This review is on the Venture backpack from Sandpiper of California
Links to purchase are located at the end of this review
Every now and then I audit my gear to see if there is something that can use a significant upgrade. While all of my main equipment was perfectly fine and sturdy, I realized that my office bag was in need of some serious updating. I had been using a Targus laptop backpack for the past 5 years, and while it worked flawlessly, it became time to retire it and look for a replacement. As many do, I began scouring the internet and Youtube for reviews of products that I was interested in, and in doing so, I found there were alot of new products on the market that really took urban/office EDC to a new level. This is what led me to check out Sandpiper of California’s ‘Venture’ backpacks. While Sandpiper of California (hereby referred to as SOC moving forward) features American Made products and offers manufacturing options to meet Berry Amendment, NAFTA, GSA or Buy American Act requirements, their US manufacturing plant accounts for only a few items in their line of backpacks at this time. This was evident when the tags inside the laptop compartment clearly stated MADE IN CHINA. While my concern is geared more towards the overall durability and function of the pack, there are those who prefer to source their goods from a domestic manufacturer, and ‘Buy American’ when they can. That being said, I felt this was worth noting as their US plant is growing, and perhaps the future holds more US-made packs at a competitive price range to rival some of the industry leaders.
Bear in mind, the urban/office EDC backpack industry has a healthy market of options, from top-quality brands like Hazard 4, VertX, 5.11, Vanquest, and Maxpedition, to name a few. So why is it that I ended up purchasing the Venture? Well, let’s start with the basics:
Length: 19 Inches
Width: 12 Inches
Height: 8 Inches
Volume: approximately 1,824 cubic inches
Weight: 2.9 lbs (empty)
Material: 600-Denier Polyester
Available Colors: Black, Coyote Brown, Gray
** shameless plug for Olight in the morale patch section 😉
The S.O.C. Venture hits a lot of very important points that someone would like to have in today’s world in an urban or office environment. Truth is, it was made to comfortably carry your laptop, tablet, books and accessories while also having separate compartments to house your concealed carry weapon on either side of the pack, as well as a dedicated area for soft body armor. Included with the backpack are several add-ons (2 ‘Quickpack Flash’ mesh zippered pouches, and a hook & loop modular holster) that really enhance the use of the pack. For the sake of this review, however, I am only going to comment on the bag itself. However, it is worth mentioning that the additions alone really stand out from competition as you do not need to source additional components to round out your backpack. I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived with these extras.
What I Like About It: The sheer volume of the bag itself allows you to store so much in the bag and still have leftover space. I found it extremely comfortable carrying my work Laptop, charging cable, mouse, wet wipes, several books and folders, pens/pencils, notebooks, emergency flashlight, and more. Seriously, you will have space for everything you will need at the office or moving around the city for the day. For those who need to have all of their gadgets around, rest assured knowing that there are small details built into the pack that will keep your mind at ease, such as the padding for the laptop on all four sides, compression straps strategically placed around the pack to keep the back as sturdy and compact as possible, and a top strap that has been rolled into itself slightly as a reinforcement for you to pick up the pack and not rip it when it is loaded to capacity.
Worth noting is the laptop/tablet/e-reader compartment, which is designed to open up and lay completely flat – this allows security/TSA checkpoints to be quick and painless, which is something we can all agree on being a definite plus. Whenever I found myself taking my work laptop home, I never questioned whether it would survive taking a tumble down the stairs while inside the padded compartment. For the record, I use a 14″ HP 840 Ultrabook and found it slipped easily in and out with room to spare.
There is a hook and loop area in the front of the pack for you to attach your morale patches, and a lightweight MOLLE/PALS compatible panel that allows you to strap on additional items to the front of the bag (although it is large enough to not really need this). You will find the logo under the morale patch area (stitched S.O.C. lettering in the same color as the pack) allows for identification of the pack without shamelessly advertising itself in a gaudy way, which I really enjoy. The rear of the pack is cushioned and mesh lined along with both straps, allowing comfort and breath-ability to co-exist when shouldering this pack for long periods of time. You are also provided with a sternum strap that secures with a clip for stabilizing the pack, however I removed it as it was not needed for my day to day tasks.
A huge selling point for me was the dual side pockets that are lined with hook & loop attachments for concealed carry. As someone with their permit who carries, I found this to be a great addition should I have to carry in an area where I cannot keep my firearm or magazines on my person. The supplied holster is large enough to strap onto everything from subcompact to full size firearms, and I found it fit reliably and securely around both my Springfield XD Subcompact and standard kydex inside-the-waistband holster, meaning I could choose to keep my current holster setup firmly inside the pack and still have the retention that the modular holster provided to keep it in place. For those who carry, most know that Springfield’s XD line of firearms do not necessarily scream ‘thin’ when referring to the width of the pistol, so I feel confident that the modular holster will be able to handle everything that comes its way and more. You can choose to place the firearm securely in either pocket on the side of the pack, which is subdued in order to keep from readily screaming ‘secret compartment’ Simply designate a pocket for your firearm, and you can keep your magazines or other items in the secondary compartment either by tossing them in or optimize retention using a hook & loop (i.e Velcro) compatible setup.
What I Don’t Like About It: I found a few details that were missing from truly making this pack stand out from the rest, and some of the items, while largely based on how I use the pack, can easily be remedied should Sandpiper of California decide to release a 2.0, or updated version of this pack for their line. Of those details, I believe four stuck out the most:
First and foremost, while I appreciate the look of the pack, I found very little/no use at all for the MOLLE/PALS webbing in the front of the pack. I think it would have made more sense to add some to the bottom of the pack in order to increase the height, rather than width of the pack, especially since the sternum straps for the pack would easily be able to handle the added weight to the bottom of the pack.
Second, I would have been glad to have seen tighter opening spaces in order to have a dedicated area for housing an external water bottle, like my Nalgene. If not, having about 2 rows across/3 rows down of Molle webbing on the side of the pack would easily take care of this, allowing an additional product to be purchased in order to house the water bottle. Instead, they’ve taken the soft body armor compartment and placed a notch at the top of the pack in order to make it hydration compatible. Now, why would someone in an urban/office environment have use for a hydration pack, especially when the compartment behind it houses their tablet/e-reader/laptop and accessories?
Third, while I love the pockets, especially the subdued zippered pockets for concealed carry, the fact that they are not sewn in place (or at least reinforced against something sturdy) makes deployment of your weapon very clumsy, which is not something you want in the event you ever have to draw from the compartment itself. In the event of an active shooter situation, the last thing you want to do is fumble around for your firearm under duress.
Lastly, while Sandpiper of California prices itself comfortably just under the main competitors, it should be noted that there are some quality differences when referring to overall durability of the pack itself. As stated earlier, the backpack is made of 600D. Is it strong enough? Yes, for most cases. It is definitely strong enough for making a daily backpack or schoolbag for light use. On the other hand, if you are developing a bag that needs to be extremely durable, such as a deployment pack , a higher Denier and material would be better suited for that task. This is where the other brands truly shine. To put things into perspective, my Maxpedition Rush 24 (made in Vietnam) uses 1050D nylon (source: https://www.511tactical.com/rush-24-backpack.html), and my Vanquest Javelin 3.0 (made in the U.S.A.) uses 1000D Cordura (source: https://www.vanquest.com/products/javelin-3-0-vslinger-right-shoulder-slingpack.html). Even my leather-bottomed Jansport backpack (that I used throughout high school) was made out of 915D Cordura Nylon, and it was a tank (source: http://www.designlife-cycle.com/new-page-51/).
Final Thoughts: If you don’t mind that the pack is manufactured outside of the USA, you do not carry a water bottle around with you, and are looking for a medium sized backpack to store everything you need for your office/day in the city, and a few extra items for self defense, this is a GREAT starter backpack for you. It comes in multiple colors, and I truly believe that the extra accessories it comes with makes the pricing a bit more reasonable. You can source it locally at some of the larger sporting goods stores, or online at places like HERE ON AMAZON (in Black). Also, if you are looking for it in Coyote Brown, you can buy it discounted HERE ON AMAZON.