Review: Arc’teryx Khard
The Arcteryx Khard is an engineer’s dream, offering unsurpassed modular organization, simplicity that keeps it clean, and enough space to throw in those extra few things on your way out the door.
As an aerospace engineering student, who aspires to design fighter jets, I love things that are high speed and low drag. I also like to be organized and prepared, whether it is for my Fluid Mechanics class or the unpredictable Florida weather. Being away from my place all day also means that I have to bring everything I might need from sun-up to sun-down with me.
This is where the Arcteryx Khard 30 comes in very handy, offering versatility and durability that has had me coming back to this pack every day for over a year. The Arcteryx Khard is an engineer’s dream, offering unsurpassed modular organization, simplicity that keeps it clean, and enough space to throw in those extra few things on your way out the door.
When looking at the Arctery Khard concept, it is impossible to avoid talking about organization; it is at the core of this bag’s soul. What sets the Khard apart from other bags that I’ve used, both tactical and otherwise, is the customizability. While this may be a nice added feature for some, as an engineer, it takes the bag to a whole new level, not only allowing me to figure out cool ways to stay neat but to develop my sense of design and usability.
An admin panel (from Blue Force Gear) sits on the highest portion of the tongue’s Velcro panel, upside down when the bag is closed. This way, when I open the lid and fold it over in class, my calculator, pens, pencils, styluses, erasers, etc are all right there. No digging through pencil cases or scrambling for my calculator when the teacher throws us a pop quiz.
Opposite that, I have a London Bridge Trading medium pouch, oriented right side up on the outer wall of the pack. This keeps my computer and calculator chargers (yes, my calculator has a charger) handy and easy to access. This has saved my butt on more than one occasion, most notably on a coding test last spring, when my computer nearly quit on me mid exam. Like some kind of Tier 1 operator reloading his carbine, the charger came out of the pouch, got slapped in an outlet, and I was good to go.
The mesh side organizer holds a third calculator – one is none, two is one, and three shows that you’ve been there and done that, and a phone charger. The tongue of the pack unzips almost like a clam shell revealing the internal loop panel that I’ve outfitted with all the pouches. The loop also allows other, non-purpose built items to be easily be integrated. A few other pouches are buried farther down in the pack, accessible in a few different ways, but they contain less critical gear that is there to satisfy the prepper in me.
On the topic of prepping, Florida can go from beautiful to monsoon in minutes, so I’ve made a habit out of carrying rain gear on me. Other bags I’ve used, particularly non tactical ones, did not have a large enough secondary pocket for a rain jacket of substance, which meant that I was either digging through books when it started raining, or digging through rain gear to get to books in class. It also meant that once something was wet, there was no way it was going back into the bag.
The side pockets on the Khard perfectly fit a carefully folded Triple Aught Design Raptor NS on one side and a standard Nalgene and pack cover on the other. The separation from the main compartment and orientation of these pockets allows quick access to my rain gear, even while walking and the material of the pack keeps the contents dry long enough for me to get the rain cover on. It also allows me to put a wet rain gear back in the pack without the risk of damaging my books, computer, etc. Another unexpected benefit of this pack is that the general shape of the pack and lower mounting of the shoulder straps means that a rain cover can get complete coverage of the pack, something that is very important to me after another pack, which I absolutely loved, let a rain cover slip and soaked an entire semester’s worth of notes, days before final exams.
The overall layout of the pack also speaks to the engineer in me, following the “keep it simple, stupid,” principle to the T. There is not much to snag on, just a few loops of webbing at the top and the waist strap, which I taped together, since I don’t use it. This means that I don’t have to worry about slamming things in car doors or getting stray straps stuck under chairs, which used to happen a fair bit in busy classrooms.
Additionally, the ability to fully unzip the top of pack means that books, folders, and the like slip in and out easily, which works better for me than the traditional clamshell opening that some of other my favorite tactical packs use. The last feature that should be mentioned are the side grab handles. The pack is easy to manage if it’s stuffed in the back of your vehicle wedged in between other cargo.
My one big gripe is that the pack is sometimes too big for what I carry regularly. In order to keep notebooks from sliding down into the narrower portion of the pack and getting squished, I have had to stuff the bottom with shemaghs, rain pants, and other space fillers. I’ve been thinking about a hollow cardboard or plastic construction to fill the space and reduce weight, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. The framesheet is comfortable, although on hot days, it does get a bit sweaty, without ventilation.
Outside of school, the pack performs excellently, as well. One of my favorite features is the ability to open the individual sides of the pack. On family vacations to colder cities, I have put hats, gloves, and other items in internal pouches on the side panels, allowing me to access them by swinging the bag around my body and opening that one side. This meant that I could adjust my layers on the go, keeping up with my family’s ludicrous pace and schedule.
The Khard, in my mind, is a pack built by engineers for people with an engineering mindset. Its endless flexibility and simplicity allow a user to swing from the range, to school to city to wherever it may be without so much as a second thought, and its clean, unassuming lines, mean that people ask me where I am going camping instead of where I am being deployed (It has happened, and it was awkward).
Greer Sallick Guest Contributor
Editor: Greer is into planes, sharps, gear and adventure and I’ve loved reading his review. I particularly enjoy the authentically worn look of his pack that you just don’t get from a few weeks of use. A true Pack Configer.
Find his IG here.