While the Sanction is great for everyday use and the occasional overload, the R6 Arkiv Field Backpack is good for that and a whole lot more. That’s because its flagship feature is a modular, expandable pocket array. While most modular bag systems require some combination of straps and/or velcro,the R6’s Arkiv system uses aluminum clasps that attach to nylon rails sewn onto to the main compartment. There’s just a little Velcro strap at the top of each rail to prevent pouches from sliding off. It’s a lot like the NATO rail system found on assault rifles that allow soldiers to attach scopes and grenade launchers to their firearms… Except we’re talking about extra pockets here, not deadly armaments. This is what all modular bag systems should be and as you can see in the video above, it works well and looks awesome.
The waterproof main compartment starts at for the 20-liter small (it’s actually pretty close to medium-sized given that liter-age) for the 40-liter large rucksack. Both have a small, external zippered pocket near the top, two rails on the front, and two rails on either side. While it’s a perfectly capable pack on its own, you’re going to want to add some accessories to it. Each shoulder strap has a rail, which fits a cell phone/utility pocket. For the front rails, you can get a rolltop laptop case , “Folio” organizer pouch with two pockets and a U-Lock strap, and/or a smaller tool pocket. The larger pockets have additional rails that let you attach smaller pockets onto them and there’s also a additional shoulder strap that lets you use the Folio as a standalone bag. For the sides, you can get either a long, zippered pocket, or a slightly shorter rolltop pocket, which is good for holding bottles. Everything is available in either gray, black or tan waxed canvas (which costs an extra for the bag and per accessory). Finally, there’s a padded Waistbelt for heavier loads. All accessories are fully weatherproofed. If all this sounds, expensive, that’s because it is. A fully-loaded, large, black Field Backpack (minus the shoulder strap) costs. But here’s the good news: Not all accessories are created equal.
Let’s start with the easy target: No one needs a cell phone pocket. Sure, it’s kind of convenient to have on your shoulder, but unless you’re really opposed to using your pants pocket, you can do without it. This may come as a bit of a surprise, but I would also suggest skipping the laptop case. The rolltop design looks awesome, but the main compartment already has an internal zippered pocket for a 15-inch laptop. It’s unpadded, but you can get a separate sleeve for a fraction of the you’d spend on the Arkiv version. Most people could also do without the tool pocket. It’s just a smaller version of the Folio and doesn’t come close to justifying its price. Finally, the zippered side pockets aren’t terribly useful. They’re not wide enough to fit larger water bottles, and they’re really expensive for what they are. Mission Workshop says they’re “great for storing long items,” which is cool if you’re constantly toting around drumsticks or paintbrushes, but they won’t fit a Nalgene, or any wide water bottle for that matter. That’s why the rolltop pockets are a better buy. Or, you might decide to do without side pockets entirely.
You should however, get the Folio and the Waistbelt at the very least. The Folio has a pocket that’s just the right size for an iPad and and an extra one for a couple of books or an e-reader (or whatever else you may need), as well as slots for pens. I found myself using the Folio more than the main compartment. The Sanction VX could do without the Waistbelt because its narrow profile keeps loads close to the back, which makes them feel lighter. But the R6 is a bit deeper (or a lot deeper in the case of the 40-liter large) and the externally mounted pouches further shift the weight outwards resulting in a more sluggish and heavy-feeling load. A hard plastic sheet in the back panel is supposed to act as an internal frame, but it’s not quite enough to cope with heavier loads. Indeed, it’s virtually a necessity for loads of over 20 pounds. This brings the total bill down to a more palatablefor a small — assuming you want two side pockets for symmetry — or without the side pockets.
Weight-handling aside, there are also a couple of other annoying quirks that are easier to look past. First, the waterproof liner in the Folio isn’t attached to the exterior fabric. This sometimes results in part of the liner coming out when pulling larger items out of it, such as an iPad. Some extra organization features in the main compartment would’ve also been helpful for when you don’t feel like carrying a full array of pockets.
Speaking of pockets, I wish there were more options. It would be really cool if Mission Workshop sold the aluminum clasps individually, then we’d be able to make our own accessories. For example, you could glue one to the back of an phone case, or to the side of a Thermos or water bottle. Photographers might appreciate a tripod mount. A keychain would also be a convenient way to keep track of your keys. A flashlight would really lend substance to its tactical appearance, especially if it faced forward and was mountable on the shoulder strap.
These are just a few ideas, but the possibilities are endless. It’s almost as if the Arkiv system was like an OS. It’s just begging to be hacked and toyed with. And ultimately, that’s what makes the R6 so exciting. Sure, it’s a little expensive and under accessorized for the time being, but it’s still a new technology. It’ll only get cheaper and more accessible as time goes on, and hopefully more expandable as well.