I've been a 5.11 devotee for well over a decade, thanks in large part to their bags: clothing comes and goes depending on the needs of the day, but your bag is the one piece of fabric that goes with you everywhere, make physical contact with the universe, and never gets a break. While I've toyed with much of their line, I've been using one RUSH12 for textbooks, travel, and daily carry ever since it was a new release a LONG time ago. She still works as hard as day one and looks about as good as new with a little effort, soap, and water.
After a decade, two things were clear: my bags were going to outlive me and I wanted something more. The average tactical sack is durable and modular but falls short in the little details meant to set it apart from the competition, all those little "features" that never quite live up to your expectations. I LOVE the RUSH bags, but their main compartments are caverns with saggy diapers of a "laptop pouch" eating up space, the front admin panels hold 2-3 pens and some business cards in over 70 square inches, and the handful of useful pouches only expose the fact that most of the interior is a blank canvas you paid good money for. I played around with a few Maxpedition bags only to find that the Legacy packs were too modular, forcing me to buy organizers, while the newer stuff was too structured, featuring niche pouches I never use. I don't want to earn a merit badge for finding ways to use my bag... I want to give you my money and get something that "just works" one situation to the next. It's a tall order.
First Tactical's TACTIX line scratched my itch. Like 5.11, it is affordable enough to be used and abused without romance. Like Maxpedition, serious thought went into redeeming every inch of fabric. No pocket is so small, tight, or odd that it must be used in one way, but nothing is so sloppy that it becomes unusable. Anything I don't use regularly I at least understand. The whole thing just works!
The whole experience is summed up in the admin panel at the front of the bag. Using four full inches, FT gives you four pen pouches generous enough to hold markers and penlights yet just tight enough to secure pairs of disposable pens/pencils without bursting at the seams. You get layers of slip pockets for sorting fussy things, which is, after all, the whole point of an admin panel, tight and secure but cut at an angle for easy access. You get both heavy- and light-use attachment points for dangly things, easy to use or ignore as you like. FT does NOT give you any elastic bands or flimsy nylon catch-alls with cute velcro thongs across the top. FT DOES, however, litter the bag with suitable pouches in more appropriate compartments for all your bundles, pockets that don't deform over time using zippers that actually keep things in place. When I look at the admin pouch, sure, there are little tweaks that might make it a little more useful on one particular day, but there's nothing I really want to change. It's a job well done. That's the bag.
+Admin pouch ROCKS
+Super-efficient laser-cut PALS webbing
+Great use of hook and loop in main compartment
+Detachable pouches are fantastic
+True full clam-shell opening
+Sits nicely with partial loads if you use 6" wide pouches on the sides
-While the straps are comfortable and far more adjustable than most designs, I prefer the intrinsic durability of a full yoke. They work great. Not a dealbreaker.
-The hook and hang through (rifle sleeve) compartment doesn't do anything for me. I'd rather throw my laptop in a padded sleeve (bottom of the bag is unlined) so it's going in the main compartment. Still, FT threw a few slip pouches in there and it has potential.
-While I've come to appreciate the mid-height zipper on the admin pouch that keeps it from flopping open, the split pouches on the very front of the bag don't open deep enough. Just another .75" of zipper would've been nice... preserve the cupped bottom without turning it into a hand-eating, grit-collecting cleaning project. Not a dealbreaker.
-I miss having giant plush loop fields for patches, but FT's use of loop bars across the front of the bag certainly look a lot better when patchless... which they tend to be, given that they aren't solid loop fields.
-FT zipper pulls feel thin and un-substantial, but these aren't the plastic ones featured on other bags. The molding is really quite nice and work great. Not everything needs to be a giant pull-fob on a backpack... if you're grasping for trail mix during mid-adrenal dump you need to reassess your priorities...
The Tactix 1D+ gives me everything I want in a general-use tactical pack. I expect it to stay with me for a few decades and have no desire to shop packs. I'm totally content with the bag qua bag and am incredibly pleased at the price point. There are finer bags out there with MSRPs to match, but... why? FT is now my top recommendation for average Joes looking for a rock-solid bag.