The ROM Pack is an item I was really excited to take a look at, mostly because I had a similar idea a few years ago and I wanted to see how thereal thing stacked up with my imagination. The idea behind the pack is that the same material used to carry your stuff can also convert into other useful items, specifically a blanket or a poncho. (Just a note: While combining the three items eliminates some redundant weight, the ROM pack does feel a little heavy, even when empty, so you have to keep in mind that the extra weight is also extra functionality.)
Let’s take a look at the pack in its various permutations:
The backpack is made of a durable water-resistant fabric, which feels very sturdy (part of why it’s a little heavy). When in backpack form, the pack is pretty wide for a backpack. It didn’t feel awkward for me, but I am 6’2” and 210 lbs. It has plenty of straps to keep it in place and relatively comfortable and, although it’s not really a great design for long distance ultra-light hiking, it’s very sufficient for a day hike. There are lots of pockets and spaces for organizational purposes and some of the outer pouches can be detached. The detachable pouches also have MOLLE strapping on them, if you want to add a few more functional pieces.
The ROM pack unfolds into a blanket very easily, even on your first try. As a blanket, it’s a fine size for spreading out for a small picnic and there is a soft fabric layer on the inside, so you can lay the water-resistant side towards the ground and have the soft side up to lounge on. (Note: you’ll probably want to take the detachable pouches off before you sit on it). As far as survival uses, you can wrap the blanket around yourself to keep warm and dry. Even though the soft side is kind of thin insulation, it’s better than nothing and the water-resistant outside will keep you dry and deflect some wind. A smaller person could wrap themselves completely, but I had to content myself with having most of my body covered.
When using the ROM as a poncho, you simply unzip the hood in the middle of the blanket and pull it on, of course with the soft side in and the water-resistant side out. (You do have to adjust some of the straps and you can leave one of the detachable pouches on, but the other has to come off for the hood to come out.) There is an extra panel that’s used to hold the fabric together as a backpack that sits conveniently across the shoulders, which helps to keep you dry.
There were some improvements I would like to see for the poncho mode. First, the soft fabric is not well attached, which isn’t really that noticeable except for the hood, where the soft fabric tends to grab the hair and slip around, which feels odd. It would be nice if the fabrics were glued together, just in the hood at the very least. Second, there are button snaps to close the sides of the poncho, but they popped loose very easily. Rather than improving the snaps, I would do away with them entirely, and have a strap and clip that you could use to bring the poncho in closer and secured around your waist, to help keep you warm.
In summary: the ROM pack is a great idea and extremely functional. While there were some minor issues I would correct, there are more reasons than not to use this for day hikes into the woods, especially during the spring and fall when the weather is mercurial and it’s smart to carry rain gear.