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5.11 Tatical Covert 18 Pack

"Covert": concealed, secret, disguised. (according to When I received this backpack for test and evaluation from 5.11 Tactical I wasn't sure what to expect from a covert backpack. I mean... how do you disguise a backpack? It STILL looks like a backpack. What's being concealed, secret(ed) or disguised is the firearm(s) and equipment carried inside. While the Covert 18 Pack looks like just about any other contemporary backpack / laptop pack, it has a few secrets to tell that are worth hearing.

My field testing of this pack took place on a recent week long trip. I carried my laptop, power cord, mouse, mouse pad, USB mouse receiver, sunglasses, ibuprofen, two pens, a pen light, a single-cell 3V light, two knives and... a Glock Model 17 4th Gen with two spare magazines, my badge and an ID panel. Let me say this now: I had room for more.

Boasting over 1800 cubic inches of storage space the pack was both comfortable and functional. There is a large "main" compartment, a smaller front compartment and then numerous flat pockets. There is also a lined sunglasses pocket at the top and two mesh pockets - one on each side - that fit water bottles.

The main compartment has a padded pocket for your laptop with an elastic security strap that "ties" down via hook-and-loop. With my laptop stowed in that pocket I had room for my wife's laptop (although I didn't carry it each day), a hardback novel and assorted other items in the main compartment. On the "flap" of the main compartment are two fair-sized zippered mesh pockets ideal for carrying laptop accessories (such as my mouse, it's USB receiver and miscellaneous paperwork I took along).

In the smaller front compartment I could carry my Kindle (in its carrier), a hard eyeglass case (with my reading glasses 'cause I'm starting to reach that age) and my digital camera. On the flap of the smaller front pocket are two other flat pockets - each reached via zipper closure, one on either side - where I kept recharding cords for my phone, camera, kindle and iPod. Inside that smaller front pocket, on the pack side, is MOLLE webbing and a velcro panel for attaching ID patches (where I put my name tape). If you don't carry gear or other stuff in this pocket, the flap can be rolled down, and holders are provided, so that your identification panel is visible.

At the top of the main compartment "flap", on the face of the pack, is another smaller pocket specifically designed to hold pens, calculators, etc - but also containing a pull out removable identification panel. That's where I hung my badge. I also carried my iPod, those two pens mentioned earlier, the pen light and the single cell 3V light.

Finally, what you don't see, is the large weapon pocket. Almost as tall and wide as the main compartment "flap" it's easily deep enough to hold any full-size handgun. The velcro panel inside is designed to function with 5.11 Tactical's Back Up Belt System which provides an assortment of holsters and pouches for weapons and gear. That's what I used to carry the Glock 17 Gen4 mentioned above. That pocket can be accessed from either side of the pack via a long zipper but it's imperative you know which way you mounted your holster inside. To access it quickly, while carrying the pack on a shoulder, you just rotate the pack around your body while keeping the shoulder strap on your shoulder. This turns the pack so either the left side or right side is now facing up in front of your body. Unzip that weapon pocket, reach in and access your weapon.

The shoulder straps are padded and adjustable with a nicely padded neoprene feeling handle at the top. There is an adjustable chest strap provided but it's NOT removable (I think 5.11 Tactical should make it so).

The back of the pack (the part that sits against you) is padded and conceals a pocket that is suitable for two things:

  1. A hydration system (and a covered tube port is provided along with a tube guide on the shoulder straps), and
  2. A panel of soft (or hard) armor.


After having gone through all that, I refer you back to the definition for covert and submit to you that the name fits the pack pretty well. Throughout the week I carried it, it served well. I carried everything I needed, it was comfortable and if I had to carry it by the handle instead of wearing it on a shoulder, the padded handle was comfortable instead of nylon that pinched into my fingers.

The pack I tested is Deep Moss Green on Black. The other color variations available are:

  • Asphalt on Black
  • Mantis Green on Dark Oak
  • Code Red on Steel Gray
  • True Navy on Asphalt


Given that we're looking at a pack that's not supposed to look like a gun bag - or a "cop bag" - I think it might behoove 5.11 Tactical to make it in a few more colors, or replace some of those current colors with things more flashy. Yes, I know; "flashy" isn't covert. But if you're on a mountain trail or even at the mall, look around and notice all the yellow, orange, lime green, etc bags people are carrying. While the colors listed above are pretty standard in the public safety world, do they really blend in to what the civilian population is carrying? It's just a thought.

Aside from that observation and my note about the chest strap being removable, I think 5.11 Tactical has a hit on their hands with this one.


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About The Author:

Lt. Frank Borelli (ret) is the Editor In Chief for, and has over 29 years of military and civilian law enforcement experience. An instructor since 1989 and having delivered training across the country, he stays active in police work, training, and writing. Frank has had four non-fiction and two fiction books published along with two research papers of specific interest to the law enforcement and/or military communities. All can be found / purchased on his Author Page on linked above. If you have any comments or questions, you can contact him via email to