Finding a dependable, durable, and functional backpack for travel can often be a real challenge. Tracking down one that can also provide a measure of protection against water is nearly impossible. But thankfully there are a few companies out there that have designed stylish looking packs that can also keep our precious gear safe from unwanted moisture as well. Take for example the new 30L Bluewater Gear Hauler from Mustang Survival, a backpack that seems like it as built to accompany you just about anywhere.
For those unfamiliar with Mustang Survival, it is a company that has been around for nearly 50 years and specializes in creating flotation devices and personal protection gear for people who live and work around water. Their customers include members of the Coast Guard, law enforcement, first responder teams, commercial fishermen, and recreational boaters alike. In other words, it is a company that has a long and rich history of creating products for use in and around the water.
Recently, Mustang expanded its EP Racing Series line of gear to include two new gear haulers that are not only perfect for use as a crewmember aboard a sailing vessel, but also while participating in watersports, traveling to the beach, or simply as extra protection in wet environments. Those two packs come in 55L and 30L versions, the smaller of which I’ve had the chance to put through its paces on a couple of recent outings.
The first thing that struck me about the Gear Hauler was just how tough and durable it is. Made out of 210 denier TPU coated ripstop fabrics, this pack feels like it is nearly bulletproof. That rugged construction makes it a good option for taking with you to demanding destinations where a typical pack would probably start to show wear and tear before too long, and possibly failing altogether. In fact, my review version of the pack looks practically brand new, only collecting a bit of dirt here and there along the way. But because the fabrics are water resistant, they can be easily cleaned, allowing me to wipe away any cosmetic blemishes that I’ve encountered so far.
The downside of these highly technical fabrics is that they can sometimes feel out of place on a standard travel pack, giving them an overly edgy look that stands out from the corw, just not in a positive way. Thankfully, Mustang’s team of designers managed to avoid this trap and have created a bag that not only looks great, but doesn’t necessarily give away its technical, outdoorsy roots upon first glance. It’s not until you see how the pack performs that you begin to understand just how tough it truly is, although the fact that it looks good shouldn’t be overlooked either.
As the name implies, this version of the Bluewater Gear Hauler offers 30-liters of carrying capacity. All of that space is spread out across a large central pocket, a smaller external pocket for keeping important items close at hand, and a dedicated laptop sleeve that comes with a roll-top enclosure. That added bit of security makes this particular pocket completely waterproof, ensuring that your computer stays well protected from rain or even an accidental dunking. I absolutely love having this as an option for carrying my MacBook, although I wish the laptop sleeve had included an extra pocket for a tablet as well.
Both the main compartment and smaller storage pocket have a variety of organizational options too, including an internal zipped mesh pocket, pen holders, a key clip, and so on. Those are nice touches to an already impressive pack, making it easier to keep all of your important items in just the right place when you go looking for them. In fact, I had no problem finding a specific place to put all of the small things I take with me when I travel, and it was easy to locate them when I needed those items along the way.
The pack also comes equipped with a MOLLE panel on the front that can be expanded to hold things like an extra pair of shoes, a towel, or other items you want to be able to access quickly. It also serves as a great exterior point to store wet items too, keeping them well segregated from the gear you’re carrying inside the bag.
In designing the pack, Mustang Survival also included a back panel that features a basic ventilation system designed to keep the wearer cooler and drier. The bags lightweight shoulder straps are also made of mesh fabrics that are meant to accomplish that same task. Those same straps are comfortable to wear, even when the pack is loaded down with gear, while a lightweight belt offers an extra measure of support and stability for those who need it.
It is difficult to say what I like most about this pack. Those of us who find ourselves around water on a regular basis will no doubt appreciate its ability to protect our gear from moisture damage. On the other hand, anyone who has destroyed a beloved travel pack in the past will be thankful for just how durable this bag actually is. Personally, I think I appreciate its overall level of versatility, which shines through when used in a wide variety of environments. This is a pack that is equally well-suited for exploring Paris or Rome on foot as it is sailing the Mediterranean or catching a boat ride up the Amazon River. That makes it easy to recommend to adventure travelers who could potentially find themselves in any of those situations.
Priced at $180 the 30L Bluewater Gear Hauler delivers a solid bargain as well. Sure, you’ll find plenty of good travel packs for less than that, but you won’t find many that offer such a wide range of features as this one. Comfortable to wear, durable enough to survive just about anywhere, and capable of fending off nearly any amount of water, this is a bag that you can carry with you into extreme environments, and have the confidence that it will not only survive there, it will perform extremely well.