I've recently had some interest from people about creating a travel backpack. At the same time, one of my ambassadors has asked for a bag to use in his triathlon competitions. So, naturally, I took the bait, I had to try...
Without further ado, here it is, all 35 liters and 32.5oz of it!
The concept builds off the already developed basic design of our other backpacks. Tapered
from 10 inches at the bottom to 12 inches at the top for ease of packing as a top loader and better aesthetics. If you need access to the bottom of your bag the entire front panel zips down to function like a "clam-shell" style bag (pictures below). Having the roll top closure helps in compressing your contents to get you to carry-on status.
The shoulder straps stash behind the back panel for when you need a more streamlined bag for loading into airplane top compartments or taxis. With the straps stashed the bag features handles on each side for easy carrying. There is a large haul strap at the top for a quick grab or loading the pack into the top compartment.
The back panel is padded with 1/4" foam, is sewn into the top and bottom leaving the sides open. This helps the shoulder straps stash, but there needed to be a way to keep them behind when desired. There was also the desire to releave some stress from the zippers, so the side compression straps were added to this back panel instead of the bag "properly". This feature informed how we attached the front panel as well. For triathlon competitions, or regular sports purposes, the front mesh panel gives you the ability to securely affix your helmet or other bulky items.
You can access the laptop compartment via a side zip next to the back. This keeps the weight close to your center of gravity, helps provide support, and keeps you from having to entirely empty your bag at customs or security checks.
On the other side, with an identical zip as the laptop compartment, is an internal mesh pocket that allows you to stash a water bottle or other items needed quickly. Initially this was to keep things visually balanced but seems to be a little confusing when you simply need access to your laptop. We'll see...
There is one last pocket on the outside and that is at the top of the bag. Here is where you can put your wallet, keys, passport, etc. There is a key clip to keep those from falling out.
All of the external zippers are #5 YKK Uretek water resistant coil zippers. They are a little light compared to other bags but given the compression straps on the side, there doesn't seem to be any reason to go bigger. We'll see with further testing...
I made the hip belt removable but it is nothing more than a 1" piece of webbing. Admittedly, I need to work on that.
Inside the pack is the standard white polyester of the VX-21 material. Here you have access to the side water bottle pocket and there is an additional large pocket on the front panel for dirty clothes or smaller items that shouldn't mingle inside the larger compartment.
So, what's next for this little guy? First of all, I think this is a great first attempt but
there is a lot here that is redundant and unnecessary. I personally think that the full length zips are great but only one might be needed, especially if using packing cubes. To clean up the confusion between the water bottle pocket and laptop access and eliminate the two large zips on the front, I might try to make the access to the laptop double as the large full zip of the primary access to the bag. I can then keep the water bottle pocket smaller and move it to the front face(?). I like the way the back panel and shoulder straps interact, but I'm not sold on the front mesh. The side compression straps feel clunky and a bit of a hassle. While I love the VX-21, I can't help but feel like it is too "sporty" and needs a different texture from the hiking and adventure bags. I found a fabric that Dimension Polyant produces that uses a duck canvas as the outer shell while still maintaining a waterproof capacity. I'm thinking that this would lend a more "classic" aesthetic to the over-all bag and help appeal to traveling types that would rather not stand out so much.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the packing cubes next!