Sponsored by 5.11 Tactical

By Rachel Zoch, EMS1 BrandFocus Staff

When every second counts, you need to be able to count on your tools being close at hand. Often this means you need a bag to carry critical lifesaving equipment to your patient’s side.


5.11 Tactical designed its backpack and duffel with input from EMS providers. Removable pouches make it easy to customize, and the compartments help users prioritize “first-grab items” like gloves and tablets. (image/5.11 Tactical)
5.11 Tactical designed its backpack and duffel with input from EMS providers. Removable pouches make it easy to customize, and the compartments help users prioritize “first-grab items” like gloves and tablets. (image/5.11 Tactical)

Designed with more than a year of research and development and guided by input from hundreds of EMS professionals, two new bags from 5.11 Tactical – the ALS/BLS Duffel and the Operator ALS Backpack – address the needs of EMS today, providing storage and easy transportation so you don’t have to think about organization or performance.

“We had a lot of feedback over the years on the original ALS/BLS bags,” said Scott Lambert, senior industrial designer for 5.11. “While practices change, obviously the needs change, and therefore the equipment and the gear as well.”

For everyday EMS calls

The ALS/BLS Duffel was designed to accompany EMTs and paramedics on everyday 911 calls. The duffel is made of abrasion-resistant nylon with a waterproof bottom to protect the contents from spills, blood or other contaminants.  Reflective pulls and piping enhance visibility for provider safety.

Focusing on current EMS needs, Lambert and his team identified the most critical items carried by most EMS providers, and the order in which those items are generally used, and designed the duffel to provide access in a logical progression. Altogether, the duffel provides more than 3,000 cubic inches of storage space, but many of the organizational components are removable so that the bag can be customized for a specific mission, such as a mass casualty incident.

“We focus a lot on versatility and allowing the user to customize the bag instead of just making a standard dump-all duffle,” said Sharon Park, category manager for 5.11. “We’re really giving them the opportunity to cater it to their particular need.”

The duffel design makes it easy to prioritize “first-grab items” like gloves and your tablet, says Lambert, who was an EMT and an ocean lifeguard before joining the 5.11 design team. The clear, vinyl tablet compartment at the top of the bag is a prime example of how it’s built with specific EMS processes in mind.

“The iPad is going to be immediately removed and handed to the incident commander before gloves even go on,” he said. “It’s a see-through case, but when you open that flap and you pull the tab, the webbing actually pulls the iPad out for you so if you do have gloves on already, it’s a little bit easier to get out of there.”

The ALS/BLS Duffel is compatible with 5.11’s Gear Set modular system and includes the removable Med Pouch Gear Set, a fold-out pouch with three tiers for organization. Another feature added to the new bag is a lined, protective compartment for electronics or sharps/biohazard containment.

For tactical medics and mass casualty incidents

Whereas the duffel was developed as a complement to rescue vehicles like ambulances and helicopters, the Operator ALS Backpack is meant to be a mobile unit.

In situations where EMS providers are working in the field without backup from an ambulance, the backpack offers the ability for a single person to carry all the tools he or she might need to address a rapidly unfolding situation, such as a mass casualty incident, without having to return to the rig or wait for assistance.

Constructed of heavy-duty, water-resistant nylon with a waterproof base, the bag is designed to stand up to hard use. It opens with a rapid-pull dual zipper to reveal a Jacob’s ladder-style panel of removable clear vinyl pouches with color-coded zippers.

With a total capacity of nearly 1,600 cubic inches, the backpack features a variety of pockets and pouches to keep vital supplies within reach. These include:

  • Two-way access top pocket.
  • External laser-cut loop MOLLE.
  • Two long zippered pockets and two pass-through compartments.
  • Four removable Easy-vis Med Pouches with different zipper colors and clear vinyl windows.
  • A dedicated padded laptop or hydration rear compartment.

Most importantly, the Operator ALS Backpack is designed with logical organization and rapid access in mind, based on input from paramedics and advanced lifesavers embedded in tactical units. Users can open just the top of the bag or fully open the main compartment clamshell-style with the side releases if more advanced equipment is needed. This level of organization is key to a provider’s autonomy on scene, says Lambert.

“Everything was prioritized for mobility and speed,” he said. “Every component that was discussed came from a tactical operator standpoint, because their focus and experience unfortunately is directly related with active shooter and terrorism attacks. Their input was critical in understanding the rapid progress of the entire situation.”

Like the duffel, the backpack can be customized for easy restocking or swaps with modular pouches and pockets, such as 5.11’s Double Deploy Gear Set – two detachable stretch fabric pouches for quick deployment that are included as part of the backpack. The two bags are designed to “talk to each other,” says Lambert, so users can remove and swap key pieces between the two. The modular pouches also can be left behind on scene when needed, such as when triaging a mass casualty incident, adds Park.

“We’re thinking of every situation that we can,” she said. “The Double Deploy pouches can be loaded out as individual IFAK kits. Designed as separate pouches, you can remove one easily, throw it to a buddy who needs one and still have one for yourself.”