Christmas on the Road—Vanquest Trident-20 pack and Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System

The author is still comfortable with the Trident-20 after a long hike.
article top
The author is still comfortable with the Trident-20 after a long hike.
The Trident-20 is both comfortable and practical.

by Rob Kay

(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two part series on items that will make excellent holiday gifts for the discerning traveler. All are priced no more than $170).


While at a journalists’ event earlier this year (Big 3 East) I had the good fortune to run into Alex Nunes from a company called Vanquest. The Orange County, California-based firm designs and manufactures backpacks, range bags and similar gear.

It’s a small endeavor in a very competitive space. Their “secret sauce” is thoughtfully engineered equipment at a fair price.

As a traveler and hiker, having a decent day-pack for long and short sojourns is essential. You’ll want something sturdy that you can either take on the plane or pack in your luggage to use when you’re exploring a city or a national park.

I’ve been using their Trident-20 Backpack for the last couple of weeks and found it to be a practical, well constructed pack that’s a cut above similar products.

The Trident-20 is not to be confused with a $30 day pack from Costco.

Vanquest products are not the least expensive, but as the old saw goes, you get what you pay for. Their bags are mostly fabricated in Taiwan (rather than the PRC) so the quality control is excellent. Their gear is made with high-end components such as Cordura fabric and premium hardware (YKK, ITW, and Duraflex).

I really liked the Trident-20 because of its versatility. In addition to heavy items (such as ammo) you can carry fragile gear while feeling confident it will be protected.

I’ll explain.

The Trident-20 comes with three padded dividers with hook and loop attachments so that you can self-configure the pack. Great for photographers.
Trident features three padded dividers with hook and loop attachments to self-configure the pack. Great for photographers.

As a journalist I often carry a variety of breakable stuff such as cameras, lenses, tablets, laptops, etc and this backpack is ideal in this regard. Vanquest provides separators for the main compartment (just as you’d expect with any camera bag) so that you can stash your stuff safely and just as importantly, get at it without have to take the bag off your back.

The Trident-20 is ergonomically designed. It has two (padded) adjustable straps with a removable waist strap. It also features a semi-rigid backing to prevent sagging and helps distribute the weight across your back. I ended up removing the waist strap. For my purposes it wasn’t necessary but if you had something heavy, you’d want the option.

There are a number of other nice touches.  For example you can also lash/attach things to the top of the pack with the a bungee container .

There’s also a dual hydration system (one in the hydration/CCW-ready sleeve, and one in the main compartment) so that you can schlep up to 5 liters of water. A hydration hose could be used on left or right sides aided by built-in hose harnesses on the shoulder straps.

Another nice innovation is the highly visible, bright orange 210-D lightweight ripstop nylon which lines the interior of the pack. This contrast helps you find your “stuff” in low-light conditions.

The Trident-20 has the requisite molle, which of course comes in handy, but Vanquest hasn’t gone overboard with the ‘tacticool’ look. The bag’s muted aesthetics (especially in grey unit I tested) fit urban, suburban, and outdoor environments.

CCW anyone? Vanquest offers a hook and loop holster and mag carrier that attach snugly to the surface.

For those who live in an area where CCW is an option, Vanquest offers hook-&-loop inserts for a holster and a magazine holder. Both have This holster has a hook fastener backing, and securely attach to the ample loop surface on the inside of the bag’s main compartment. They both come in coyote tan.

In short, I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this product.

With an  exterior size of 18.5″ x 11″ x 6″ it’s not to be confused with a full-on backpack that you’d take into the wilderness for a month. However, as a mid-sized (20 liters) item, you can fit all the gear you need for day trip.

There are less expensive bags out there but with the Trident-20, you’ll get something that will last. Price is $170 on Amazon.


Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System

A tool sharpening kit as a travel accessory?

At first this might seem a bit off. You most likely wouldn’t be bringing this on an airplane to visit your cousin in London but if you have a vacation home in the woods or do quite a bit of camping, the Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System makes a whole lot of sense.

Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System is light enough to pack for use when camping, in the field or at a vacation home.

Manufactured by a company called Darex out of Ashland, Oregon, this sharpening kit will work for every type of knife as well as fish hooks, gardening tools, etc. Although the company manufactures several power sharpeners, this system is strictly “manual”.

The product provides a substantial improvement over the typical whetstone we all know and love. Called the “Pivot-Response System“ this innovation allows the abrasive to follow the curve of the knife while you’re sharpening it. Essentially, it’s a sharpening “platform” that tilts according to the pressure that you exert on it.

I’ve started using it to sharpen kitchen knives and the like and it’s quite effective. There’s definitely a technique to this. The main thing to do is keep the blade perpendicular to the sharpening plates. The result is a mean edge on pocket, hunting and kitchen knives—including those with serrations.

This system comes with everything you need.

There are two angle guides–one at 17° edge for kitchen cutlery and the other a 20° edge for outdoor and pocket knives.  Thus, you can use the best sharpening angle for your chosen implement. The blades are sharpened on two (coarse and fine) interchangeable 6-inch Diamond Plates (320 and 600 grit) which are mounted on a magnetic platform that allows for secure placement while you’re actually sharpening. The magnetic shelf also provides a quick and dirty way to swap out what grit you’re using.

The kit includes two (coarse and fine) interchangeable 6-inch Diamond Plates (320 and 600 grit) and a Ceramic Field Hone (at upper left).

There’s also another attachment called a Ceramic Field Hone. Fitted with a 25° guide, it features small and medium gradations on a ceramic rod which will sharpen any size or type of serration. To adjust the type of grit you need you just twist a little radio style dial and turn the rod.

The lowdown on this product is that it’s the best you’re going to find if you want a sharpening system that won’t be plugged into a wall. (Darex also makes the highly regarded Ken Onion tool and knife sharpener but it has a motor and with all the proper attachments will run over $200).

The big advantage with the WSGSS is that you can pack for use in the field or and sharpen your gear anywhere.

Last but not least Work Sharp Tools not only makes great products but they have equally impressive customer service. Tech support, if you need it, is very helpful and nearly always available. I called several times and only once did the phone end up on a voice mail. I really do think there something in the air or water in Ashland, Oregon that’s quite salubrious. Price is $57 on Amazon.

Rob Kay, who resides in sunny Honolulu, is the author of How to Buy an AK-47.  

Photos courtesy of  On Target staff.

Read more of Rob’s articles on

Questions?  Comments?  Contact us at