Earlier this year 5.11 expanded their tactical pack line with the MOAB (Mobile Operation Attachment Bag) series, with the #6 here being the lil guy of the bunch. Since worn on the back, my first impression was the cube-ish shape was a little odd. I soon got over that by considering it like a shoulder bag that just happens to be best worn on one's back. The size certainly lends itself better as a GO-Bag as it can be stored easier in places such as under vehicle seats. Being an imported product, it won't have the same feel as US goods, but I think a good balance is made between quality and price. Most importantly it is made up to par to be used dependably in a tactical environment.
The MOAB 6 is deceptively feature rich so get ready for a long review ride. Starting with the exterior, the front has a nice set of PALS webbing (4 rows x 4 channels+) even with a 3"x3" loop velcro zone for cool guy patches. Note that if you add further pouches the pack will get even further boxy, but I do appreciate the option. PALS is also on the sides with 4 rows x 2 channels which will likely get more use. 2 National Molding Quick Attach MOLLE Buckles (heh their name not mine) are on each side to work with the 5.11 tier system allowing easy on/off mounting to other packs. These buckles are repair style mounts so go on and off without any sewing. Now things get a little complicated here if you want to use the side PALS for modular pouches since then you would need to take off these buckles. Technically the add-on pouches could have PALS that can hold the buckles as well if you really want to milk it. The back is overall plain looking and well padded. 2 non-slip zones are incorporated to help minimize shifting a little. You will notice here that a tri-glide is available on both lower sides to allow the main shoulder strap to be setup for right or left shoulder carry. Nothing too special about the bottom except that it sports a biggun grommet for drainage. This makes sense for a tactical pack, but some civi-use folks may not like it and will find ways to cover it up from the inside. Being a smaller guy I'm happy to see the main shoulder strap is very adjustable. It can be adjusted at both the low and high connection points to really customize the fit. A modular strap pad is even included that usually is considered a shoulder pad, however ends up more as a chest pad on this pack. As a bonus this pad then can become a shoulder pad when the MOAB 6 is rotated to a front mount. One elastic loop is included for strap management to get you started, but it would be nice to have 2 to control high and low strap slack individually. Based on other pack usage I find the main strap SRB placement unintuitive as I really have to reach on over to the back of my shoulder to get to it. Not a deal breaker as one can get used to it, just a bit more effort required compared to other designs. On the flip side, this makes it a little more secure against accidental release.
Up top is a solid drag handle to carry the MOAB 6 in hand bag mode or to assist on pulling the pack out of storage. Nearby attached to the portion of the shoulder strap that is connected to the pack is a small general purpose pouch. The exterior has 3"x2" of PALS webbing with loop velcro which will likely see a lot more patches than pouch additions, yet do work out good for holding pens. The GP pouch opens with a single zipper and the inside has 1.5" elastic inside to hold electronics such as music devices, slim phones, and cameras. A wire hole is integrated to use with headphones or maybe you can get crafty with comm gear. The hole appears to lead to no where when actually the whole GP pouch is only connected to the pack on the sides creating a tunnel behind it; not only good for the wire routing, but can get into knife storage as well. Between this pouch and the handle is a small zippered pocket that uses a soft material great for sunglasses, yet also good for small electronics. The way it is constructed has small holes on the corners, not sure if for more wire routing options or just for manufacture ease. In the back area is a hydration type pocket that also can work just fine as a pistol storage area since padded. The double zippers are in an alternate configuration so when closed there is a zipper pull on each side which I think is pretty cool. The inside is plain with 2 sneaky hanging tabs integrated up top. So sneaky I missed them in my photos. Unfortunately there is no port for a hydration tube so one would just have to make do with the zippers if trying to use this pocket with that kind of bladder.
Over around on the front is a substantial sized pocket opening with 2 zippers to not quite the bottom to help keep the flap upright when open. The interior is a sleeve pocket party with many on the back side to hold a variety of slim item sizes and writing utensils. There are not 1, but 2 key keepers to give more holding options and accommodate side preference. On the other side are 2 large sleeve pockets which appear to be made with rifle magazines in mind. There is a big seam down the middle which comes off as an interesting construction decision. If I had to guess, it does help separate the sleeves from each other to prevent item banging. All these sleeves come in handy whether it be for medical gear or just a lot of random nick-nacks. The main compartment also opens up with 2 zippers, as a tangent the pack seems to vary between having the cord ends be a knot or a plastic piece. I'm a fan of knots as they don't really ever break, however each user will have their preference. Back on subject, the main compartment opens up to a very near clam-shell opening to allow quick full access. On the interior back you'll see the sunglasses pouch, ignore that for now as the opening is on the exterior, but under it is a large sleeve pocket with depth and integrated shock cord to tighten. This works out nice for sectioning off medium sized gear while still having it be easy to access. On the other side are 2 single zippered pockets, one being mesh and the other being the usual lightweight interior material. My first reaction is that double zippers would be nice here for the whole ambidextrous thing, yet I can understand that would eat away at the pocket opening length. I think the sizing on these pockets work well to give solid organization options.
Between the Front and Main compartments is the very easy to overlook CCW compartment. Sealed with velcro up top, there is a gap in the middle and a small pull tab to assist with opening. The pull tab comes off as being a bit dainty, but I understand the decision likely to make it hard to see to help hide the compartment. If you don't care about visibility I recommend adding a pull cord to the pull tab to make it extra easy to rip open. Inside is a good sized piece of loop velcro to allow you to add holsters and pouches like those seen in the 5.11 BBS series. When angled correctly, the pocket makes for a great fit for my Glock 19. Large full size pistols such as a Sig P226 will sit in the pocket decently, however will prevent the velcro opening from sealing. Some more simple folks may just translate that to: the shit don't fit. How stuffed the bag is will also change how a pistol sits in this compartment, just in general keep in mind it was not intended for full sized pistols.
When it comes down to actually using the MOAB 6, I find it to be an interesting hybrid. It has the qualities of modern single strap tac-based packs, yet the size is more man-purse ish due to the cube dimensions. The ease of use while wearing won't be quite as easy as a more traditional shoulder bag, yet is still certainly possible and then gives much better mobility when returned to the back mount position. By mobility I mean being able to haul ass without your pack bouncing all around and not just take a mere waltz in a park. Thus based on those attributes I think it makes a great grab and go bag where the user is generally mobile and doesn't necessarily need to access the pack constantly throughout a day. Keep in mind the ability to rotate the pack from back mount to front mount (and reverse) is still great, just all your stuff inside will be sideways on a front mount which may or may not be what you want. I think it is cool the tier connection system is integrated by default to allow mounting between the MOAB and RUSH series. Some may be turned off thinking it makes your pack load have too much stick out depth, however it makes great sense for those on specialty missions where they have a large pack for longer term sustainment and also a smaller pack ready to go for an assault, recon, patrol, or what have you where a lighter load is preferred. The new Sandstone color is a big improvement over the old RUSH series brown (ahem orange) color and looks great around both Multicam and Marine Coyote.