Karrimor SF Sabre 30 Review

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Bushcraft is all about knowing more so that we can carry less right? Well,despite this the vast majority of Bushcraft folk do carry some equipment with them and in most cases this is a very wise thing to do. The key thing is to pack only the essentials, those items that you can use to make your life more enjoyable and save lives when things have gone pear shaped.

In a daysack I look for these things

  • The ability to comfortably carry a heavy load
  • A tough construction that will not let me down when in the wilderness
  • Somewhere to fix an axe onto the outside of the pack to save space on the inside and to make accessing the axe a lot easier
  • It has to be small enough to encourage me to not pack useless items for those 'what if' scenario's but large enough for me to carry my essentials both on personal outings and professional trips where I need to carry a bit more
  • I like my kit to blend in with nature to some extent so I prefer to use green. This is debatable as many outdoor enthusiasts prefer to have brightly coloured equipment so that they can be seen. Much of my work involves getting close to wildlife so I require something more subtle.
  • A Top flap with long adjustable straps to enable me to carry something heavy on top if needs be.
  • A top flap pocket to store items that I use regularly such as, knife, compass, first aid kit, saw, snacks etc...


I used to use a British Army PLCE NI patrol pack which was a pretty good pack however in recent years my one has degraded to the point where it is falling apart. Some lessons that I learned from using PLCE packs (I had the larger Bergen as well) was that the PLCE system in general is designed around the modern day soldier, well, more accurately the later period of the Cold War Soldier as the PLCE system is now being replaced by the necessity and experiences of the past decade of conflict in the middle east.

The single largest problem for the civilian using PLCE bergans and patrol packs is the waist strap, or lack of one when it comes to the NI patrol pack. The NI patrol pack does not have a waist strap, or a chest strap since it is designed to be supported by the soldiers webbing / belt kit. On the PLCE Bergen, the waist strap is fitted at the height where the top of your belt kit would be. Unless you are wearing webbing, the waist strap is largely ineffective at distributing the load to your hips and legs. Your shoulders and back are left supporting the entire weight of the pack which is not a good thing.

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Karrimor SF are a separate company from Karrimor, they focus on Military load carrying solutions as well as serious outdoor pursuits kit. They have been doing this for over 60 years now and have become quite good at what they do as well as becoming market leaders in the field.

I have used a Sabre 35 previously in the Jungle and found it to be a very capable day sack with enough capacity to carry a lightweight camping load if necessary. The sabre 35 is identical to the sabre 30 but has additional side pockets to add a further 5 litres of capacity.

Faced with the option of more or less, I opted for less and chose the sabre 30 as it encourages me to carry less.

I have been using the sabre 30 now for 3 months on personal trips and for work so feel ready to fully appraise this bit of kit.

As standard I tend to carry the following items in a day sack

Knife
Saw
Fire Steel
First Aid Kit + NATO field dressing
Water Proof Jacket
Water bottle
Snacks
Binoculars
Compass
Map
Notebook + pencil
Spare jumper in winter
Scrim net scarf in winter
Camera

All of that easily fits in and there is plenty of space for some extra items if necessary. For example while working, I add a tarp or group shelter and a larger first aid kit to that plus some extra food.

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My axe fit's neatly into the ice axe loops on the outside and it is possible to stuff a couple of 1.5Lt water bottles into the little side pockets and ski guides if necessary. The fastex buckle and tightening straps on the sides are very useful for tightening the whole pack for noise reduction and also for attaching other gear. I admit that I have never used these to attach skies to, which is their intended purpose but I see no reason why they would not work very well in that capacity. I have used the ski guides to carry a folding bucksaw, a rifle and large water bottles as mentioned and they work really well.

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The axe loops are adjustable and can be make small or large enough to accommodate most axe types. The top handle loops are elasticated with a toggle which helps to keep the handle secure and stops it from flapping about as you move. It is prone to getting caught on branches and bushes though and since it is elasticated then it will come loose if you pull on the axe handle hard enough. This has happened quite a few times to me while in the field but I have not lost an axe yet.

The thing that makes this pack special is the amount of padding that is provided to ensure comfortable load carrying. The shoulder straps are heavily padded, as is the back. The back section also employs a mesh system to aid in cooling and help avoid the dreaded sweaty back that most packs encourage. Also installed within the main compartment is a padded mat. It is a fairly solid foam mat, much like kneeling mats used in gardening, this slots into a Velcro secured compartment within the main compartment and stops the contents of the pack digging into your back. It can also be removed and used as something warm and dry to sit on when you stop. Top marks for the inclusion of this.

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Also in the main compartment is a slip section for putting maps and other such flat items or possible a camel back in to help keep your gear organised within the bag.

The waist strap is effective and positioned in just the right place for my hips. It can be loosened of tightened by quite a lot to accommodate people of different sizes. Once you have the waist strap on and at the correct tightness, almost all of the weight is distributed to your hips and legs. With the waist strap on the shoulder straps go loose and really all that they do is stop the pack falling backwards. The shoulder straps tend to slip sideways when the waist strap is being used so it is advisable to use the chest strap as well which just needs to be tight enough to prevent the should straps from moving apart too much.

Something that is often overlooked is the difference between men and women when it comes to load distribution in carrying equipment. Obviously I am reviewing this from a male perspective and it should be noted that women tend to prefer different load placement within their packs to men. Something to do with muscle mass and hip width I think but that's for another article. Suffice to say, I am reliably informed that girls love the SF30 as much as I do as it is so adjustable it can be adapted to suit most shapes and sizes of human being.

Another nice feature is the drinking straw clip on the left shoulder strap. This will take a camel back straw with a nice fit.

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The lid pocket is large enough and uses a zip to close it, which makes it suitable for valuables etc...

On top of the lid is a mesh of elasticated / bungee cord with toggles to tighten in case you want to stuff something on top. I have at times stuff my waterproof jacket on top for when it is raining on and off. It works OK.

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It is made from a water repellent material which deals with occasional and light rain quite well but in sustained wet conditions the material does begin to soak up water and the contents do get wet. This can be easily solved by using a water proof liner such a a big bag or a dry bag.

It is a very efficient way of carrying loads and a huge improvement on the PLCE NI Patrol pack.

All in all, an excellent day sack that could be pressed into a weekend pack if need be. Very comfortable and capable of carrying very heavy loads if needs be. Tough and of excellent quality.

It costs around £60

Some Technical Information

Dimensions

Height 52cm
Width 30cm
Depth 21cm

Weight 1.44kg

Main fabric:KS60

KS60-RS is a 600 Denier polyester fabric with a
Silicone/PU elastomer coating that gives
excellent tear and abrasion resistance with the
benefit of being lighter in weight. The fabric is
finished with a durable water repellent (DWR).

Features
  • Coolmesh back system
  • S-shaped shoulder harness
  • Sternum strap
  • One main compartment
  • Compression straps
  • Stuff pockets
  • Shock cord carry system
  • Twin ice axe holders
  • Ski guides
  • Reinforced lid and base
  • Rotproof thread
  • Reinforced with bartacks
  • Durable water repellent (DWR)
  • YKK zips
Matt - http://BushcraftandSurvival.com

Boot notes

I'll try to post a few pictures of the pack loaded up with an axe attached tomorrow some time, and one with me wearing it to show how it sits.
 

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