by Pascal Rohé

I can’t remember the last time I felt this tingling in my stomach when I’ve gotten my hands on a new backpack, this sensation like when you were a child unpacking a birthday present when you know that what was inside was exactly what you had wished for. Except the difference here, unpacking the Recon Pack from Colfax Design, was that I didn’t really know what to expect.


Maybe that’s why it didn’t take me long to realise that this here was something special, something different from other backpacks, and not just because of its unusual look. But let’s start at the beginning.


The Recon Pack


Colfax Design Works, CDW for short, is a young company from California who has set itself the goal of producing military-inspired technical travel goods in small production runs. The Advanced Modular Cargo System (A.M.C.S.), an improved version of the well-known MOLLE system that they developed themselves, allows extra Modules to be attached to the outside of the Recon and is not only practical and surpasses the MOLLE system in several respects, but is also a striking design element.


Simply put, the Recon is an everyday backpack with a roll-top opening secured with sturdy buckles on the left and right. But that would be too simple, because the tactical/military design, together with the A.M.C.S., bestows on the Recon its extraordinary and extremely cool look, and with its smart details the Recon offers much more than the classic backpack.


To be honest, roll-tops backpacks don’t exactly allow for the fastest access to their contents. With time, you do get used to it but it’s still different from the usual clam-shell style. Still, aside from the design aspect, roll-tops do offer many practical advantages over other types of backpacks, especially in how you can use the space. For example, you can let longer objects like camera tripods stick out the top and still carry them securely. To make the Recon even more practical, CDW has also attached an extra, small pocket at the top of the backpack. Sealed with a water-resistant YKK zipper, it is ideal for all the things you need quick access to like wallets, mobile phones or keys. In this pocket is a further, smaller zippered pocket—I love these details!


The modern-day digital nomad is provided for too, with a padded laptop compartment. This can also be accessed from the top and sits directly against the backpack’s padded back support. The compartment is large enough for my 15” laptop including the case, and with room left over. The compartment is also protected by a water-resistant zipper.


But what’s proven to be the most practical aspect in everyday use has been the compartment at the bottom of the backpack and comprising about 1/3 of the total volume. The compartment, with a double zipper, has enough room for a pair of shoes or other equipment can be opened from the front to allow quick access.


The shoulder straps taper down slightly from top to bottom, making them wider at shoulder height and comfortable even under a heavy load. The comfort is also complemented by the thin but totally sufficient back support. There’s also a removable sternum strap with an anti-load quick release buckle from ITW Nexus that opens with a strong pull. I have never seen this design on a backpack before and it works really well in practice. There’s also a waist belt, available as an extra, for people who prefer using them to help lighten the load on the back.


A further example of the attention to detail in the Recon’s design is the padded handle at the level of the laptop compartment in a complementary colour to the yellow/ gold interior padding.


The outer material is made from the very strong X51 1000d Cordura© with tear resistant X-ply layer and backed with a laminated PET waterproof membrane, making the Recon a trustworthy companion in any weather and giving you no excuse for staying in on rainy days.


CDW also offers a range of extras for the Recon, not least of all, Dopp Kits, which are pockets that can be attached to the outside of the pack via the A.M.C.S. Currently available are Dopp Kits in small and medium. Also made of the high-quality, water-resistant Cordura©, they offer the wearer extra flexibility when transporting equipment and, besides being a great idea, they go perfectly with the design of the Recon.


The flexibility of the A.M.C.S. gives the wearer a lot of freedom. For me, it was especially practical for attaching my bike light and bike lock.


Very rarely have I come across such a well-thought-out and high-quality product. The Recon is perfect and of the highest workmanship. Every stich is perfect, and every compartment and every strap is where you need and want it to be. There was no skimping on the materials used, among the best available on the market. And with the various options and extras, the Recon can be personalised to the individual wishes of the wearer.


A few days ago, I happened to be at a bike fair that specialised in younger brands, with the Recon on my back. There was a huge selection of well-known and lesser-known brands offering commuter bags and backpacks, many in the everyday roll-top style. I’m proud to say that only one brand could compete with the high quality of the Recon, and it made me value it even more.


It’s that feeling you get when you have a high-quality and perfectly-thought-out product in the hand, the satisfaction when you find everything exactly where you wish them to be, and the high quality of the materials used. I can’t wait to see what products Colfax Design Works brings out in the future—this tingling is just too good.


– Size: 30 Liters
– Dimensions: 12” W x 20 ½” H x 8” D (30 x 52 x 20 cm)
– Weight: 3.16 lbs | 1.43 kg
– Colors: Black, Charcoal Grey, Multicam
– Materials: X51 1000d Cordura©, 210d Ripstop liner
– Mill-spec webbing , buckles, hardware, and moister wicking air mesh
– Ykk weather guard zippers






(Photos: Julia Zierer for Outdoor Aesthetics)