If you’ve been around here for a while and the Hazard 4 Officer seems familiar to you, it should. I reviewed its (almost) identical sibling last year, and today we are checking out the traditional/non-sling pack day pack option (what a mouthful!). I had high expectations based on my general appreciation for Hazard 4’s gear, and they certainly did not disappoint.
If you don’t want to read the rest of the review but want a quick yea or nay with regards to the Hazard 4 Officer versus the Switchback, then I will say that I have found the Officer either equals or exceed the Switchback in absolutely every category. They’re both excellent packs, but having to choose a better bag between the two, it’s definitely got to be the Officer.
Obviously this review will be somewhat derivative of my previous Switchback review, as the Officer is almost the same design, with the major exception being a traditional strap configuration on the back. So yes, much of what I thought of the Switchback will be echoed here, so bare that in mind.
Take a look below to see a side by side comparison of the two bags. The Switchback is the bag on the left, while the Hazard 4 Officer is the pack on the right.
Aesthetically, the first major difference that I found striking (beyond the straps of course) was the different size for the front compartment. On the Switchback, the front compartment appears to be an afterthought, almost like a removable pouch was attached to the front of the bag. On the Officer, however, the front compartment makes use of the entire size of the backpack.
Personally, I much prefer the design of the Officer, as the extra space is both useful and aesthetically more pleasing to me due to its symmetrical nature. There is definitely something appealing about a uniform, purpose-driven rectangle (the iPhone can attest to that).
The Officer seems less busy/more modern, and frankly I consider it quite significantly better looking. This is a personal preference, but everyone I have asked has also concurred (including Elise). Of course, this is not even remotely to say the Hazard 4 Switchback is an ugly looking bag, more that picking out the Hazard 4 Officer over it aesthetically is sort of like picking out the prettier looking identical twin – there’s plenty to be happy about in either bag.
The carrying comfort can be summed up neatly as superb. I have not gone on any extensive hikes with it, as I received the Officer recently but based on load distribution, strap comfort, and my past experiences with the Hazard 4 Slingpack, which shares the same padding on the back, I can safely say you won’t be disappointed. The Officer will surely see many adventures to come – it’s just outright the very most comfortable thing we own right now.
It’s interesting to hold the Officer by the top handle. You can really appreciate its size this way, as I think in pictures it can come across as smaller than it really is. The dimensions are basically identical to the Switchback, with an overall size of 18 inches L x 11 inches W x 8.3 inches D (46 x 28 x 21 cm), which to me is pretty dead on perfect for a day pack.
When it comes to price, make note that Hazard 4’s backpacks are not cheap. They cost plenty more than a $30 Walmart special, but are by no means comparable to a regular backpack. It can be hard to put into words what good engineering and excellent design can do. The waistband strap, for example, is incredibly easy to adjust to your waist size, has an overbuilt buckle (I don’t know how much load it can handle, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it could support my body weight), and nicely conceived velcro fasteners to adjust the length of the straps. It’s little touches like these which really make you appreciate where the extra dollars go.
Speaking of the waistband/strap thingy, the support is incredible albeit very tactical in nature. It’s not subtle in the slightest, and whilst I get why they opted for an oversized everything, I do think it can be a bit much if your trying to go incognito. Obviously, with my choice of camouflage pattern I didn’t care much for that, but I think it’s worth noting that the construction is aimed squarely at the tactical market, not that there’s anything wrong with that!
As subtle as a sledgehammer to the face is a fair description in my opinion. Positively drenched in M.O.L.L.E. connections, this is definitely not for yuppie campers looking for a picnic bag.
Below you’ll see the Hazard 4 Switchback (on the left) vs the Officer (on the right) again for a front compartment comparison. As you’ll immediately be able to tell, the Officer’s front compartment being the full width of the bag gives you significantly more storage, and I am absolutely in love with it (especially considering my obsession with stationery and the fact that I like to put flashlights and knives in these sorts of pockets!). A lot more useful to have this full width front compartment, in my opinion, and even though I like the idea of strapping a smaller pouch under the front compartment of the Switchback (to add a a removable trauma kit, for instance), I do think for most applications, the Officer has the upper hand and a more sound design.
My 2 cents obviously, but depends on the kind of use you’re planning on getting out of the bag. I personally very rarely end up strapping secondary pouches onto my packs, and in these Hazard 4 packs’ case, I would be inclined to mount a trauma pack on the waistband anyway for easier access, as opposed to a front panel, so the Officer’s compartment configuration is pure positives for me.
The front pouch has an almost perverse amount of storage. Two large compartments, one having a zipper and one having a fold-over sleeve that can handle any large cellphone, including a Samsung Note/iPhone. Plus the plethora of sleeves for tools, writing utensils, notebooks, multitools, etc. Packing this bag right is basically my idea of a good time.
Options are always a plus, and the Hazard 4 Officer brings those options to the table in spades.
I’m really keen on the little touches that Hazard 4 adds to their packs. The velco panels sewn in for keeping compartments somewhat closed, for instance – an awesome feature! The velcro panels are top notch quality; I don’t see them wearing out with use (as should be expected at this price point, to be honest).
Like the Switchback, the Hazard 4 Officer has a see-through sleeve for touch devices. Very useful for tablets or navigation devices when in the field and you don’t want to fumble around removing sensitive electronics. It works quite well, as you can see below. I wish all backpack manufacturers would offer this.
In this day and age many people (myself included) depend on electronic maps and on devices like tablets. Being able to stop and check bearings/position quickly and easily, and without risking any damage to your equipment is a huge boon that costs little to implement, but for some reason is still rare in the industry. So kudos to you, Hazard 4, on implementing these valuable quality of life features into your packs.
Hazard 4 has changed the material used for their liners since my Switchback review. I personally really like these “Constant Quality Improvements” (as Spyderco would say), as I think they demonstrate that the companies, and Hazard 4 in particular, have a sense of pride in their product and will continuously upgrade their products as new processes and technologies are brought into the mainstream and can help make their offerings better. No better feeling to me than knowing a company is willing to stand by their products enough to upgrade them without even being requested – just for the sake of keeping their products being the best they can be.
The liners are drenched in Hazard 4’s logo and go from invisible to shiny depending on lighting conditions and angles. This is for interior liners only, obviously, as Hazard 4 has always catered to the stealth/tactical market, and thus avoids overtly drowning its clients in branding, which I also really appreciate. Nothing worse that carrying a nice piece of gear, but having to feel like a walking billboard.
As you can see below, the logo on the liners is very visible from the right angle. Great protection against counterfeiters, as this is a pretty big issue with high-end backpacks. Something to be on the lookout for when purchasing Hazard 4 gear!
If you do have liners with plain Jane textiles, don’t panic however. Check to see when your bag was made. Late 2014 products onward should have the newer stuff, whilst earlier products won’t; they’ll have interiors that look like my Hazard 4 Switchback’s. If in doubt, just contact Hazard 4 directly, and I am sure they would be happy to help you out.
Rectangular designs for backpacks have always made perfect sense to me. I will never understand “egg” shaped options, as so much space is wasted with pretty much no benefits when the decision is made to cut corners (pun absolutely intended!). The Hazard 4 Officer can pack an ungodly amount of stuff relative to its size, and much like the Switchback, it has the same configuration with those zippered mesh compartments for items that are likely to move around.
Also like the Switchback, the Officer’s laptop compartment is class-leading in padding and protection. It’s pretty freaking awesome and feels good enough that if it were large enough you might consider using it as a sleeping bag. High praise is indeed warranted.
Quite deviously, Hazard 4 opted to place their very glossy and stylish catalog in the laptop section of the bag with no real warning. It comes as a damn good looking surprise, which is pretty unethical in my opinion, as one might be tempted to purchase pretty much everything in the catalog regardless of their financial situation. Frankly, quite an insensitive gesture to our wallets.
Another interesting difference between the Switchback (left below) and the Officer (right below) is that the Officer has more depth. This is no doubt thanks to its, in my opinion, superior full-sized front compartment. So basically you get 4 M.O.L.L.E. connections per row instead of 3, which is great news for those of you who are addicted to pouches.
Other than that, the sides of these bags are literally (awesomely) identical.
I mounted a knife sheath using the MALICE clip pouch from the Benchmade Adamas; went on easy as pie. The connections are very strongly stitched in and can handle an extreme amount of force, which is reassuring. As I mentioned before, I don’t personally use many – okay any – pouches on my bags these days, but options are always a good thing, especially well implemented ones.
Size comparison with the very sexy CRKT Hissatsu.
CRKT Hissatsu EDC Folding Tactical Knife – Amazon
Some people online seem to have disliked how light the Cordura can be in the Camo editions of the Hazard 4 packs (500D instead of 1000D in the solid colours), but frankly I think it’s plenty tough enough. Yes, it’s slightly transparent, which can be disconcerting when you see the stitching, but after a year of using the Switchback, it’s still rock solid and the stitching is holding as well as ever.
Yes, 500D is not as tough as 1000D, but its much lighter, so at the end of the day the choice is yours. If you must have super heavy duty stuff, then go for a solid colour. If, like me, you greatly value lightweight construction, then the 500D will be the best pick.
Let me know in the comments what your thoughts on 500D vs 1000D Cordura are, as I know this can be a divisive topic.
Another difference between the Switchback (reversed the order this time, sorry! It’s the bag on the right in the picture below) and the Officer (left below) are the material & pattern used for the connections. The Officer is fully 500D Camo, whilst the Switchback has the thicker stuff. It should be mentioned, however, that on the Officer, the connection material is doubled over and the stitching is sewn using zig zag stitch-runs (bar-tacking) which won’t tear out like straight stitches (as per their advertising – which I fully believe based on my experiences).
The weight-bearing sections also get box and “x” stitching, so it’s definitely built with durability in mind. I think a lot of people can have knee-jerk reactions to the choice of using thinner material like 500D without actually handling or testing them in person. I 100% think it’s very resilient to any damage, and I don’t see 1000D as offering significant advantages compared to the weight saving attributes of 500D.
Remember, the material itself is not the only thing that matters – gotta take into consideration who makes it (this is branded Cordura with 2 coats of polyurethane) and how it was stitched. I can say that based on my experiences, most issues encountered with packs and their durability relates to the quality of the stitching, not to the material used.
Let me know if you agree!
Another benefit of using 500D Cordura connections is that the material is far more forgiving to tight MALICE or M.O.L.L.E. clip pouches. I like that I can use more torsion with far less force when strapping pouches on.
Style-wise, I think it’s fair to say Hazard 4 has another winner on their hands. It’s tactical and yet palatable enough to the public that I would be comfortable using this pack as my carry on luggage when travelling. A definite plus in my books!
The Hazard 4 Officer checks all the boxes you would expect in terms of quality hardware and materials, but also goes beyond by offering a design that is intelligently engineered with little quirks and features that, individually, don’t make a huge difference, but collectively make you fully appreciate the value of a high end pack.
I don’t see myself ever going back to military surplus options like the ALICE packs or cheaper offerings from mainstream brands again. The Officer has blown my expectations out of the water (and I thought the Switchback was good…), so I’m just not going to bother going back.
Yes, it’s expensive. I’m not denying that. Not even close. No one can take a look and the pricetag and think “Hmm.. that’s quite a budget option!” Not possible. But if it’s between buying a budget pack and buying a pack that I love using, feels lightweight, is high quality, and is almost guaranteed to last me forever if I take good care of it, I’m opting for the more expensive, higher-end pack. Besides, it’s one amazing way to save closet space.
I would recommend the Hazard 4 Officer above the Switchback, even regardless of the straps (the feature that most sets these two packs apart). Based simply on the superior front panel offered by the Officer, which is a more congruent design, I’d ultimately choose to wear the Officer over the Switchback any day.
Unfortunately, this Hazard 4 Officer is so sexy that it has already been claimed by my lovely wife. As a result, I’ll have to be carrying the Switchback until I finally bite the bullet and buy myself my own Officer, though it’ll probably be a black one at that point, in order for us to not match too much when we end up using these simultaneously in public (which I am 100% sure will happen).
Could not say it enough: recommended.