A long range patrol pack is an essential piece of kit for those who are in need of it. I emphasize “those who are in need”, because many people don’t have a need for a 100l+ pack but buy it because they think that a larger ruck always makes a better ruck. Most people can run a 50 to 70l pack, even for several days, but aren’t really aware of how to pack their stuff.
Those that need a recce pack are usually guys that are indeed Recce guys or those that need to carry bulky loads like cold weather gear or extreme amounts of water or even parts of crew served weapons. Crossfire, a backpack manufacturer from australia, released their MKVII pack several weeks ago and we had the chance to test it. The MKVII is a 110l+ ruck that relies on an external frame. The advantages of external frames, especially when carrying heavier loads have been discussed in our DG3 article before.
The MKVII utilizes the DG16 frame, which is bigger than the DG3 frame, while also being optimized for carrying the pack with a platecarrier, as the frame has a cutout which is roughly the size and shape of a SAPI plate.
The frame is attached to a Yoke harness and a free floating hip belt. Adjusted right, most of the weight gets transfered to the hips, while the little weight that is left to the shoulders gets even more spread by the Yoke harness.
Attaching the pack itself and the load carrying components to the frame is done by metal O rings and tuck tabs, which are called “lost arrows” by crossfire. Assembly and adjustment is completely toolless, but a good pincer can make it more comfortable. You can select three heights for the hip belt, three heights for the Yoke and three standoff positions for the spacer mesh. So the user has more than twelve options for sizing, eliminating the need for “hardwired” pack sizes.
The pack itself consists of a roughly 85l main pack, with two 5l canteen pouches sewn to the front. Each canteens pouch will take two Nalgenes and accessoires or even a poncho and snivel gear. The main pack and the canteen pouches result in a size of 95l.
The main compartments inside features tabs that let you attach the following modular items: Two hydration pouches and two mesh acessorie pouches, which are all included. You will also find a sewn in flat mesh pocket for further organization.
The lower third of the main compartment is – as usual for this category of packs, a sleeping bag compartment, that is divided by a velcro barrier, so you can simply extend or reduce its size. What’s special about the sleeping bag compartment of the crossfire MKVII is its side access feature. While most packs feature a front zip on the sleeping bag compartment, the MKVII has a side access, similar to a stuff sack. This enables easy access, even when holed up and also eliminates the need to carry a stuffsack for your sleeping bag.
The MKVII is a traditional top loader and the process of loading it features no surprises. The lid is closed by two 25mm fastex buckles and also features a snow skirt which is closed by a self locking cordlock. A very nice touch is that the lid is not hard sewn but can be separated and even adjusted by two 25mm fastex buckles on the rear. This enables the wearer to use some of the various lids that Crossfire offers and also gives some overload capability. The overload capability is also enhanced by a cinch down strap that goes over the snow skirt.
The standard lid features three pockets. One being a small, fleece lined eye pro or electronics pocket, while the other two are a mesh pocket on the inside and a traditional pocket on the outside, both being big enough to carry a poncho, headlight, batteries and spare socks. Both top pouches can be connected or sepperated by a pass through zipper. The lid also features PALS on top.
The shape of the MKVII is somewhere between an European Bergen pack and an US mountain ruck. Combining the big main compartment of the European approach with the more US influenced short back and external pouches. This impression gets even clearer when you add the top claymore pouch and the two side canteen pockets.
Both kinds of ancillary pockets get connected by Crossfires unique PALS System, which may look a little bulky at first sight, but the almost rigid straps allow you to simply slap on the pouches without interweaving every row of PALS. The canteen pouches are also 5 litres in size and are closed by a snow skirt, velcro and fastex, just like their sewn on pendants. The only difference is that the modular canteen pouches feature a mesh pouch on the inside of the lid, just the right size for storing a lighter or water puricifaction tablets.
The claymore pouch has a clamshell design and is made to be attached to the top lid. I usually store my priority quick access items there, but it would also lend itself for a rain coat or even spare mags.
On both sides of the pack, where the canteen pouches should be attached, you find pass throughs for Skis or tripods. The right side even features a stash pouch for another water bottle. It’s also possible to compress the pack via two 20mm straps on both sides.
With all pouches installed, the pack gives you 110l of capacity, not counting the overload capability. You also get a zippered antenna/hydration port that can be divided by velcro flaps on the rear of the pack.
We went to the extremes in testing the MKVII, involving several 48h tours with a minimum of 20kg in weight and almost weekly ruck runs, with at least 35kg of weight and steep mountains. All this told us much about the comfort that the MKVII offers. The external frame reminded me of my old Norrona Recon pack, but without the squeezing noises of a metal frame. The hip belts most important feature is that it is free swiveling and moves with the wearer and not with the pack, which in turn prevents chaffing. It is also possible to remove the hip belt and just go with a lumbar pad if you go with belt kit.
The shoulder straps feature an anatomic cut and a freely adjustable sternum strap, which cinches nice and tight while taking even more load from the shoulders. Shoulder straps and lumbar pad aren’t padded with spacer mesh but with a cotton like material, just like the DG3. I wasn’t really conceived of this material first, but it just feels much better than any spacer mesh while it wicks away moisture and dries in seconds. The shoulders also feature a quick release system which works flawlessly.
The 40kg or even heavier loads are no problem with the MKVII as long as your body is used to such loads. Of course it will hurt. But I won’t f*ck up your shoulders and neck. When you take of the pack after long distances with heavy weight you feel a certain relief on your legs, which is something like the universal sign for a well adjusted backpack.
Talking about heavy loads – as said in the beginning of the article, LRRP Packs are specialist products that require proper adjustment and training if used in the weight class they are designed for. This means that NO pack will prevent you to do lower bag and leg training and acclimatization runs on a regular basis. But if you are used to rucking at this level, the MKVII and especially the included DG16 frame are game changers. The external frame will transfer the weight to your robust hips and legs and away from your more vulnerable shoulders.
CrossFire is slowly expanding its product line and is becoming what we consider the market leader in serious Rucks. The MKVII is their first approach into the heavy weight class of packs and it is a huge success. Things that I would like to see changed would be little more volume (5 to 10l) to the main compartment, as the use of two hydration bladders takes away some real estate. I also would like a better pouch attachment system as PALS is heavy and slow, especially considering a bug out scenario or use of the external pouches as ammunition carriers.
Otherwise, the MKVII is what I consider the best LRRP pack on the market, beating comparable packs made by Eberlestock, Mystery Ranch and even my humble Norrona Recon by lengths.
For further notes and observations please watch our YouTube overview on the Crossfire MKVII.
The MKVII is available in the USA from Crossfire Packs.
In the EU and Germany the MKVII is available via S4 Supplies.
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