Category: Back Packs

Over the summer Vaya Bags sent me one of their most recent bag designs — a Pannier Hybrid Bag — to review. The bag they sent me to review can be both a backpack and a pannier (hence the name “hybrid”) – in turquoise and orange material, with accents of recycled bike tubes.

Vaya Bags Pannier Hybrid Bag

I first met the women behind Vaya Bags in March at the Women Bike Pop-Up Shop at the Women Mean Business Bike Forum in Washington, D.C.

Over the past couple months riding with this backpack/pannier, I’ve gotten plenty of positive feedback from friends and fellow cyclists. And I must say that hearing others sing the praises of the bag certainly added to my impression of Vaya Bags.

Vaya Bags describes its Pannier Hybrid Bag as…

A nifty little design that combines the load carrying ability of the pannier with the carry-with-you convenience of a backpack. This bag easily clips onto your bike rack to carry those loads you don’t want on your back. When not on your bike the pannier converts into a backpack for a comfortable way to carry your belongings with you. Even more, we’ve added mega cool new features such as U-lock holder, reflective tape and expandable front pocket.

The quality of this handmade in NY product is evident. The exterior material is durable and water repellent — all Vaya bags are made with canvas that is “recycled and scrap Sunbrella® Fabric from local sailboat factories;” the interior is lined to make this pack fully waterproof.

Vaya pannier/backpack waterproof interior lining – also quite vibrant!

It has a rolltop closure, with velcro and a clip to keep the bag securely closed – whether packed to the max or just minimally packed, ensuring no water seeps into the bag during a downpour. Fortunately I didn’t have to endure many downpour bike commuting conditions during my time with this bag; but I did put it through the paces.

rolltop closure secures with both velcro and clip

An interior laptop pocket or other such divider could have been a nice bonus, but not necessary. On the couple occasions I decided to travel with my laptop or work iPad, I just used a padded sleeve and slipped it right in the bag.

The bag also boasts a small exterior front pocket with velcro closure. That pocket was great for stashing keys and other small items that I might need to access on the fly, but I did find that small items could escape from that pocket if not secured well. I wished that pocket had a zipper or other means of keeping the contents safe. It would have also been nice to have a key strap to secure keys for easy reach.

For a daily commuting bag, this pack is about the right size — small enough to not be too voluminous but large enough to expand to carry those extra groceries you decide to pick up on the way home. It was also a good size for me; as a petite female, I often find that most unisex backpacks are just too big for me and cater to folks with larger/longer torsos. This Vaya bag did not have that issue of being oversized…. could it be that woman’s touch on the design?

I altered between carrying the bag like a backpack and letting my bike haul it as a pannier. I must say that I wished the conversion from backpack to pannier and vice versa was quicker, but I soon got the hang of it. Just a bit of tucking in and clipping straps before mounting the pannier and then untucking and reclipping the backpack straps to use as a backpack. As a backpack, it took me a bit of time to get used to the unpadded seatbelt-material straps; these unpadded straps, however, did allow for ease of tucking the straps away to use the bag as a pannier. I did appreciate the chest strap to keep the shoulder straps in place and the bag more stable on my back.

Seatbelt-like backpack straps tuck away into pocket when used as a pannier

as a backpack

Riding with a backpack

The reinforced bottom allows this bag to stand on its own when set down on the ground.

reinforced bottom

When I first started using this bag as a backpack, the bottom of the bag hit my lower back at a weird angle when just walking around, but it was fine on the bike; I don’t notice it anymore but just the other day I did wish the back offered a bit of padding.

For use as a pannier, the bag connects to any rear rack with the use of d-rings and small carabiner style clips.

Vaya pannier hybrid on the bike

I was impressed how the bag remained anchored on my bike with just those two attachment points.

carabiner clips and d-rings mount the pannier to the bike’s rack

I fretted that the back of the bag would get dirty when used as a pannier and that it would put a damper on my wanting to use it as a backpack, but I never had that problem (I also didn’t use it as a pannier in much foul weather when crud could have gotten kicked up onto it).

This Vaya pannier-backpack hybrid comes with reflective tape on each side of the bag for great visibility when in use as a pannier hanging off the side of the bike.

Backpack – side view (photo taken with flash to show how the reflective tape adds visibility)

But I wished it had some reflective tape on the front of the bag that would be visible when in use as a backpack (similar to how the Vaya backpacks have reflective tape on the back) and a loop for a rear blinky light.

On the side of this pannier/backpack are a few loops — one velcro and one hanging loop for a u-lock. The velcro strap is just one more way of securing the bag to the bike – which I rarely used (and only figured that feature out after viewing some of Vaya’s product photos online). The hanging loop for a u-lock did not fit my Kryptonite lock. But I usually just clip my lock to my rear rack for transport, so that wasn’t much of an issue…. except on the odd day that I rode a different bike with a rack and found myself searching for the best method to haul the hefty lock.

Overall, I give this bag two thumbs up – especially for design and aesthetics. With a new and improved model on the way, I look forward to seeing just how much niftier this dual bag becomes. I noticed that some of the features I was looking for when I used this bag as a backpack already come standard on the regular Vaya Backpacks; the nice thing about this bag is its ability to morph into a pannier, too.

In a recent correspondence with Vaya Bags, we confirmed that a few improvements (which may also address a few of my concerns) are in the works on the revamped design of this Pannier-Backpack hybrid, including:

– We did update the U lock holder so that it is adjustable and put velcro on it to help stabilize the U lock
– We added reinforcement to the back of the bag to prevent rubbing
– We changed the clip system to a strap system to make it easier to put on and off the bike!

We look forward to the new product, which we will get our hands on within a few weeks. It will be interesting to see how the updates to the bag work in comparison to this model.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

So a while ago we were contacted by yet another small Australian company (yep the Cycle Cuffs are made by some Australian guys too… what is with all these new bike-related things coming out of Australia anyway??). Right, so as I was saying we were contacted by these guys asking if we would review the Henty Wingman commuter/carry-on suit bag (not to be confused with the Airborne Wingman, which is a dirt jump bike). We of course said yes, and I’ve been in possession of this nifty bag for some time.

What sets the Wingman apart from other bags? Well, for starters it’s meant to carry a suit without messing it up (which very few bags do). However, the thing that’s truly unique is that this suit bag doesn’t fold – it rolls up, preventing the suit from ever having to bend enough to get creased (verified, though I did not get a picture of me in a suit, sorry). It also has a smaller bag (more the size of a small gym bag) that clips inside this roll, and some pockets on the outside for things you might want access to (lock, laptop, etc.). At $179 (Australian, currently equivalent to $187 U.S.) this isn’t a particularly cheap option, but it falls very much in line with pricing on other serious commuter bags, and you do get good value for the price – I was impressed with the overall construction and quality of materials.

So what’s the verdict? Well, in a nutshell – if you need to go any distance and you want to bring a suit with you, you should probably get this! If there’s a better way to transport a suit – whether across town, on a train, or through an airport – I haven’t heard of it. The suit pocket itself is easy to get a suit in (and comes with a pretty nice folding suit hanger). The inner bag – while lacking in the structure/separation you’d normally find in commuter bags – clips into place nicely and stays there (it also has its own strap for easy carrying by itself). I originally was worried that it would sway back and forth too much, but that was not the case. The outside pocket – while not terribly roomy – has enough space for the essentials. The Wingman also comes with a rain cover, which packs nicely into its own little pocket for quick access.

That said, it isn’t perfect – I did find a few things I think could use improvement. First, the strap arrangement is a little weird – the shoulder strap buckles in the middle of the chest instead of at the hip (or not splitting at all like many bags), which can be inconvenient. The side strap works fine, but has a loop over the shoulder strap, which can easily slip off when taking the bag on or off. The length of the side strap is also harder to adjust once the bag is on, as the adjustment point is where the strap buckles to the bag. Overall, I found I was messing with all the straps fairly often to try to get everything in the right place. If a version 2 of this bag comes along, some change in this area would be my top priority.

Also – like a couple other bags I’ve tested lately – the bag interfered with my over-the-shoulder vision, especially when on a road bike and leaning further forward. Now I will be a little forgiving here, since this is after all made in Australia and they drive on the wrong side of the road there – if I had to look over my right shoulder instead of my left it wouldn’t be an issue at all! Still, if this is going to be your normal on-bike bag a mirror would be a nice thing to have, as otherwise you’ll probably injure your neck trying to see what’s behind you.

Finally, I did get to try the rain cover (thanks to Hurricane Sandy for providing some serious rainfall to test in) and while after about 45 minutes my clothes were all still dry, there was some moisture that got in and got some of the exterior of the bag damp. Again not a deal-breaker, but it’s good to note that if you’re going to be in a serious downpour for a long time, you might want to investigate other options.

No those are not bike-specific clothes

Photo Credit: LSJ Photography

It’s long overdue but it’s time for the final review of the Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag! The folks at Brenthaven and Kona teamed up and created the Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag and were nice enough to send us one to test! I wrote my first impressions of the bag awhile back and gave an opinion of it. After some time, my impression has stayed pretty much the same—I like it.

Style meets function

The first thing I noticed about it is how stylish the bag is. To my hipster friends who treat bicycles as an accessory like some who purchase cars that “fit” their personality, this messenger bag is a good complement to their everyday life. Like I mentioned before, it’s got a very streamlined design—nothing looks out of place from the trapezoidal shape of the bag to the inclusion of metal buckles and emblematic light in the middle.

It’s quite a spacious bag. Even the two zipper-pockets (shown below) were quite roomy; in the larger zippered compartment I was able to put in two medium-sized shirts unfolded without a problem. In the smaller compartment, a wallet, cell phone, toothbrush and toothpaste can fit. The bag’s main compartment is kept closed by three things—Velcro, two buckles and two side magnetic flaps. Inside, the bag is separated into three compartments with the middle being a “pouch” that can be closed via Velcro.

15.4 inch Laptop, Size 10 Shoes, 34×30 Jeans, 2 Shirts + Book (not shown)

Cellphone holder + 2 Adjustable Straps

Turned around, the bag maintains its functionality. The wide adjustable strap is held together by a big metal buckle. The strap also has a pouch for a cell phone. The bag also has an additional smaller strap that buckles onto the main strap to keep the bag stable while riding.

Here are the specs (again):

  • Name: Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag- Blue
  • Model #: 6102
  • Weight: 3.2 lb.
  • External Dimensions: 21.5″ W x 16″ H x 8″ D
  • Fits laptops up to 16″
  • Built in safety light with replaceable battery compartment
  • Bomber, water-shedding 1000D Cordura fabric
  • Waterproof internal compartment for laptop, electronics
  • Comfortable shoulder strap with quick release phone pocket
  • Large capacity, expands to 1300 cubic inches
  • 100% lifetime guarantee and then somePatent pending magnetic Hydro FlapsTM keep your gear dry

Very much a cyclist’s bag

Static/Intermittent Light

“Okay, okay, we get that it looks good and functions like any other bag but how is this a cyclist’s bag?”

When I first received the bag, the first thing that I wanted to know was how this bag was any different when compared to my current laptop-backpack. This meant: did I notice how uncomfortable I was with the bag on during my commute? Or is it such a good fit that I don’t even notice that I have it on? I did a couple tests to find out. One test was to overstuff the bag, and the other test was to only put in essentials for work.

For the first test, here’s what I put in the bag (about 30 pounds):

  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • Pair of Shoes
  • 5 shirts
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • Toothpaste, toothpaste
  • Bike supplies: oil, degreaser, naval jelly, chain-tool, Allen keys (I know it’s overkill)
  • Laptop + charger

And then I was off for a short ride. During the ride, I found the bag to be so heavy that I had to stop to give my shoulder a break. With each bump in the road, the pain I felt increased. I had to stop and switch shoulders three times in order to finish the ride despite the well-padded strap.

Loosely Worn

Even though the bag is durable enough to withstand over thirty pounds of load, I would only recommend a lighter load equivalent to a laptop + charger, a change of clothes and a pair of shoes. In other words, try to keep the bag’s weight under fifteen pounds.

That said, I think my opinion on how much load I would carry with the Kona Project 2 would change if the bag had two straps that distributed the weight better like a backpack.

On a side note, I used the bag much like a duffle bag while spending weekends at a friend’s and it served me well. Since it could hold more than my backpack, I found the Kona to be much more useful than my backpack.

So, in short, the Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag is well-designed and quite suitable for the commuter on a bicycle. The guys at Brenthaven designed the bag with storage, visibility and style in mind and it shows. For the commuter who does not have to carry that much stuff and can afford a hundred dollar bag, this bag is worth a look.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

We here at BikeCommuters.com have been busy reviewing some Velo Transit – waterproof packs and panniers – all Made in Seattle. As you may have seen, our writer Matt reviewed another of the Velo Transit – waterproof backpacks and the Velo Transit Metro 20 Pannier. Velo Transit also makes women specific packs and sent me a women’s Module 25 Waterproof Commuter Backpack to review; they sent me a size ‘small’ in orange.

Per their site, the specs on this women’s specific waterproof bicycle commuter backpack are as follows:

Module 25 has been significantly upgraded for 2012. We improved access with the new “Slick” Roll-Top, making it easier to get in and out without compromising waterproofness. All day comfort is guaranteed with improvements made to both the 3D Mesh back panel and ergonomic shoulder pads.

Like the 2011 version, this is the base unit of a modular bike pack. Various attachment pockets and accessories let you outfit the Module 25 for your needs and wishes. Look for these accessories to be rolled out over the coming months.

Bike specific features, like blinker mounts, reflective tape and a lock pocket are standard on the Module backpack.

This Slick Roll-Top Pack has an RF-welded liner, giving it the STORM-PROOF seal.

A 3D Mesh-lined back panel helps to dissipate sweat and along with an HDPE Frame sheet to maintain its shape and stability under load.

The Front U-Lock/ Zippered Stash Pocket gives you quick and easy access to your lock and supplies.

We are sure this will be the most comfortable and useful waterproof backpack you have ever owned.

This commuter backpack retails for $159.95 – midrange between their panniers and their urban backpack line.

Velo Transit lists the Module 25 as one of their three waterproof packs and panniers in their women’s specific line-up.

I asked the folks at Velo Transit what the difference was between the Module 25 and the Module 25 Lite bags and they responded:

“The Module Lite 25 does not have the side pocket attachment system and the D-Ring attachment points for accessory front lash straps.”

For this review they sent me this pack with the optional mesh side pocket already attached – very useful for stashing items on the fly.

Accessory Mesh side pocket

I’ve been rolling around town with this pack intermittently over the past few months and can honestly say that I like it. Despite it’s overwhelming size (even the small seemed too big for me), its voluminous capacity and ease of carrying made it a winner. For me, the width of the bag at the shoulders sometimes obscured my view when I would try to glance over my shoulder; this only occurred when I did fully load this pack. (It can haul a lot!)

Velo Transit Women's Module 25 Specs

Me with the Module 25 Backpack

Side-by-side with a pannier, this backpack has about the same hauling capacity:

Module 25 & pannier

Plus, a messenger riding in the opposite direction one morning hollered at me “Nice backpack!” (“Thanks!” as I pedaled on with a smile on my face)

For me, I appreciated the bright orange color of this pack and the reflective accents and blinker mounts (yes – multiple attachments available). This pack does come in eight different colors – so there should be a color to suit nearly everyone’s preferences (if neon orange isn’t your thing).

Reflective tabs on pack

I also liked the sleek profile of this pack. Despite its ability to carry a lot, the weight remains evenly distributed and I never felt like I was carrying too much or unbalanced. With normal backpacks I’ve used in the past, I felt like the bag just kept expanding outward…causing awkward carrying issues and shoulder pains. I was able to travel light with this pack OR load it up without any weight distribution issues. On a few occasions, I enjoyed stopping by the market on the way home for a few items without worrying about having enough space for my goods.

Profile view of the Module 25 backpack

The front zippered “stash pocket” is a great place for a U-Lock and other necessities you might need to grab on the go.

Stash front pocket

And the mesh padded back and straps further eased carrying a load and limited sweating.

Module 25 backpack straps

Best part about this Velo Transit waterproof backpack? It’s actually waterproof! (at least it was for the few times I was out in the rain with it). I used it in the rain on a day when I carried my laptop in it and the interior remained bone dry. The liner is a bright yellow – which also makes it easier to find your stuff – and it’s described as “stormproof”.

"Stormproof" Interior of Module 25

The top of this backpack rolls closed and cinches tight – so there are no seams for water to sneak in. The water just beads up on the fabric.

Beads of water on the roll-top closure

I was skeptical of riding with another backpack, after suffering from neck/shoulder pain for the past several years. This backpack never me feel like I was carrying a load and never caused me any pain. There were some days I chose to ride with this pack instead of a pannier just for the ease of on/off bike mobility with the pack.

Bottom line: the Velo Transit Module 25 is a quality backpack that can rival the carrying capacity of a pannier and is waterproof too. It gets my vote.

My only suggestion – consider offering an even smaller size pack for the “light” travel days.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

First Impression.

I like it.

After using it for a couple of weeks, I’ve found the bag to be quite useful.

Regarding it’s look, it’s stylish–the main zipper streamlines a clean-looking design. The Kona logo is visible along with the 2 buckle-harnesses that keep the contents of the bag secure.

Upon opening, three separate compartments are visible. One being a “divider” where it has a velcro flap to secure the contents from the rest of the bag. The inside of the first compartment has more pockets and zippers similar to an inside of a backpack to put in smaller items.

Opened

When closing, one can see that there are magnetic flaps that secure to make sure that the sides stay closed.

On the sides are the magnetic flaps

The adjustable strap has a cell phone holder, and an accompanying buckle that couples with another strap to make sure the bag secures to the wearer.

Cell phone holder, adjustable strap and additional strap for stability.

Here are the specs from the manufacturer. It should be noted that Kona tapped the talents of Brenthaven in order to create this bag.

  • Name: Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag- Blue
  • Model #: 6102
  • Weight: 3.2 lb.
  • External Dimensions: 21.5″ W x 16″ H x 8″ D
  • Fits laptops up to 16″
  • Built in safety light with replaceable battery compartment
  • Bomber, water-shedding 1000D Cordura fabric
  • Waterproof internal compartment for laptop, electronics
  • Comfortable shoulder strap with quick release phone pocket
  • Large capacity, expands to 1300 cubic inches
  • 100% lifetime guarantee and then some
  • Patent pending magnetic Hydro FlapsTM keep your gear dry

I’ll upload some photos of me actually using it when the review is done!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.