5.11 Triab 18 Backpack / Sling review - any love for military bags?


Mu-43 Regular
Jun 16, 2012
Like everyone else, I had a list of features I was looking for in a photo daypack. Unfortunately, no manufacturer to date made a pack that would fit MY needs. And here's what I was looking for:

- Convertible (backpack to sling)
- Ambidextrous (sling on either side)
- Can fit a 13" MacBook Pro
- 1/3 room for gear, 2/3 room for miscellaneous (chargers, rain shell, 1 thermal layer, snacks, ipad, FAK)
- Safe (zipper has to be doubled with compression straps. I had an old Tamrac opening on me once because the zipper let go. Scary.)
- Has water bottle pocket (16-24 oz) that does NOT crunch the contents when the bottle is in
- Be carry-on size (at least) or "laptop-bag" size (ideally)
- Be rain proof

So after looking and looking and looking, I ran into the Triab 18 made by 5.11. Except it's not a photo bag, and looking a bit too "tacticool" for my taste, it had every other feature I needed. Speaking of "tacticoolness", the Covrt Triab wasn't available in Canada when I got mine. But my day job is being a LEO of sorts, so I'm not a total stranger to military / enforcement gear. Oh well.

Also, I must apologize for the potato photos. I took them with an iphone and only after uploading them I realized I should've cleaned the lens. But you guys have seen worse, right? RIGHT? :smile:

There was a LOT of thought put into these bags. There's an insane number of pockets, I think about 9 on the flap and two big ones on the backpack itself. One can store anything from pens to notebooks to lens cleaners to business cards and readers and then spare memory cards and there'd still be room to spare. It takes a bit of getting used to the layout of the pockets. I still fumble for things.

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The straps can be undone with snap buckles, then the top part can be snapped into the lower opposite one making it a sling. The remaining straps can be tucked behind the back padding, keeping them out of the way. Like so:

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To make it a photo bag, I used Crumpler's Haven ICUs. I have a large one, that holds the E-M5 kit, and a medium for the Fuji X10 and E-PM1 with a 15mm pancake. Pictured is the medium Haven, poorly attached to the MOLLE points inside the bag. (I need to come up with a better set of straps, but this is what I had at hand.) The beauty of this thing is that it's a MOLLE paradise. I lost count of the attachment points, but there's tons on the sides and outside, and the entire inner plate is covered in velcroed (!) MOLLE straps, too. Sky's the limit here.

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And speaking of attachments, you may be wondering what's the black pouch on the front of the pack. It's a MOLLE drop-pouch that stays packed and out of the way, until you need some place to store your groceries. Here it is, unfolded.

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The rear compartment is designed for a hydration bladder or an armor plate. I use it for the MacBook.

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And finally, the water bottle held in place with a GrimLoc carbiner. This one is a cheapo 16oz WalMart thing, but I could fit a larger CamelBak without a problem.

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Little safety detail. The zippers of the main compartment are locked together with another GrimLoc.

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Weatherproofing wasn't much of an issue here. The bag did not come with a weather cover itself, however I use a North49 universal medium backpack cover for all my bags and it fit this guy without a problem. Voila, problem solved.

I know the look of this bag is not everyone's cup of tea. The more conservative types will probably scoff at it, as it's nowhere near as beautiful as ONA's distressed leather. But if one wants to trade beauty for practicality, it's probably worth giving military gear a test drive. And if it still doesn't work for you, there's always the airsoft / paintball kid who'll buy it off you on Craigslist. Just sayin'... :rolleyes:

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