Continuing with our gear hauling series, we’ll be taking a closer look at a nifty product, made and provided by our dear friends from Poland, Helikon-Tex. It’s the highly packable and multi-functional Bushcraft Satchel Bag.

The Bushcraft Satchel is a general purpose field bag from the Helikon’s Bushcraft Line. Some of these products are co-designed and tested by survival experts from SurvivalTech.pl and this bag is one of them. It features some nice details, which place it high above other similar items. So let’s get right into it.

THE BASICS

As usual, let’s start with some numbers.

The bag is 30cm deep, 32cm long and 17.5cm wide, which means its volume is approximately 17L.

It weighs just under 0.5Kg, 479g to be exact and it’s construction material is 500D Cordura fabric.

As a satchel, it’s meant to be carried over the shoulder, so it features a wide nylon webbing carry strap. It’s available in Black, Olive Green, Coyote, Adaptive Green and Shadow Grey.

MATERIALS AND CRAFTSMANSHIP

As mentioned, the construction material is genuine 500D Cordura fabric. A lightweight version of what we’re used to 800D and 1000D, but this comes in REAL handy when packing it. Still, VERY strong and durable though. Heavy-duty nylon webbing is used for MOLLE/PALS loops and everything is sewn together with a tough poly-cotton blend thread.

Like every and all Helikon products, the stitching is done with care. Double stitching on stress points and nice straight seams all around.  The thread is very tough, as it did not start fraying after the satchel has been dragged over sharp river rocks. Helikon is known to not skimp on construction materials, which is why i praise their gear so much.

DETAILS AND USER EXPERIENCE

Now let’s take a look at the details. First, the “outside”.

Starting at the top, the wide shoulder strap is fully detachable. It’s connected to the bag with high-quality hardware. One side-release buckle on each end of the strap allows for easy removing of the bag in emergencies and a wide variety of attachment possibilities. The plastic hardware is unmarked, but it looks like it was from Duraflex. 

The Sliplok buckle ensures easy length adjustment and a secure fit. You can use the side buckles to attach the bag to a backpack or just secure the bags carry position with the help of a pant belt loop. A small feature but very useful. Every time you bend over to pick something up, satchel type bags tend to slip around and get into your workspace. By quickly undoing one of these buckles, feeding it through one belt loop on your pants and snapping it back together, secures the bag in the position you desire.

Moving along we get to the top part of the bag. A YKK zipper runs along the full length of the bag and has double zipper pulls, secured with some heat shrinks. On a personal note, i really like this type of pulls, as it’s right there when you need it, (even with gloves) but doesn’t get caught on spiky stuff like raw paracord would. As mentioned, this one is a double one, so you can choose the side it opens and closes too.

At the ends, the zipper curves upwards, running along the side extensions. So, when the bag is standing on its own, the zipper actually makes an opening larger than the bag itself, providing easy access to the inside. When it’s worn over the shoulder, however, the upward curve allows the user to make a small, secure opening for on-the-move stashing of smaller items.

As with every product, we tested these zippers extensively. Be it overloading, fast and careless manipulation and even getting some material caught in there. No problems were noticed and the zipper still works like new. If anything goes wrong, just reverse the movement that caused the failure and try again. It’s that simple.

On the outer side of aforementioned extensions, we find the first MOLLE/PALS webbing loops. Four loops on each side give you a range of mounting/attaching possibilities for your extra gear. Generally, i would put a sunglasses case or a GPS pouch here, as the placement is perfect. Close at hand but still out of the way so you don’t sit/lean on this portion. The webbing is thick and robust, just the way we like it.

Continuing down the sides, we get to two pockets on the outer part. These are located on both sides. Either way you turn the bag, the pocket on the left is closed on the bottom and is the size of an AR magazine pouch. It can hold your knives, folding saws, large cell phones and/or a spare magazine if you want. The right pocket is not actually a pocket but more a multi-purpose push through slot. It has an open top and bottom and will nicely hold your camping ax, hiking poles and such.

Both pockets are covered with the same nylon webbing as was found above, which creates a MOLLE/PALS compatible matrix panel. Two rows and four columns nicely add to the expansion possibilities.

Just below these pockets, there are two compression straps. One on each side. Closed with a standard curved Tensionlock, it makes any adjustment a breeze. These allow you to adjust the overall size and shape of the bag to fit its contents perfectly. The ends of these compression straps feature a “web dominator” which takes care of dangling webbing. Basically two pieces of velcro sewn to the end. Again, a small but important feature.

On the bottom of the bag, we find another part of a nylon strap exposed, running along the full length of the bottom. This part is sewn in a manner that offers two MOLLE/PALS compatible loops on the sides and four double sized loops in the middle. These are indispensable, as they allow you to fix larger and unevenly shaped objects to the bottom. With the use of some bungee cord or cam-lock straps, you can easily attach extra clothing or something you don’t want to carry in the bag, be it too bulky or too dirty.

This bottom strap is also a part of an ingenious design, of which the main function is hidden to the untrained eye. This is a single piece of webbing that goes all the way from one Side-Release buckle of the wide carry strap to the other. It’s there as reinforcement for the main compartment and because of it, the bag can be loaded pretty heavily. So the weakest part is the plastic buckles, which can be eventually replaced with climbing carabiners if even more strength is needed.

Up front, we find a thin, zippered pocket. The zipper runs almost all the way across, with some zipper-pull stash compartments covering 2,5cm on each side, just like all other outside zipper ends. These covers are not essential, yet they are a perfect reflection of design cooperation and attention to detail. When used properly, they minimise snagging when moving through thick bushes and help keep dirt and rain out of the bag.

The pocket covers the whole front panel and can be used for thinner objects like notebooks, tablets and such. It sports a nice “Bushcraft Series” logo in the top right corner.

Now, let’s take a look inside.

Upon opening the main zipper, we gain access to the main compartment. As stated, it offers roughly 17L of volume, which can be compressed together if a tighter fit is needed.

Just below the opening, there’s a smaller zippered mesh pocket, which is attached only at the top. This way, you can flip it out and examine the contents. Just make sure it’s closed or you might lose smaller items placed in there, as they roll right over the zipper.

A the bottom sides, we find two pockets (one on each side), lined with elastic. These are perfect for securing medium sized items. Their construction material is a bit thinner than the bag itself and completely stitched to the sides and bottom, so you can even put some “extra small” items in there and be sure they’ll stay there.

The size of these pockets is perfect for something like a Nalgene bottle or a med-kit. The elastic is quite firm and doesn’t feel like it’s going to become all cracked and loose over long periods of use.  

Now to be completely honest, I’m not much of a satchel guy. I prefer backpacks and/or fanny packs. But this satchel has proved it’s worth over the course of its rigorous testing period. Its best feature is that because of its lightweight construction, it can be packed down quite a lot and stuffed somewhere in a backpack for when you need some extra space.

While working as security on festivals, you get to bring to your station whatever you can/are willing to carry. And with long shifts and possibly remote locations, you couldn’t just go away to get your stuff from the camp. So while the rest of staff had to use umbrellas and trash bag ponchos on a rainy day, i could pack everything i needed and then some. With a tarp, plenty of rope, some spare clothes, a poncho, and rubber boots, getting through those days was a breeze. And what to do with all the wet gear/clothes when bringing it back? You don’t want to put them in the backpack along with all the other gear, right? Well just stuff ’em in the satchel, attach it to the outside of the backpack and you’re ready to roll. Empty it in the camp, turn it inside out to dry and you’re all set for the next day.

Even if the day was sunny, i brought the satchel to my station as there was a store nearby, so i could bring rations back to the camp with no trouble. I used this satchel day in and day out and it kept prooving its usefulness again and again. The satchel does not show any wear and tear from the testing period, even though it was used to its max. Every time i thought about what the optimal bag for the stuff i need would be, the satchel usually seemed like a reasonable choice. Even just for a quick dip in the river or some R and R between shifts, i kept choosing it over a small backpack as it was just so convenient. I even proved itself to be useful as a sitting pad without any evident damage to the material. Except for dirt. But dirt is our friend.

CONCLUSION

So, in conclusion, i would definitely recommend this item to anyone. Regardless of sex, preferences in style or type of activity, if you are a serious outdoor person, you will find many uses for this bag. Light, rugged and fairly spacious, it will excel your expectations as it did mine. With prices starting at 49,90 EUR on Helikon’s online store, it’s really not that expensive for what you get out of it. You can get one directly from Helikon or from any respectable outdoor store that stocks Helikon-Tex products.