Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel Review
Versatile shoulder bag with extra features that appeal to the outdoor user
How somebody organises and carries their kit is a very personal but important decision. Uncomfortable and heavy bags can sap your strenght and enthusiasm and prematurely end a trip, but inappropriate and unsuitable bags can break, tear and ensure vital equipment gets lost. As regular readers of this blog will know – I really do prefer a rucksack to a shoulder bag when tramping through the woods or mountains.
So can the Bushcraft Satchel from Polish brand Helikon-Tex change my mind?
It won’t take long to run through the features of this bag – but that is, I suppose, a feature in itself; the Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel is pretty simple.
There’s an unpadded adjustable shoulder strap running between two clips, and slightly curved ‘ends’ where these clips attach. There is no padding anywhere on the bag, and it hangs symettrically – it isn’t contoured or ‘handed’ to fit on one side of the body or other.
Most of the fabric is Cordura, with nylon webbing at either end to make the bag MOLLE/PALS compatible, and a similar daisy-chain strip running from each clip and underneath the bag itself.
The ends are equally equipped with a fixed-length and pass-through sheath at each end, and a nylon compression strap at the bottom – generous enough to strap a jacket or similar underneath, but with a way of tiding away the excess strap to make sure it doesn’t flap around when compressed. No need to reach for the sniper tape just yet… A hatchet or saw would fit quite nicely through the pass-through pocket and my knife tucks away securely in the closed pocket/sheath.
On one side of the satchel is a zipped pocket, JUST about big enough for a large notebook (the paper type), or an OS map, compass and some room to spare.
Inside the bag (which has an overall capacity of 17L) is another zipped pouch (this one made from netting) and two elasticated pouches – one at each end.
The zips are all YKK, with paracord puills on the external ones.
The Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel comes in various colours, including multicam and several Pencott options.
The satchel weighs 480g (16.9ounces in Colonial)
As I say in the video review below – I have used this bag in several different ways:
- As a big foraging/possibles pouch – It would be scrunched up in my rucksack/main bag when not in use but would then be taken out and used when wanderign further from camp and gathering food, tinder and other resources. It’s big enough to carry some basic essentials (water, knife, torch etc) with plenty of room to actually put the things that you find in there too. The lack of any padding or unnecessary features means that it can be emtpied out and flattened down to then be rolled-up and stashed in a rucksack without taking up too much room.
- As a daybag/recce bag – For some of my work over the last couple of months I have been working with clients in places where I wanted to carry some equipment out on short-ish trips (1-2hrs) into remote places, but would be getting in and out of vehicles and I didn’t want to be encumbered with a rucksack. Again – the lack of any padding or bulk means that I could just carry what I needed, have it readily accessible and just grab-and-go. If you’re meant to be the experienced professional then faffinf around with kit whilst your clients are stood there waiting is not a good look…
- As an internal bag/admin pouch in a larger rucksack – This is similar to the first use, but instead I would keep some important and often-used kit in the satchel and then shove it into my 40-50L rucksack. I often separate out my kit into several bags/drybags anyway, so the satchel just became a more wearable and comfortable version of the bag that I usually put my camp/kitchen/daily kit into. I would set up my tarp, bag and other shelter kit then just pull the satchel out of my rucksack and carry it over to the fire or where I would be cooking/eating. It is a great way of keeping everything organised – and it bypassed any tendency to be indisciplined or lazy with my kit because I always had a ‘home’ for it.
It’s not necessarily the way I do things, but I could also see the Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel being a good Bug-Out-Bag for short-term realistic scenarios. If you regularly travel in a vehicle through remote areas then it’s a small and easily-grabbed bag that could carry a small stove, some food, spare clothing and other key environment-specific items.
I have also used it a few times as a shoudler bag in cities and when travelling – it’s comfortable enough to carry about 2-3kg of kit in, but with anything more substantial you wouldn’t want to use it for more than a few hours. For photographers there is some versatility in it being light and low-drag, but the lack of padding for lenses etc may need some careful consideration.
Some of the kit carried recently – see video below for more details
The Good Stuff and the Other Stuff
It’s a rugged, simple and easily-used product. From the very first use I just stuffed kit into in and started giving it a hard time in the forests and mountains of North Wales and Scotland (and a few trips through railway stations and airports). This is always a good sign for me – if I have to carefully think about how I am going to use something and work within the limitations of it then there’s probably a depper issue.
I like the weight (not bad at all considering it’s MOLLE-compatible) and the fact it lays flat and can be tightly rolled up when empty. Other modern tacticool shoulder bags seem to embrace the idea of lots of padding, contouring and hard edges – I always find that these get in the way more often than I am grateful for their presence.
I also like the features – having the second pocket on each end be a pass-through one for an axe or saw is great, and the symmetry of the bag again means I don’t have to concentrate too much on which way I pick it up or wear it. The MOLLE/PALS webbing is good enough for mounting a small pouch at either end (binoculars and VHF radio for me) and that compression strap does stop the whole thing becoming too flappy.
Inside, those elasticated pouches hold either my Klean Kanteen or water filter securely and there’s plenty of room in between for more kit. Whilst testing I would regularly be able to fit a small first aid kit, stove, food, brew kit and head torch in the main compartment with plenty of room to spare.
The shoulder strap is simple and comfortable, and the detachable feature is worth the extra weight of the buckles etc. I do wish that they had made the strap attachments ‘handed’, i.e. a male buckle at one end of the bag and a female buckle at the other. The strap would still be able to be detached but it would mean the two ends could then be clipped together or around a tree/thwart.
The zip pulls are good enough, but I still extended mine for use with gloves.
To be perfectly honest – I liked this bag, and I have found more uses for it than I expected to. I was hoping for something that would be good enough for short photography trips or urban wanderings, but it turns out that it is a very useable and solid piece of outdoor equipment. It’s going to be in my rucksack for an upcoming survival course for a private client, and I have started to recompile my personal kit lists to include it.
Helikon-Tex have quite a range of reliabel and versatile kit now, and I can see some of my military and security friends wanting to look a little more closely at the Bushcraft Satchel as a grab-bag for their work.
If you really want lots of Molle attachment and padding then it might be worth looking elsewhere – but if simple, reliable and versatile is part of your criteria then take a look at the Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel.
Helikon Tex Bushcraft Satchel Specifications:
- Capacity: 17 litres
- Part of Helikon’s Bushcraft line
- Strong and water repellent design
- Spacious front zipped compartment
- Main compartment with zipped mesh pocket and two elasticated nylon slots
- Fully adjustable, detachable belt strap with clips
- Concealed sheaths for easy transport of knife, axe or saw
- Compression straps on the sides for added support
- 2×4 PALS / MOLLE compatible panels on the sides
- Bottom located one row of MOLLE webbing
- Genuine garaged YKK zipper closures
- Glove friendly paracord zipper pulls
- Material: 100% 500D Cordura Nylon
- European Patent No. 002994368-0001
- External dimensions: 12″x10″x7″ (30.5×25.4×17.8cm)
- Weight: 430g