About Me


Welcome to my humble little corner of the interwebs. Thank you for taking the time to poke your head in.

Well, a little bit about myself to put things in context.

I’ve been an avid bushwalker since I was a teenager in the boyscouts. Moved onto the Air Training Corps (Airforce cadets) for a couple of years when I realised a desire to serve in the ADF (Australian Defence Force).

I graduated with a degree in Applied Science at the University of Queensland, and have worked as an industrial scientist in a couple of industries.

It was during uni that I enlisted in the Australian Army Reserve as a rifleman, going on to serve in a Lighthorse Regt as a Brigade reconnaissance scout.

Fortuitous circumstances has me currently working in the resource industry, where I now have the disposable income to further encourage my outdoor hobbies. Unfortunately, such is the way of real life, I have a distinct paucity of time now!

I still get out in the wilds to escape the stresses and frustrations of modern life whenever I can. Let me tell you, that life gets much more enjoyable when civilisation is three days walk away.

My biggest trek for recreational purposes was completing the Overland Track in Western Tasmania. I’ve done the trip three times with different groups of friends.

As an avid, voracious reader, a lot of my spare time is taken up by researching my next equipment purchase, hiking trip, or checking on trends and innovations in the industry.

Eventually, the realisation was made that if I wanted to read more reviews of outdoor kit and equipment, then I would just have to contribute something myself, instead of only taking from the efforts of others. Most of these reviews were written and submitted on a few different discussion forums.

At the same time, a lot of my mates who were still serving in the ADF and heading into harm’s way were asking me about what equipment was worth the effort of purchasing.

From this, I commenced writing equipment reviews on some items that I had opportunity to acquire and use myself. These have been submitted on a few discussion forums around the traps.

Somehow during this time, I’ve drawn the attention of some designers, manufacturers and suppliers as they start to enquire about my very limited experience and insight into end-user applications. Hence, I offer my services in design consultancy and end-user trials.

Eventually, I realised that so much material had been written, that I may as well jump on this new-fangled bandwagon of blogging and get my voice out there in the wilderness to be heard. Funnily enough, I’m not an early adopter, nor am I coolest kid on my street, when it comes to all this new-fangled techno-wizardry called the internet.

I hope that you enjoy my website. Feel free to wander around at your leisure, comment and contribute to the knowledge base. I’m always up for a chinwag.



As part of the team, we now have contributing reviewers. I’m pleased to introduce Benny. he has significant experience as a full time infantry soldier and is now enjoying life in the emergency services. Here he is in his own words:

Firstly I’m chuffed to have the privilege to contribute to this already great resource.

Much the same as Mick I have always loved getting out bush, a healthy interest sparked from living in the far north of the Sunshine State & many family camping trips as far back as I remember. This interest no doubt contributed to my decision to join the Army, not that camping & the Army have ANYTHING in common. While it was far from a lifelong career I crammed a lot in & took away some great experiences.

Since leaving the Army, I’ve continued my desire to throw a pack on my back and head off into the woods. Like most I certainly don’t spend as much time out there as I’d like but I cherish every moment I do, “regardless of season, weather or terrain….”

Given the pack on your back can make or break a trip I have an avid interest in these and other outdoor gear suitable for Australian conditions, not something easy to come by. Frustrated that most high end kit was either extremely hard if not impossible to come by over here I figured I might as well throw in my two bob regarding some of the kit I’ve spent a small fortune on and give Aussies some first hand information before they drop their house deposit on kit, whether it’s for work or play.

Again thanks to Mick for the opportunity to share my views and I hope I can continue to offer valuable insight to help others in their quest for the right kit for the task at hand.


by with 20 comments.


  • trevor says:

    nice mate,
    as couple of inprovements, maybe.
    direct link to “contact” next to “about me” on the bottom

    in the “categories” need to index each review, a single page per review would be easier to navigate and find, maybe break packs down to civi, military and each one in overnight/daypack short trip/3day and long range


    • Mick says:

      Thanks mate, you’ve covered issues that others have noticed. I’ll get onto my IT geek support about how to set this up.

      I feel like such a grownup…

  • Jarrad says:

    Awesome so far keep it up. If you need any thing to review I have some kit laying around

    • 22F says:

      Thanks Jarrad!
      Which reminds me, I still have a PM from you to answer on FB…
      I just couldn’t get my iphone to make it all work at the time…

  • Jarrad says:

    No worries get to it when you can. I don’t even remember what it was about.

  • chris says:

    Hey mate,
    I’m just about to graduate from the college into the infantry and I wanted your opinion on what is the best kind of pack to get for military/infantry use. I like the Mystery Ranch stuff, but there is a definite lack of PALs and places for camelbacks to go (its hot in darwin!). So, what do u think?
    Cheers mate,

    • chris says:

      PS – whats ur opinion of the jumpable recon ruck pack?

      • 22F says:

        G’day Chris,

        TAG makes some great gear, but I’ve been unable to examine the Jumpable Recon Pack. Are you going to an airborne unit? Otherwise, the specialist extra bits that make this pack compatible with safety equipment is simply deadweight and completely unnecessary for most of us leg units.

        On Mystery Ranch:
        The boys intentionally designed their range to carry hydration bladders like camelbaks. They’re meant to go in the top pocket of the daypack lid. This is for balancing of the load, and prevent the water bladder acting as a pivot point with the entire load shifting on it if it was stuck against the back. This helps reduce longterm damage to the wearer.

        A similar concept came out the placement of the PALS rows on the sides of the rucksack. The boys wanted to stop young soldiers from overloading and overbalancing the rucksack, thereby injuring themselves. So they kept the PALS rows to the sides, where heavy items like water canteens are best placed for balance.

        If you really want PALS all over the rucksack, Crossfire offers this feature on their DG-3 combat pack.

        I’m not sure if you’re in the system yet mate, but I would suggest waiting until you get posted to your unit and doing a couple of exercises before spending great amounts of cash on after-market kit. It gives you an opportunity to understand the unit’s role and mission, and your place within that, giving better idea of what you’ll need.

        The business alliance between Mystery Ranch and Crossfire is promising. There’s going to be an Australian spec’ed NICE frame to mate with any rucksack currently in ADF service. I’d suggest buying that frame, using the issue items until formulating more opinion on what you need, and then upgrade the rucksack later down the track.

        Hope this helps mate!


  • Mark says:

    Having used a Mystery Ranch NICE frame with the issue ALICE pack for the past 2-3 years, including a deployment to Afghan, I can tell you it is a great combination. It is good to hear that ADF might be thinking about getting an ADF specific NICE frame for all of us. I am still thinking about trying to mate my NICE frame with a SORD large field pack in the future, but time will tell. Good site, cheers.

    • 22F says:

      Thanks for the kind words Mark!

      Although I’d love to see the procurement organs issue the NICE frame, I’m happy with the compromise of allowing diggers to use it if bought with their own coin.

  • DrNik says:


    I stumbled across your blog while researching Mystery Ranch packs, in particular their military line. Thanks to your link to Pyro-tection, I now know these packs are available in Australia. I have been studying them for sometime and your reviews have shed some light on their qualities. Do you think the extra cost for the tactical packs can be justified when compared with recreational Dana design packs if they are for non-military use? I generally favour military/tactical gear (such as camelbak hawg with molle) for my recreational hikes and climbs for reasons of durability and capacity. I wonder if you have had any experience with the mountain ruck? I am looking for a pack to replace a 10 year old macpac, with little use mind you, that has a hydration option and can accommodate gear, including a 2 person tent for 3-5 day hikes. I like the idea of the alice style pack with external pockets but perhaps the SATL assault pack would be more practical.The alpha wolf looks great but it outside my budget. I would love to hear from you and thanks so much already for your incite and direction.

    • 22F says:

      G’day mate,

      Glad to be of help, and thanks for the kind words!

      Well, I prefer a lot of “tactical” lines simply because they’re dual use for me nowadays. Walking the wilds and National Parks I can just blend in with the average bushwalker party pretty well. In addition, I can still use those items for hunting trips.

      A lot of my mates would do the same when we were serving in the Reserve. With limited funds, we’d buy kit that could be used for work, or bushwalking on our own time.

      Besides, I don’t like the bright colours on a lot of bushwalking gear, I’m essentially very conservative in my colour palette selection, and the bright colours often hurts my eyes to look at 😉

      I’m not a fan of the SATL, simply because it doesn’t have the NICE frame. With the NICE frame, a lot of different single use packs can be reduced, just by changing the packbag on the frame to suit the task. But being on a limited budget, I understand where you’re coming from trying to get the maximum bang for the buck.

      The Mountain Ruck is simply an update of the old ALICE pack system. It accepts the NICE frame, and has external pockets. The pockets are in the MR rip-zip type format. They’re well made, but I’m not a fan of them. If I have external pouches, I prefer Molle modular pouches nowadays, so that I can choose stuff that fits my kit properly, and can be adjusted for balance point.

      Whilst I’ve carried the old ALICE for many years, and my father before that, I think the ALICE format has had it’s day. I find it too wide for walking through thick scrub, where the short, fat layout tends to get me hung up on vegetation. The only real benefit of the ALICE design is the rucksack doesn’t impede head motion for patrolling. Being able to scan in all directions is quite important.

      Mind you, a decent, properly designed alpine/climbing design rucksack does the same thing, but can keep the load well between the shoulders.

      • DrNik says:

        Thanks for a well balanced, comprehensively described overview. I think you have covered all the salient characteristics of the different packs. I spoke with Trevor today and he also guided me away from the Mountain Ruck in favour of the Wolf Alpha. Having now perused the catalogue I can see the value in having such a pack that allows for modular expansion as needed. I really like the look of the Alpha Wolf with ‘pup’ pouch, however I am still trying to reconcile the likely cost, which is far in excess of what I had previously considered. It is looking promising for the long-(spinally)-suffering members of the ADF!

  • Mac says:

    Dude, grey scale the backdrop pic. It should be practically unnoticeable. User comments are almost impossible to read without using highlighting. Black content on a grey background is a nice contrast.

    Also the navigation links should be a much darker colour. As it is they’re almost impossible to see against the background pic’s sky.


  • 22F says:

    Thanks Macca!
    I’ve got my IT support on it.

    Apparently WordPress updated all their bits for this place, and it reset all my settings from a very nice, easy on the eyes setup to what you see now.

    Work is ongoing…

    • admin says:

      Hey. As 22F says, these changes were caused by an WordPress update, but I kicked that update off, so I’ll wear some responsibility 🙂 We’re working together to get things back in order, so you might see a few things changing around the place over the next few days.
      Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  • 22F says:

    Well, as you can all see, the visual improvements around here have been sorted out. It all looks really good now.
    Thanks for your patience, and letting credit go the right people: a big thank you to my IT support team, without whom, I’d still be drawing pictures in the dust with a stick! 😀

  • Matt says:

    Hey guys. Just come across your website, and a lot of great information on it. I am in the SES in Queensland, and am always interested in webbing/packs and belt kit as our roles expand and change, Hope to learn more from your reviews.

    • 22F says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words mate!
      Glad we provide some use.

      We’re always looking for suggestions on stuff we can do, so feel free to mention anything you’d really like to see – or even better, mention to the companies that make the gear you’re looking at to contact us to get their product reviewed 😉

  • Michael Collins says:

    Ahoy, Mick [noice moniker, btw! ;)]

    As a fellow “gear guy” (but a rank enthusiast, and certainly no expert!) from a much-brisker, not-so-temperate “neighboUrhood”, I just wanted to stick my head through the hatch of your “virtual bivvy” in order to say “G’day, mate!”; and to express my appreciation of and interest in your blog.

    Very thorough as well as entertaining, it’s nice to read well-thought and -written viewpoints and reviews of gear, kit and…stuff. In fact, it was a just few minutes ago that I finished reading your evaluation and “take” on the Woobies, government and Khalifa.

    As a career-retired Veteran of “travelling light and freezing at night” in the various climes n’ places, I used to cling to my woobie like it was the last magic carpet departing Hell.

    Alas, I was recently compelled to bury my dearly departed [woobie, o’course] due to its ol’ age, frayed and irreparable state, but that I’d had since…well, Reagan’s photo was on the wall in the CP.

    Not to worry over-much though: I’m drinkin’ a proper Irish whiskey whilst in mourning, and I’ve still 3 others, less dear but not-so-departed, that are scattered amongst the auto, work and home survival kits and bags.

    More to the point(s) – and yes, there IS/are points to this monograph – I’ve just ordered my new Doobie, um, woobie, as well as a -20 bag from Khalifa…hence the other reason I’ve taken to drink, albeit temporarily: They’re said to worth their weight in gold, which is what it feels like I’ve just spent…but since I’m soon going on several, weeks-long, job-related refresher courses, and I work/live in Alaska, now it seems a rather opportune time to upgrade my kits’ components.

    Starting next week, but especially once the sleeping systems arrive (within the month, I’m told), I’ll be commencing a series of cold weather functional fitness and training work-ups, gear testing and overnight camp-outs. I’d be “chuffed” if you and the other great contributors would allow me to the privilege of sharing my experiences.

    In closing, thank you all for reading this. From what I see of the commentary, questions and responses on this blog, it seems we all viscerally understand the adage, “[N]ot all who wander are lost”: Happy wandering!


    Michael Collins

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