Direct Action Gear started in Poland, and has since expanded into the US market with an office in New York. Their gear definitely has some unique features which I would simply categorize as “outside the box”. They’ve got three military backpacks, which range in size and available features. The smallest is the “Dust” model, while their 3-day offering is named “Ghost”. I’ll eventually review all three of these bags, but for now, I decided to have a look at Direct Action Gear’s mid-sized, best seller – the “Dragon Egg”.
Made from 500D Cordova (with waterproofing), the Dragon Egg weighs 3lbs 9oz and is fairly small(ish). For a 24 hour ruck, it looks small, feels small and, in my opinion, is small; but it packs like a bigger bag. I don’t know if it’s the egg shape or what, but with an official internal capacity of about 1520 cubic inches, this bag definitely packs differently than it looks – in a good way. I will say, however, it’s about 500 cubic inches short of most 24 hours packs, but for me, that was a non-issue; more on that later. This guy is available in 12 color/pattern options and that’s something that very much stood out to me. They are, in no particular order, Black, Olive Green, PL Woodland, Coyote(the one I’m reviewing), Camogrom®, Multicam®, Shadow Grey, PenCott GreenZone™, PenCott Badlands™, PenCott Snowdrift™, Kryptek Highlander™ and Kryptek Mandrake™. If you can’t find this pack in a design you like, there’s just flat out something wrong with you.
This tactical backpack has a lot of niceties things to offer. One of the most unique offerings is the Laser Cut PALS webbing. Nearly all bags I look at have the standard 1 on/1 off nylon PALS webbing but Direct Action took a different route. They built what I would call a “PALS Panel”(if this term becomes a standard, I want royalties). The panel approach reduces weight, and exterior awkwardness so there’s less chance for a snag, and, because it’s made from waterproof material, it doesn’t get soggy and flimsy like most standard webbing. It’s also stronger, and I think this design is rather unique – I like it. Some other nice set ups are a Para-cord handle, Heavy duty, invisible YKK zippers, and the patented “Combat Vent” rear panel. This consists of molded foam panels that sit against your back. I liken it to orthopedics you would get for your boots. It feels weird at first, but after a couple of miles on the trail, it’s honestly and appreciable feature – and one that only Direct Action Gear has.
I’ve been taking this pack with me everywhere I go for the past 2 weeks. Despite our horrible winter weather, I’ve managed a couple of light trail hikes(less than 4 miles), both of which the Dragon Egg accompanied me. I stuck my hydration bladder in the back pocket of the almost rear-most compartment. It just seemed like it was meant to go there, although there are multiple holes in the top of the pack which allow positioning of the bladder in many different locations. The very rear most compartment is small. I couldn’t quite figure out what to put back there. It’s almost designed for papers or something. You could definitely put the bladder back there but it’s a very slim, narrow, rigid compartment so I don’t think a fully loaded hydration rig belongs. My 13″ macbook Air however, fit like a glove in the thickly padded section of the rear, so I’m calling that the laptop/ultrabook compartment. The main compartment is average with a couple of dividers. This is where I packed some extra socks and food(plus some toys for my son). The front opens in full-clamshell fashion. This section is not large, but fully compartmentalized. This is where almost all of your small gear goes. There are compartments on both sides of this section – it’s nice, real nice. One thing I really like about this bag is that there just seems to be a place to hook something on, everywhere you look. The entire pack has compartments, handles, loops, you name it – everywhere. This pack remained comfortable to me throughout my ventures. To be fair, I didn’t have it loaded with sand and, if it were heavier, I think the only shortfall would be the waistband. Load transfer is critical on long trips and this pack has a waistband but it’s not padded. Overall, I had very few complaints in the field.
It may sound stupid, but I’m really critical of where a pack rides on my back. After years of hikes in the Marine Corps, I know what comfort is and in the field, it can make or break you. Thatsaid, this pack cinches up to your back effortlessly. When you pull down on the shoulder strap cinches, with only your pinky and thumb, the pack sucks right up to your pack. It’s literally the smoothest cinch I’ve ever come across. Another thing I liked was the soft-lined pocket in the front of this pack. I put my cell phone in there because the inside of the small zipper pocket Nice little pocket – perfect for a cell phone is really soft and protective. It’s the “fragile drawer” of the Dragon Egg. I also got a kick out of the fact that everywhere you look on this pack, there’s a pocket or loop or something that can hold gear or have gear attached to it.
The waistband is really underpowered. It’s a wide, nylon strap, and it definitely serves the raw function of load transfer, but from a comfort standpoint, it doesn’t measure up. I think this strap should have, at the minimum, some padding. If it had any padding at all, the improvement would be exponential. The only other suggestion I would make on the Dragon Egg are the external side pockets. These pockets are big enough to hold canteens which is good – and, they have PALS paneling on them too! But, both side pockets are identical. I’d like to see the side storage different on each side. Maybe one compartment bigger than the other. Or, two compartments on one side and one on the other. I just find it hard to get along with wasted space.
All things considered, my favorite thing about this pack was how natural it felt. It is smaller than most 24 hour bags I’ve looked at, but it holds a ton and is very versatile. This bag is so versatile in fact, that it’s literally my new EDC bag; I love it. Compartmentalization is a very personal matter, but for me(like the three little bears), this pack is just right. I would say that if you’re looking for a crazy-durable 1 day pack, you’d be missing out if you didn’t have a look at the Dragon Egg.