It has been almost over ten years since I last bought a backpack1, and now I need a new one. My three primary use cases are while commuting on a Divvy bike, riding on my motorcycle, and generally walking around. It needs to be comfortable and secure in all three scenarios. Other requirements (in no particular order):
|Requirements||Nice To Haves|
|Padding and ventilation on my back||Separate laptop sleeve/compartment|
|Enough space to hold 15” laptop||Two separate large compartments|
|Pocket with partitions for pens, cables and other small stuff||Exterior side pockets for waterbottle|
|Compression straps for lighter loads||High and low compression straps|
|Sternum strap||Waist strap|
|Rain proof||Built-in Backpack rain cover|
|Secure fit with heavy and/or bulky loads||Harness pocket for Divvy key, hip pocket for phone|
|Ability to secure all loose straps2||Reflective portions for night riding|
After searching around the internet and asking a few friends, I have narrowed it down to three different brands - based on quality, price, reputation, and what I have seen on the backs of other riders. Timbuk2, Chrome, and Osprey. In alphabetical order, these are the leading contenders right now.
- Chrome Bravo Night - the cross compression straps on this back are extremely inviting, though its large roll-top opening is a turn-off.
- Chrome Cardiel Fortnight - I like the profession look of this bag, and the pockets seem well organized. One of the pictures shows a pair of shoes in the bag, but something tells me that my colossal size 15 running shoes will not fit quite as well. The bag certainly does not look as large as other 40 liter packs.
- Chrome Citadel - I really like the “large zip-around main compartment”, in theory it makes getting items out of the bag easier. I am not sure about having straps that wide on the harness, though. Another point where I am going to have to try it on it determine if it is a pro or a con.
- Osprey Momentum 30 - same as the Radial, no pictures of the backing, though it seems to have a low profile on the back - good for unobstructed views over my shoulder
- Osprey Quasar - This would not have even made the list if they did not happen to have it in stock for me to try at a store I went to. However, it was very comfortable with lots of pockets and secure fitting.
- Osprey Radial 34 - the website does not show what the back padding/ventilation is, so this might get written off quickly once I get my hands on it.
- Timbuk2 Especial Medio - the entire Especial line looks really nice, and this is my favorite of the three. The feature list is extensive (the video shows them off), though I wonder if the accessory pocket is going to open enough to get to the bottom of the pocket without having to blindly dig around. Overall, this seems to be the just right in sizes between the Tres and Vuelo.
- Timbuk2 Especial Tres - the roll-top of the backpack could be too much of an inconvenience for me. With a 40.0 liter capacity, it may be too large for what I need.
- Timbuk2 Especial Vuelo - the smallest of the Especial line, I think its lack of features and smaller size might not suit my needs. I want to get a hold of it though, to find out if it is larger than it appears.
Two different sources suggested that I take a look at Deuter, a company that I had never heard of before.
- Deuter Futura 28 - A friend went through a similar exercise, settled on this, and has been gracious enough to let me borrow it for a little bit to see how it fits. Unfortunately, it turned out have a frame too high to comfortably wear on a bicycle.
While most of these are not inherently bad backpacks, they just do not fit my purpose.
- Osprey Pixel - main compartment is too small for my needs.
There were some bags that I came across that had neat little features that are of no use to me, but I thought I would give them a little credit for creativity.
- Osprey Pixel Port - contains a clear plastic pocket under the main flap to hold a 10” tablet (read: iPad), which allows use without removing it from the bag.
Some points of interest that I have found in my research. Osprey’s website is tolerable, Chrome’s is acceptable, and Timbuk2 blows them both out of the water. For no other reason than each of Timbuk2’s bags include a video showing all of the different pockets, which is as close as I can get to touching and feeling the bag without it being in my hands. Before I went to a store to actually see how they felt on my back, I had ruled out all of the Osprey offerings. They would are only still on my list because a sales associate at the first place I went to suggested I try the Osprey Quasar bag. Furthermore, all of the sites need to show what the back looks like on tall models. 5’9’ may be average, but their consumers are not going to all be average.
I will be updating these bags as I get some hands-on time with them, and then I will eventually post about which bag I chose and periodic updates.
The JanSport bag that I have has certainly held up well over the years, and is still in perfectly usable condition. The model I have is no longer in production, but it is probably most similar to their Big Student bag. The bottom of my backpack is starting to wear a little thin, two of the seams connected to zippers have started to come undone, and shoulder pads have lost all sense of padding. None of this is particularly damning of the bag, or course. The bottom is starting to wear a little thin. If I was not looking for flaws, I probably would not have even noticed. The seams can easily be mended, but I have been super lazy. The shoulder strap padding is just fine, except those few occasions that I pack the bag with lots of heavy items.
Initially, the following was the opening paragraph of this post - but I decided in editing that it really had no purpose for a reader coming into this post. But since I wrote it, I decided to leave it here in case someone actually cares why I need a new backpack._ ↩
When travelling 60+ mph down the highway, I very much do not want straps flailing all around. ↩