of seconds.
Towards the very bottom of the bag are two reinforced daisy chain style anchor points. I used these to hold my ice axe, extra carabiners or ropes, but they’re simple enough to hold anything. There is a hidden pocket on the other side of the bottom of the bag, this one is not very easy to get to and it’s pretty small but I found it was big enough to fit the included waist belt.
The top of the bag has two fleece lined pockets. One is rather large and big enough for storing ski goggles while the smaller one is better used for typical sunglasses. On the sides of the pack are two expandable water bottle packets big enough to accept 32 oz Nalgene bottles. Above the pockets are a section of compression straps, more laser-cut PALS, and perpendicular to the webbing, a vertical grab handle. I’m a big fan of these grab handles because they give another point at which to pick up the bag if it’s in an awkward orientation. The handles are a bit thin but still very strong.
Getting into the main compartment of this pack is a breeze as the Halifax sports a full clamshell design with rugged YKK zippers. The entire interior back panel of the Halifax is covered in MOLLE-compatible loop fabric. This means that no matter what kind of a pouch I wanted to mount inside, I had no issues. Want to mount some LBX med pouch ? No problem. Want to hook up a Tasmanian Tiger Lens pouch? Couldn’t be easier. This is by far my favourite feature of Halifax as it just makes organization so much easier. The loop field is also massive, coming at 12” wide and 24” tall allowing for the mounting of many different accessories.
Above the interior loop field is a hook for holding up a hydration bladder with a plastic buckle. Above the buckle is a heavy duty zipper that can fit a drinking hose through it without having to have the main zipper compartment open. The sides of the pack also feature very small flow-through pockets for drinking hoses too. Options are always a plus. The opposite side of the interior of the pack has a large standard Velcro field and a medium sized mesh pocket.
- Forward thinking design with incorporation if modern materials
- Multiple ways to adapt the pack to the preferred pouch setup
- Allows for integration of other Direct Action equipment for mission-specific configuration
- Bag is not the most comfortable when compared to its competition
- Very heavy even with its incorporation of lightweight materials
- Personally I don’t find this bag very aesthetically pleasing
In the end the Direct Action Halifax is a very well designed bag with only a few flaws. The incorporation of modern materials and forward thinking design is a huge plus and gives this bag unrivaled modularity and adaptability. While all that modularity is great, catering to multiple types of attachment systems on the interior adds a lot of overall weight to this bag. Not to mention that this bag is also not the most comfortable in comparison to its competition. Overall I do like this bag but I think there are other offerings on the market that do most of what this bag can, and do it better. Its still a great bag, just not the perfect one for me.