Urban Assault Pack from Camelbak

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As a journalist I’m constantly on the go. Planes, trains and automobiles. Whether it’s shooting photos of Orangutans in Borneo or feeding sharks in Fiji, I’m always interested in a good story.


I take a lot of equipment with me. Even though miniaturization keeps the weight down, it seems that my must-have list keeps getting longer. This entails a laptop, video camera, still camera, tablet, tripod, external drive, lenses and the inventory goes on.

Along with superior equipment, I’m always looking for better ways to transport my gear. What’s especially crucial is getting all the paraphernalia safely packed and stowed on an airplane. There’s no way I’m going to put my cameras, laptop and other computer gear in the luggage compartment.

So how do you best take it with you?

To date, my solution is the Camelbak Urban Assault XL. I can get all my gear in there, stow it safely in the overhead bin and if need be, walk comfortably for miles with my gear on my back. In other words it’s a perfect carry-on and hiking companion. There are two versions of the Urban Assault Pack but my preference, in order to take everything I need, is the slightly larger “XL” model.

The Company

Based in Petaluma (once the chicken producing capital of California) located about an hour north of San Francisco. Camelbak’s roots go back to 1988. The founder, bicycle racer, Michael Eidson was competing in the “Hotter’N Hell 100, a 100-mile road race in the grueling summer heat of Wichita Falls, Texas. Eidson, an EMT by profession, filled an IV bag with water, slipped it into a white tube sock and placed the contrivance on his back. To complete the package, he put a thin hose over his shoulder and clamped it with a clothespin.

Hands-free hydration was born and so was the concept for a new company.

Although better known for their hydration products, such as hydration packsand water bottles, the company also provides protective gear, and other products to the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies.

Plenty of pockets to stash your gear. Great for transporting your computer and photographic equipment. Fits neatly in the overhead bin.

The Pack

Their Urban Assault Pack has grown on me over the last few months. The configuration is well thought out, and the capacity works perfect as a daily carry pack or even as an overnight travel pack as well.

It has both a shoulder harness and a a removable waist belt, which is a nice option to have. (My good friend, a former IDF paratrooper, had a chance to use it and he found it exceedingly comfortable).  There are several fleece lined pockets for sunglasses, smart phone and the like and a 10 mm EVA foam padded laptop compartment that doubles as a reservoir pocket. (You need to buy the reservoir unit separately), The side pockets are a perfect fit for CamelBak bottles, Nalgene bottles, and or 16-24oz travel coffee cups. (The bag includes a 75L CamelBak bottle, which comes in handy).

Although the moniker “Urban Assault” sounds vaguely martial there are no molle attachments which gives the pack more of a civilian than military look. (Some military guys would just as soon shed the government-issue look out in the civilian world).

“Comfortable” says former elite paratrooper Louis Herman.

There are so many nice touches with the pack. For example, the zipper pulls have little anodized aluminum tubes that add a neat flair. The adjustment straps have Velcro keepers that keep things from flopping around.

My only complaint is that when the bag is tightly packed with lenses and cables bulging out of every pocket, it’s a chore to pull out the laptop when you go through the TSA checks, and put it back in again. That’s because the laptop sleeve is tucked in the very middle of the pack. On the other hand, this could be construed a good thing because the laptop is protected on all sides.  It’s not a deal breaker but if you carry a laptop and need to access it, you should be aware.


This is a very solid and intelligently constructed pack. It’s great for travel or as the name implies, using it as a day or overnight pack. We took put it through it’s paces on the Mau’umae trail at the top of Wilhelmina Rise in Honolulu and it was comfortable and balanced.

It should serve you well for years. MSRP is $185 but you can get it on Amazon for $165. Not inexpensive but you get what you pay for.

Photos courtesy of  On Target staff.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact us at ontargethawaii@gmail.com

Read more of Rob’s articles on OnTargetHawaii.com





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