What is that square thing on my backpack? It’s a lash tab.
You have seen a lash tab before. It’s that little square or diamond on the front of backpacks that is usually made out of leather. On first pass, it may just seem like a design element added in to make the bag look more vintage. But the thing is: It has a purpose.
Take a look at this bag from LL Bean. It has one of these little mystery “pig nose” looking things on it:
The lash tab has been around for a while. It is used as an attachment point on the face of the backpack, similar to how Molle webbing is used today. The way it works is a lash strap is fed through the two holes and around whatever someone was trying to tie to their backpack. Early mountaineering backpacks had several of these on them to attach sleeping bags and such. It was a simple and functional solution to a problem that was versatile enough to be used for many purposes. You could even use it to attach smaller pouches to the outside of the bag.
But here’s the thing, most people don’t know what it is so they never use it. Most of the larger bag companies that put it on their bag don’t even advertise it as a feature. Here’s a review from the bag above:
Old school molle
The lash tab is seen on backpacks as far back as the 40’s and 50’s and was almost always made out of leather to provide durability.
It has been a staple on mountaineering bags, especially with the advent of nylon and lightweight gear.
Versatility is something you need on a mountain. It’s also damn handy when you are out and about in your daily life.
Nowadays, the lash tab is added in all sorts of places. Seemingly included as a vestigial fashion statement, the lash tab heralds back to the days of summiting untouched mountain tops.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it. As long as the material it is made out of is durable, you can purchase lashing straps to give your everyday carry bag a little extra usability.
If your bag has one, it is certainly something worth considering. Stuffing your sweatshirt into your bag can fill it up quickly. Having an extra strap on the outside of your bag comes in really handy to keep the inside free for smaller items. Especially when travelling, a strap on the outside can be a life saver. On my last trip I decided to use a carry on only I had to carry my coat because I didn’t think to bring straps to attach a rolled up jacket to the outside of my GoRuck. It would have made my time in the airport that much easier.
The next time you are looking for a bag and decide you want something a little more vintage, less molle web covered; consider something with a lash tab. It is innocuous enough that most people don’t know what it is but has all the function on molle webbing. You can use it when you need it and when you don’t, just take the strap out and throw it back in the bag. The lash tab blends in enough that most school kids have one on their bag and never use it. This is perfect on a bag to avoid looking super tactical while still having function.
The lash tab is a completely underused feature. Start using it!