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Carry Collaborations

Alpha One Niner x Carryology: Stealth Cobra Prepares to Strike


Alpha One Niner x Carryology: Stealth Cobra Prepares to Strike

by , June 8, 2021

A few years back, I heard rumblings of a pack crowdsourced on EDC Forums. A brand founder called Helmie Ashiblie had put it to the collective of EDC fanatics, “Let’s make the ultimate pack, together.” So they all piled their hard-earned pack-carrying knowledge into a single piece of gear. The Evade 1.0. 

And it was good, real good. 

Little did I know, that was just the beginning. Years later, it would take out the most hard-fought title in Carry Awards VIII – the Best Everyday Bag. And this year, we’d work together, to take it to new levels. 

Introducing the Alpha One Niner x Carryology Evade 1.5 Full Stealth Cobra.

Compact unit with an ear to the ground

For a small two-person brand out of DC, Alpha One Niner punches well over its weight class. But pulling this off isn’t some accident. Helmie Ashiblie is no stranger to the softgoods game. And he has real pedigree in the tactical space, building his brand nous with SERT – A19er’s sister brand – for many years. A company with global defense, security and intelligence customers prepared across the world. Folks who require their gear not to fail. Just like the burgeoning fanbase of Alpha One Niner. 

But apart from this pedigree, and what makes A19 truly unique, is they always have ‘ears to the ground.’ They listen to their customers, intimately, by employing a ‘feedback cycle’ that’s constantly on loop. They release. Survey for improvements. Repeat. Most times with Helmie actively engaging with the folks carrying his packs every day. 

The Evade began with 1.0. That was learned from and iterated into the 2.0. Repeating the same process, the third iteration was actually called the Evade 1.5. Sure, the naming isn’t totally perfect, ha, but who cares. Because the Evade 1.5 (two versions: “Full” with laptop compartment / “Lite” without) was the biggest success A19 had ever seen, period.

Alpha One Niner x Carryology Stealth Cobra

Alpha One Niner x Carryology Stealth Cobra

Champion lifted to new levels

The Evade 1.5 Full won the 2020 Carry Awards in arguably the most competitive category of Best Everyday Bag. A category packed full of brand giants. Well, the people spoke and the votes didn’t lie. It was a David vs Goliath upset win. 

The Evade 1.5 Full took home the crown… which is precisely why we chose this champion to collaborate on. So I rang Helmie one morning, and we began one of the biggest challenges we’ve had to date: how do we make a champion, a pack already fine-tuned three times, even better? 

Alpha One Niner

Scales of Kevlar 

The exterior fabric was our starting point. It would affect the durability, the weight, the aesthetics, the feel, and more. This was no easy or casual decision. We wanted to make this really special, but there was a problem: the Evade was already available in a variety of amazing options: 500D nylon, 420D ripstop nylon, and 1050D ballistic nylon. Each fabric providing its own unique experience. So, taking a note from Helmie’s playbook, we listened to the customers. At this point, Helmie had just launched his first and only X-Pac Evades: three prototypes to be auctioned off for charity. The feedback was astounding – people wanted an Evade in X-Pac!

But VX21 wouldn’t do, no no. It wouldn’t be enough to lift this project to new levels. So we dug into Dimension Polyant’s stable for the cutting-edge and landed on X50 with Kevlar X-Ply Ripstop. That’s right, a fabric reinforced with the same stuff that’s used to stop bullets. A fabric that’s extremely abrasion-resistant, waterproof, tear-resistant, and light. And a ‘look’ that blew us away… high-vis yellow Kevlar crosshatches. 

We loved it so much we’d cut out the liner to celebrate it. Cutting extra weight. And showing off what we’d come to call… the Cobra scales. 

So Slick and So Clean

As we stepped deeper into user feedback, both dished up by Helmie and on our channels, we discovered that the masses had a jonesing for the Evade 1.5 Full in a “slick” version. Something minimal, stealth and clean. 

The preference was no straps across the zippers to access the main compartment and accessory compartment. And so we pulled out an Xacto blade and started cutting. And cutting. We’d remove one element at a time, carry it, test, then repeat. 

There’s a famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery about design: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Stealth Sides

Next, we talked water bottle pockets. It’s something that is really controversial here among our readers, community members, and Carryology team members. Some need them. Some don’t. 

For the record, I’ve officially personally started referring to them as whiskey bottle pockets. Anyway… we’d decided to go minimal on the exterior, so the question arose if we should kill the pockets altogether. But, at this point in time, Helmie had just completed a new pocket design for a backpack he was working on. He shared the patterning and we were immediately in love. They remained completely functional, but visually they were minimal and disappeared when not in use. A perfect feature addition to a clean exterior, while maintaining those oh-so-clean lines.

Laser-Cut MOLLE Panels

One of the Evade 1.5’s strongest features is that the user can customize the internal rear wall by adding MOLLE/PALS accessory pouches to suit their specific needs. They can also hang Alpha One Niner’s Matroskya Pouches back there too (more on that later). While the current Evade design works great, we wanted to see what was possible; this is a collab, after all. Could we make it… more awesome? Reduce weight while keeping the same functionality and modularity? Helmie had one more idea up his sleeve, something he had been toying with for some time. And it involved lasers.

First, Helmie redid the back panel completely and made it out of the nearly invincible Brookwood Squadron 1000D x 500D laminate fabric. This stuff is incredibly strong. Superman would blush if he attempted and failed to tear it. Developed for the military and made in the USA to meet Berry amendment requirements, it costs nearly $75 per yard. Yes, you read that correctly. This fabric is end-of-the-world stuff. Well, luckily lasers are able to slice it, because the Squadron fabric is then precision laser zapped with rectangular holes to mount MOLLE pouches and then covered in loop Velcro for accessories with hook Velcro backing. Lighter, stronger, faster, better… and well, more awesome.

Hi-Vis Belly

Of course, we love that eye-piercing blaze orange liner. It’s our signature. And as mentioned in all previous collabs, this color is chosen to be a functional feature, providing high contrast in low-light situations, when you’re digging inside the compartments of your carry. 

Zipper Upgrade

Size #8 YKK zippers are great. But, in our opinion, when you’re going in and out of the main compartment 24/7, beefy #10 YKK reverse coil zippers are better.

So we went ahead and upgraded the main compartment zipper and the laptop compartment zipper to the #10 for good measure, giving the cobra that extra aggressive toothy warning hiss when its hood opens up to display its bright orange interior.

Fidlocks on the chest 

Sometimes it’s the smallest details that bring you the most joy. And when they’re something you’re interacting with on the reg, it’s even more important. So we swapped out the standard buckle and upgraded it with a 20mm V-BUCKLE. A pleasure to use one-handed, German design, and magnets. Win.

Cobra Matroskya 

We snuck in one last additional bonus accessory with this collaboration… as we’ve been big fans of Alpha One Niner’s Matroskya Pouches for some time. Named after the famous Russian nesting dolls, each set includes four different-sized pouches for your various organizational needs. Normally made from Cordura nylon or clear PVC, we opted to make them from Dimension Polyant X-Pac fabric, reversed to show off the same Kevlar grid X pattern “cobra scales” to match the interior of the Stealth Cobra. These will be offered a la carte in limited quantities, so they don’t drive up the price of the backpack for those who choose to run their own organization or just don’t have a need for them. Nesting cobras, pretty rad.

The rise of the Stealth Cobra

When searching for the codename lots of you have come to love, we sat down with Helmie to talk, and asked if there were any specific creatures or characters or symbols that had some kind of significance in his personal history… He’d served in the Armed Forces, and was a military man through and through; was there anything from his story that could spark something… and he left the room and came back and held a plaque out… and there it was… a cobra coiled and rearing up, representing his HQ 6 Division. It was done. 

Alpha One Niner x Carryology: Stealth Cobra patch inspiration

We commissioned our Senior Editor, Laurence Fry, a talented graphic designer, to design the patch to adorn the pack’s exterior Velcro field. Originally, we tried a few attempts at making the design via embroidered fabric. It looked nice, but it needed more. So we opted for our very first molded patch with a geometric cobra with orange eyes and orange fangs, in a striking position to face the viewer. Of course, like all of A19’s standard Evade backpacks, this collaboration Evade will come with a matching fabric panel to cover the Velcro field, if you choose to run the pack clean and stealthy. 

Alpha One Niner x Carryology Stealth Cobra patch

Releasing the Stealth Cobra

A Carry Award 1st place winner, reduced down to its essential core, with functional improvements and upgrades, made from a brutally tough waterproof X-Pac fabric, and more. The Evade 1.5 Full Stealth Cobra is here.


The Alpha One Niner x Carryology Stealth Cobra releases on June 10th4PM, New York Time, to Carryology readers.

The ‘exclusive release article’ will be published to Carryology.com, and will include the shop link to purchase the Stealth Cobra. 

Alpha One Niner ship all over the globe!

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