Full review with pretty pictures can be found at:
MANUFACTURER: Crossfire Australia
DESCRIPTION: Modular general purpose 85L Patrol pack with external polymer frame.
The DG-16 has been supplied by a long-time supporter of this website – Crossfire Australia.
This is their latest generation general purpose combat and patrol pack.
In the interests of full disclosure, I’m very pleased to report that Packs and Beyond has had some direct input into the design of the DG-16.
Like any review of supplied equipment, I have done the review with the proviso that I will be painfully honest.
Please let our suppliers know how much you appreciate their support for Packs and Beyond. You can really show your appreciation by giving them your custom.
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I’ll give a big apology on this review team. The dog ate my homework on this one, it’s been sitting in my WIP (Work In Progress) pile due to real life vagaries like my marriage imploding. Hopefully, my publishing schedule returns to a more prolific rate moving forward.
Height: Approx. 700mm (27.56in)
Width: Approx. 430mm (16.93in)
Depth: Approx. 300mm (11.8in)
Volume: 85L (5187 cubic inches)
Nextec 500D material
Quick release buckles
FRAME AND HARNESS –
The DG-16 has a revolutionary new plastic frame designed by Crossfire. It is a very high-pressure injection moulded item that is intended to be compatible with hard plates worn with body armour.
Like it’s predecessors the DG-6 with DEI frame (Review seen HERE), it works under a sprung, live load.
Unlike previous generations of polymer frames used by Crossfire, this is a proprietary design and formulation to maximise flexibility and temperature resistance.
For those who may be concerned about the strength and durability of a polymer frame, do not panic! The design and material of Crossfire’s new polymer frame is light-years ahead of anything else on the market and has been exhaustively tested by (but not on….) various “animals” (some of who belong to the Packs & Beyond “Herd of Lab-Rats”……). This frame will take all manner of punishment in extreme weather conditions and keep on going.
The frame is designed to be worn “cleanskin”, with fighting load (chestrig or belt webbing) or with Combat Body Armour. Hence, the design has a central space to accommodate the rear hard armour (Level 4) plate.
This space allows the plate to work in conjunction with the frame, becoming essentially part of it to assist in the load-bearing. It also has the benefit of providing extra comfort by allowing room for the plate to sit within the frame, rather than being pushed into the wearer by the weight of the pack.
The harness is a particularly Crossfire feature-rich item.
The harness straps are of a three dimensional design which keep their shape under heavy load, and help to distribute heavy weights by not turning into string which cuts into the shoulder.
Crossfire informs me that the straps are composed of seven layers of material. These layers act as ablative material in event of failure, allowing the end-user to get home (or complete the mission) should a failure occur.
The load lifter straps are anchored at the top of the frame with the Crossfire Lost Arrow system.
This gives very easy, quick adjustment and replacement of the harness system.
The angle of attack of these load lifters can be adjusted via a ladder system, allowing for a great deal of variation between different shaped bodies and equipment worn underneath the harness strap. The DG-16 frame set is particularly adjustable to fit people of all sizes, including females and those of smaller stature.
The sternum strap has a unique twist in the form of a hook and loop pile to stabilise it allowing other essential accessories to be used, such as hydration hoses and radio handsets.
It would seem that the angels have smiled and Crossfire has listened to my extensive and repeated suggestions for quick release buckles on their harness straps. They have used the same quick release buckle seen on the Mystery Ranch Cinch (for review, please see HERE) for the harness straps. With typical attention to detail by Crossfire, the quick release buckles are covered by material flaps to prevent inadvertent release if snagged by thick vegetation or other hazards.
The hip belt has the usual Crossfire features.
There is a central padded cushion that rests against the small of the back. It is made up of two halves, so that where the angle that the cushions sit and interact with the wearer’s body can be adjusted, including the angle.
Each side “wing” of the hip belt is attached via the Crossfire Lost Arrow system. So they can be easily removed should this be desired. Another benefit of the Lost Arrow system, is that the hip belt falls away from the wearer when the buckle is undone, reducing chances of the pack snagging should it be required to be removed in a hurry. This is in direct contrast to many other hip belts from other pack companies where the hip belt remains sitting forward as a tangling hazard.
An unusual and desirable attribute of the DG-16 harness is that it is compatible with belt webbing as worn extensively by the ADF. This is because of the design of the DG-16 harness has harkens back to it’s predecessor the old SAS pack (see review HERE)
There will be a more in-depth examination of the DG-16 frame and harness by itself (very much like our previous review of the NICE frame seen HERE) at a later date, since I think it warrants further examination. Crossfire has mentioned to me that it was specifically designed and formulated for the variety of weather conditions and temperature variations that can be found in most corners of the world.
The rucksack material is made from Nextec encapsulated fabric. By encapsulating each individual woven fiber with a polymer material prior to weaving, some very interesting benefits and properties are provided. One of these benefits is increased water and abrasion resistance of the rucksack.
The DG-16 rucksack continues the classic shape developed for the Wildereness Equipment SAS pack, and of other packs in the Crossfire product range.
The actual shape of the rucksack aids in load distribution to the wearer, making it more ergonomic.
There are three options of lids for the rucksack.
The Crossfire product improved Daypack lid, which is a detachable item that is able to be used as a small daypack. It could conceivably be used as an Escape and Evasion bag for those moments when immediate survival items are needed. It is secured to the pack via fastex clips at top and bottom and has a harness system tucked away in a pocket for immediate use.
A nice design point on the fastex closure for top and bottom of the lid is the ability to undo the top portion for access to any radio controls, reducing muck around time with the pack. This also allows the pack lid to be adjusted for the internal load and not interfere with the wearers head movements.
There are extra fastex buckles to allow a more comfortable fit of the daypack harness to the human body.
The top zip pocket of this lid has an access port for a hose, so this would suggest that it’s intended for storing a hydration bladder. One could easily carry a 3L bladder within it. The positioning of the pack lid is such that if a hydration bladder is fitted, that it is in the most optimal balance point.
It also has a small, felt-lined pocket to stow such things as eye-glasses (both prescription and PPE). I believe that night vision monoculars (such as the Australian Ninox) may also fit in this pocket.
These pockets on the Daypack Lid are larger and better shaped to better allow a variety of different items to be carried, thus increasing the utility of the Daypack Lid. This increases the usefulness of the Daypack Lid. The top pocket is sized to accommodate water bladders and other such items of equipment such as complete M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel devices.
The second pocket, lower down on the lid is for carrying items such as rain coats. There is an internal zip accessed pocket inside for small sundry items.
On the outside of this pocket, is a section of velcro loop material for IFF and morale patches. This is split in half by the signature Crossfire coverable patch of Scotchguard reflective tape covered with a roll cover. This allows the Scotchguard reflective tape to be covered or uncovered as necessary, to provide a visual reference point for the poor bugger following along behind next in formation at night and other low visibility movement occasions.
The second lid is a simpler, more conventional lid that is also lighter in weight.
The third lid is a fixed, lightweight item to secure the rucksack should the daypack lid be removed for extended time periods.
The main compartment is secured with a dual draw-string storm collar to seal the pack up against the elements and allow extra capacity to be packed in.
This storm collar allows a much greater capacity to expand the pack volume should extra equipment be carried.
The storm collar has patches of cordura to aid in camouflage and concealment in close country. There is a fastex strap that gives a more secure method of securing equipment under the lid such as combat helmets and other loose items.
Inside the main compartment is some internal organization, typical for Crossfire packs.
At the top of the main compartment is a loop and pocket to suspend a hydration bladder.
At the same location as this hydration pocket is a sleeve covered in PALS rows to attach pouches or accessories.
There are also straps to secure a man pack radio.
Along the inside of the rucksack are three mesh pockets for organizing small items. They are secured via Lost Arrow attachments and velcro. These are removable, should they not be required, or used to stow equipment in as dilly-bags.
Radio access from the outside into the inside of the ruck is conducted via three zips. There is one on the top of the pack, close to the harness. Another zip is on each side of the ruck. Each zip is fitted with dual zippers to allow a variety of handsets or antennae to be routed into the pack.
The side access zippers have hook and loop to protect the zips from dirt and snow.
External Rucksack –
Sleeping bag access is via a compartment at the bottom of the ruck. It has a skeletonised shelf which separates it, but does not completely seal it off from the main compartment. The skeletonised sleeping bag shelf allows long items to be stowed within the pack. It was interesting to note that the skeletonised shelf is secured via Crossfire’s “Lost Arrow” system. This gives a strong, secure system of attachment that also allows rapid changes to configuration.
The bottom of this sleeping bag compartment is double lined and padded to protect the load against abrasion and penetration damage.
On the back of the rucksack, there are Lost Arrow loops to allow a webbing harness for a helmet to be carried.
There is also an external pocket on the outside of the rucksack for stowage of the Entrenching Tool (E-tool) that also has a strap for securing the handle.
On each side, there is a scotched tunnel to aid in the stowage of long items such as star pickets, aiming stakes or tripods. At the bottom of these scotched sleeves are pockets to catch the ends of transported items. The bottom of these pockets are lined with an abrasion and puncture proof material to protect the rucksack from these carried items. These pockets also have a drain point to prevent water retention.
There are polymer attachment points for three compression straps on each external side of the rucksack. Although only two are provided on my sample pack. This would allow best employment of compression straps by the user.
The compression straps themselves are to help compress the load to prevent it swinging around in an unsafe manner, and can be used to carry long items such as ski poles, star pickets or M72 66mm disposable rocket launchers.
These compression straps are unique, in that they offer a two-to-one draw strength for ease of use. They are also removable, should that be desired by the user. This could be extremely useful for certain emergency situations. Off the top of my head, I can see these being used for splinting walking sticks to limbs to treat broken bones or snake bite, aid in the securing of damaged equipment, or even lashing packs together to form a raft for water crossings.
As per modern military requirements, the outside of the pack is adorned with PALS rows to allow the end-user to customise external stowage and setup.
It’s the small details that help make this pack really shine. Whilst these small details are essentially industry standard nowadays, Crossfire has been putting them on as that was putting them on as standard in the Australian market for literally decades now.
This includes concepts such as strap management – all major straps have velcro keepers to minimise loose ends and zips have pull-tabs for gloved use.
In terms of design elements, the DG-16 is a return to an external plastic frame layout as seen in the original DG-6 design (Review seen HERE), and the follow-up AUSNICE collaboration with Mystery Ranch (Review seen HERE). It should also be noted that the DG-16 is a logical evolution of the original Wilderness Equipment SAS pack (review seen HERE) by Ian Maley, who also happens to be the pack designer for Crossfire.
There are are however, many improvements as a result of feedback from real world use from end-users that have been used to improve on the original SAS pack.
This end-user feedback is the result of the last fifteen years of operational deployments that the ADF (Australian Defence Force) has been embarking on with our American, European and other allies in the Global War On Terror.
Perhaps the biggest and most obvious requirement that has sprung up in the last decade and a half is the profileration of that now essential piece of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – Combat Body Armour (CBA). This means all other pieces of equipment worn by soldiers need to be compatible with CBA.
Unlike some of my previous reviews since the arrival of children into my life, practical use of the DG-16 has been extensive, with many kilometres of training walks with and without fighting load and combat body armour. Normal training regime for me is a six kilometre walk conducted at least weekly, normally twice a week. Since I’ve had the DG-16 for at least 18 months, I’ll let you do the maths.
I’ve even managed to use the DG-16 as an impromptu child carrier in my preparations for the Oxfam Trail Walker.
In addition, since I’m now a Scout Leader, a lot more practical bush work has been completed. For some reason, I always end up the one having to chase after some of our wayward scouts whilst wearing full pack.
It was during use in my duties as a Scout Leader that certain aspects of the DG-16 were tested. I was wanting to test the efficacy of the frame and harness combination. Hence, the pack was intentionally loaded in an unbalanced manner, not according to basic packing tenets (seen HERE). It was observed that whilst the load was unbalanced, the frame and harness combination did a great deal to minimise the impact upon me whilst wearing it – yet another sign of it’s design quality.
There’s a lot of points on the DG-16 that lead me to believe this will be the premier general purpose combat pack on the market.
The new frame available for this pack is world leading. There is nothing else like it in the market.
The frame is backwards compatible with ALICE rucksacks and will be available separately via Crossfire. There will be an article from Packs and Beyond on how to integrate this frame with other rucksacks available in the market sometime in the near future.
The harness, in particular the hip belt is inspired. When the pack is required to be dumped, in such moments as falling into bodies of water or under command, the hip belt falls away and prevents snagging. Fortunately, I’ve never had to drop pack with urgency in a water crossing. I have however have experienced those moments when the command is issued from leaders to “DROP PACKS” on an assault whilst on Exercise. This makes life easier during those high stress moments.
The Daypack lid option has been found to be comfortable and flexible in it’s design. I carried the Daypack Lid during my visit to SHOT Show in 2017. Unlike previous versions, comfort and utility for such a compromise design has been increased.
Anecdotal evidence from a couple of serving soldiers (and readers of this blog) suggests that the Daypack lid has been an absolute life saver when a decree came down the chain of command that all hands were to carry a daypack attached to their large patrol pack. Such a decree led to many unwieldy solutions and fixes being carried out members of the affected unit. A couple of individuals carrying pilot production samples of the DG-16 were able to reduce the amount of discomfort and embuggerance factor by having a fit for purpose and properly designed and integrated daypack solution that didn’t add complication or ergonomic injury as a result of kludging together non-integrated solutions.
There have been some initial teething problems with early production versions of the DG-16.
Primary amongst them was the load lifter straps slipping through buckles in the multicam version. Apparently the multicam tape used was slightly thinner than the original tan material.
Another small issue was the internal pockets were manufactured with out of specification tape for the Lost Arrow rings. This led to internal mesh pockets not sitting securely.
As far as I’m aware, these issues have been rectified in further production runs. I would suggest that if you’re still experiencing these issues, then give Crossfire a yell to get it fixed.
There’s a lot of points on the DG-16 that lead me to conclude that it will be one of the best general purpose combat packs on the market for some time to come.
It’s very pleasing to note that feedback from us here at the Packs and Beyond team has been taken on and incorporated into their latest design.
As has been mentioned, some amazing technical know-how and materials have been invested into the design, especially the frame. There will be further articles to discuss the frame in more depth in the near future – keep watching this space.