The Eberlestock Halftrack is a very handy pack. The reason it’s handy is it’s small – it’s a great 2-day bag -, it has handles that you can pick it up by real quick and be on the go. Many people use it as a bug-out bag, keeping it loaded with medical supplies, food, and survival stuff. I use it as a get-home bag.
At the time when I selected this pack, my criteria was that I wanted a bag that was a step up in size from the Maxpedition Zafar and the Triple Aught Fastpack. But the bag still had to be extremely durable, as bags that travel with me tend to get destroyed after about a year. The purpose of this bag is to serve as an extreme distance get-home bag, as I am frequently several hundred miles from home and need more gear than my smaller bags can carry.
Some quick specs: this is part of Eberlestock’s tactical line. It comes in six colors: Black, Coyote Brown, Dry Earth, Military Green, Unicam v2, and Multicam. It is made of 1000 Denier nylon with an internal lining as well. It has nice large zippers, and the zipper pulls are a step up from the paracord pulls you sometimes see.
According to the website, the dimensions of the bag are: 24″ tall by 11″ wide by 7″ deep. This gives 2150 cubic inches, or 35 liters of capacity. However, I find this to be extremely conservative, and does not include the side pouches. My own measurements put the bag at 24″ tall by 19″ wide and 7″deep, giving an approximate volume of 2850 cubic inches, or 46 liters. The bag weighs 6 lb 5 oz, or 2.5 kg. It’s a shallow but wide pack that keeps the load close to your back. This will give you more agility when moving through the woods and rough terrain.
Onto the features of the bag. On the top you find a pouch that’s approximately 9″ by 6.5″ deep by 3″ tall. It has three rows of Molle webbing on the top, as well as a row of Velcro for attaching identification patches. It has a nice wide zipper with a large pull on it. It’s a large pocket, where you can fit a Nalgene bottle, and then more. It will easily fit a pair of binoculars. Normally in this top pocket you would put things that you want to access frequently. However there are no dividing pockets in this space, for keeping things organized if you want to carry a bunch of small things like pens. You would want to get an admin pouch to keep inside for that purpose, or strap it to the top of this pocket.
The Halftrack is a front-loading, or panel-loading pack. There are 6 rows of PALS webbing on the front of it, as well as a block of Velcro for identification or morale patches. There is also a flat pocket on the front that runs the full depth of the lid. On the bottom of the pack there are three more rows of PALS webbing, as well as a zipper pocket for the rain fly, which is included. The rain fly attaches to the pocket via a hook and can be detached to be swapped out with another rainfly, or just remove it totally to give you more room inside this pack, as the pocket pushes in the main compartment of the Halftrack.
There are some things missing from the bottom of the pack that you may be used to. There is no drainage hole, and there are no additional straps for attaching other items to the pack, such as a sleeping pad, tent or maybe your outerwear.
Let’s have a look at the suspension system of the pack. To start out, there is a nice grip handle on the top of the pack. The pack also has an internal plastic sheet and two aluminum stays that give the pack its shape and structure and help transfer the load from the shoulders to the hips. The aluminum stays can be accessed via little tabs on the back of the pack, one on each side. The stays are removable so you can bend them to fit.
When we look at the back of the back, it is nicely padded. In fact, the bottom lumbar pad looks extremely thick, and I had worries at first how that would carry on my back, and that it would feel uncomfortable. It actually feels pretty good, you won’t realize the padding is that thick. But then the padding along the back is also pretty thick, which is good, because it balances out the lumbar pad and creates some nice deep channels for air flow along the back. Having good airflow is essential for any good backpack.
The shoulder straps are adjustable up and down by removing the velcro and positioning the strap up or down the ladder that’s on the back. This is nice in order to adjust the straps to your torso height and make them ride appropriately on your shoulders.
The waistbelt is also nicely padded with some air channels in it. On the outside there are also two rows of PALS webbing. It does have a nice thick nylon belt and buckle. The waist belt is removable via Velcro in the back, so you can take it out if you want to.
Looking at the shoulder straps themselves, one notices that they are nicely padded on the inside. The sternum strap has its own strap keeper, and it can be adjusted up and down for comfort. Up toward the top of the shoulder straps there are D rings for attaching additional items to your pack, as well as load lifter straps to pull the load in towards your back and, again, the strap here has strap keepers, which is nice. You may find a thing missing on the shoulder straps, and that’s a quick release buckle. There’s only an adjustment buckle for fit, but not a release one. This detail aside, overall the pack comes with a very nice carrying system.
The side pockets. This is where the Halftrack lets you get creative about packing your gear. In between the main body and the side pouches there is actually a side pocket on each side that runs the full depth of the pack. My arm fits in there to the elbow. At the top of these pockets there is a hook for the hydration bladder. My Nalgene bottle fits in there fine. These pockets do steal space from the outside pouches, but are also good for storing long items – you can put your trekking poles there, a bottle or two, a fishing rod, an axe, a collapsible saw, or even a small rifle. These long items would normally be strapped to the back of your pack.
The outside pouch is roughly 4″ x 7″ x 21″. It has 4 rows of PALS webbing, a water bottle pouch down at the bottom, and a compression strap with its own strap keeper. I found that the water bottle pouches weren’t deep enough and the bottle kept falling off. So you need to find a way to attach the bottle to the webbing that’s next to it. Back to the side pouch, it has a nice lid that covers the entrance well, and another hook for a 3 liter hydration bladder. You can have up to 4 hydration bladders in this pack, which is good in lands with little water, although the pack would get rather heavy. But this is a very accommodating pouch, a lot of stuff could get crowded in on either side of the bag. On the bottom front corner of the side pockets, there is a drainage hole that perforates both the bigger pocket and the water bottle pocket to let water run out in case it gets in.
The main body. As I mentioned earlier, this is a front-loading or panel-loading pack, so you will not receive the same stuff factor that you might from a top-loading pack, so organizing your belongings becomes very critical. As we open the pack, you can see the nice silky internal lining. On the flap lid there’s 8 rows of PALS webbing. There is a shelf in roughly the middle of the space that is sustained by some Velcro tabs. You can keep the shelf down, or put it up to divide your gear.
Inside the bag, on the bottom, there are two divider pockets at the back of the pack, as well as two rows of PALS webbing. There is also a pocket on each side, and also more webbing. When you lower the shelf, it will cover the two pockets and the PALS webbing at the back. Moving up the sides of the bag, there are three more little storage pockets to keep your gear organized on each side. Then, on the back, there is a little mesh contraption, originally designed to hold a military radio, and there are two ports on either side to allow the antenna to protrude out, as well as two more pockets in the back. A use people give to this mesh divider, is to hold a small 1 liter water bladder in it and run the tube out through the antenna ports.
I should also mention, as it may help some of you, that the dimensions of this inside compartment are 21″ tall by 11″ wide by 7″ deep.
Carrying a rifle or bow. While the Halftrack doesn’t come with a weapon carrying system, Eberlestock makes available a bow or rifle bucket system that can be mounted on all their backpacks that have PALS webbing, which means pretty much all of Eberlestock’s packs. It should also work on any pack that has webbing. The system is called the ARCG ButtBucket Kit, and costs around $35. It allows you to take the weapon off your back without first removing your backpack. For full instructions on how to install it, check here.
That concludes my review of the bag. Here are my impressions after owning it for over a year. I usually carry around 25 pounds of gear in my Halftrack during my hikes, and it carries very well. There are some things are like, and some oddities. First, the top compartment lacked admin organization. The water bottle pouches seemed like an afterthought and are not really functional for me. And there are no straps on the bottom of the pack to let me attach a sleeping bag and other gear.
But overall, I have a positive impression of the pack. It is definitely larger in terms of volume than what is listed on the manufacturer’s website. The main compartment has tons of organization for small items. And the side pockets give you lots of flexibility for odd-sized items. So I like this pack, as it serves the purpose that I wanted it for. Hopefully this review helps those of you who are looking for a larger get-home bag or a bug-out bag.
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