Backpack suitable both for the city and one day trips? With a tactical look, but not to excess? In an affordable price? A difficult task… But what about Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK 2?
The Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK 2 backpack was made from Cordura 500D in black color, however, the producer also offers other colors such as olive green, adaptive green, coyote, PL woodland, camogrom and shadow grey.
The MOLLE/PALS webbing was placed on the front of the Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK 2 as well as on both side-quarters. Moreover, a piece of shockcord (elastic rubber-string) was attached at the front allowing to secure, for example, a temporarily unused jacket.
The main compartment is opened with a flap-protected two-way YKK zipper starting at 1/3 of the Helikon-Tex Raccoon’s height. This solution works well in the city – there is no risk of accidentally spilling the content when we don’t close the side straps and open the backpack.
Inside the main compartment we can find a mesh pocket which allows for keeping smaller equipment organised. It is worth to mention that even with a nearly full backpack the pocket remains accessible.
On the backside, the producer placed a pocket for a hydration insert. A sewn opening located right under a wide and comfortable carry handle allows to lead the straw outside.
The second, smaller compartment of Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK 2 is opened in the same manner – using a two-way YKK zipper reaching 1/3 of the backpack’s height (also secured with a flap). On the bottom of the compartment a drainage hole was placed, and on the outside there is a large Velcro panel for attaching patches.
Inside this compartment we can find an organizer allowing to segregate more commonly used objects or the smaller ones, which would otherwise fall down to the bottom of the backpack. The placement and the type of compartments is rather typical – a mesh compartments for pens, a few flat pockets, as well as a carabiner for attaching objects such as keys.
On both sides and on the bottom of the Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK 2 we can find compression straps, which can be also used to attach equipment. They allow for a surprisingly high degree of volume regulation, which turned out to be incredibly comfortable and useful feature while using the Raccoon in the city. When I was taking few items with me the pulled straps ensured a (somewhat) low-profile look, while during field trips loosening them a bit allowed me to utilize all of the available space.
Interestingly, the excessive webbing from Helikon-Tex Raccoon’s side straps can be secured with a method known from DA backpacks (e.g. the Dragon Egg reviewed by us) – on the end of the straps pieces of Velcro were placed, which enable us to fold and clip unused straps.
Load bearing system:
The backside, more precisely the part in contact with our back, is made from two foam panels covered with mesh. On the very bottom, where it is most susceptible to abrasions, a layer of Cordura was added.
Similarly, to the foam on the backside, the shoulder straps of Helikon-Tex Raccoon were covered with mesh. On their ends, we can find buckles which regulate the length and allow for a rapid detachment of the backpack. The abundance of webbing can be folded just like the side straps. Both suspenders can be connected with a chest belt.
The waist belt is made from two pieces of 40 mm tape mounted on plastic elements placed on the side-quarters on the lower back. Unfortunately, the producer forgot to sew the ends of the belt – as a result it tends to loosen and slide from the attachment points. Eventually, this can result in your Helikon-Tex Raccoon losing its waist belt.
Our thoughts on Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK 2 backpack:
The build of the Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK 2backpack makes it capacious and very comfortable in use. At first, I wasn’t fully convinced by the zipper opened up to 1/3 of height, however, with time it turned out, that it is a more comfortable solution for urban environments than a build opened fully. Alright, so how does using the Helikon-Tex Raccoon in the field look like? Here the inability to set down the backpack flat, open it like a suitcase and take out necessary things starts to show. Unfortunately, it is one thing for another.
The capacity of the backpack is 20L and it seems to be true. For me, such volume seems to be well suited for the city, and when there is no space left for a jacket or other gear, there will surely be a way to attach it outside (e.g. with shockcord or straps). When it comes to field trips, the Helikon-Tex Raccoon is perfectly suitable for one-day excursions, but for longer activities it will be simply too small.
Smaller objects can be carried both in the mesh pocket in the main compartment, as well as in the organizer. However, during the use the first option turned out to be a better solution. It is a bit of a shame, that the manufacturer didn’t make use of all the available space and placed only one such pocket. A good solution could be e.g. sewing a second mesh pocket in the compartment with the organizer, on the flap’s side.
The materials used to make Helikon-Tex Raccoon are of a high standard (original Cordura, YKK zippers). It is a shame that the overall quality of craft isn’t better. During the time of use nothing fell off or was torn away, however, gradual shredding through the sewing line and strings jamming the zipper stain the good image of the whole design.
I will remember using the Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK II backpack pleasantly. I was truly surprised by how comfortable it was to wear the Raccoon or with nuances such as the ability to secure the ends of straps. General feelings I got from using the backpack are that it is a thoroughly made project, but it could use a few fixes. The major flaws of the backpack are:
waist belt which is easy to loose (due to the unsown ends)
too few mesh pockets (despite having space for at least one more)
lack of proper finish on the edges, which causes tearing.
To the first two of them one can get used to. I detached the hip belt, because it wasn’t actually necessary in a backpack of this size. The case of mesh pockets can be solved with an additional organizer, for example with the recently reviewed Maxpedition Pocket EDC. However, the multiple protruding threads which tend to get stuck in the zipper are a thing which definitely leaves a distaste and is difficult to ignore.
To conclude, Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK II is a good urban backpack (suited for short field excursions too), built properly and out of good materials. It has a few drawbacks, however, the overall impression remains positive, and taking into consideration its price (200-220PLN, 56 EUR) it’s an interesting alternative for many backpacks of similar size.
+ Technical solutions
+ Comfortable carrying system
+ Available in many colour options
– Lack of proper finishing touches
– Unsecured waist belt
– Unused space for mesh pockets
We would like to thank e-military.eu for giving us a chance to test and review the Helikon-Tex Raccoon MK II ackpack!