Stingray from Blackhawk
July 18th, 2019
3 minute read
When selecting a pack for any given occasion I have three major considerations: capacity, convenience, and comfort. It was with these three criteria that I assessed the Blackhawk Stingray assault pack that I was fortunate enough to get my hands on recently. After a couple hikes with a light load (enough water for my dog and myself for about three miles, a bit of food and light rain gear) which was approximately 15 pounds, and then a heavier load on the same hike, with way more water than I needed to get the load to be about 25-30 pounds, I found myself impressed with the Stingray.
The Stingray has a great capacity for its class of pack. Not quite large enough to warrant ruck status, it nevertheless makes for an excellent assault pack or short mission loadout (approximately 48 hours). For those who may be less operationally-oriented, this pack is the perfect size for a school bag, hiking pack, or carrying your stuff while on a bike or just walking around town. It has two main pouches, the larger of the two having ample space (around 1800 cubic inches), and the smaller being padded and the perfect size for a laptop or hydration system or two. In addition, there are three smaller internal pouches, and three smaller external pouches. The external pouches are designed very well. Two of them are side pouches and have a more rigid frame – excellent for storing items vulnerable to damage from jostling or impact. The third is a pouch near the top of the pack which I would call a map pouch or an admin pouch. It is the perfect size for all your nav gear and patrol log and is conveniently located. The small internal pouches are located on the central flap of the pack and are great for smaller items that are easily lost or require compartmentalization. The Stingray earns my approval on the capacity front.
My assessment is that overall convenience is where the Stingray is strongest. It gets its name from its shape when laid flat. It is easily opened and flattened, allowing quick access to its entire contents. Additionally, the main pouch has a three-zipper system that makes it no problem at all to access any portion of your load without having to completely open the pack or shuffle through contents. With its internal MOLLE along the entire interior of the main pouch as well as external MOLLE on the front, customization, organization, and compartmentalization of equipment is a breeze. This pack is reminiscent of the medical bags I saw many corpsmen use while in the Marine Corps as it is easy to both quickly access and effectively organize. Having worked extensively in field communications during my service, I deeply resent that I didn’t have access to the Stingray. The pain of trying to efficiently use the USMC issued assault pack as a radio telephone operator in a gear-eating jungle on the seventy-third hour of patrol haunts me to this day.
Comfort is certainly a luxury on missions, but definitely not something to eschew unnecessarily. On my test hikes I was pleasantly surprised by the Stingray. At first glance I thought both the shoulder straps and waist strap looked a bit thin and flimsy. In fact, they provided great support. As someone who prefers to carry most of the weight on my hips I found that the waist strap and soft frame actually did a fantastic job of resting the weight where I wanted even when the load was heavier. All straps are adjustable, and I didn’t notice any slippage or loosening during my hikes. Elastic bands are provided with the pack for securing excess strap length. The chest strap also comes with an elastic strip allowing one to secure it snugly while still allowing room to breathe. The back padding is comfortable and porous to allow for airflow and contours the back ergonomically.
The Blackhawk Stingray is an excellent assault pack, more than meeting my personal standards of capacity, convenience and comfort. Blackhawk currently lists its price at $149.95 USD. Having personally spent upwards of twice that on packs before, I would say the Stingray is priced reasonably for its overall value.