Just because a bag is optimized for concealed carry doesn’t mean the holster compartment has to be its dominating feature. In fact, considering the anonymity and covert intentions of concealed carry, a good CCW bag should accommodate a holster and a handgun while still looking like and working as a useful bag or pack.
A handful of years ago, SOG added a line of distinctive-looking backpacks to its catalog. I have two of them and I’ve used the hell out of them. They’ve worn like iron, and on the road, they always get compliments and questions, even from strangers—and that’s kind of the point. Even in a dark gray, they drew attention, as do many packs with features that look purpose built or overly tactical.
For 2021, SOG has taken a fresh approach to backpacks, jettisoning their previous models and supplanting them with the new Surrept CS (Carry System) line of packs, made to blend in with everyday life, while also offering all the tactical features that concealed carriers demand.
On the outside, these bags are so plain they could be called nondescript, but a better word would be, clean. Their water-resistant 4200 ripstop nylon construction gives them a certain texture, but nothing visually stands out about them at a glance, and that’s a good thing. They’re modern and minimalistic. If anything, they look like something a person in tech might be carrying through a crowded terminal or that a bike messenger might have cinched to their back. But when you handle it, you feel like it could more than handle a rafting adventure, if so employed. This was absolutely intentional.
“The development of the Surrept CS line is more than two years in the making,” says Jonathan Wegner, SOG’s Vice President of Brand. “We collected intense and constant feedback from our potential end users and worked with a leading pack designer to engineer a system of packs that embrace the ‘gray man’ philosophy of situational awareness and readiness.”
You won’t find any Velcro areas on the exterior for morale patches or name tape, no MOLLE panels, no prominent SOG logo—just a very subdued “Studies and Observations Group” in slightly glossy letters the same color as the bag.
There are a lot of neat little considerations for travelers and commuters built into the Surrept designs that definitely solve problems without creating new ones. The bigger models have a large zippered compartment at the bottom that acts as a stuff sack for a jacket. On the two biggest bags, the pouch is large enough for a pair of shoes.
This “preparedness pocket,” as SOG calls it, allows items normally stowed at the bottom of the pack to be readily accessible. In a more tactical role, it’s a great place to discreetly stash an IFAK or a larger first aid kit where it’s easy to deploy in an emergency.
Something I noticed immediately on the Surrept/36 I tested was its light-colored interior, which makes it so much easier to actually see what’s in your bag and a feature more and more companies are wisely embracing.
As the name suggests, the Surrept/36 CS boasts a 36-liter capacity, and is the largest pack in the line. Its size is perfect for an overnight bag or an oversized day pack, while being compact enough to stow away in just about any vehicle.
The Surrept bags don’t have external pockets jutting out or straps and buckles hanging everywhere. This creates a sleek profile, so when they’re tossed in and out of cars, ATVs, and overhead baggage compartments, there’s nothing to get caught and hung up. To this same end, the shoulder straps on the backpack models stow neatly in pockets on the back panel, while the robust carry handles still make the bags easy to maneuver. With the straps tucked in, the Surrept/36 becomes a svelte little duffel bag with a grip handle on every edge.
While the Surrept backpacks don’t really have exterior pouches, there are plenty of internal spots to keep small items organized and easy to reach.
On the Surrept/36, a heavy zipper allows the main compartment to be opened from the top only while the bag is vertical, as one does while strapped into a cramped airplane seat. There’s no risk of the zipper pulling all the way open and spilling your crap everywhere if you unzip it a little too far. From someone who may have overstuffed a pack once or twice, this is important.
Another longer zipper allows you to open the main compartment almost from top to bottom like a duffel, for easy packing and unpacking, or to easily get at items that might be near the bottom.
All zippers are robust (the big ones have rings for luggage locks) and the bag I tested was wonderfully constructed with excellent stitching. It feels like it will stand up to a good amount of travel abuse, while still being lightweight and comfortable.
Some of the smaller Surrept packs have the most interesting features. The Surrept/12 CS is a thin bag sized for laptops that can be carried like a backpack, or reversed and carried like a traditional laptop bag.
The Surrept/04 CS is a waistpack that can be used for discreet concealed carry with extra space for gear. It can also be worn as a buttpack, and the strap is long enough that it can alternatively be worn as a compact sling bag.
All bags comes in either a “charcoal and bright gray” or “steel blue and frost” color scheme. Some of the smaller bags are built so they can nest and act as additional internal organizers in the larger bags, proving these packs were certainly designed as a line to work together.
The only thing I didn’t totally dig about the Surrept/36 was the rather odd quick-disconnect buckles on the shoulder straps. They took some getting used to and I don’t readily understand the benefit over typical squeeze buckles. Other than that, it’s an endlessly useful pack that’s destined to be part of my regular travel gear.
The Concealed Carry Stuff
All models but the Surrept/02 feature a “Velcro receptive panel,” which is what it sounds like, a panel located in a large external pocket that will readily accept Velcro-backed holsters and magazine carriers.
The merits of off-the-body carry can be debated elsewhere. The important thing here is that these packs allow you to keep a self-defense firearm and accessories at the ready while incorporating the very philosophy of concealed carry into their look and design. They fly under the radar and try to attract as little attention as possible—all good things for someone who doesn’t want to proclaim that they have a handgun on them.
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The full Surrept line of packs is available now from SOG with MSRPs ranging from $44.95 to $199.95.
SOG Surrept/36 CS Specs
- Volume: 36 liters
- Material: Water-resistant 4200 Nylon Ripstop
- Weight: 40 oz.
- Length: 21.5 in.
- Width: 14 in.
- Thickness: 9.5 in.
- Locking 2-way zippers
- Hidden storage compartment
- Adjustable sternum strap
- Stowable shoulder straps
- Quick-access preparedness pocket
- External pockets for large items/water bottles
- MSRP: $199.95