30 years of the Eagle A-III pack.


I mean, it has been around for 30 years, I’ve only had mine for 13 years.

I hate this pack. But that is just me, ignore that.

When I was in Iraq, back in 2006, I was my platoon’s radio operation. I don’t think my higher ups liked me much, so I got that job. Carrying that AN/PRC-117F really sucked. I kept looking for a better way or back to carry it as it made my back and knees hurt packing the radio along with all my other gear, and the radio support gear. One of the several packs I got during that time was an Eagle A-III airborne pack.

There is some debate if the Eagle A-III was a copy of some other design, but it was one of the early purpose made tactical packs that was greatly copied by other companies in and out of the tactical community. There were many versions of this pack. Some where slick, some had ALICE webbing, some had MOLLE webbing, other has purpose made pouches. Blackhawk copied and and made it overseas cheaply flooding the market. I think that lead to Eagle discontinuing it. John Carver, designer of the A-III, now has a company called Atlas46 which makes new production “A3 Legacy Pack”.

The basic A-III pack pretty much look like any other modern backpack. But back when it came out, having a smaller pack that was completely subdued was a pretty nice option. I wanted to buy one covered with MOLLE webbing, so I could slap on what ever pouches I wanted for the mission I was doing.

The picture above is what I wanted to buy. But, that was unavailable. So I had to settle with the airborne model. Part of me loves the idea of having a jumpable pack. But, for it to be jumpable, it has tons of extra straps and stuff sown on it.

All that extra strapping for airborne ops adds weight and bulk.

Most annoying for me, was that the airborne model had pockets sown on the sides. On one side there was a small general purpose pouch. On the other a radio pouch and a pouch about the right side for 2 M16 magazines. I used these to carry extra AA, CR123, and those big BA5-something or another batteries.

One of the big selling points of this pack, back in the day, was that you could open the main compartment completely. That was pretty rare 30 years ago. Inside the A-III pack, there were often cinch down straps for securing what was inside the pack. There are all manner of customer A-III, some with pre-segmented main compartments. For example there was a medic’s version of the pack organized for medical gear.

Each side of the top of the pack has a hook and loop secured flap covering an opening. These two opening would corespond to the antenna and the microphone of a AN/PRC-117F radio. They could also be used for a hydration pouch, or similar. This pack has an area for a hydration pouch, but does not include one.

They sold a stiffener you could purchase and place in that area to give the pack additional rigidity. This had a strip of vertical alumnium in. It did sorta work, but wasn’t worth the cost.

The bottom of the airborne pack has some of the normal webbing, along with a weird set of velcro covered flaps. I’ve been told that the idea was that you could put a pop flare in there, and easily grab it with either hand when wearing the pack. I tried putting a M127A1 Parachute flare there once. Not a practical place for it. Also I didn’t like that when I took the pack off and set it on the ground it would be sitting on the flare.

It comes with a couple extra straps so you could strap gear to the outside. For example you could use them to strap a sleeping bag or mat to the bottom of the pack. It also has a waist band. I removed mine, and found it the other day which caused me to dig up this old pack from storage. Now that I have the pack out, I can’t find the waist strap. It was generic and padded, nothing special.

Between the main compartment, and the two other compartments on the body of the pack, the A-III had plenty of storage space. It seems now that we tend to use either much smaller packs, or much larger packs. Even so, there are many A-III packs and knock offs out there still being put to use.

But not mine, I hate this thing. It wasn’t the model I wanted, and it reminds me of a job I hated.


  1. I hate to say it, but I think the London Bridge Trading versions are better made for less money, if you catch the sales.

    That said, the guys who made this ruck ripped off the old Gregory Day-and-a-half pack. You go back and look, and that’s the actual antecedent in terms of both design and concept. I ran one of those when I was playing around climbing and being a high-school student back in the early 1980s. That ruck is still somewhere in my crap, but being orange-and-black, it didn’t get much use for the twenty-five years I was on active duty.

    It’s interesting how much gear came into the Army via the 9th ID. I’m pretty sure that the early versions of the Eagle ruck happened because someone took them a Gregory and said “Make this tactical, please…”. Just like the early versions of the Danner Fort Lewis boot were made because of 9th ID guys asking for them, and then the Army saying “Oh… Nice…”. The early ECWCS stuff happened, I’m told, because there were a couple of Lieutenants in 2/23 “Go Devils” who went up to an outdoor manufacturer in Seattle (Marmot? Early Winters…? Someone like that…) and said “Hey, how’s about some Gore-Tex parka goodness in Woodland…?”.

    I can’t remember the exact manufacturer, but the initial version of ECWCS had those goofy-ass slash pockets that were a signature for, I want to say, Marmot. Nobody else used those, and while they kinda worked, I wish they’d gone with a more traditional 60/40 mountain parka design with the square cargo pockets and handwarmer pockets behind them.

    Jesus, does this make me feel old… I remember when all this shit was cutting-edge, and we were still wearing the M1950 bullshit with rubber rain gear… What a friggin’ nightmare that was, in Germany and at Fort Lewis. I remember going to PCT down at Bad Toelz in what, ’85-ish, and the guys from Vicenza were up there with the spanking-new ECWCS gear. That was seriously jealous-making, because the period we were there at PCT was like a record-breaking year for cold–Thirty or forty fucking below, and we had some seriously half-ass gear to use in training. Half the events got cancelled simply because the cadre was afraid that some of the students would freeze to death.

    I don’t think I actually saw or owned ECWCS until I was at Fort Lewis, sometime in ’86-’87, and it was something I literally had to buy out-of-pocket. It was optional wear for the field, and there were like two other guys in the company that had it besides myself. Same-same with the Fort Lewis Danners…

    Fucking hell, did we used to have some useless gear, or what?

    • Even on sale, I don’t think I have ever seen LBT be cheaper than anything else. I’ve seen the claim that Eagle copied the Gregory pack, and while I would believe that, I have yet to see anyone take a photo of the packs side by side.
      Silly story. The first gortex jacket I was issued was old and worn out. Had no waterproofing left. I thought gortex was a gimmick and didn’t bother wearing it. Something like year later we were issued new ones and I learned how wrong I was.

      • Take my word for it–I own the rucks, and if I can find the damn thing, I’ll take a picture of it and post it.

        The deal about the guys in 2/23 sending a ruck off to Eagle, I don’t know about. I was at the Eagle plant a couple of times, and talked to the folks working there. As far as I know, that story about the 2/23 guys is pretty accurate–It was the same group of Lieutenants who did the Gore-Tex jacket and the Danner boots. All of ’em were heavily engaged with outdoors stuff, climbing Mt. Rainier, and I think one of ’em wound up commanding Huck Creek Mountain Warfare Training Camp up on the way to Crystal.

  2. It was not a copy of the Gregory pack. I’ll come back with a link to the history of the A-III, but it was definitely not influenced by the Gregory design.

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