One of my hiking essentials is the backpack. I know some would argue that their boots are the key element to a good hike, but I’ve always gotten by with whatever I have on my feet. Someone told me I must have hobbit feet. Who am I to argue?
I currently own about two dozen backpacks in various sizes, shapes and conditions scattered around my house and garage. Most have served me well over the years, while others deserve to be shredded, burned and their ashes scattered in the wind. So when I was looking for a new backpack to replace one that suffered an unfortunate hit, dragged for a quarter mile and then run over incident, I settled on the VISM by NcStar Tactical backpack. (click here for more tactical backpacks)
When buying any camping and hiking gear I always try to do a little research before laying out the cash. That way I can avoid most surprises, both good and bad, from my gear when I get it in my hands. I saw some good reviews for the VISM and decided I would give it a try. I always like trying new manufacturers and new models of gear because that’s how you find new features to like. Buying the same model over and over again gets boring.
Once I got the VISM in hand I gave it the once over to get sense of how best to use the backpack.
• The bag feels solidly constructed with heavy duty zippers on the openings.
• The backpack has several, and I mean several, external pockets. There are six of them to put stuff in and then forget they’re there. I do it all the time. Especially small items like a pocket knife or energy bar.
• Multiple handles. This is a nice feature that was appreciated. In addition to the standard top handle, there are side handles that let you change the orientation of how you can carry the bag. This is a simple feature that really adds to the pack’s value.
• The backpack has enough straps to securely fasten it to the body. They are nicely padded, so comfort shouldn’t be a problem. Unless you’re hauling an anvil. I don’t usually use the sternum and waist straps at the same time because I always feel restricted, but the VISM was comfortable with both straps engaged. So the option is there if you really want the stability.
• The pack can accept a water bladder for hydration. I’ve never used one, but the option’s nice for those who own one.
I see this bag comes in various colors including black, tan and camouflage. I got the black model and it’s a sleek looking bag. I made it a lot less sleek when I slapped safety orange and reflector tape on the bag. One of my hiking rules of thumb is “do not” blend in when walking in the woods. Where I live, there always seem to be guys with guns running around killing helpless animals. Not judging their sport. I just do not like being shot at.
I have had the VISM out on several hikes and the news so far is good. This has been one of the more durable backpacks I own. I do not baby my gear since it is meant to be used in the field, but I also do not throw it off cliffs or smash it into trees as a habit. So, since the VISM held up well, I cannot really complain. I have seen a bunch of reviews stating that they felt the backpack was flimsy and prone to rips. Now, I don’t carry machetes or sacks of arrow heads in my bag, but so far the VISM has shown no wear and tear. The worst thing I can say is that the safety tape I use does not like to stay on for extended periods of time. I end up having to tape the tape back on. This is either due to the material the VSIM is made from or the quality of tape I’m using. I have my suspicions. Further testing will commence.
The VISM was a very inexpensive purchase. You can find this pack for under $50 at most retailers. I like to buy local, so I paid a bit more with tax. Look around and you should find a good deal. Now, I mention cost because I feel the VISM is a steal for the price I paid. Not to sound like I enjoy throwing money up in the air and letting it float away, but I would have paid more if they had asked for it and I knew how good the bag was. If you are a cost conscious hiker, then this backpack is right up your alley.
The nice thing about the VISM is that it can repurpose itself pretty well. I bought an extra one and turned it into an emergency pack that I stuck in my truck. I hate to call it a “bug out” bag. I think of it as more of a “stuck in the snow with no one around” bag. I see a lot of reviews mentioning that people use it for school. So that got me to thinking that maybe I should get one for work. I’ll avoid the camo model, because I’m not sure how an office environment would react to me walking in with a camouflage bag.
The VISM rates high on my equipment list, especially when considering the price factor. So, if you are looking for a new backpack, and do not want to spend a lot of scratch, then get the VISM. NcStar gets respect for making a nice and affordable backpack that has performed well through my paces.