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Review – Kifaru MOLLE Express

I think I have finally spent enough time with my Kifaru G1 MOLLE Express (Mollex for short) to be able to talk about it with a reasonable amount of depth. I have used this pack on several day hikes, an orienteering course, car travel, air travel,  car camping, and a multi-day hike. It has seen rain, snow, heat, and cold. It has been on the trail and it has been out breaking brush. I haven’t spent years under it yet but I have formed some opinions.

Note the wedge shape and zippered access at the top and bottom. This is part of the magic of the Mollex.

Overview

The Kifaru Mollex is a newer version of their well loved Express. The main difference is the addition of MOLLE webbing on the body of the pack. The Mollex has a pocket on top of the lid (with a Velcro field for patches) and an mesh pocket on the underside of the lid. The regular Express lacks these two pockets but adds a front slip pocket.

The Mollex features 1000 denier Cordura nylon construction. The lid and body of the pack are constructed from a single layer of nylon, while the bottom of the pack is constructed of 2 layers of nylon for added durability. The top and bottom zippers are large, durable #10 YKK brand zippers that have para-cord pulls instead of noisy metal pulls. All hardware (buckles, sliders, etc.) appears to be from ITW Nexus. The construction and materials used in the pack are confidence inspiring.

There is a hook & loop field for affixing patches and name tapes on the top of the lid.

The Mollex blurs the line between day pack and 3 day pack. It boasts 2300 cubic inches of storage space which can easily be expanded through to use of additional MOLLE or “Dock & Lock” pouches. I especially like to use the Kifaru E&E to quickly add 1000 cubic inches of storage. The magic of the Mollex is that it feels small when you are wearing it but will surprise you with how much gear you can cram into it.

Unlike most packs this size, the Mollex has a true suspension system, not just a plastic panel stiffener. The suspension system is designed to transfer the weight of the pack off of your shoulders and onto your hips. It accomplishes this with 2 long aluminum stays that run vertically from the top of the pack to the bottom. These stays are ergonomically shaped and can be bent to fine tune the fit to the individual wearer of the pack. The stays run from the top of the pack, down to the waist belt. I opted for the padded MOLLE belt on my Mollex. The waist belt is wider and thinner than many people expect from a “padded” belt but the extra width effectively spreads the load of the pack over the hips without the need for the heavy padding. It doesn’t need the heavy padding that larger packs use since the loads will be somewhat limited by the size of the pack.

Additionally, the Mollex features an internal hydration compartment so you can easily add the bladder of your choice. There is a covered hydration port that make routing the hose of your hydration bladder easy. You will also find numerous other external loops for attaching Kifaru accessories like Pods and Cargo Chairs. The Mollex comes with a Chamber Pocket that can be suspended inside the pack. There are also provisions to hang a second Chamber Pocket and mounting points in the bottom of the pack for Lock and Loads that can be purchased from Kifaru.

The interior of the Mollex is more cavernous that you would expect on a pack this size.

The Good

The Mollex carries very well. The size and shape of Mollex is where the magic starts. It is not just a basic cylinder or cube shape like most packs. It is narrow at the top (about 30 inches in circumference) and flares at the base (about 40 inches in circumference). The resulting shape is like an upside down funnel or a wedge. This shape promotes placing the largest, heaviest items at the bottom of the pack where they will be riding directly on the waist belt. This low center of gravity makes the pack feel like part of you which is especially nice when you are off the trial. This is probably the most important asset of any pack. If a pack is unwieldy or uncomfortable, it fails as a pack.

It holds more than you think. As I said in the overview, the pack feels small when you are wearing it but carries a surprising amount of gear. It is small enough to use as a day pack and large enough to pack out for 3 day trips (it might be tight multi-day trips in the winter). If you find yourself running out of space, you can just bolt on more storage in the form of a MOLLE or “Dock & Lock” pouch. The suspension should keep you pretty comfortable up to 60-65 pounds (and probably more).

The top pocket on the lid provides some much needed organization capability. You can also see the covered hydration port below the pocket.

The Mollex gives you great access to its contents. There are two zippered access points to the main compartment (one at the top and one bottom of the pack). If you pack in a somewhat organized way you should be able to access anything in the pack using one of these two access points without having to dig around too much. I tend to prefer the least amount of zippers possible so a bottom zippered access point makes me a little nervous. However, Kifaru uses top quality zippers and has provided some redundancy to the zipper in the form of 2 side release buckles. Even if the zipper fails, you can buckle the bottom of the pack closed.

The wedge shape of the pack also makes it an excellent field improvised shooting rest. I turn the Mollex on its side which allows me to adjust how high I have to sit up in the prone simply by shifting left or right. This is great in the field or when you are zeroing your rifle at the range.

The mesh pocket under the lid and included Chamber Pocket add more organization potential.

The Bad

It can be warm to wear. The Mollex is designed to ride right up against the wearer. There is no mesh between the pack and the wearer to promote airflow. It is not unbearable thanks to the padding in front of the stays which raises the pack slightly off your to allow some airflow. It just doesn’t breathe as well as some packs.

Organization of small items is a bit lacking. This isn’t as big of a deal for those who are using this pack outdoors but those who wish to use it as a travel bag or EDC will find it lacking organization features. The Chamber Pocket and 2 top lid pockets do help but some pen slots or small slip pockets might be appreciated by some users. You may want to check out this organizer from TAD Gear if you need more organization (yes, it works perfectly with the internal chamber pocket hangers in Kifaru bags).

There are no provisions for strap management. Once the Mollex is adjusted to you and your load, you will find that you have the excess ends of several straps dangling everywhere. This can be a pain when you need to adjust something while wearing the pack and you give a strap a pull only to find that you are pulling the wrong strap. It can be partially cured using a ITW Web Dominators or by wrapping the excess straps up in duct tape. The amount of straps on a Kifaru bag is a blessing and a curse. They provide a lot of adjustment but they end up dangling everywhere.

The bottom access to the main compartment of the Mollex opens all the way back to where the waist belt connects to the bag to give amazing access to your gear.

Conclusion

Kifaru makes some great gear, but it is not inexpensive. I never dreamed that I would ever own a Kifaru pack but thanks to the G1 closeout sale (still going on) and some buying/trading on the secondary market, I have had the pleasure of owning 5 different Kifaru packs and several accessories. The Mollex is my favorite of the sub 3000 cube packs that I have tried. It is over built, offers great access, carries a reasonable load very comfortably, and offers extreme modularity. I am very happy with this pack.

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3 Responses to Review – Kifaru MOLLE Express

  1. spike October 26, 2013 at 19:05 #

    What is the internal height of the bag?

  2. Dale Matson March 17, 2014 at 18:20 #

    I have the older “Express” and it is 2,300 CI. I suspect your pack has more storage with the zipper pocket added to the top of the lid. I have used my pack primarily as a 3 day pack for search and rescue but since I have gone to lighter gear, I can use it for lightweight multi day backpacking also. It is the only pack I have used off trail that can withstand the buck brush and manzanita. You can even top load a ‘bare boxer’ bear canister into this pack. Good company and good product.

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