Able Archer Buttpack Review

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Able Archer is a brand that produces high quality military inspired bags. Blending vintage aesthetic with modern fabrics, Able Archer’s line of bags is timeless and functional. For this review, they’ve sent us one of their more EDC-suitable offerings, the Able Archer Buttpack. It draws inspiration from military bags of the same name, but Able Archer has beefed theirs up and added a modular strap system for customizability and extra storage. Read on to see how the Able Archer bag held up under EDC conditions!

The Specs

  • MIL-SPEC water resistant canvas exterior and nylon interior
  • 13-14” laptop compartment
  • Belt and luggage loops with ID holder
  • Direct access zipper with weatherproofing
  • Inside and out Archer-Mount webbing (MOLLE compatible)
  • Dimensions: 12.6" (W) x 12.2” (H) x 5” (D)
  • Capacity: 12L

Design, Fit, and Finish

The first thing I noticed about the bag was how simple it looks on the outside. I was instantly impressed by the build quality and materials. Able Archer’s low-profile, MOLLE-compatible “Archer-Mount” webbing almost completely covers the pack. It avoids that sometimes unwanted tactical aesthetic you’d normally get from MOLLE webbing, while offering the same function.

I also appreciated the minimal branding on the bag. There’s a small tag on the side seam and “A. Archer” embroidered on the drag handle. There are no logos to be seen, resulting in a simple looking, yet classic bag.

The Buttpack is a good size for most EDC applications. At 12 liters, it’s neither too large nor too small. I wish the bag was ever so slightly wider to fit my laptop, but I suppose that’s my fault for getting one with a 15” screen. Specs state that the Buttpack is capable of holding a 13-14” laptop at the maximum, and its dedicated neoprene-lined pouch definitely will, all while protecting it from your other gear.

The interior of the bag is lined with elastic straps for stowing gear. The back row is spaced for MOLLE pouches and accessories and the front row is spaced to hold varying sizes of kit. This allows for attachment of MOLLE pouches or for securing gear directly to the inside of the bag. The dark green nylon interior is high quality, but in low light it can be hard to see darker colored gear inside.

Overall, the design, fit, and finish are on point with the cost of the bag. It’s sewn on the same machines as military uniforms and is no doubt built to last.

Operation and Performance

Getting into the bag is easy as a result of the access zipper sewn into the top flap. I found myself using this method most of the time as opposed to unsnapping the flap. The military style snap fasteners that keep the main flap down are a bit unwieldy at first, but I have gotten used to them. After some time using the bag, both the heavy duty canvas and snap hardware broke in nicely, making the bag easier to open and close.

Most of the time I used the Able Archer as a camera bag. I did an on-location portrait shoot and used the bag to carry my two speedlites, extra batteries, chargers, stand attachments, softbox covers, a few pocket notebooks and some writing tools. The straps inside were tough to manipulate at first, tightly grasping everything. Thankfully after a few uses they stretched out and were much easier to use.

All of the gear I brought with me was held securely in place by the straps, keeping everything safe and accessible. The bag is wide enough for a full-sized DSLR body with attached lens. I was able to carry my DSLR, a large medium format film point and shoot, a Fuji X100T, an extra lens and some batteries comfortably with a little bit of room to spare.

I opted to test out the water resistance of the bag by turning my shower on very low and trying out both indirect and direct water contact. To my surprise, the supple canvas beaded off water quite well. The weatherproof quick access zipper lived up to its name, and no water came in through the top of the bag.

I did find a few issues with the overall water resistance of the bag. The flap on top doesn’t always seat itself over the sides of the bag. This allowed some water to get into the nylon interior and pool in the bottom. If you’re considering the bag, make sure that the sides of the flap are completely over the side walls of the bag and you should have no issue.

The Archer-Mount webbing and shoulder strap do stay wet a fair bit longer than the rest of the bag. I think the Buttpack would fair well in a sudden downpour, but if you know you’re going to be out in the rain for a while take extra care with your electronics.

Carry Options

Carrying the bag was easy enough as well, thanks to the removable shoulder strap. The strap is adjustable and comfortable, but the padding is a bit clunky. It’s made of the same canvas material as the bag and did get hung up on my jacket/shirt from time to time. The pad is removable, but the benefits of added comfort outweighed the clunkiness.

When worn, the bag comfortably seats itself on my lower back. It isn’t too heavy and the light padding kept my gear safe inside. The drag handle is comfortable to hold, but the location of the handle results in an off-balance bag, making for a bit of an awkward way to carry it.

Using the luggage loop on the back of the bag, I could see it faring well as a modestly sized carry-on when traveling.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Attention to detail in construction
  • Easy access zipper is useful
  • Vintage military aesthetic is visually pleasing

Cons:

  • Not sure I’d trust it in a rain storm
  • Stiff at first, but constantly getting better
  • Side of top flap doesn’t always seat itself

Conclusion

The Buttpack by Able Archer is an excellent candidate for an EDC bag. Judging by its top-notch materials and construction I’m confident it’s a bag that can serve you for years and years. The more I used the bag, the more it broke in, resulting in an easy-to-use and convenient pack.

It did a great job as a camera bag. Nothing knocks around inside the bag thanks to the straps and everything stays right where you want it. Its water resistance holds up, but make sure that the flap is covering both sides before venturing out into the rain.

At $250, this bag is not an impulse buy for most people. I believe that the construction, materials, and thought that went into the bag do justify the price. Although it is expensive, you are getting a quality product.

Overall, the bag is a pleasure to use. The vintage styling and minimalist aesthetic combined with the modularity and rugged construction result in a superb EDC bag.

BUY ($250)

Disclosure: The manufacturer of this product sent this sample to be considered for review at no charge. It does not, however, affect my opinion of the product as stated in this review.

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Discussion (14 total)

Maybe if I won the lotto but it's way too expensive. The elastics inside is a great idea and can easily be done at home to any shoulder bag. Thanks for the article.
I like the design of the bag very simple but attractive.
I would have to agree, the price is quite steep. I like the casual / tactical look of the bag. It looks durable and cool. But, again, the price is just way out of my range.
The price is a bit steep, but I like the design and the fact that it's not too "tacticool." There's something to be said about blending into your surroundings.
That's what initially struck me as so interesting. The bag is just tactical enough, but also blends in without screaming "MILSPEC!". The softer canvas material definitely helps with this as opposed to the 1000D nylon commonly seen in bags of this style.
Exactly. I've been on the hunt forever for an EDC bag that isn't criss-crossed in molle webbing and doesn't look like you're on a recon mission. This one comes so close I may overlook the price.
Another cool military type bag is made by zulunylongear.com. I have bought some of his smaller items and have been very happy with the style and quality.
Their Indy Satchel looks really cool!
the inside is a really great idea I have a couple bags I might do this to
It looks great but a little too expensive.
Meh. $250 is pushing it for this bag. Look into the company 5.11. My fave is the 5.11 Rush Delivery bag. I have had it for over a year and it is beyond Overbuilt. Quality is top notch with more features and pockets than you could handle for $95.
If you don't mind a more "military/tactical" look, check out Vanquest (I have both the Trident 20 backpack and the Mobius sling bag-I currently carry the Mobius for my EDC). The Mobius also fits a medium DSLR with a short to medium zoom lens attached including normal EDC items, as a great, compact travel camera bag. Construction quality is the best I've seen (including Maxpedition). Say what you may about the "tacticool" look, I find these bags the peak of efficiency as far as organization goes. You guys and gals do a great job. Keep it up!
I've looked into the Vanquest bags as well, they look really well built and suited for a lot of different tasks. It's hard to find a good bag that comfortably fits a DSLR!
Yes, agreed! The Mobius perfectly fits my Nikon D5300 SLR with Nikkor 16-85 (equivalent to a 24-127.5mm) zoom attached, plus EDC stuff in the other pockets. This, for me, is the perfect travel setup without weighing you down. Great review, by the way, but the Buttpack is a bit overpriced I think.