Review: The Vanquest FATPack
Just a quick disclaimer: Vanquest has sent me their FATPack for testing and evaluation. So let’s get right into it.
If you saw my latest review of this medical pouch, you’ll know that I’m already swimming in IFAKs. I literally have a box in my basement. I think I could outfit a squad in at least two different camouflage patterns. Which is why I’m rather glad that the Vanquest FATpack was available in a loud, non-tactical, “no mistaking what kind of pouch I am,” red color.
With the winter set in, I find myself frequenting local indoor ranges more than my day jaunts to outdoor venues. With this territory comes the usual eye-roll inducing groups of folks that have a serious prejudice against anything tactical. The IR American flag on my current go-to IFAK draws much ire from those with grey hair and meticulously trimmed goatees, as they scrunch their dri-fit polos to cross their arms and scowl at me. Well unload and show clear on those forearms, Bob, this one is about as non-threatening as it comes short of a fanny pack.
MY IFAK WISHLIST
My personal wishlist for an IFAK has five criteria. Usually if a pack doesn’t have at least three of them, I discount the pouch and move on. I have some specific wishes that all may not agree with, which is fine, but I certainly don’t consider them arbitrary. From years of tactical medical experience and training, here are the features I like to see in an IFAK:
Quick Release: I like the pouch to detach from your kit or belt completely and without a tether. I have nightmares of that spiraled, springy tether from the first generation GWOT IFAKs we all used. They cause more problems than they solve.
Everything Gets Secured: Lots and lots of little pockets and loops. Loose items in medical pouches are lost items as far as I’m concerned. Even if they aren’t lost now, they will eventually be.
Rip-Open Design: No clasps or buckles, please. Give me one spot to grab and rip the pouch open. I don’t want to have anything requiring precise motor skills between me and an occlusive dressing.
Layout Design: Once ripped open, I enjoy IFAKs that allow the whole pouch, or the pouche’s insert, to lay out flat and display everything held within. Searching side pockets has occupied more time than should have ever been necessary in emergency situations.
It’s Obviously a Medical Pouch: The logic of an IFAK is that someone else is using yours on you. Don’t go doling out your own lifesaving supplies on someone else. Use theirs! They obviously need it if you’re rooting around in there. To aid in this, I dislike pouches that can be mistaken for anything other than being a medical pouch. Even more specifically, their emergency medical pouch.
WHY I LIKED MY 5.11
The 5.11 medical pouch has fit my needs for a long time. It’s reminiscent of the old Army pouches I knew for so long, but had some extra slats on the back to mount onto a rigger’s belt easier. It also ripped open, retained my items well, and had a big slab of velcro on the outside for me to place patches that let people know just how hard I operated.
I know the brand of 5.11 brings a chorus of groans from the gun community because of their marketing, but this is a product they got right in my mind, and has been a durable workhorse for me in all my civilian shooting affairs.
Besides, it was under $40.
THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
The Vanquest FATPack is actually three different pouches. Available in 4X6”, 5X8”, and 7X10”. I opted for the baby of the group, knowing that space is a premium on my kits and that I wanted to use this for indoor range and general hiking duty to cut on bulk.
The FAT stands for First Aid Trauma, because acronyms are cool and they lose their magic if you use anyone else’s. I was happy to find that the attachment system on back was just flat MOLLE, and Vanquest was cool enough to include a set of MOLLE Sticks with this pouch for me. I’d used this system before with items like the HSGI Bleeder Kit and like the design. It checks my first box of being a quick release pack. Just snap the clips and rip them out. It’s not the fastest release system ever devised, but it’s about as fast as you can get without having a pouch that randomly drops off.
On the inside there are plenty of fastening items and pockets. What’s better is that they all work. I can open up this pouch and shake it loosely and nothing comes flying. I had to go at it with a full on shake-weight exercise to get my QuikClot to start unseating itself from the elastic. Very well done in that regard. That’s two boxes checked.
The pouch is topped with a loop handle at the very top of the front flap. In a shoe-tongue type design, ripping that handle downwards will simultaneously undo the zippers and expose all the items in the bag. The little red velcro loop on the handle ensures that you could open this package quickly via braille if you had to. Hellen Keller could open this pack in a hurry, and it doesn’t get much easier to use than that. Three boxes checked.
As we covered above, this bag comes to me in a universal “EMT Red.” This checks another box for me, but if I had ordered this in the available Black, Coyote Tan, or Wolf Grey, I would have to place some sort of pouch on the outside with a red cross or medical designation. The two larger packs give you plenty of room to put a little velcro tab to do this. On the 4X6” pack I have, the only velcro is on top and covered by the handle. Yes, I do have little cross patches that can fit there, but they would be obscured. However, since I got the red for the specific purpose of thing being identified as a medical pack to fudds and gun shop tough guys, it still checks that box.
Once opened the pack can lay completely flat. I can see the contents of the pouch clearly and take very quick inventory of my available equipment. With that, we have a perfect five of five boxes checked.
OTHER FEATURES AND GRIPES
The FATPack is flanked by elastic straps on either side. These are advertised as being great for tourniquets or trauma shears. In the middle is a regular MOLLE loop, the pairing of which made for a very secure fit of my NAR shears. My CAT certainly fit well within the elastic loops. I generally don’t recommend putting tourniquets in elastic loops, however, as they tend to get caught up on the buckles and windlass when trying to rip them out quickly. I like to put them in cargo pockets or in handy kydex tourniquet quick-draw holsters.
Unfortunately, the loop woes for a tourniquet draw were present with the FATPack as well. Even when I tried with a CAT still had in the plastic I ran into snags. This is a small gripe, though. Just put the tourniquet in your pocket or on your belt. That is the recommendation of most trigger-pullers and salty old medics, anyway. The construction is very sturdy. Pretty much everything is double stitched and the materials used are tried-and-true Cordura. Nothing felt flimsy or floppy. I get a general impression of quality work when I hold it.
I also had appreciation for some little features that make the FATPack easier to use. The bottom of the zippers have tabs to pull against to close the pack up again so you aren’t trying to pinch the slippery Cordura fabric. The zippers and MOLLE sticks have little paracord loops on them that made use with shooting glove just as easy. The back of the pouch doesn’t have any sort of rigid insert to keep a perfect form, which allows the pouch to conform to your kit as you need it to, not necessarily how the manufacturer thought it would look photographed.
Another detail I enjoyed was that the MOLLE webbing on back was left wide enough that it would fit with 1.75” gun belts if you wanted to wear it sideways.
The 4X6” was just a little tight on room. Inside I had an Israeli bandage, two Hyphin chest seals, two NCD needles, an NPA, a 3” roll of Kerlix, and a z-folded QuikClot Combat Gauze. On the outside I had my shears. Normally I’d also like to have a 3” roll of ACE wrap and my beloved 3” 3M Durapore surgical tape, but there just wasn’t room. I’ll take the blame for this gripe, as I picked the pouch. There are certainly larger sizes available that you can pick if you’d like to fit more.
The Vanquest pouch checks all my boxes and then some. Sure, it’s a tad small, but the items it doesn’t fit can easily be carried elsewhere, or I can do some reconfiguring. Considering the medical role I often like to prepare my kit for, it’s rare that the only medical equipment on my kit is in my IFAK.
Does the Vanquest FATPack have what it takes to take over as my go-to range IFAK? Yes. But will it? I was hesitant, but yes. I have a lot of history with my 5.11. Even though I have many several, it’s the one I always used and it never let me down. However, it’s release system is slower, it doesn’t lay flat out, and despite my terribly sewn “MEDIC” patch on the front, it still wouldn’t scream “IFAK” to the average shooter. Now that I think of it, maybe I should get an IFAK patch…
I’ve never said this in a review before: Don’t think, just buy it. The small one is $30. The big one is $40. That’s pocket change compared to some big name tactical outfitters out there, and you’ll be hard pressed to find one that has the features this one does. Notice I didn’t say “for the price.” Just in general.
If all you need is the barest basics, the 4X6” is a good choice. If you want something extra, or your intended purpose is more along the lines of an additional or flex medical pouch, get the big guy, you’ll be happier.
Overall, phenomenal product. I’m just the kind of weirdo that could produce nearly 2,000 words talking about a pouch meant to hold some gauze. I’ve spent time trying to find the flaws and really just didn’t run into many. Pick one up, you won’t be disappointed.