Notes on the Alpha One Niner Evade 1.5

As I have noted a few times here, I used to work at a very good audio store (Huntington TV in Boston, for those interested). I was, and still am, interested in audio and my first subscription magazine as a 9 year old was to Stereophile. In and among the $17,000 amps and $5,000 speaker cables they would occasionally review stuff I was interested in like AV receivers. The reviewer would also note that AV receivers are difficult to review because they do so much. So it is with packs. They are just daunting to review and since I am an office denizen for most of the week, dirt time, which is pack time, is limited.

I purchased an Alpha One Niner Evade 1.5 recently and while I am not ready for a full review, here are a few thoughts and musings on what is definitely an excellent pack. What is clear is that there are two branches of design in the current pack world—one that follows more traditional school style packs and the other that uses features and designs found in military packs. Tom Bihn makes some of the very best packs of the first kind and Go Ruck has become the Sebenza of the packs of the second kind. Finding designs that blend the two are difficult, but the Evade 1.5 is just such a pack.

One thing that is very interesting is that there is a growing number of small batch companies here in the US that are making state of the art packs for less money than you would think. Tom Bihn, of course, always offers an excellent value. But Alpha One Niner and Brown Buffalo also make great packs here. And because they are not saddled with the Triple Aught Tax (a tax rate found in an obscure part of the tax code applied only goods from the Triple Aught Design, aka Tactical Lululemon), they are half the price of a Litespeed. Stuff from these companies is not as readily available as stuff from Osprey or LL Bean, but the batches are large enough they don’t require a calendar event to score one.

The Evade 1.5 is substantially larger than my Maxped PFII (about 22L to 18L). I bought it for that exact reason. While I can pack and stack a truly staggering amount of stuff in my PFII, it still has some real limitations. Electronics of any sort do poorly in it and as a result, it is a good day hike bag but a miserable overnight bag or travel bag. I get that expecting a bag to do both is probably unfair, but that means that I needed another pack (oh darn…).

The pack world, like all of the sub-niches in the EDC Universe has its own preferences, forums, hashtags, Youtube channels, “influencers”, and the like. Dipping my toes back into the pack world for a month or two of research was quite fun. I have reviewed packs relatively infrequently because of how much like the PFII, how difficult they are to review, and how much time I have to really test them, but the time away has made the design leaps seem huge. The Evade 1.5 has dozens of features that make it a lot more advanced than the PFII even though both are clearly twigs on the military branch of pack design.

I am taken aback by how much better the Evade 1.5 does its laptop compartment. Not only is the laptop slot itself padded and suspended off the bottom of the bag, the spaces to hold secondary devices, like a Kindle, are also suspended (though not padded). This inspires a huge amount of confidence when it comes to carrying stuff as someone that on occasion works on the road.

In addition to that feature, which allows the Evade 1.5 work as a EDC bag, the harness is significantly nicer than I was expecting. The shape and padding are excellent, but it is the load lifter design coupled with a great back panel that makes this pack great for hiking.

This versatility makes the Evade 1.5 a great choice for a one pack person. If you want something to take from the woods and the trails to the library or the coffee shop, this pack can do it as well as any I have seen. There is a lot more to explore, like the velcro utility panel in lieu of sewn in organizers, and the myriad of MOLLE, but my first take on the Evade 1.5 is exceptionally positive. I have been out of the pack game for a while and so what might seem like incremental upgrades to folks fully tuned in to this part of the Gear Universe, seems like a huge step in evolution for me.

More to come.

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