The enduring appeal of tactical gear.
“Most of our movement pursuits originated in basic survival skills, and fighting sits in the heart of it.” —Ido Portal, kinesiology coach, movement guru, and human monkey
At the heart of all outdoor recreation sits movement: our physical bodies moving through the natural world. And as Ido Portal points out, that movement is based on survival and fighting—the quest to stay alive in a harsh and unforgiving environment, fraught with peril at every turn.
It makes sense: our ancestors had to evade large predators, compete with other primates for territory, and spar with rival clans. Our success and failure was directly related to how we moved. Fight or flight, raise your fists or run like hell—either way, you moved, and moved well, or you didn’t last long.
Which may explain, in part, the ongoing attraction of outdoor enthusiasts to tactically-designed gear. Instincts run deep, and as we walk through a forest, cross a prairie, or climb a mountain, the voices of our ancestors bubble up inside us. Remain alert, they whisper. Be ready for anything. And always, more edict than admonition: Stay alive.
These exhortations demand certain physical attributes: strength, speed, stamina. But mostly, they demand a martial mindset: a keen awareness of your surroundings. And as the old saying goes, to play the part, you gotta look the part. It’s pretty hard to feel like a danger-savvy dogface with something like this on your back:
You are what you wear.
Gear must be made for survival, too. Which is to say, utility. Function, not fashion—‘cause when the shit hits the fan, a fancy, overwrought design will only get in the way. In perilous situations, life becomes simplified, amplified, calcified—and one’s equipment must follow suit, lest it lead a man to premature and inglorious ruination.
Finally, when we carry a military-style bag, it carries us—down the long road of human history, across the ages, connecting us to our forebears. By slinging a soldier’s pack, we pay our respects to the countless men-at-arms who have come before us, who have fought and died on the field of battle. No story is more familiar, more profound, more timeless—or more poignant—than that of armed conflict, of men doing their best, being their best, fighting for survival: moving themselves and their equipment under, over, and through, all the way to the bitter end.
Weapon, armor, pack: the soldier’s basic kit remains unchanged.
None of this, of course, is lost on American pack-makers, on whose products is writ large this great saga of human struggle. From Arc’teryx and Kelty to Bozeman’s own Mystery Ranch, military designs have permeated the outdoor market, with hikers, backpackers, and hunters demanding more and more packs with tactical elements.
One outfit that’s been stealthily advancing toward the front lines is Cannae Pro Gear. Named for the famous battle of antiquity, when Hannibal routed the Roman legions, Cannae (pronounced kuh-nye) produces a modest suite of military-inspired gear and apparel, designed for military, police, and outdoor operators alike. All of it is purpose-built with practicality in mind and a generous, respectful nod to our martial heritage.
Take a couple of their top packs: the Legion, a tribute to the archetypal Roman army unit; and the Sarcina, fashioned after the legionnaire’s daily-duty ruck. While they’re two very different beasts, each follows the same theme, illustrating the company’s ethos and intended user experience.
Of immediate note are the colors: black, brown, sage green. Shades of nature and of night—earth tones, not human tones.
Then there’s the construction: 500-denier Cordura, thick and durable, reminiscent of old-school canvas. It’s the fabric of functionality, meant to be used and abused, as any good piece of outdoor equipment should be.
The design itself is one of clean, simple lines, with just the right number of straps and pockets, and a burly carry handle for grab-and-go. Included are a couple key accoutrements for us moderns: water-bottle pouch and padded laptop sleeve.
Lastly, there’s the feel: a snug and secure fit, owing to the smartly engineered straps and full-length padding on the back. Stuff 40-plus pounds inside and they’ll handle the load just fine.
Legion Day Pack Sarcina Expedition Pack
What all this imparts, in aggregate, is efficiency: maximum performance with minimal effort expended. Which is exactly how adventure gear—good adventure gear, anyway—should be built.
And that’s why, when I load up one these babies and head out—whether it’s walking to work, speed-hiking the M at dawn, or an all-day ascent of a distant peak—it takes me back to my army days. These packs feel like my old rucksack: solid and secure, nothing fancy or frilly, just a basic ruck designed to carry my necessities, for hours or days at a time, and to slip on and off easily, with quick access to important items.
Dog. Pack. Done.
Sounds simple, right? It is—but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. That long road of human history is lined with distractions, and it takes a clear eye and a disciplined mind—i.e., a tactical mindset—to preserve time-honored tradition without introducing modern-day complication. But the effort does not go unrewarded. To shoulder a loaded pack and know that whatever challenge lands in your lap—being lost, fending off a bear, rescuing an injured companion—you’ll still be able to move, move well, and live to fight another day... that, friends, is what outdoor adventure is all about.