Summer is finally here and it’s time once again to start thinking about how you’ll conceal carry without wearing as many layers as you did during the fall and winter months. For most, simply wearing oversize clothing solves most of the problem. But, I’m always on the lookout for new and useful ways to carry either on or off body.
On that note, I’m reviewing the Grey Ghost Griff Pack. This backpack is designed with concealed carry in mind. This bag looks predominately military from the outside, but these days, I see more and more people carrying military style bags and packs because they’ve become mainstream due to their utilitarian design and ruggedness. The Griff Pack is available in black or grey and has room in it for up to a 17” laptop.
Overall the bag is 19” tall and 12” wide at its widest point. It is 8” deep, so there is plenty of room to pack your stuff. There are four zippered exterior compartments and one zippered stash compartment internally in the rearmost area on the forward wall. The bag is made from Cordura 500D Nylon.
The zippered front pocket is smallish, but large enough to throw your car keys, wallet and/or cell phone into. The pocket is only about as deep as the Velcro loop patch on the outside face of the front flap. Below that Velcro is a plastic D ring sewn into a strip of 1” wide canvas that you can clip keys or just about anything else to. I found it useful to clip a carabineer to this then carry small bags and other lightweight objects around on. Unzipping that front flap reveals an area with four visible pockets that again are large enough to hold a cell phone. The lower pockets are roughly 4” X 4.75”, and the taller upper pockets are the same width, but just over 6” tall. A Galaxy Note 4 disappears nicely into one of these back pockets. The front wall of the flap has and elastic strip sewn in with 2” loops provided to hang on to stuff that you might find handy to put there (shotgun shells?). That entire front flap area is roughly 13” X 10”. On either side of the flap are plastic clips to hold onto the compression straps.
The main compartment has a zipper closure and unzips about 95% down each side making this very easy to load large objects into. The entire back wall of this compartment has the “loop” side of Velcro, so nearly anything with the hook side can be attached here. I found it handy to hang a couple of magazine holders here. This compartment runs the entire width and length of the back and is about 5” deep when fully extended. On top of this compartment is the nylon gusseted carrying handle. It is folded over in the middle making it comfortable to carry heavy objects inside with bare hands. I didn’t feel the handle digging into my hand like some other bags I’ve used.
The very back compartment is also a zipper closure that unzips about 9” down each side (roughly half way down each side). Below the zippers on each side is the door that can be configured for right or left handed draw. We’ll get to those in a moment. Inside this area is where you can slide a laptop into the built in sleeve. There is a retention strap above the sleeve to fully secure your expensive laptop and keep it from coming out of there. On the forward wall there is the internal zippered compartment that I mentioned earlier. It’s a great place to throw power supplies, maybe a mouse and some other miscellaneous stuff into. That zipper is about 8” wide and the pocket is about 6” deep. Plenty of room for the aforementioned stuff. Both the main and rear zipper closures are equipped with twin sliders. The sliders have nylon cord attached to them as pulls to make it easier to manipulate them with or without gloves on. Personally, while I understand that these appear to be very “tactical”, I don’t find them practical at all. It’s only a matter of time before they get stained and dirty and possibly fray. The rear compartment zippered closure also has a flap covering it which often gets in the way of opening and closing the zipper. Just behind the back zipper at the top of the bag is a reinforced flap that opens to the inside of the bag. It’s useful for hanging the bag on a coat hook. I think you could also use it to run headphone cords through it from inside a music player stashed in the back compartment of the bag. However, the plyer would have to float freely inside the compartment and potentially get tangled or disconnected.
The back is a fully breathable padded liner with wide, padded adjustable shoulder straps. The shoulder straps also accommodate a sternum strap, which is one of the best designed sternum straps I’ve ever seen. It has a positive clip closure and easily and securely adjusts up or down.
Having described the bag, let’s start with a detailed look at what makes this bag special. The bag was designed specifically with concealed carry in mind. The very back compartment of the backpack is where the gun is intended to be concealed. The bottom half of the forward wall is loop type fastened material (think the fuzzy side of Velcro). You set up a holster there and insert the firearm of your choice. There are flap openings on either side of the bag to allow access to this area. These flaps are roughly 6” long and about 1 ¾” wide. So there is some limitation to what you can stash in there. There is also a ‘hard’ flap that you can opt to keep closed on the side you don’t draw from, providing a good deal of positive retention should your gun escape its holster.
For my tests, I toted this thing around to a bunch of meetings, to the range, to a class for a couple of days and just generally chucked it in the backseat of my Jeep on a daily basis. I carried a Sig-Sauer P938 a CZ-P07 and a Ruger LC-9 in it. The two smaller guns, for obvious reasons, were easier to get in and out of the side flap. The CZ took some effort to draw and holster. The closure flaps over the draw points are sturdy, which I understand the need for, but they are pretty small and stiff. If you have really large hands you’ll find it difficult to get inside and get a grip on your firearm. I settled on the Sig as the best overall suited for carry in this bag. I have the model with the Houge grips and I found that it was much easier to find and grasp the grips on it, versus the other two. So, for that reason, the Sig stayed in there the most. I found that while the backpack was in place on my back, it was exceptionally difficult to contort my arm backwards to try and draw my firearm. Of particular difficulty was actually finagling my hand into the closure to locate my gun. So, this is no quick-draw rig. I then decided that it might be better to swing the pack around to the front to draw from. I felt that since this would draw attention to me, I inserted a Bullet Safe backpack ballistic panel in the laptop sleeve. I felt this would provide me with some protection should I find myself needing to get to my gun.
There is a complication beyond the ability to quickly draw your gun. The area that your firearm rests in is open to the rest of that compartment. In the photo above, you can see that one is able to view the holstered gun from the top. This becomes a problem if you need to put other things in that same compartment. I found that I would often throw my laptop cords in that area, and they would then become entangled in my loaded gun. In my humble opinion, this area of the backpack should be segregated from the rest of the bag to avoid this kind of problem.
Overall, I like the idea of off body carry. I like the quality of this bag in particular, but I think it tries to straddle a line between a concealed carry bag and a laptop/business bag. That, unfortunately, is where this falls short of the mark. It isn’t enough of either one to be efficient at being both. There aren’t enough pockets, pen holders and other smaller compartments (i.e. MP3 holder up top) to compete with the other offerings on the market, and it isn’t convenient enough as a holster to be completely effective in that role. I hope that Grey Ghost Gear takes a second look at the design of this backpack and makes a few tweaks to improve the overall functionality of it. It’s right on the edge of being a really great backpack for the intended purpose it was designed for. Having said that, it is still a much better option for carrying if you find that you don’t carry during the hotter months because of the uncomfortable IWB holsters or other reasons. So, this provides at a minimum, a way to solve a very real problem. I’d rather have my gun tucked inside this bag than have left it at home if I suddenly have a need for it.
See Also: Tips for Winter Concealed Carry