A few months back, I tested and reviewed the Direct Action Gear “Dragon Egg” pack. Direct Action Gear is an interesting company to me, because until early this year, I -as a military backpack enthusiast and former US Marine- had never heard of them, and I’m surprised because their gear is absolutely “up to it” when it comes to the field. Not only that, but I have a feeling you’ll like their customer service as well.
As of the time of this review(June of 2015), Direct Action Gear has (3) military-grade backpacks. Their smallest is the “Dust”. Moving up, their 24 hour pack is the “Dragon Egg”, which I reviewed already – and I’m still using as my EDC. Their 72 hour pack is called “Ghost”, measuring in at about 2950 cubic inches. The Ghost is honestly not that much larger than the Dragon Egg(only about 500CI bigger), but as the Dragon Egg packed more than we expected, so did the Ghost – by a long shot.
The Ghost comes in 12 flavors: Black, Olive Green, PL Woodland, Coyote, Camogrom®, Multicam®, Shadow Grey, PenCott Greenzone™, PenCott Badlands™, PenCott Snowdrift™, Kryptek Highlander™ and Kryptek Mandrake™. This pack is constructed of 500D Cordura and coated with Durable Water Repellent(DWR) as all of Direct Action Gear’s packs are. You really don’t need 1000D(although it’s nice). It’s stronger, but heavier and largely unnecessary.
At 5lb 2oz, this pack isn’t a heavy one. One of my favorite things I’ve seen from Direct Action Gear is their smaller, lighter packs, that seem to pack like larger, heavier ones – it’s a “best of both worlds” cocktail. The Ghost has (2) hydration bladder compartments. I really like that because if you’re a survivalist and you are thinking about a 72 hour hump, water is a big concern. Obviously, every 72 hour load has its staples, but you’re going to want to add water wherever you can, and with the Ghost, it’s mighty convenient to do just that. The more I work with Direct Action Gear, the more I realize that they built their gear with functionality in mind. The hip support on this pack is wonderful. It’s not overdone like some fancy consumer-minded packs – just what it needs to be and nothing else- very comfortable. Oh, and did I mention, removable? Yep. When I first opened this bag, I noticed on one of the inside compartments, there was a Y harness – like suspenders. I was really searching for where these suspenders fit into the picture, but alas, I could not figure it out. Upon contacting Direct Action Gear, I was told that the suspenders go with the detachable hip belt – a sub-system all it’s own, and loaded with PALS webbing! This reminded me of a stripped down version of my old USMC 782 gear, specifically the Load Bearing Vest, or LBV for short. While I am not really a fan of removing one of(in my opinion) the best features of this pack, I do like the fact that the belt is detachable and able to become it’s own rig. As I’m writing this review, I’m pondering why I might want a feature like that, and what situation might dictate the use of such a modular attachment, or appendage for that matter.
I’ll be completely honest – I haven’t spent nearly the time with this pack as I would have liked to, prior to this review, but the time I did spend was dead on – a 3 day hump in the Catskills of New York. I packed what I consider a standard 72. I didn’t weigh in prior to the hump so unfortunately, I don’t have a packed weight to disclose, but I can say it was more than a standard USMC checklist would provide. Also, I fashioned an attachment for my Mossberg .410 (model 500 home defender series w/ pistol grips and all the trimmings) which would serve as my meal-maker, or even protect against anything which would otherwise consider itself higher on the food chain than myself… I digress. Being summer here in MD, well actually NY where I was, I decided to roll out with two hydration bladders since the Ghost is properly provisioned for this. I’m going to say that load transfer is phenomenal for a 72 hour bag. This pack hugs like larger, expedition-rated pack. Most of the credit goes to the hip belt, which once again, is incredibly comfortable. This bag doesn’t have nearly the compartmentalized interior as the Dragon Egg, so small item organization is better accomplished on the exterior, using the PALS webbing which is everywhere. There are some extra pockets in the detachable front bag, which I had packed to death with first aid gear. Overall, the Ghost performed as expected – we stuffed it full of everything we needed to take(with room to spare), and after 3 days in the field, there was no shoulder or back pain, no sores or blisters, nothing.
The Ghost is a comfortable hump. Like the Dragon Egg(Direct Action Gear’s medium ruck), this bag feels really natural. Even when it was completely loaded down, it balanced really well – and I like that. Another thing is the detachable external pouch. I used that pouch as a 1st aid kit during my trip in the Catskills, and I think it serves really well as that. The fact that it’s detachable makes it really portable which, in the case of the first aid kit, creates value. I want to touch again, on the unique low profile, laser cut PALS webbing on DAG’s bags. This webbing is so usable, and so out-of-the-box – I love it. I hooked keys, a flashlight, and a small ammo bag up with pretty much the whole pack to spare. It’s strong, sleek and everywhere. I really liked the setup for two hydration bladders as well, which is a feature I think any 3 day bag should have. Granted, you could put two bladders in pretty much any bag, but this one was crafted with just that in mind – and that says something.
Not many. I was kind of spoiled with all the nooks and crannies of the other two packs made by Direct Action Gear. Although, to be fair, this bag isn’t really meant for a bunch of small stuff – it’s more of a “in it for the long haul” pack – so I guess that’s ok, but still… Also, The detachable pouch really rings my love/hate bell. This pouch works wonderfully as a first aid kit, but I hate that it’s detachable – at the same time, I love it. I think this is where I’m not able to be impartial and objective as my USMC thought process takes over. As a Marine, I want everything on me, right now. I like that the pouch is detachable, but if I were a consultant for this company, I’d have rather seen it integrated as extra space, which would have made the Ghost a supersized Dragon Egg. When it’s attached, I feel like I should be detaching and using it, but once it’s detached, I feel like part of my pack is missing. Maybe I just need a shrink, who knows?
I would put the Ghost on my top 3 72 hour pack list. I’m not saying it’s better or worse than packs from Condor or Maxpedition, but it sure is different and unique – and to me, that counts. I like that this company thinks outside the box, and puts function before anything else. Of course, Direct Action Gear – like any business – needs to remain competitive in their market, and they don’t seem scared to take the path less traveled – I admire that. Bottom line: if you’re shopping for a 3 day military grade pack, the Ghost definitely belongs on your short list.