Review: Recon 9, Evade Pack

David Massey gives us an overview of the pack that transcended the blurring lines between the theater of war and the civilian world – the Evade – slick, unassuming in appearance with tactically inspired features.

by | 21, Jul 2017 | David Massey, Review | 0 comments

Helmie Ashiblie of Alpha One-Niner has spent time in the fashion worlds of Milan and New York and also rucking in unforgiving theaters while serving with a recon unit. After 14 years of building law enforcement and military gear, Ashiblie knows how to design things that work and he did that with the Evade pack. It works well… very well.

Sourcing ideas from forums on social media, Ashiblie asked pack enthusiasts a lot of questions about what they wanted in an EDC type of pack and what he found ultimately shaped the pack that I tested. The process took 9 months and it was a labor of love, according to Ashiblie. “Crowdsourcing has its merits”, he says, “the only time it fails is when the developer is not able to accommodate the feedback and juggle a proper balance of what can or cannot be done.”

The Evade may have been before its time, with its slick, unassuming appearance and tactically inspired features. Tactical end-users demand a lot from their gear, both in design and durability. Alpha One Niner took those necessities to the table when they made decisions on layout and pocketing. There is ample room for organization of EVERYTHING.

The battlefield lines have been blurred in the last few decades and the area between the theater of war and the civilian world is now gray. Contractors, Operators and those in intelligence agencies have been working in that world for a long time now and they demand the same functionality of a tactical pack from a less conspicuous one.

Similarly, there is a need from the non-military end-user, who wants to fit in to the masses, but wants tactical capabilities from their gear, without tipping anyone off by excessive PALS webbing or morale patches. This is where the Recon 9 Evade pack excels.

If it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, I don’t want to know about it. Pockets are good, organization is better. My wife would agree, but she would probably say, “Practice what you preach Massey”, as my gear is always laying around the house, out of sorts.

The Recon Nine Evade has more pockets and pouches than a gang of kangaroos. But seriously, it has so many places to put stuff you might need a diagram to remember where you put everything, and that is a good thing.

Organization is a key to preparedness. Ashiblie noted that there are variants out there of the Evade that are in use by agencies, one as a full med pack, but you wouldn’t know it, would you?

SERT, the parent company that produces Alpha One Niner makes packs utilizing many of the features that are in the Evade. Those packs in use by members of elite law enforcement such as FBI, HRT, Marine Force Recon, the DEA, Air Marshals and various special operations units worldwide. I tried to count all of the actual spaces to put things in the pack, big and small, but I lost track after 20. From pens to PPK’s, the Evade has a space for it.

On the outside of the pack you have two water bottle pockets to choose from, with hefty elastic to keep your hydration secure. Many new packs have done away with the water bottle pocket and I can never figure out why. You’ll never thirst for pockets on this pack… stupid jokes aside, the Evade has you covered and hydrated.

The admin pocket is deceptively large. From the look of it, it’s a skinnier pocket in the middle of the front of the pack, but when you unzip and open, it spans the full width of the pack.

The inside of the admin space is made with hi-vis nylon and there is space for pens, electronics, note pads, flashlights, a secure zipper pouch and a d-ring to attach something to, along with a key hook.

Above the admin area on the top of the pack is a smaller “Quick Access Pocket” that is perfect for things like a mobile, tickets, passport, sunglasses, etc. It’s a fairly deep pocket and can hold quite a bit.

The only drawback to stuffing it too much is the pouch of the pocket ends up in top of the admin area. Although doesn’t cut down on the space of the admin area, it might just seem awkward if you stuff it too full.

The Evade opens up to an almost full clam-shell. (The zipper stops shy of one inch from the bottom of the pack). On the outside flap of the inner cavity, you have two stacked zipper pouches in mesh and a D-Ring at the very top.

At the top of the admin area and the inside cargo area are D-Rings to employ the use of Alpha One Niner’s Matroskya Pouches. They are named for the Russian nesting dolls that all fit inside of one another.

The pouch’s plastic hardware or “hangers” can fit though the D-Ring so the pouch hangs down from the attachment point. Conveniently, the tri-glide hardware of the plastic also works with PALS webbing. (see a breakdown of these pouches here)

More about that later…

The separate laptop space is probably one of the best I have experienced in a while. I have a 15” Mac Book Pro Retina Display and it fits well with room for several other components, like charging cable and iPad to boot. The padding is generous and while there is a lot of extra space back there, the laptop fits securely.

On the back panel are right and left side access zippers to a loop paneled pocket for concealed carry options. You can debate why one would carry a hand gun in a backpack and not on your person all you want, the pack simply gives you options. We like options.

You could carry a second weapon there so you won’t be Yosemite Sam with two sidearms when you are trying to blend in. You could carry a Crocodile Dundee Bowie knife if you want to, you have that luxury.

For those that absolutely must have some flair, there is a small flag sized loop panel for that favorite patch.

Fit and Finish:
The Evade comes in a few different material options. Solid Color Nylon in 1000D and 500D, multiple camouflage in 500D Cordura, and 420D Diamond Ripstop Nylon.

I opted for the Ripstop Nylon for weight and for its unassuming appearance. All the packs come with a high-vis red nylon interior. The ripstop nylon tipped the scale least at 2.8 lbs or 1.27kg. Corduras weighed in at 3.6 lbs or 1.63kg. At 27L or 1650 the Evade seemed to me to be about the perfect size for EDC carry and for day or overnight use.

My initial testing was done as a commuter pack, stuffing it with many different items used throughout weeks of work. Portable hard drives, cables, pens, flashlights, multi-tools, laptop, personal items, extra layer of clothing, jacket, drink bottle, etc. It carried these things comfortably with very minimal shifting when the straps were fitted properly. I attribute the good fit to the contoured or curved shoulder straps.

Back padding is generous. At almost an inch thick, the padding serves as protective and structural element, as there is no frame sheet but it’s very stout in form. The one and only con of this pack is it doesn’t have a mesh back pad to mitigate the sweaty back phenomenon with which we’ve become well acquainted.

Even with adequate mesh, your back is still going to sweat, but perhaps with V2, the next generation Evade will have added that feature. Ashiblie confirmed that another iteration of the pack will be happening.

There is no rule of thumb for the length of a bag, but there must be an average spine length used for sizing. I’m only 5’5” so I guess I’m slightly below average in height and the pack fits me well. I never once wondered why it didn’t have a waist belt. In my opinion, it wasn’t needed and I can’t imagine it with one. If you found a need for one, I’d say you packed it too full.

The Matroskya pouches are so simple, but quite clever. They attach only at one side of the pouch and hang down. The effect is that you can layer the pouches and flip them over to access the individual pouches underneath. The point of the hanging feature, is so that your organized items don’t settle at the bottom of the pack. Makes perfect sense.

The smaller ones are great for and IFAK and the larger are good for organizing clothing.

The pouches can be purchased in different materials, Nylon, Mesh, and clear PVC. The nylon versions are available in blue, red and black and come as a pack of four in different sizes for the affordable price of $26 (15″ x 10.75″, 12″ x 8.75″, 9.5″ x 7.75″ and 7.5″ x 5.5″).

The fit of the Evade is snug and comfortable. Shoulder straps are generously padded and are removeable. I have heard of people replacing the stock straps for straps from Kifaru but the originals worked fine for me. They are contoured so they curve around your shoulders and your ribs and hug your body tighter than straight straps.

The pack is listed at 27 liters and measures a svelte 18.5″(47cm) x 12 (30.48cm) x 8″ (20.32cm). Despite its ample size it doesn’t look big and it doesn’t feel big either.

Good design should be functional and good looking too and the Evade is spot on. It just works.

This pack is designed for travelers and for operators who probably are blending in as travelers. It definitely works for the commute as I have carried it into office, classrooms, plane, car and trains too.

At the cost of $185 and $225 for some camo ranges, it’s extremely affordable. Helmie Ashiblie is logging over 150,000 miles of travel this year and you can bet some of those miles were with his Evade.

David Massey Senior Contributor & Recon Specialist

David Massey is from the USA and works full time as a MultiMedia Producer, Photojournalist and writer, creating imagery for an aeronautical university and shooting freelance assignments wherever they may be. He’s traveled to Africa, Asia, Europe and Central America in search of a good story. More…