Recently I have been learning more and more about multi-use items. Food Network’s Alton Brown decidedly is against any “unitasker” and I have to agree. This is what differentiates the ROM Pack from other normal backpacks on the market.
Dave Canterbury from The Pathfinder School has been teaching multi-use mentality to all of his students. No item should have a single use! Although the knife cuts, it also serves more purposes than just cutting but we will save that discussion for another time.
The ROM Pack is designed as a 3-in-1 system: A backpack with around 3000 cubic inches of space inside, a foldout blanket, and an insulated poncho. For those that are curious about weight, it actually surprised me. I picked it up and thought it was a little heavy. However, after taking my backpack, adding a blanket and a poncho/rain shell, the weight was very close in comparison with the ROM Pack coming in six ounces heavier. Considering insulation for the poncho, it is a weight that becomes negligible. Add to the fact the shoulder straps are wide, the weight is distributed very evenly.
The ROM Pack comes with a handy booklet that shows you, with both words and pictures, how to unfold and fold the pack. This process allows you to convert the pack to a blanket or make one more step to utilize the poncho. In addition to the pack care and instructions, the booklet also offers two bits of good advice: Know Your Poisonous Plants and Start A Campfire.
Personal note: There was a hand written thank you in the box. That is customer service!
All that being said, here are some more features that make the system very appealing:
- 2 zippered pockets
- MOLLE Webbing
- Trolley Handle (they call it a web haul handle)
- Saddlebags (my personal favorite)
While there are more listed on the website, these are the four things I want to focus on.
The two zippered pockets are small but very useful for stashing keys, cash/coins, or an extra pistol magazine. I was able to fit the magazine for a S&W M&P 9c and a Swiss Army Knife in one pocket. In the other, I slid my billfold (normally kept in my front pocket so it is small), a tactical knife with a 6″ blade, and a bandana inside before zipping it up.
MOLLE webbing I believe speaks for itself but is limited to one side of the saddlebags. Their detachment extends the use beyond the actual pack.
By having a trolley handle, one does not require the use of two hands. The pack can hang on a single hook or be carried, non-backpack style, by this handle which in essence makes it more efficient and greatly designed as in the case of a busted arm or shoulder. If that were to happen, putting on a backpack may just send a person into shock due to the pain.
The reason the saddlebags are my favorite part of the additions, is because they are removable. If I used the blanket or poncho, I still have something that will hold my gear. These are not large but work very efficiently.
- Top is barrel style at 12″w x 7 1/4″h x 2″ deep
- Bottom is flat at 10 1/2″w x 9″h x 1″ deep
- Zippers face each other
I have placed my S&W 9c with two extra magazines, two pocket knives, a folding saw, a 5″x7″ notebook, and a ferro rod in the bottom pack and still had room. While they are clipped together with a single clip, they can be separated and carried individually as well. This is certainly where the MOLLE comes into play and your imagination is your limitation.
My Experience in Testing
I literally threw the pack, with a two handed chest pass, in the back of the Jeep loaded with stuff. When I got to my destination, I was not hesitant to throw the pack to the ground before I hefted it onto my back. As the trip progressed, the wide straps did not start wearing on my shoulders which is very pleasing. After several more times of throwing it to the ground, unfolding it into a blanket, and heaving it onto my back, I headed back to the Jeep to literally throw it one more time.
The results were outstanding. I inspected it closely and outside of dirt which you can see on the barrel saddlebag above, there were just some minor scratches on the plastic clips.
My 2 cents. If I were to make improvements to this pack, I would probably use sturdier clips. While they did not break on me, that was the one fear I had. Additionally, I would find a way to include the separately purchased, Inner Pack with the design. I had a long item in the bag that did slip from the center of the pack and started sliding out of the corner. This means that although it is a bucket style pack, the corners are open to allow small things to slip through, unless you either add a pack or purchase ROM Outdoors Inner pack. That is not necessarily a bad design after unfolding and folding up the blanket/poncho as there are ways around it, but it is definitely to be considered a caution.
One thing that struck me as odd, the straps when using it as a poncho. After putting it on, the straps face outward so the poncho will insulate you with fleece and you could utilize the snaps but it looks kind of weird. Functionally it works but aesthetics, maybe not.
So that is it. I like the pack and will continue to use it. I am in the process of waiting for the Inner Pack to be mailed to me so I can test the system with that piece as well. Retail on this is $99.95 but as of this writing is on sale for $69.97 USD regardless of color (black, coyote, or camouflage). Not too bad for a sturdy piece of gear and as the folks at Georgia Bushcraft say “buy once, cry once”.
Enjoy the companion video.
Use your instincts to survive