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5.11 Tactical Bag: Mission Rolling Duffel
5.11 Tactical's website lists this bag's dimensions as 30x20x13". Doing the math, this bag's capacity should be around 4.5 cubic feet. During the three weeks I spent working on this review, I used it on a daily basis to move items from my old house to my new one. I've crammed it full of clothing, ammunition, accessories, and other items.
Overall, the bag feels sturdy and none of my use has seemed to contradict that assessment. The fabric, according to 5.11's website, is 1600 denier nylon. This is particularly dense, given that most "tactical" bags and clothing seem to be made of 1000 denier materials.
This bag has a truly large number of external compartments. Each one is secured by a zipper, although these zippers aren't lockable. The only lockable zipper on the bag is on the center compartment. The compartments do seem designed to bulge out, rather than inward. This does mean that the true storage capacity of this bag is a bit over 4.5 cubic feet if you count in the external compartments.
Although it would appear that you could get into the upper compartment of the bag from the outside, this is actually not the case.
Carrying the Bag
The included shoulder strap was perfectly functional but otherwise unremarkable. It was curved and reversible, so it could be used on the right or left shoulder. The hooks were plastic, and felt relatively fragile compared with the rest of the bag.
There's a cinch strap towards the top of the bag. If you disconnect the attached clasp, the loop will tighten up. I presume this is so that you can run a cord through it and then cinch it up to haul along with a lot of other luggage.
The Carry Handles
This bag has carry handles on three distinct sides, and in fact there are two on the top if you count the extensible handle for rolling it behind. It can also be carried 'briefcase style', rolled/dragged in a vertical orientation, or carried via the straps like an ordinary duffel bag. One thing that's rather nice is that unlike most bags, you don't actually have to disconnect the straps from each other in order to open the main compartment. There are also loops for a shoulder strap. When first opening your duffel bag, the shoulder strap is probably going to be inside of one of the interior compartments as mine was.
The main compartment is accessed by undoing the clasps connecting these straps to the reinforced bottom of the bag. This is a excellent design choice, as it removes stress from the zipper itself. The range bag I used for a few years prior to this eventually tore along the zipper line, and it wouldn't have if it had been designed with this sort of support system.
Opening the Bag
While most bags with twin carry straps require that you unfasten the straps in order to open the top, this bag doesn't. Instead, one unfastens the two clasps and then unzips the main compartment. The zipper has a pair of security loops, through which one could slip a TSA or other slim padlock.
The largest storage compartment in the bag is covered by a "porthole" mesh going over the entire thing. While beautiful for transporting clothing, the mesh does seem to be somewhat threatened when you put heavy objects with sharp corners in it. I haven't seen the mesh break, but I suspect if I were to abuse it, it wouldn't stand up to it for long. One fix for this would be to just put a towel or something as the top layer of whatever you stack in the internal compartment. There are two other smaller, zippered mesh compartments to the sides of this large internal compartment.
The bag's lid also includes two additional largish zippered compartments, both of which are solid fabric rather than a mesh.
The wheels are made of some kind of plastic that feels relatively soft. They're fairly large, which is good if you intend to use this as an outdoors range bag. However, they do get in the way when you're packing a vehicle and the wheels are sticking out 1" or so into the space which your next box is attempting to occupy.
The external underside is covered in some kind of really tough fabric, reinforced by a single layer of thin but stiff plastic. The fabric, skids, wheels, and the rest of the hard-mounted components are all secured to the frame by rivets. As for the plastic itself, I have the feeling that on its own, it would buckle were any considerable weight were put on it without support from below. However, it's reinforced by two long metal ribs and the long plastic skids. This produces a "plank" effect. As for the skids themselves, their construction has so far failed to impress me. One of them took some fairly severe scratches when sliding it into the back of my vehicle. I'm fairly certain that carbon fiber skids wouldn't have been scratched as severely.
The stiff, reinforced underside also extends to either side of the case. The telescoping drag handle and the roller wheel end are both reinforced. However, the sides and top are not reinforced.
So that the metal bars on the bottom don't damage things being put in the bag, there's a padded liner placed over it. This liner is secured by six velcro patches, and is tucked into two slots on either end of the bag. I find it somewhat surprising there's neither a velcro strip or a button to prevent the liner from becoming untucked. I found that it had worked loose when I'd filled the bag with ammunition, but it didn't work free when I hauled clothing or random tactical gear. The lining appears to be double layers of nylon, with a thin layer of foam sandwiched in between. I suspect however that the lining is only tucked in because a substantial amount of weight applied vs velcro or buttons would end up tearing the lining. As it stands, the lining will only come loose and have to be tucked back in.
Room for Improvement
-- SeanNewton - 10 Nov 2009
- Possibly velcro strips on the other ends of the padded liner, or buttons to snap it in. On the other hand,, velcro could well end up grabbing onto socks being transported within the bag, and heavy items could cause tearing of the liner. This should not be implemented without some serious consideration.
- Were the mesh on the lower internal compartment removable, I'd be very happy. The zippered mesh is excellent for clothing, but when I was carrying irregularly shaped objects (a lot of Blackhawk holsters in their cases - with edges poking at the mesh), it looked like it would tear fairly easily. I'd find an option to get the mesh out of the way to be a useful feature.
- At least one carabiner on the inside, suitable to clip keys to, would be a nice improvement.
- The internet has reports of the wheels breaking from side impacts, and I can certainly imagine that happening based on the degree of their protrusion and how narrow they are. What would be ideal here is if the wheels were removable - perhaps by employing cotter pins. Another nice option would be if they were interchangeable with, say, inline skate wheels. This would allow the bag to be customized with whatever wheels the user desires. As it stands, when being stored with other luggage, these wheels keep getting in the way due to their protrusion.
- A clear plastic business card holder would be nice to have near the slide-out roller handle, in the event of this bag being lost. I'm not sure why 5.11's smaller range bag has this, yet this travel-oriented bag doesn't.
- An instruction manual, even if it were online, would be nice. For example, I'm still not sure what that cinch strap is for.