The Camping Guide – Packs

Just a quick one on bags to carry all your kit in, and how to pack them. It will depend on the nature of your event and whether you’re taking everything around with you (tip – stash it somewhere you can get to later), or whether you’re doing things from the safe zone, where you could feasibly just leave everything in your car. Airsoft weekenders and camping trips do have different needs in that the airsoft requires a camp kit PLUS all your airsoft kit, and we all know how much that can add up – there are people who load up their cars with multiple bags, boxes, plastic carrier bags, loose kit, gun bags etc.

I don’t drive, largely because I like walking. So any event I do go to, the car isn’t an option; I’ll get dropped off and then want things in as few bags as possible. Or, to minimise the impact of car sharing. So, I’ll have:

  • My gun bag (weapon, mags, ammo and small rig),
  • A 30l Dutch DPM patrol pack which I carry things like food, water, toiletries and other important bits in
  • A 100l holdall by Kombat which carries my camp kit, plus extra clothing, plate carrier if I’m doing the non sniper stuff etc.

I have a few bits of Dutch DPM kit, and they do some pretty good stuff. The 30l backpack is a brilliant pack for daytime use, and I’ve reviewed it previously here.

The Kombat UK assault holdall is a very cheap but very capable bag. I use it a lot, even for going on holiday, because it really does carry everything. It comes with straps too to sling it on your back, which is very handy for carrying around.

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The tent, mat and sleeping bag fit easily into the main compartment along with all my clothing for the weekend and is nice, easy access, and the large side pouches and two end pouches allow me to organise all my other bits and pieces like my “edc pouch”, toiletries, food and cook kit, and be able to find things when I need them. The base is plastic coated so it’s not a problem putting it down on wet ground. Having a holdall style bag means you can unzip across the length and have easier access to kit than a rucksack. Zips are chunky and robust and I’ve had nothing fail on this bag,so I very highly recommend it. If MTP isn’t your thing, it comes in olive and black too. For only £30, it’s a great addition to any player’s kit regardless, just as a general kit bag if nothing else yo help keep your house tidy.

If you’re on the move though, a holdall perhaps isn’t the most practical of things and you’re going to want some kind of rucksack to carry your camp around instead. Some airsoft events will require you to be able to carry all your kit from one location to another. There are hundreds of rucksacks available on the market, from civilian to military, and for all budgets. Being an airsoft player, I couldn’t say no to a DPM bergen I got from a friend.

It’s huge, rugged and looks the part. A good British army bergen is a great solution to carrying loads, with a truly epic 120l capacity (with the two large side pouches attached) and extra attachment points to add even more stuff, because we like stuff. The side pouches zip off to leave a still respectable 80l pack, if you want to run slightly lighter, and that’s still big by modern hiking standards.

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These are easy to find second hand on a lot of sites, but be wary about personal sales on ebay because some might have damage, broken zips/straps etc. Basically you get what you pay for. Newer MTP models are available too, although a bit more expensive, but you are getting the ultimate backpack for your money. There’s also a site called www.jayjaysbrecon.co.uk which sells extra mods for bergens too in case you feel the need to carry even more, or just want to pimp your bag a bit. One thing that is worth getting is a rain cover like this to help keep your kit dry, especially if you have a couple of bits tied to the outside too.

For something slightly more modern, Highlander do some decent packs at reasonable prices. This 66l offering is available in OD, black or Multicamo. If we’re talking airsoft weekenders, camo is still the best option in case you need to hide it or yourself somewhere.

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If you wanted to go top spec, Karrimor under the Sabre SF label (the proper special forces grade stuff, not the cheap high street stuff) do some incredibly good packs, although you will be paying a lot more for them.

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As with airsoft itself, you can enjoy camping for a fairly cheap outlay if you wish, or you can choose to spend as much as you want on fancier kit. Looking at these two similarly priced packs, if I was at my local skirmish site for a couple of days, the Highlander one is absolutely fine. If I was doing a three week survival course across the jungles of Borneo, I’d be wanting something much higher spec like the Karrimor Sabre, for durability and comfort. Match the product to your needs. For the camping side, a 65l pack generally is more than enough space for a short trip.

On which note, you’ll often find campers competing to fit their kit into the smallest pack possible, some even down to a 35l bag. Though, most then have to resort to putting most of the kit on the OUTSIDE of the pack. Ignore the argument of “if it’s bigger you’ll fill it with too much extra stuff” – don’t overfill it, but it’s better to have the space if you need it. Like the next day when you can’t really be bothered rolling the sleeping bag up. If you are just hiking, and decent 65-80l pack should be fine, with the more expensive ones generally (though not always) offering more padding and comfort. Avoid the too-cheap bags which have straps that have barely any padding in the straps – you’ll regret that ten minutes into your hike.

The one thing I would suggest with a big pack for your camping kit, is to avoid any that have seperate internal compartments. It might seem a good idea from an organisational point of view, but if you have something too big to fit into a compartment (winter sleeping bag perhaps), then you’re a bit stuck because the compartments don’t give you the flexibility to pack as you need to, and add unnecessary weight like zips and extra material. Keep it simple.

When it comes to packing a rucksack, generally speaking you want the heavy stuff as high up in the pack as possible, or close to your back. For hiking, this might be your cook kit, food and water, and the tent. Tents generally should sit upright against the back. Pack lighter things, such as spare clothes and the sleeping bag, at the bottom of the pack, as they are alos things you wouldn’t need in a hurry. Food and water should sit almost at the top, which puts the wight better onto your shoulders, instead of dragging the bottom of the pack down, and keeps you better balanced. Keep waterproof gear on the very top, as this is the stuff you should need quickest access too (if it rains). Most rucksacks will have a pocket in the lid which is ideal for utility items like suncream, first aid kit, tools, map etc (assuming you don’t have a map located elsewhere on your kit).

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