As everyone who’s ever gone down range in any format (military, LE, or even air-softers) can attest, transporting and organizing gear is a pain. It’s one thing to have a ruck for all of the mission essential gear you’ll need once you jump off, but how do you organize the gear you’ll need before the mission? Insert the REFactor Tactical Advanced Special Operations Bag or ASO.
The ASO is an ultra-heavy duty duffle bag with serious functionality. The main pocket is large enough to store your Plate Carrier, Helmet and Battle Belt, with a wall of MOLLE to mount organizational pockets (magazine shingle, GP pouches, etc.) as well as four mesh pockets with zipper closure for smaller items that tend to float around in the bottom of even the most organized bags.
The interior of the lid has three zippered mesh pockets as well, allowing for even greater organization. On one end of the bag (the right end if you open the main compartment with the top flipping away from you) opens to reveal yet another wall of MOLLE, with loop, and a zipper-shut pocket, while the other end has an RFID blocking pocket to store your sensitive items and protect your identity. You aren’t going to get much into the RFID pocket other than a phone and wallet, but the “fight pocket” is surprisingly roomy and an excellent location for any smaller items such as field notes, folding knives, and sidearm, with a zippered pocket that will help contain spare batteries, cuffs, etc.
The ASO is 25”X15”X10” which means you can use it as a carry-on with almost every domestic airline, and it’s a breeze to walk through security with everything easily opening up and displayed. While any camo-patterned bag being hauled through an airport is going to turn some heads (and they offer 4 different camo patterns), the “street” colors of red, blue, green, etc. grab far less attention.
The diversity of the bag is compounded even further by a set of shoulder straps that attach on to D-rings to allow the bag to be carried like a backpack. While this is a nice feature for short-term transport it is not nearly comfortable enough for a long walk if you’re carrying any kind of heavy weight. There is no way to attach a sternum strap or belt, so all of the weight from your pack rests squarely on your shoulders with no adjustability.
So basically, it’s a super fancy duffle with a bunch of pockets, big deal right? Well, it’s not just that, but the quality of the bag that makes it such a vital piece of equipment. The bag is TOUGH. Hand sewn in the good ‘ole US of A from 1000D Corudra, it’s the closest thing you can get to bulletproof without Kevlar playing a part. The one pictured has been bounced out of the bed of a pickup at 40 MPH on a dirt road, took a dive from around 45 ft. up out of window, all while loaded with sandbags, and it still looks brand new. While I wouldn’t recommend trying these torture tests with thousand dollar scopes and weapons in the bag, I can tell you the gear inside will give out long before the bag itself.
So, I’ve got the ASO duffle and now I can roll out for a week of training with room to spare, right? You weren’t listening Boot! You’ve got a short-term run, or need a way to keep things organized in your trunk/back of a patrol vehicle, you’re set. Need a longer run? You need to double down on the pipe-hitters at REFactor and pick up the Ehanced Kit Bag or EKB. Based on the old-school kit bags the military ran before the “turd-duffle” they use now, the EKB has a HUGE wall of MOLLE on one side with zippered pockets on the other. Made of the same super-durable material as the ASO, the EKB will take all of the same abuse in style. Now, I’ll openly admit I’m a sucker for organization, so tossing everything in a giant duffle and digging out what I need at random has NEVER settled well with me. To that end, I’ve outfitted mine with a combination of GP pouches and a mag-shingle, so I can organize everything in my bag for any mission. Need a rangefinder, Kestrel, Slope Doper and Mildot Master? Yeah, that’s in that pouch there. Breach tools, picks, and shims? Next one down. There’s no wrong answer to how you set it up, but it can only get more organized and, therefore, make you more effective as the tools you need are immediately at your fingertips.
Both bags are great, and you can’t go wrong with either, but the combination of the two will set you up for success down the road. Clothing, toiletries, spare boots, etc. all go in the ASO, ready to be wadded into a carry-on compartment and kept at your fingertips. The EKB can organize the small stuff, hold your battle belt, PC, and Noggin-Knocker (that’s a Helmet for you civi types) all wrapped up and snug, ready for immediate donning when you land. Two bags, easily a month of gear (minus consumables), both are tougher than tank tracks, stronger than Top’s coffee, and will last longer than a POG’s combat story.