Anyone who’s ever seen Contact has wanted a British “Northern Ireland” (or NI) Patrol Pack. Of course, it’s not just the fact that it’s an interesting piece of foreign military gear. The pack is inimitably practical. Officially known as the Patrol Pack, 30 Litre, DPM, IRR, it has a few features worth mentioning. The camouflage pattern is DPM, or Disruptive Pattern Material, great for use in the woods. The capacity is large enough to be useful, but small enough to force the user to prioritize gear. I find this very desirable in a patrol pack, as larger ones provide the temptation to cram all the gear you may “need” into them, resulting in a heavy burden.
While American modern assault packs, such as the USMC’s ILBE, FILBE, and Army’s MOLLE II are very useful, they all have zipper openings. There’s something about a bag that opens like a book-bag from high school just seems wrong. Also, it’s harder to turn such a bag into an overnight pack, since you can’t put your rolled-up sleeping mat under the lid… because there’s no lid.
The British patrol pack fixes all of that. I have mine packed as a summer mini-rucksack, and it holds my equipment well. The side pockets are extremely useful, being large enough to fit a 3L soda bottle each. I have a 3L Camelbak in one and my food in the other. Rope, poncho liner, spare clothes, poleless litter (for use in making a hammock), extra poncho, medical bag (a re-purposed PLCE respirator bag), radio, and other odds and ends go easily into the main compartment. The main compartment has a storm collar that is closed via two drawstrings. You can overstuff this sucker if you want to, unlike a book-bag.
The pack’s lid has two pockets built-in. The lower pocket is great for flat objects (such as a stripped-down MRE and the top pocket is shaped as though to take a Claymore antipersonnel mine.
This is a surplus bag, and as such, mine came with a couple of flaws. The top drawstring on the storm collar was missing, which was time-consuming to replace. Not such a big deal, as long as you have spare 550 cord. The belt buckle needed to be replaced as well. The male section of the buckle was missing and the female section was cracked. Honestly, I simply removed the buckle and tied the rest back behind the pack. The belt is very unsubstantial, really just 1.5 inch webbing with buckles and tri-glides. It offers very little in the way of support. I may end up removing it altogether.
If you want a nice piece of British military history that doubles as a great day pack, get this. Just have a few spare buckles handy.
-By Allen Cosby