Review: PDW S.H.A.D.O. Multi-Mission Daypack

After well over half a year and many outings with my Prometheus Design Werx S.H.A.D.O. Pack in Summer, Autumn and Winter I decided to write a full review.

by | 30, May 2017 | Piotr Ma, Review | 5 comments

You might be surprised but… actually I never planned a full review of the SHADO. I just wanted to play a bit with the pack, use it through all the seasons and share my general remarks on various outdoor & bushcraft forums (which I did). But after well over half a year and many outings with my SHADO in Summer, Autumn and Winter I decided to make it a full review.

It’s not the most structured one, not very clean as well – it’s mostly random thoughts and might even be somewhat chaotic. But that also shows how adaptive and multi-use the SHADO pack actually is – from normal EDC use, through shooting & archery trips, to mountaineering in Autumn and Winter. It’s a versatile beast.

So my SHADO cleared customs in August 2016 and arrived, as ordered, together with the extra padded belt, EDC-insert and the Gear Trap. Oddly enough the Gear Trap was sent separately and made its way faster, so I had the chance to customize it a bit with a Mandalorian logo (a home-made stencil and some car spray paint did the trick). Doesn’t it just look cool? Ohhh it does… especially if you’re Star Wars fan, just like me!

First inspection: It’s quite different than all other packs I’ve ever had. And it’s a perfect specimen!

First general thought: I really like the overall slim profile of the SHADO. I’m actually tired of bulky egg-shaped packs, which tend to catch rocks when I turn my body while climbing, etc.

Second general thought: After putting it on my back and adjusting it: it’s like it’s made-to-measure for me (I’m close to 6’2” and roughly 180 lbs).

The SHADO’s straps are not heavily padded but seriously wide and very comfortable. I like that idea a lot, my favorite weight hauling pack (the HPG Qui-Ya) has a super wide straps and a yoke, with no padding at all.

What’s also cool is that the padded part is relatively long and goes down well under my armpits. So the weight of SHADO is distributed not only on top of my shoulders, but also lower and across the whole chest, which makes it surprisingly comfortable for my size. Plus there’s no chance of the buckles digging into my arms when climbing or moving in confined space.

It’s just the same length as my Arc’teryx Khard 30, which is a renown as a golden standard (and also perfect for me). I know some used to complain that the straps are actually too long, but after a slight redesign Prometheus Design Werx made the padded section 2 inches shorter and now they should be perfect for everyone.

A sternum strap comes with the pack (of course), plus the straps are layered with a full-length PALS section, so you’ve got a plethora of attachment points for knives, a light, hydration tube, radio, comms pouch, IFAK etc. The shoulder straps start at the very top of the pack so there is simply no space (and no need) for strap lifters. Again, that’s just what I liked about my Khard 30. Of course the straps have an emergency pack release system with QD buckles that are nicely protected from accidental use by elastic pockets.

The waist belt (which comes as default) is 2″ wide webbing BUT with another 1” webbing on it, stitched with inch-long spacings. You can attach any type of PALS pouch to it which is a nice touch verses the usual simple, flat webbing tape belt on most packs.

You can also purchase an add-on belt which is covered with PALS, comfortably padded and wide enough to distribute the vast majority of any pack weight on your hips.

What’s very cool is that there are two side cut-outs on the bottom side of the padded belt, which allow you to put a drop-down gun holster or knife sheath on the waistband – a very unique feature, which allows for sidearm carry with the waist belt fully tightened (I’ve never seen anything like that before).

That’s exactly the outside-the-box thinking I like so much about Patrick Ma’s designs. Oh, and I almost forgot – the pack can (and should) be cinched to the belt with two side-straps and G-hooks for extra stabilization.

The back of the pack is padded and covered with a fine mesh and it’s shaped like a chimney along a spine for increased vertical ventilation. There is no frame sheet in basic SHADO configuration, but for me it’s no problem at all for a daypack like this.

Last winter I had my HPG Qui-Ya with me in the mountains and I took the SHADO as a backup/daypack, without the frame sheet. There is enough padding in the SHADO to keeps its structure really nicely by itself. But if you MUST have it… frame sheets are available for just $12 so don’t moan, it’s less than 3 beers in a pub.

Now let’s check the front – no space is wasted here. First of all I dig the generously sized velcro panel, it’s big enough for even the biggest morale patches in my collection.

Below there is a full-length central webbing daisychain for easy attachment of carabiners, grim-locs, s-biners and similar stuff. And what an attention to detail – it’s not just flat webbing but there is actually space for a carabiner in each single ‘loop’ so no matter how much overstuffed your pack is, attaching carabiners will be fast and easy.

There is also a shock-cord net for lacing down stuff like a jacket (which could be wet, so storing it outside really makes sense) or crampons for winter mountain use. Another small touch of brilliant design is that the shock-cord lacing loops are big enough for a carabiner as well, which is very often overlooked in other packs.

The side pockets are fine and I really dig the stretch material instead of the 500D Cordura on some of my other packs – that way the pockets lay flat when not in use and don’t eat-up internal space when filled. I can easily fit my MIZU bottle, a Klean Kanteen 27oz or a pint of beer in there.

These pockets are also good for EDC items like a flashlight or a fixed blade, and thanks to the flaps, whatever you put there is quite secured and doesn’t rattle around. Of course you can also secure it even more with one of the compression straps of the gear-trap like my Helle Utvaer knife visible in the picture. Plus there are small loop-tabs as lashing points (I really dig details like this).

The admin slots are located in the side pockets. Yes, inside the bottle pockets, and that is actually quite clever as it allows you to reach for a pen or flashlight with your backpack hanging on one shoulder! If a pen was in a top pocket it’d not be possible without completely de-shouldering the pack. I will put my Fisher space pen in there for sure just to have it handy in the field. And a small Rite-it-the-Rain notebook as well.

However, if you prefer the classic front storage for admin stuff – no problem! Now the front pocket is equipped with a velcro/loop panel so you can easily put a PDW 6×6 Admin Tile insert in there with pens and such. And while I’m speaking about the top zipper pocket… there’s nothing special about it, it’s just fine for storing EDC items, a compass, energy bars etc. Oh, wait a second! It’s lined with blaze-orange canvas… just like the WHOLE PACK, which is both cool and very useful. Thanks to this lining I can always find even the smallest items in the bag as the visibility inside is perfect, it almost looks illuminated. Nice.

And what’s inside? Just one big front cavity with a full clamshell opening and a padded laptop sleeve, which is also designed as a hydration bladder storage in ‘adventurous’ use of the SHADO (I recommend the 3L military SOURCE bladder with an insulated tube).

Plus there is one looong mesh pocket on the front flap. I was not a big fan of that long pocket at first but I can live with that, it helps me to store long stuff, rolled bivvy, etc. and also my Magpul DAKA medium and large pouches fit inside perfectly so now I use it a lot. However, due to popular demand, the new upgraded version has that long pocket divided in two – so no more complains now.

The back compartment was designed specifically for the optional PDW EDCO panel, which is a pals/velcro insert and can be configurated in many ways. However, I mainly use this compartment for carrying A4 documents (in urban mode) or for extra clothing layers (or picnic blanket) storage in outdoor use. There are also more uses and I’ll address them later in my review, in ‘a practical part’.

Now the Gear Trap… it is covered with velcro & pals on the front – honestly, I don’t think I’ll use it too much that way, even my patch collection is probably not big enough to cover it all 😉 However you can always attach a velcro/pals pocket and put the whole gear-trap in ‘reverse mode’ (just as I did) to keep some stuff relatively ready to access in the field, but still hidden from the outside view. Just an idea.

Back to the reversed gear-trap… I really REALLY like the clean look of it and how easily it can be customized to make your pack a 1-off piece. Plus there is a big flat pocket there, which is very handy for small flat items like a map, Field Notes etc.

As you could have noticed there are two grab & go handles on the SHADO – top and bottom, they work well when packing the SHADO into a pickup truck or just moving the pack around. Plus the gear-trap, together with bottom ‘handle’, let me carry my bow and arrows easily and securely. The bow is firmly attached and quick to deploy. I really enjoy exploring a forest with a recurve bow in my hand and practising ‘stumping’ – so for me that is great news.

Want some more random thoughts? Well, I spent a week in the Tatra mountains (6-8k ft) in central Europe with the SHADO on my back as a summit pack. First of all I liked the ergonomic shape, flat, slim, no bulk. Thanks to that, I was able to make a kind of ‘expedition setup’ with the daypack piggybacked to my gear hauler (Arc’teryx Khyber 50) and it worked just like a suckerfish – flat & firm in place. I know it’s not a key aspect for most people but the final balance was manageable, which would be not the case with a bulky, egg-shaped pack.

I admit, at first I was not sure about the lack of weight lifters on the straps, but the straps work really fine for me as I said.

The waist belt (the padded optional one) is a blessing on long mountain hikes. It’s just SO MUCH BETTER than the standard one, it’s absolutely worth investing the extra bucks. Sure, if you try and measure the pack in front of a mirror at home you won’t notice much difference. BUT when you’re hauling 20lbs for the whole day in the mountains the difference is substantial, take my word for that!

Overall the fit of the SHADO is snug and flat, so it won’t shift your center of gravity too much. Is that important? When walking through the forest… not so much. When climbing rocks and balancing on the ridge… well, it’s simply crucial. The flat profile also helps when climbing or crawling under the branches of a dwarf mountain pine (massively popular ‘tree’ in the Alpine-type mountains like Tatra).

The side pockets don’t just work for bottles, but also for trekking poles – just make sure you put the poles in tip-up config (the stretch fabric is not as robust as the 500D Cordura of the main body). The Gear Trap zipper pocket is perfectly placed for map storage. By the way, isn’t it just a damn sexy looking pack?

I enjoy my SHADO more and more with every outdoor trip. But it’s also quite an awesome concealed carry platform, for a small bullpup or stuff like a short HK MP5 or FN P90 (where legal, of course).

The SHADO is not overly tactical looking, it won’t attract unwanted attention. It blends technical style and some tactical aspects in a truly innovative way – a perfect example of a true TactiTechnical pack (whoa! did I just create a new word?).

With enough storage and attachment points for guns, knives, accessories, hydration, etc. it’s quite a tactical pack, but with a distinctive outdoor/technical look and features. Here you can see how I adapted the optional PDW EDCO panel to carry my EdGun Leshiy (a folding full-power airgun). It takes maybe two seconds (or less?) to open the bag, undo the velcro strap and draw. Fast enough? I guess so…

The SHADO works fine for winter mountaineering too, including as an avalanche rescue gear carry. By the way, don’t under-estimate the power of an avalanche! The vast majority of people who die under an avalanche in the Tatra mountains (a kind of small Alps) are buried less than 2ft (JUST TWO FEET!) below the snow. They see the light, they can hear, they can breathe a bit but yet… they can’t move. The ONLY way to survive is to have FRIENDS who have EQUIPMENT that they are trained to use.

Avoid going alone, that’s rule #1. If found within 5 minutes after being buried under an avalanche there is still a good chance of being fine. But after 15 minutes or more, under the snow, your chance of survival is almost zero. So you’ve got minutes. If you’re lucky.

And what about climbing an 8,000ft summit in severe snowy winter conditions? That’s my kind of fun, a perfect day in the mountains. Full food supply, extra cloths, thermal bottle, headlamp, first aid, crampons, ice-axe, walking poles and more – all of that in (and on!) the pack and it passed the test with flying colors!

By the way, the only thing I’d add to the SHADO in the next iteration would be dedicated ice-tool loop at the bottom and ice-axe handle attachment strap on top. Sure, you can make it out of paracord in 5 minutes (like I did) but still a dedicated solution would be nice to have.

So let me conclude with a simple statement: The PDW SHADO – what a damn versatile pack it is! Not the lightest in its class (42 oz.) but very robust and loaded with features. If you’re looking for a high-end multi-mission carry platform, which is easily expandable from simple urban use, through forest day hiking, up to mountaineering in any conditions, including technical snow climbing – it’s one of the option you should seriously consider.

Plus it has ‘tactical’ use (if needed) as a benefit. It’s also entirely made in the US by one of the TOP tactical pack manufacturers, out of the very best materials, and without any compromise. SO as a consequence it’s not a cheap option at all at $260 for the basic configuration, but you get what you pay for. And you pay only once, because now you’re done for a long number of years regarding a perfect adventure day-pack. Enjoy! And no, mine is not for sale 🙂

by | 30, May 2017 | Piotr Ma, Review | 5 comments

Piotr Ma Contributor & Edge Specialist

Adventurer, outdoorsman, mountaineer, sailor and gear enthusiast from Poland. It all started for Piotr when he was 10 and went to the high mountains with his father. Now he’s transferring his experiences and knowledge to the younger generation, together with his wife. His perfect vacation is not an all-inclusive hotel but a nothing-inclusive mountain shelter. More…