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Review: Alpha One Niner RECON THREE Backpack

Way back in 2013, I started using a backpack called the Penumbra from SERT. It was the best EDC/office/travel backpack I had used up until that point and it continues to serve me well. I moved to the Alpha One Niner (SERT’s decidely less tactical sister company) EVADE pack in 2015. I still use the EVADE daily. You could say I have a long history with the travel/EDC of SERT and Alpha One Niner and that history is about to have a new chapter with the introduction of the RECON THREE.

I have been using this as an EDC pack and for travel. It was with me on a recent trip where I spent far more time in airports than I did at any one location. It has been carried in rain, stuffed in overhead compartments, hauled through airports, and generally tossed around. Now its time to take a closer look.

Overview

The RECON THREE is a designed as a kind of minimalist travel backpack. It blends sleek urban styling with rugged tactical materials.

While previous packs from SERT or Alpha One Niner have been heavy on organization features, the RECON THREE goes heavy on big empty pockets and accessibility. There are no pen sleeves, mesh pockets, bottle holders, or anything like that. In the place of all that are 5 very accessible pockets in key locations and a cavernous, bucket like main compartment.

  • Materials: Solid Color 500D Nylon in Wolf Gray, Multicam Black, Kryptek Typhon and 420D Diamond Ripstop Nylon with 210D Nylon lining.
  • Dimensions: 18.5″ (H) x 10″ (W) x 5″ (D)
  • Volume: approximately 15 liters / 925 cu2
  • Weight: approximately 2.2 pounds (1.00 kg)

If you like to travel with a few key items at your finger tips and you are more of a tablet guy than a laptop guy, this bag was designed with you in mind.

Observations from Use

In my mind, there are two hallmarks to Alpha One Niner bags – style and durability. The RECON THREE delivers both. It is one of those designs that manages to look sleek, stylish, and not the least bit “tactical” in spite of the Multicam Black fabric and ITW Cobra Buckle closure. I think the bright red interior pack cloth lining and angular shape make it look at home in a variety of settings without screaming TACTICAL.

Regarding durability, the RECON THREE seems to have it in spades. The bag in constructed from durable materials like 500D nylon and fully lined with 420D pack cloth. The zippers are all #8 reverse zippers from YKK. The main compartment is closed with an ITW Cobra Buckle and the entire pack is stiffened with closed cell foam between the outer layer of fabric and the inner lining. It’s rugged.

I tend to like packs that leave the organization to me instead of having fixed organization features. The RECON THREE is that kind of pack. There are 5 pockets in total and none of them have any features other than being a pocket and great accessibility (which is key). All 5 pockets are closed with a zipper.

The lid features 2 pockets which can be accessed from the side of the lid. This pockets are not connected inside the lid but they do overlap each other. They basically turn the entire lid into storage space that can be accessed without opening the pack. These two pockets are perfect for things like keys, pens, cables, chargers, and similar items that you want at your finger tips when traveling.

The front of the bag has a large stash packet that is accessed via a vertical zipper on the left side of the pack. This pocket is tall and as wide as the pack itself so it is perfect for documents. I like to keep a sheet of paper with all my key information on it when I travel and this externally accessible pocket was the perfect place to store something like that.

When you lift the flap, it exposes the main, top loading compartment and another tall slash pocket. Since every panel of the bag is padded with closed cell foam, this slash pocket actually works really well for a tablet or even a 13″ notebook computer.

Imagine a brown paper lunch bag and scale it up to backpack size and you will have the general idea of the main compartment. It loads from the top and has the 5th pocket hanging in side it. It is basically just a big open pocket that can easily carry a change of clothes and more. The top of the main compartment can be compressed with two large snaps. These snaps are very handy because they pinch the top of the main compartment so that the flap completely covers the opening.

The shoulder straps are relatively minimalist. They are slim, straight, and padded with a relatively stiff closed cell foam which makes them surprisingly comfortable. They include a sternum strap and side release buckles that you can use to get out of the straps quickly or tuck them away inside the rolling luggage sleeve on the back of the pack. When the straps are packed inside the sleeve, you can use one of the two carry handles on the bag (one top and one side) to carry the bag kind of like a briefcase.

The RECON THREE holds its shape very well thanks to all the closed cell foam used in its construction. You can stuff it full and it still looks relatively rectangular and sits mostly flat on your back which is nice if you ever need to overload it. It even holds its shape when it is relatively empty.

Wrap Up

I think the best way to describe this bag is as a minimalist EDC or travel bag. If you are the type of person that uses your own organization inserts and doesn’t need to carry a larger laptop every day, you’ll like this pack. The pockets offer excellent accessibility, there are good provisions for smaller notebooks or tablets, it is well made, and it looks absolutely great in my opinion.

Check out the Alpha One Niner RECON THREE at AlphaOneNiner.com


Disclosure: This pack was sent for review, free of charge, by Alpha One Niner.

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