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Old April 25th, 2004, 11:03
Posts: n/a

CamelBak BFM First Look

I haven't filled up my brand-new CamelBak BFM with a 50lb sandbag and humped it 20 klicks in our sweltering Singapore climate but I thought a “first look” write-up will be informative to some members.

For those who don't have time:
The good – the pack has many nice, thoughtful features for your itty-bitty things. Fit and finish is very good.
The bad – shoulder strap attachments look like they can be stronger. PALS bands look like an after-thought.
The bottom line - this is the bag for folks who like to keep their stuff organized. As for durability, YMMV.
According to CamelBak, the dimensions: 21” x 13” x 10”; Total 2,730 cubic inches (44.7L).

The Review
I just got my CamelBak BFM in OD Cordura from TimW of PracTact. The BFM is well-thought out, just like my CB HAWG. Right off, most of the straps have their little Velcro tabbed ends that allow excess length to be rolled up neatly out of the way. CB calls this its “Velcro strap management”.

There is a neat feature with the main compartment. After you have zipped it closed with the sliders neatly at the top, there are still two additional sliders, one on each side, so that you can access the main compartment from the bottom of the pack. Anchor points allow a sleeping bag to be secured to the base of the pack.

The main compartment has three fabric loops inside for attaching a radio/signal set which can be further secured by two vertical and two horizontal straps, each with their own SR buckles. With two mesh zippered pockets, the internal features resemble the LF RAID.

Two Velcro flapped ports allow antennas to exit. There is a centrally-placed, Velcro-closed hydration tube port near the main haul/carry handle. This isn't a flap with a free end and the hooks of the Velcro may fuzz up the neoprene tube insulation if you are not careful. I would prefer that the main carry handle be wider for my medium-sized hands.

There is also a carry handle on either side, above the side pockets but I would prefer that space to be occupied by PALS webbing. The zippered side pockets (with two-row, four-channel PALS bands) can swallow 1L bottles with room to spare. According to CB, these are meant for MREs or ammo. What would be nice is if these pockets were sewed only along their sides and bottom so that long items (spare barrels, tent poles, etc) may be secured behind them.

Like the HAWG, the reservoir compartment is accessible by a zipper from the rear of the pack. This means that you don't have to empty half your pack to replace a filled reservoir. A plastic frame sheet with a single aluminum stay in a Velcro-closed pocket gives some backbone to the pack. I still haven't figured how to remove the frame sheet. The back panel has CB's “Air Channels” to keep the user cool.

The padded hip belt may be removed from its tunnel in the back pad (like that of the BHI Hydrastorm packs). I initially had some trouble removing the hip belt. I eventually did it by sticking one end of the waist strap into the tunnel and pushing it between the Velcro surfaces to keep them from re-engaging. Once detached, two remaining buckles for the waist belt disappear into cut-outs in the back of the pack like those for the Kifaru E&E Pouch – a nice touch.

There is a secondary pocket with a very handy organizer panel: pen slots, key leash, document dividers and not one, but two mobile phone/GPS pockets secured with bungee cords and Velcro tabs.

A zippered "slat" document pocket (under the front PALS bands) and a first aid kit pocket below complete the pocket collection. The first aid pocket isn't plain Jane - it has a mesh sleeve with three elastic-topped divided pockets and a zippered mesh pocket. All pockets have drainage grommets and all zippers have silent cord pulls.

The curved shoulder straps are comfortable enough. They have a narrow elasticized sternum strap and SR ditching buckles for those nasty surprises for which a pack on your back is a total liability.

Like the Kifaru Marauder (and other Kifaru packs), there is a piece of non-slip material (also Hypalon?) on the back pad - another nice touch. The straps have “independent suspension” to conform to the shoulders of the user so they are less likely to slip off. Nonetheless, I wish CB would put some of this non-slip material on the underside of the shoulder straps as well. The packcloth material tends to be too slippery for my liking.

Now, what I am not too happy with are the main shoulder straps which do not look like they are well-anchored to the pack. The independent suspension comprises two two-inch straps that connect to the top of the pack. These are two points about an inch apart, one at the taped top seam, and another at the top of the pack. The one-inch bottom straps are bartacked to fabric triangles at the bottom of the pack.

The PALS bands on the side pocket and the slat pocket also look like an after-thought. I don't think you can attach anything substantial to them. This is especially true of the PALS webbing on the slat pocket. PALS bands on a pocket with expanding pleats/bellows – what was CB thinking of?

In summary, the BFM is a neat pack and I mean neat with no dangling straps. It looked like it was designed by a sailor (all free lines must be rolled up and squared away). If you believe that there is a place for all your gear, this is the pack for you.

The BFM does not appear to be as rugged as the highly-regarded Eagle AIII and someone has previously reported that two BFMs “self-destructed” in the 'Stan. As I intend to use this pack only for traveling, the shoulder straps should suffice (I hope!). Your mileage may vary.

Docking the Kifaru E&E Pouch to the BFM
There are one-inch wide loops in the top carry handle that look like they are for hanging carabiners. I added two top compression straps with male Stealth SR buckle on either side of the top handle. Female Stealth buckles also went onto the two top tabs for the E&E Pouch and to the anchor points for the BFM's four side compression straps.

This set-up allowed the E&E to dock securely to the BFM via the six straps (see pictures). The top straps prevent the E&E from sagging. A Maxpedition M5 Pouch (also from TimW) is secured to the E&E. The only metal zipper slider on the M5 has been replaced by a silent zipper pull with gutted paracord.

For traveling, I intend to chuck the BFM into the overhead bin and keep the detached E&E pouch with my valuables and comfort/snivel gear such as water bottle, snacks, reading materials and MP3 player with me in the seat.

Pictures (many thanks to ibtrdia for help with uploading the images).
Side view a Kifaru E&E Pouch with a Maxpedition M5 Pouch docked onto a CamelBak BFM.

Three-quarter view showing docking straps. The top straps have been crossed for stability. Metal pull of M5 Pouch's front zipper has been replaced by a silent pull. One zipper slider of the BFM's main compartment has been replaced with the new ITW Nexus Aerowave zipper pull with a built-in whistle (just left of the crossed straps). The Aerowave works better with flat than round cord. Two layers of gutted paracord are required to provide sufficient friction for this zipper pull.

Front view

Details of shoulder strap attachment, antenna port flap and one inch top docking strap for the E&E Pouch. Hydration tube port is between the two antenna ports.

Bottom anchor point for shoulder strap.

Top view of crossed top docking straps for the E&E pouch. Differently-sized zipper pulls on left of crossed straps allow differentiation by touch at night.

[ April 25, 2004, 10:57: Message edited by: kmchan ]
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