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Eberlestock Halftrack Review

Discussion in 'Outdoors Gear Reviews' started by RickDastardly, Jul 20, 2017.

  1. RickDastardly

    RickDastardly Subscribed Member

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    I originally posted this on BB a few years ago. I guess it's OK to post it here. It's a great sack and would be a shame to lose the information I think.


    Eberlestock Halftrack Review

    I've had a bit of time with my Halftrack now, so can give some proper opinions on it. I'm sure I will make more discoveries as time goes on with it, but there is enough to start us off.


    Preamble and Why I chose the Halftrack

    I ordered my Halftrack from S&S Archery in the USA, and paid a total of £222 for it including import charges to the UK. Expensive, but from what I had read it was worth the money.

    I wanted a pack that was big enough for a full day on the hills, possibly carrying enough kit for my wife as well. I don't subscribe to lightweight, minimalist hiking and quite enjoy carrying a decent weight on my back. It makes me feel that I'm actually doing something. While I'm not exactly rich, I will save up to be able to afford good kit that is worth the money. That's what I did to get the Halftrack.

    In particular, I wanted something tough enough that it will likely be the last such pack I need to buy, a panel loader with some kit organisation built in and a good back system capable of comfortably carrying a heavy load. I'm 5'8 but with a longer back than average for my height, and very broad-chested - think Tasmanian Devil!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Eberlestock is often mentioned in the same sentence as Kifaru, who as we all know make terrifically good, and expensive, packs. The nearest Kifaru competitor to the Halftrack is the Marauder, with a couple of long pockets and a belt attached. That would be a somewhat more capacious (good) and several times the price (not good) of the Eberlestock Halftrack. The Kifaru is well out of my 'can justify' price range.

    A few years ago I was fortunate to get a used Kifaru G1 Zulu at a good price, and it is my benchmark for quality in a rucksack. I will make comparisons with some aspects of the Zulu where appropriate.


    Specifications

    Capacity: Eberlestock rate it as 35 litres, but I've read comments including from Eberlestock that they grossly understate the size. Some sales sites list it as 50 litres. I have no way to measure it, but my guess is that it's somewhere between the two.

    Weight: 2.9kg

    Features:
    • Height-adjustable shoulder yoke.
    • Padded, removable hip belt with PALS webbing and 'tuck-away' sleeve for excess webbing.
    • Padded lumbar pad and back with excellent ventilation.
    • Plastic framesheet and malleable, cellular aluminium stays.
    • Built-in rain cover in bottom pocket.
    • Captive cord locks and velcro fasteners to secure webbing ends
    • Tall side pockets with clip at the top; easily holds a 3 litre bladder. Elasticated external pocket at the bottom.
    • Tunnels behind each side pocket, with clip and D-ring at the top. Can hold an Eberlestock 2 litre bladder or takes skis or poles.
    • Top pocket with covered holes for radio leads or water tubes that go through into the main body.
    • Full height panel opening into main body, with sleeve pocket on the front.
    • Foldable shelf mid-way in the main body to give two compartments.
    • Simple pockets inside the main body for small items.
    • Radio fixing mesh and straps in the top half of the body.
    • PALS webbing on the inside and outside.
    • Strong grab handle at the top of the sack.


    First impressions

    The Halftrack impresses with its build quality in a similar way to Kifaru. The materials used and construction seem excellent. Everything appears strongly stitched and seams well finished. The Halftrack certainly looks like it can take a beating and come out smiling.

    The Halftrack is not as 'strappy' and is relatively simple compared to Kifaru sacks, although it still has plenty of PALS webbing all over for optional extras.

    The military green colour is similar to ranger green; close enough that my ranger green kit from ATS looks like it matches. The photographs make the colours look more different than they are to my eyes.

    The Halftrack is a relatively tall, wide and shallow rucksack for its capacity compared to others I have looked at. This is good for me because it keeps the weight closer to the back, gives enough height for a good suspension system and looks right on my broad back.

    Here are a few comparison pictures to get things going:


    Next to the G1 Zulu in foliage green, with a ranger green pouch on the front:

    [​IMG]

    Next to the Maxpedition pygmy falcon foliage green, and an olive green sheath:

    [​IMG]


    The main compartment

    As you can see above, there is plenty of PALS webbing on the front door. The zip pulls are hooped and made from a rubbery plastic. These are very easy to use and much better than knotted paracord.

    Just below the obligatory velcro patch is the sleeve pocket; you can see where the edge of the sales card goes in. The pocket extends to the bottom of the door and I have a thinly-folded two-person survival bag inside it. The pocket really is slim, just two pieces of cordura stitched flatly together. It would not hold thick items especially if the pack was stuffed full. It's still enough to be quite useful though.

    Let's see the inside.


    Shelf folded down:

    [​IMG]

    Shelf in place:

    [​IMG]


    One of the missing pieces of information on the sack when perusing the adverts is its size. Here is that information. The front-to-back depth is around six to seven inches, depending on the profile of the aluminium stays in the back.


    Dimensions:

    [​IMG]
     
    #1
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  2. RickDastardly

    RickDastardly Subscribed Member

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    The picture below shows the lower half of the Halftrack, with the shelf up. You can see how the shelf is held by the fold-down supports with velcro patches. I abhor velcro, but this is a legitimate use of it. Obviously the shelf is not going to hold a very heavy load on its own, but heavy weights should be in the bottom anyway.

    Also shown are the PALS strips and the elastic-topped pockets. Useful storage - I have a hip flask of Jack Daniel's in one now.


    Lower half:

    [​IMG]


    Next is a side view of the whole interior. With the shelf folded down, it is apparent that it blocks the top of the back pockets. Above the shelf is the 'radio rack'. This black, pliable plastic mesh is only attached along its bottom edge to the back of the sack. There are two adjustable load straps attached up the mesh to secure the radio, or whatever. Some people apparently cut all of this out of the sack, but I have already fount it useful to support a load above the shelf. It's a useful feature.

    Around the upper is another set of elastic-topped pockets. These are quite narrow at two inches, which limits their use. For instance, I have a lifeventure titanium KFS set in a pouch and it just fits in. My Fallkniven TK2 in its pouch sheath also just fits in one of the pockets. The pockets continue behind the radio rack but access is obviously more difficult.


    Interior, shelf down:

    [​IMG]


    Suspension and belt

    This is the most important aspect of any rucksack. Anything other than the smallest daysack really must have a good back system, especially if rough terrain is expected. For me, a back system should clamp the load to the back with no significant movement, support the weight on the hips rather than the shoulders, and keep the rucksack upright without undue shoulder pressure. Good back ventilation is essential and the system should not cause any undue pressure or hot-spots, especially on the iliac crest where the hip belt should ride.

    Fitting the rucksack properly to the wearer's back is critical, and Eberlestock have a video on their website showing how to do this in detail. It is worth watching. I'll jump ahead a little to when I tried it out to say that the Halftrack meets my requirements. Let's have a look how it does so.


    Back view and dimensions:

    [​IMG]


    The system starts with the hip belt, in my opinion. The point of the belt is to transfer load to the hips, and the belt must be fitted around or just above the iliac crest. That is the widest part of the pelvis. Too high, and it just squishes the wearers waist and is extremely uncomfortable if fastened tight enough to transfer weight and hold the rucksack. Too low, and it will slide down allowing the weight to be taken on the shoulders. Obviously, the positioning is relative to the shoulder harness which must be adjustable to fit the height to the wearer.

    Kifaru's omni belt is the best hip belt that I have ever worn. It has almost no padding but is shaped and positioned perfectly to hug the iliac crest securely. The lack of padding means that it is highly flexible and does not give areas of high pressure where padding is compressed; this is painful after a while. I would say Kifaru have the design just about perfect!

    The Halftrack's hip belt has a moderate amount of padding and is essentially a flat, straight belt. It has two rows of PALS webbing for attachments (which I make good use of) and passes through a heavily padded lumbar pad. The belt is held there by velcro so it can be removed. The belt fastens with the usual quick release buckle and is notable for the sleeves into which the loose ends can be pushed to stop them flapping about. These sleeves are behind the webbing loops which are fixed onto an additional layer of cordura. A neat and clever solution, although it can be a little tricky to stuff the loose ends into the sleeves.

    The pictures below show the hip belt and back. Note the very good padding on the back of the rucksack itself, which allows very good airflow. That's an essential for me because I tend to run hot and get a wet back very easily. The lumbar pad is almost two inches thick. I'm a little unsure of that at the moment; I'm not used to such a thing and it feels odd against my back. I think I'll get used to it though, especially as the padding softens up with use. Update: I did get used to it, very quickly.


    Hip belt and back padding:

    [​IMG]

    With duct tape to show thickness of padding:

    [​IMG]


    Inside the back is a plastic frame sheet (for general stiffness) and two malleable aluminium stays.
    The stays can be removed from their sleeves and bent to the shape of the wearer's back. I haven't found the need to do so.

    The stays measure twenty inches in length. This is long enough to allow a take-off for the shoulder tensioning straps that is high enough not to pull down on the shoulders; on me at least. Kifaru's smaller sacks have had nineteen inch stays and I know from experience that these are just a touch short for me. Twenty inches is just enough. Longer would be silly on a sack of this capacity.

    The height of the suspension harness should be adjusted so that the shoulder straps follow the curve of the wearer's shoulders from the back. This is done with the hip belt properly positioned and fastened. The Halftrack's suspension is fitted onto a rack of black webbing strips with a strong, double-foldover velcro fastener. Another appropriate use of velcro. As can be seen in the picture below, the harness is easily opened up to allow adjustment.

    Note also the generous spacing of the shoulder straps. I have had rucksacks where the straps are too close together and cause irritation behind or at the sides of the neck. Not so here, this arrangement suits my broad back well. The straps themselves are wide and thinly but well padded.

    The picture also shows the strap management on the shoulder tension straps. These should be adjusted to pull the rucksack just vertical, no further. The loose ends have velcro straps attached to them. Once adjusted, the loose end is rolled up and the velcro strap is fixed around the in-use webbing. This is a very easy and neat solution, saving the use of ranger bands, web dominators or duct tape. A small feature, but one very much appreciated. Take note, Kifaru!


    Suspension harness adjustment and webbing management:

    [​IMG]


    Overall, having worn the rucksack with a fair load for a day, I would rate the back system as very good. Only Kifaru beat it. That is about what I expected and hoped for. I am also comparing with Berghaus Cyclops II, Karrimore Jaguar style and a few other decent brands that I have tried over the years. Given that the Halftrack is a much smaller rucksack than the others and designed for a smaller load, it is more than capable of holding its head up in this company.

    The only things I would improve on would be to make the hip belt like Kifaru's. Thinner, more moulded around the iliac crest and with the side stabiliser straps and power pulls. I wonder if I could gaffer tape my Kifaru belt onto the Halftrack... Seriously, it is more than good enough for the load that the pack is intended to carry.
     
    #2
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
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  3. RickDastardly

    RickDastardly Subscribed Member

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    Top Pocket

    The top pocket opens with a double zip with the good looped pullers. It has three rows of PALS loops and a thin strip of velcro loops on the top and two velcro-closed holes in the back, one on either side, for radio wires or whatever. The wires can be passed down into the main body of the rucksack.

    The pocket is a useful size and takes a 32oz Nalgene bottle easily. It almost holds two, but not quite. My new Esbit vacuum flask which is an inch taller than a Nalgene will also fit in there in the same position.

    In the picture below, the padded grab handle at the back of the pocket can also be seen.


    Top pocket showing radio hole:

    [​IMG]


    Top pocket with a 32oz Nalgene bottle:

    [​IMG]



    Side pockets and tube pockets

    The Halftrack's side pockets easily hold a 100oz camelbak water bladder. Being this deep means that they are less suitable for smaller items which fall to the bottom of the pocket. That's a worthwhile trade though, because the pockets are really the only place to put a large water bladder.

    On the outside of the pockets are the usual array of PALS webbing. The pockets are closed by the excellent ITW surface mount buckles. These are easier to use than the usual quick release buckles. The top has a deep overlapping flap to keep water and stuff out of the pocket. In the top of the pocket is a gear clip which I use for clipping in my bladder.

    Around the middle of the pocket is a compression strap. At the bottom is an external, elasticated pocket which is closed by a cord and cord lock. This too can be used to compress the side pocket. This elasticated pocket could be used for small items, or long things like walking poles with the compression strap used to secure them.


    Side pocket:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Behind the side pockets are tube pockets; simply a gap between two layers of cordura and between the stitching that attaches the pockets to the sack. Eberlestock say that these sleeves will hold their own 2 litre water bladders. The sleeves certainly won't take my 3 litre bladder; and believe me I've tried. I don't know if they would take camelbak 2 litre bladders. There is a D-ring and gear hook at the top. These are essential here because the tube is open at the bottom too.

    I did manage to fit my Katadyn 'pocket' water purifier in there, just out of curiosity. It's not exactly 'pocket' sized!


    Side tube pocket:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Strap and cord management

    This is one of those 'attention to detail' things that impresses me.

    The cords in the external pockets go through a cord lock, which is captive on a tab on the side of the rucksack.


    Cord lock:

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. RickDastardly

    RickDastardly Subscribed Member

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    The compression straps on the pockets, sternum strap and shoulder tension straps all have velcro loops to secure the loose ends. Just roll the ends up and wrap the velcro tabs around the tensioned strap. A great and simple solution to an age-old problem.

    In the first picture below this can be compared to the web dominator holding the water tube into the shoulder strap. My Kifaru Zulu is covered in web dominators.


    Strap management:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    The loose ends of the hip belt also have a place. The PALS webbing on the belt is sewn onto an additional layer of cordura, this is stitched at the edges to the inner belt, making a tunnel between them. The end of the webbing can be pushed into this. In the picture below, the loose end can be seen going under the first loop and just before it enters the tunnel at the end of the PALS panel.

    Hip belt management:

    [​IMG]



    Rain cover

    The Halftrack has a built-in rain cover, under the bottom of the rucksack. It is accessed by a zip at the back and pulls out to cover the entire rucksack.

    The zip is accessed just under the lumbar pad. If you didn't know it was there, well, you wouldn't know it was there. Opening it reveals the rain cover, which is attached with a simple clip. That's a good idea since it keeps the rain cover captive but it can easily be replaced if damaged, or removed altogether and the 'hidden' pocket used for secret squirrel storage!

    Rain cover pocket

    [​IMG]

    There are bungee cords ending in small plastic clips on each of the four corners and the whole perimeter is elasticated. I'm not sure where the clips are meant to clip on to but there are plenty of potential places to secure them. The cover fits quite tightly though, so I don't think the cords are necessary unless in high winds that might manage to pull the cover off. The cover easily envelopes the whole sack with plenty of room to spare so if there are a few things strapped on the outside, no worries, it will probably cover them too.

    The only problem I have with the cover is... it's coyote brown! I am really quite disappointed by this. I don't get along with coyote brown at all. Now, if I use the rain cover, it will look like I'm carrying a giant turd on my back!

    Other than being brown, and that's a completely personal issue of course, the rain cover is a well thought out and executed feature.

    The (brown) rain cover

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]




    Eberlestock small padded pocket

    S&S Archery also sent me a freebie: a small padded pocket. It can be fitted onto PALS webbing or slung onto the front of the shoulder straps as a chest pocket. The built-in straps accomplish either attachment. It's the perfect size for a compact camera or GPS unit like my Montana.

    Eberlestock small padded pocket:

    [​IMG]
     
    #4
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  5. RickDastardly

    RickDastardly Subscribed Member

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    Out on the hills

    With a break in the rotten weather we are having, that lasted just one day, I managed to go out for a walk to try the Halftrack out.

    I tried to load it reasonably, to get a good feel for it. On the hip belt I had attached an ATS medium GP pouch and small vertical GP pouch, and the Eberlestock small padded pouch. This is what I packed:

    • Camelbak 3 litre bladder, full
    • Stainless steel 1 litre Guyot bottle, full
    • Kelly kettle, full of sticks inside
    • More sticks for the kettle
    • Big brew kit in Tupperware box, enough for about twenty assorted hot drinks
    • Two titanium KFS sets
    • Fire kit in Maxpedition cocoon pouch, with large ferro rod, fatwood, lighter, SAK Forester etc.
    • Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 binocular
    • Two insulated stainless steel 300ml mugs
    • Eagletac SX25A6 flashlight, loaded with six AA cells
    • Large waterproof army kit sack that I use to sit on
    • Fallkniven TK2
    • Adventure Medical Kits number 7, with extras
    • Gloves
    • Microfibre towel
    • Maxpedition pocket organiser stuffed with my 'survival' kit
    • Dalvey Stainless steel hip flask with 125ml of Jack Daniels
    • Heavy windproof fleece in case it got really cold
    • Double size survival bag
    • Mobile phone
    • compact camera


    I strapped the kelly kettle, brew kit and mugs into the top using the radio harness, just to try it out. It worked well.

    Let's have some pictures. You can click on these to see a bigger version of them.


    On the rocks:

    [​IMG]


    Back on the rocks:

    [​IMG]


    Side views:

    The slim profile of the sack can be seen here, specially in the second picture.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Stable door:

    To make sure things don't fall out of the bottom, the door only need to be opened half way. That's why I packed the things I would most likely want to get out (brew kit, you can't keep an Englishman from his cup of tea!) into the top.

    [​IMG]



    Open for business:

    In the second picture below you can see the Fallkniven pouch in a top inside pocket, and my Pocket Organiser in a bottom pocket.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Sunlight:

    Finally, a picture to prove that the sun does actually shine here, sometimes. That's ice that it's shining on!

    [​IMG]
     
    #5
  6. RickDastardly

    RickDastardly Subscribed Member

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    Conclusion

    Although I've only had one trip with the Halftrack, I know it's a winner. It is as good as I reasonably expected, and better in some ways.

    The shoulder harness is very comfortable and fits perfectly. I did not need to change the height. After several hours of walking up rough hills, I had no discomfort from the Halftrack whatsoever, nor when I got home at the end of the day. My feet hurt, but not my back or shoulders.

    I love the strap management, the internal pockets are very useful for organising small kit and the shelf and radio rack work well. The Halftrack has been designed and made very well indeed, with a host of thoughtful and useful features.

    Overall, the Halftrack is a pleasure to carry and use.

    There is one point I should make. It's an observation and not a criticism, since it is inherent in the panel loading design. The Halftrack holds what it does, and cannot be persuaded to hold more in the way that a top-loader might. My Zulu's capacity can be increased dramatically by loading up into the lid and extending the straps. Not so with designs like the Halftrack. If it is packed too much, stress will be put on the zips which would make it very difficult to close and prone to damage. Don't want a bust zip on this!

    The hip belt is not as good as Kifaru's. I found that it tends to work its way down if worn on the iliac crest and not tightened up very firmly. That is hard to do, something made easier by Kifaru's power pulls. This is normal for hip belts though. The Halftrack's hip belt is very good and competes easily with those of any rucksack I have tried apart from Kifaru's.

    I'm disappointed that the tube pockets on the side will not take a three litre bladder. I knew about this before buying the Halftrack though. I had bought a Camelbak three litre 'long neck' bladder which is longer and narrower than the usual bladders in the hopes that would fit. Even that would not go in. I wish that I had bought Eberlestock's bladder with the Halftrack. I can live with using a side pocket for the bladder, it just bugs me a little.

    The nearest alternative from Kifaru is the Marauder with an omni belt and side pockets. Given that the Halftrack is less than half of the cost of that I can live with the above shortcomings. The Halftrack has more gear organisation built in than the Kifaru and has a tidier appearance. More importantly, Halftrack has twenty inch stays. The Marauder has nineteen inch stays which make it a little short for my liking. So, even if I could afford the Kifaru, it might not be as good for me as the Halftrack.

    The Halftrack has replaced my Maxpediton Vulture II, which I have now sold. The Halftrack is only $50 more than the Vulture, yet it is orders of magnitude better!

    There are some things that I might do to customise the Halftrack; there always are on anything I buy. I would like to carry a NATO folding sleep mat that I use as a large sit mat. A beavertail on the back would allow me to carry this on the outside, so that I can get to it without faffing about in the sack.

    I would also like to modify the hip belt to include Kifaru-style power pulls. A bit of sewing is in order.

    The hip belt is already loaded up with my rapid-access pouches. I took them off the Zulu. There is a small upright ATS pouch on each side at the very back of the belt, a medium ATS pouch on the left for my binocular and the Eberlestock pouch on the right for keys, phone and camera. The small ATS pouches hold such items as a flashlight, compass, whistle, knife, GPS, sun block, lip salve, etc. Whatever I might want easy access to without having to take off the sack.

    My final verdict on the Halftrack is this: It's a superb rucksack, worth every penny that it cost me. It's not a Kifaru but in some ways it is actually better!
     
    #6
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  7. RickDastardly

    RickDastardly Subscribed Member

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    A small addition to my Halftrack

    One of the things I used to do with the straps on my Maxpedition pack was to strap a coat on the outside for those days when the weather is very changeable (most of them). The Eberlestock does not have an easy way of doing the same. Or at least it didn't...

    After playing with a few ideas, leading up to thinking of learning to sew, I spotted something almost ideal: a "Flyye Fast EDC Backpack Built-in Molle Panel + Net Bag". Basically, a cordura panel with PALS webbing that could be strapped onto something. It even has pockets on the other side.

    The only down side (literally) is it fits best upside down on the front of the Halftrack, so the pockets are upside down. The top (now the bottom) of the panel has two fold-over webbing loops with velcro fastening. I used this to attach to the bottom PALS on the halftrack. On the side pockets I added two D-rings to clip the top of the panel onto. Some paracord and a few more bits of plastic later and I had a very useful kangaroo pouch.

    When not in use, the panel can be folded up and clipped at the bottom of the sack, where it is out of the way and does not interfere with opening the Halftrack up.

    Have some pictures:

    Rolled up:

    [​IMG]

    Close-up:

    [​IMG]

    Deployed:

    [​IMG]

    Close-ups of side attachments:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    With my fold-up NATO sleeping mat (used for sitting/lounging in the sun usually)

    [​IMG]

    Holding my large SASS smock:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Half open with smock:

    [​IMG]

    Just the inside view, with upside down pockets:

    [​IMG]
     
    #7
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  8. Andylaser

    Andylaser Administrator Staff Member

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    Excellent review. I very much like Eberlestock and Tasmanian Tiger packs. They are both "up there" quality wise, but also significantly cheaper than the Kifaru options.
     
    #8
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  9. beachlover

    beachlover Moderator Staff Member

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    Great review and photos. I've kind off gone of tacticool (only for now no doubt :roll:), but great to see another rucksack fetishist at work. :D
     
    #9
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
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