So after using the it for a couple of months I am finally ready to do the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Cyclone Hydration Pack Review. First things first, I would like to get the specifications and jargon out of the way:
- Constructed of 1000 denier nylon with reinforced stitching
- Includes 100-oz. BLACKHAWK!® ™ hydration reservoir
- Drink system protected by Microban® antimicrobial technology
- Bite Me® bite valve and patent-pending quick-disconnect system
- High-quality YKK® zippers and easy-grip pull tabs
- Multiple rows of S.T.R.I.K.E.® webbing for attaching pouches or accessories
- Tube cover conceals, insulates and protects water tube from sunlight
- Anodized D-rings and quick-cinch buckles for attaching pouches
- Reinforced waist belt with additional attachment points
- Padded, contour-fit shoulder straps with sternum strap
- Rubber drag handle
- Metal grommet at bottom of pack for drainage
- Large compartment with internal pouch for radio packs and three antenna ports with flaps
- Dimensions: 1800 cu. in. / 32 L total
When I picked up this pack the first thing I noticed was the build quality. It is excellent! I have come to expect this (somewhat) from Blackhawk after my partner reviewed a couple of their combat knives and found they really look at what a user needs more than anything else. I have put plenty of weight in this bag and, so far, it has handled it easily without fraying of seams or signs of weakness and I am confident that the bag will handle any weight one would normally expect to fit in a bag of this size.
The padding on the straps and the back of this pack is what really sets it apart from its competitors. It is, truly, a very comfortable bag when it’s full. The waist strap is very wide and holds the pack very securely against you. The first thing my partner and I commented on when trying on this pack for the first time was the waist strap. We are both very different in size but, neither of us had ever felt something this secure and comfortable. We have used many packs in this price range to date yet, for whatever reason, this really stood out for the both of us and will probably be the standard to which we hold all other waist straps from now on. I fear we will often say ‘Not as good as the Blackhawk one.’ until the day we get a pack mule and no longer require carrying our own gear. To some of you this may seem weird to talk about however it’s very important for even weight distribution and it does this excellently. The straps seem to be constructed of a very rugged rubbery material that is very comfortable and clings to you rather than sliding off your shoulders and the stitching is excellent so there’s no chance of loosing your kit due to bad build quality.
At 32L internal capacity it is surprising just how much you can fit inside. I have had a full hydration pack as well as a lightweight sleeping system, first aid kit, food, spare clothing and tools with a little space for luxury items. The molle straps allow you to expand the capacity by adding extra pouches and accessories. It’s not quite large enough for a 3 day excursion but it has been just right for a 2 day camp not including the bulky sleeping back I had. This pack also features antenna ports and an internal pouch for a radio pack should you need to carry one with additional space for the rest of your gear and as there are three ports for the antenna it can house a multitude of radio systems without modification. If you’re not using the ports they have flaps to prevent water seeping in.
I have used a LOT of different hydration systems over the years and have always had issues with them after a few uses. They were never robust enough for the environments I was working in but I was pleasantly surprised by Blackhawk’s system. The reservoir is really easy to disassemble for cleaning and drying and as far as I can tell the Microban technology is doing its job as no mould has developed after using the reservoir multiple times. The Bite Me bite valve is also an awesome addition to the system and is outperforming similar “knock off” valves I have on other packs that usually leak or break completely after a few uses but, I am happy to report this is still working as well as the first time I took a sip. It holds 100-oz which is 3.4 litres to us Brits so it is plenty for a 48H BOB in most climates. The water tube is insulated to protect from sunlight and prevent your water from heating up before you drink it (nobody wants a mouth full of hot water on a sunny hike in the mountains). Not much else can be said for the bladder itself besides it is performing as well as one should expect from any hydration system and that’s high praise given what’s on the market these days.
Overall I would say this is probably one of the best backpack/hydration packs I have ever used. It is incredibly comfortable on long outings and i can fit more than enough for most of my camping trips (not including copious amounts of alcohol). The build quality really speaks for itself and it is definitely fit for purpose be it going for a walk on Dartmoor commons or on tour in Afghanistan. Really I don’t see me using another pack for a day trip or night out as I can’t imagine finding anything more suitable for the same price. It’s another great product from Blackhawk and just a great backpack in general.