I guess some folks can just step into the woods with nothing but the gear in their pockets. I’m not one of them. I’m a gear junkie and a “what if’er”. While I can and have done woods walks like that, I prefer to take my stuff with me. Whether that’s just a bottle of water, some snacks and my camera, or a Personal Survival Kit (PSK), a map and compass, a field guide or a first aid kit. What if I need it while I’m out? What if I want it?
I’d rather have it than not, whether its creature comforts or just prudent preparedness. While a backpack certainly works for a lot of that stuff I often don’t feel like carrying a full pack. For one thing I tend to sweat more with a pack on my back, for another when I want stuff out of it I have to either take it off or ask someone else to fish it out for me. A much better solution for day hikes for me is a satchel style pouch. For years I’ve used various surplus military pouches, usually of European origin, and they generally work out okay. The areas they sometimes fall short in is closing securely to keep small items securely inside, or in having enough separate pockets to safely store and segregate your gear. Most tend to be canvas too which isn’t very water resistant. To get a secure, water resistant pouch with a lot of pockets you need a modern design commercial bag, exactly like the Blackhawk Tactical Handbag.
Yeah, I’m talking about the MacGyver bag, the man bag, yes even the “murse”. By whatever name you call it, it’s a pretty handy thing, especially in the field. Rather than shy away from the humorous monikers given these handy satchels Blackhawk has embraced the concept with their tongue in cheek “Tactical Handbag” naming. Despite the handbag tag this pouch is all business being built of 1000 denier nylon with a waterproof interior lining and HawkTex bottom. There’s a rubberized nylon handle on the top of the bag and D rings for attaching the adjustable shoulder strap and pad. The rear of the pouch has an external zippered compartment that you can access without opening the main flap, and a removable Velcro business card holder for ID’ing your bag. There are bellowed side pockets on either end of the bag for carrying larger items as well. The front flap has another Velcro strip for applying a name tape or other item, and the flap is secured by a quick release plastic buckle. Inside the flap is a small zippered mesh pocket with loops beneath it for folding a chem light, AAA flashlight or similar item. The main compartment is about 8 inch by 8 inch and about 4 inches deep. The back wall is lined with a hook and loop wall for attaching pouches or other items. There is also a removable, zippered pouch that snaps into place to help separate your gear. On the very front of the Tactical Handbag is a series of three pockets that will hold pens, a small notebook, and other items like a small AA or CR123 flashlight. Blackhawk lists the total volume of the bag at 294 cubic inches. I noted that my measurement of 10.5 by 8.5 by 4 inches is slightly larger than what they have specified on their website. My figure comes out to more like 357 cubic inches. I noted a couple of other small discrepancies as well in the features list so I’m wondering if this bags specs have changed some over time. Either way, it’s very sturdily built, has a nice layout to it and, as I later found out, holds a lot of gear for its size.
Even before I hit the woods I put the Tac Handbag to use when heading out to my local gun show. It made a great place to stuff a notepad, my business cards, some pens, a bottle of water and some other odds and ends I needed for the show. It gave me a place to stash the scope rings, cleaning products and knives I bought while I was there too. I also used it a good bit in toting stuff back and forth to work in my day job as well. As a plainclothes detective I often have a myriad of small gadgets, gear and other sundry items that I’m lugging between my privately owned vehicle and the work unmarked car and having a handy bag to toss my stuff in is always welcome. If you never noticed, a lot of cops are gear guys, and especially bag guys. We tend to haul around all kinds of crap so we’re always on the lookout for the next best solution for doing that. The Tactical Handbag is a darn good one for everything from spare magazines for your weapon, to tools and flashlights, to your cell phone charger and other electronic gadgets. It even worked well with my iPad. Let’s not forget snacks and water too.
In the woods the Tac Handbag really comes into its own. It carries a surprising amount of gear when needed to. For some day hikes I tossed in some slingshots I was testing, ammo for said slingshots, once again more water, a bag of jerky and some granola bars. On top of that I added my camera with spare batteries and accessories, a couple of knives, a notepad and pen and a flashlight. I had room to spare. I could have easily added my PSK and first aid kit to that mix as well and been plenty prepared for a long day trip. The contents would vary somewhat from day to day but the payload mass stayed pretty consistent. When on the trail I found that the bag was easy to adjust so that it rode comfortable on my left hip. This put it in good position to easily access without having to do the sort of gymnastics required to dig into a backpack on the move. If need be it also swung around easily to my front so I could see what I was doing better and then would slip back into place without issue. The wide should pad on the strap helped distribute the weight when I had the bag loaded up and its tacky, rubberized coating helped hold it in place on my shoulder. I kept items I wanted to access frequently, such as my map and compass, in the rear zippered compartment and other items like a flashlight in the side pockets so that I could get to them without having to undo the main flap of the bag.
On a longer trip I used the Tactical Handbag to store the items I wanted easy access to while traveling in the Jeep on the way to the campsite (about a 4 hour ride), and for stuff I wanted to keep track of during the trip. On this particular trip it included my Glock 27 pistol in holster, a spare magazine in a pouch, my humungous Droid X phone in its Otterbox case and a charger, a bag of beef jerky, 3 slingshots and ammo, my car keys, a notepad and pens, a bag of assorted cough drops and medicine, a flashlight, and even a big jug of Gatorade! I found the smaller snap in pouch handy to separate my gear. I kept the three slingshots and ammo in there away from the rest of the stuff both to protect them and to keep any loose ammo from rolling around the rest of the bag. The meds went into the rear zippered compartment, my keys snapped on to the handy key holder, notepad and pens dropped into their appropriate slots and the rest went into the main compartment. It was pretty darn full but it handled the load well.
I’ve used an awful lot of satchels over the years, both military surplus and commercial, and I have to say the Blackhawk Tactical Handbag may well be the best I’ve used to date. It has a combination of quality build, well thought out design, and an affordable price tag. The MSRP is $59.99 on these which I thought was a pretty good deal, and some judicious shopping around might even score you a better price. Regardless though, it’s a lot less than I’ve seen for other bags that haven’t performed nearly so well for me. If you’re a fan of the man bag, or master of the murse, it’s high time you gave the Blackhawk Tactical Handbag a try!
Handbag Discussion on the Woodsmonkey Forum: