Awesome Stuff: Rethinking The Backpack

from the carry-your-gear dept

As someone who is “on the go” all too frequently, I’ve been trying to perfect the idea of “my office is in my backpack” for a while (always getting closer and closer but not quite there…). For a while, however, I never put any thought into the backpack itself. I survived on a series of free backpacks picked up at various conferences, which came in varying sizes and levels of quality. A few years back I finally started asking around for ideas on good bags, and got a few recommendations for Swiss Army backpacks. On a whim I stopped by a local drug store and was surprised to see they had a bunch of Swiss Army backpacks on clearance (discounted, discounted again, then half off), and ended up with the bag I’ve now used for a few years now for less than $30. It’s huge and it’s great. It’s durable, it’s comfortable, well organized and it carries a ton of stuff. But there’s a downside too: it’s huge (yes, I know I cited that as a positive as well). I once almost got thrown off a bus in a foreign country because of the size of the backpack (don’t ask). Lately I’ve been also using a smaller bag (yes, another free conference one) which can suffice for shorter trips, but I’m keeping my eye on what else is out there. Apparently, some other folks are thinking about the modern backpack as well, so here are a few crowdfunding projects concerning backpacks for this week’s awesome stuff.

  • First up is the Minaal ProTravel Carry-on backpack. Basically, some intrepid travelers designed the sort of backpack/carry-on bag that they’ve always wanted. It looks really nice if you do a lot of traveling. Well thought out if you’re using it as both a bag for electronics gear and for clothes and stuff. Also, let’s you hide the straps quickly and make it look more business-like in settings where a backpack might feel inappropriate. Also, their video (and campaign page) is fairly entertaining. Two lines from the campaign page that made me chuckle: “Pullers are suitable for right-handed & left-handed people. Ambidextrous people, no dice. We don’t like your type around here” and “Other info you may be interested to know: the phone pocket is soft-lined. The cards and phone sit slightly lower than shown. There are around 4,000 species of frog known to man.” Good to know.
    Of course, nice bags don’t come cheap. This one will set you back $229 via Kickstarter, though they claim it will eventually retail at over $300. Plenty of people think it’s worth it, however, as the campaign zoomed quickly past its $30,000 goal and is around $140,000 as I type, with nearly three weeks to go.
  • Next up is a bag that is targeting the very same market, and amazingly launched on the very same day, with the very same campaign time frame and the very same target market, but which has received a lot less attention, though, frankly, the SOOT Electropack seems like a more compelling offering (to me, at least). The key to understanding the SOOT is that it’s modular. The full deal is basically two separate bags (a basic backpack and a separate messenger bag) that can each be used separately, or which combine easily into a megabag. They’re also highlighting the fact that they’re selling it with a 10,000mAh battery that slips into a small pocket to keep your devices charged. While I can be somewhat obsessive about battery power as well, this part isn’t as interesting, since there are so many third party external battery packs out there (and I prefer ones that can also charge laptops). That said, the modular nature of the SOOT is a pretty cool selling feature — especially if you find a bag that’s really big to be both a positive and a negative, depending on the situation.
    Again, even though it seems like a better option than the Minaal (which does look pretty damn nice as well) it just hasn’t received as much attention. It’s still just slightly under the $30,000 goal, though it’ll certainly pass it before long. The bags aren’t cheap, but they’re less expensive than the Minaal (the combined version, without the battery pack, runs $179), and you can buy the separate pieces if you don’t want the full combined bag.
  • There are a few other “bags” on various crowdfunding sites right now, but none struck me as really unique or different from stuff that’s already widely on the market. And then I came across the Pad Pouch backpack. Let me say upfront, that I don’t think I’m the target market here, and I don’t get it at all. It appears to be a backpack with a giant clear see-through pouch on the front where you can put a tablet to, um, express yourself? I think? It feels like it’s targeted at younger folks (students, mainly), but it looks kind of a bit dorky in its current version — but, again, perhaps actual students see it differently. I also find it somewhat amusing that they hype up their patent pending status (Kickstarter campaigns that play up their patents always set off alarm bells in my head), but then talk about how you can use this to put “free, copyrighted images from the internet” on your “shirt” this way (bonus question for copyright law professors to add to their next exam: would that be a copyright violation to display an image you found on the internet on your tablet while “wearing” the tablet?).
    Perhaps I’m not actually the only one confused by all of this, as it hasn’t yet found too many backers (only 11 as I type this), though it’s only seeking a $5,000 target, so perhaps people will show up and buy it in the month or so left on this project. The folks who made this do get points for originality, though. Haven’t seen anything quite like this before.

That’s it for this week. Of course, there are lots of backpacks on the market already, outside of crowdfunding campaigns. I’d be curious to hear about what other sorts of backpacks people like using these days.

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Comments on “Awesome Stuff: Rethinking The Backpack”

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Me says:

I agree that Arc’Teryx is a good, available option. Expensive, but my Arc’Teryx gear has lasted 20+ years.

I did that SOOT pack, and it’s a decent price. I don’t think the shoulder straps look at structured and comfortable as I would want (see the Arc’Teryx Blade for how it should be done). That pack would be perfect for solo traveling, if the shoulder straps were a bit better (I haven’t tried it of course, so I’m only going by my experience with similar looking straps). Like shoes, the wrong shoulder straps can make traveling unbearable so a lot of thought should go into them…

Brad Barrish (profile) says:

I’m a huge fan of the Patagonia MLC and everyone that has purchased it on my recommendation has thanked me for it.

I’ve taken it all over the world, packed 10 days worth of clothes in it and it has never ever failed to fit in an overhead compartment. I almost always carry it as a backpack, but it does convert easily to a shoulder bag. It’s bulletproof and made by a company that’s doing good in the world, if you care about such things.

RayBeckerman (profile) says:

My favorite is LL Bean Turbo Transit

My favorite backpack for daily use is the LL Bean Turbo Transit. I bought it recently, researched backpacks extensively before I bought, and have been elated with it.

It’s roomy enough for lots and lots of stuff. It has plenty of compartments so I can compartmentalize. It has a great, highly usable, shoe compartment at the bottom. It looks nice (a factor because I often might have to bring it to meetings, court dates, etc). At $70 it’s not the cheapest backpack I’ve seen but it’s within $20 of the cheapest remotely usable ones I’ve seen

Anonymous Coward says:


Often, these stories involve rights owners overzealously seeking to protect an interest that isn’t really being harmed. The predictable result is that the rights owner comes to its senses and backs down, but only after earning a new reputation: being wrong and a censorious thug.

you might want to listen to your own writers in regards to being wrong and a overzealous thug when you HELD FOR MODERATION of this post for 3 or 4 days, as your own little for of abuse of free speech and censorship..

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

An Accessory For a Pack

I have something interesting, a kind of rope strap, made by knotting cord together, mostly using bowline knots. It’s about three and a half feet long, and it has a loop in the center which fits into a hook on my backpack. I drape the ends of the additional strap down in front, over the backpack’s pack straps. At the ends of the strap, there are mini-carabiner hooks, and I can hook the handles of bags into these. I arrange the bags so that they are about the same weight on the left side as on the right side, and that way, I can conveniently carry sixty pounds or so of groceries, leaving my hands free to use a walking-stick, grab stair-railings, etc. There are additional hooks about a foot up the strap for light items. I typically use the strap to haul my beverages (mostly fruit juice) home from the corner store. It’s only about a quarter of a mile horizontal, but a fifty foot vertical climb, mostly in sections of about ten percent grade. This is West Virginia, after all. When not in use, the strap folds up and fits in a cargo pocket. I can of course use the strap to carry lighter loads for longer distances. As I said, this is home-made, but assuming you can tie knots, you can make your own.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: An Accessory For a Pack

I have something interesting, a kind of rope strap, made by knotting cord together, mostly using bowline knots. It’s about three and a half feet long, and it has a loop in the center which fits into a hook on my backpack. I drape the ends of the additional strap down in front, over the backpack’s pack straps. At the ends of the strap, there are mini-carabiner hooks, and I can hook the handles of bags into these. I arrange the bags so that they are about the same weight on the left side as on the right side, and that way, I can conveniently carry sixty pounds or so of groceries, leaving my hands free to use a walking-stick, grab stair-railings, etc. There are additional hooks about a foot up the strap for light items.

Amusingly, I came very close to highlighting another Kickstarter project that sounds quite a lot like that as my third item this week if I didn’t go with that wacky pad pouch.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: An Accessory For a Pack

Actually, I have another strap, which looks rather like that which the girl is wearing, a basic eighteenth-century “British Grenadiers” cross-belt. I made it years ago to carry a duffel bag full of dirty laundry down to the apartment complex laundromat. The problem is that it puts you off-center and off-balance, and its performance is therefore limited. Laundry is of course more a question of bulk than weight, and in any case, is comparatively infrequent, so I haven’t really worked up a definitive solution yet. You have to consider things like whether your knee bangs against the bag when you walk. At fifteen hundred paces to the mile, and fifteen hundred knee-bangings, that could be painful. One of the problems of cross-belts is that they tend to carry a bag fairly low, where it is likely to be in the way of the knee.

ebilrawkscientist (profile) says:

Walk softly and carry a big bag.

Nice packs, though I’m just an ordinary bloke and I kinda like my bags to have that tactical ops feel and so I’ve stuck to the Ogio Metro/Mastermind/Legend/Fugitive bags and for EDC (everyday carry) I’ll use Maxpedition Jumbo Versipacks, cause they’re rugged versatile and ideal for a lot of contemporary light weight uses.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Where To Carry Your Laptop

If you are paying two hundred dollars for a backpack, well, two hundred bucks ought to get you a custom-made number, specifically designed to your particular requirements, whatever those are. Probably the most practical place to carry your laptop computer is on your chest, like a paratrooper’s reserve chute, so that you can lean back in a seat without leaning on the computer, and without having to take it off. By the same token, that’s a good place for your cellphone, etc., and whatever in the way of similar paraphenalia which you can’t keep in your pockets.

This image shows a Second-World-War-era paratrooper. Note the Thompson sub-machine-gun, which was soon superseded by the more compact M-3 “grease gun..”

Ninja (profile) says:

I have two Swiss Army bags, one that’s simply huge and the other for everyday use. They fit my needs so far but that Minaal backpack caught my attention simply for the high customizable uses it presents ranging from everyday use to travels. I do wonder how you put the used clothes back. From my experience that’s the most traumatic part of the trip so I usually leave some unused space for the extra volume that seems to spawn from clothes.

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