Words & Photos by | Jun Song | Contributing Photographer – Rick Poon |
(Disclosure: The Company sent this bag for me to review; however this is not a paid advertisement/endorsement for the Company, and the Company has no influence on my review/opinion of their products)
Few months ago, I was contacted by Colfax Design Works, a company that makes technical backpacks. They asked me if I’d be willing to do test their bag out and do a gear review of it. The bag looked interesting enough so I said sure. Since, I’ve been using the bag as my daily commuter bag to-from work. I don’t really need a bag this big for work because I usually only carry small lunch/snack items, and occasionally umbrella or clothing items. But I wanted to get a good feel of the bag so I used it as often as I can. In addition to my everyday use, I used it every time I went off-roading and I got to take it on a weekend adventure last week. Two of my friends, Joon and Rick, and I flew into San Francisco to ride up the Pacific Coast Highway to Mendocino, and it turned out to be a perfect weekender backpack.
So this is my review of Colfax’s twenty one liter Standard Issue Daypack, based on my use from last 2-3 months.
I really like the all black, minimalistic look of this bag. The roll-top design gives it a bit of ruggedness but not too distracting. I also liked the fact that the Company didn’t slap their logo anywhere on the bag, enchanting the minimalistic look. There is a tag on the side-corner with the Company’s name/log, but even that’s discreetly placed and well hidden from most view.
The bag is modular, i.e. you can attach additional items to the bag such as one or more pouches, laptop-tablet sleeves, and waist belt. So, if you’re not a fan of the simple minimalistic look, then you can add as many different combination of their accessories and make it a,… well not so minimalist looking bag. But doing this comes at a HUGE cost, literally, which leads to my next point:
PRICE/VALUE (Really Depends…)
Just the bag itself cost $340, which could be cheap or expensive depending on how you look at it. It’s very expensive if you compare it to technical bags made by large outdoor companies such as The North Face, which run around $200 at most for similar sized bags. But if you compare it to more premium backpack maker such as GORUK, which makes similar spec bags as Colfax does for about $300, then it’s not too expensive.
On an absolute dollar amount, $340 is a lot for an average consumer, even for me. On top of that, if you really want to take advantage of the “modular” capabilities of Colfax’s bag, then it become a lot more expensive, really quick. One of their large pouches costs $60, but it looks a bit odd only having one pouch attached to the bag, so let say you buy two, which adds $120. And for heavier load, you’d probably want the waist belt to ease the load, which is another $55. Now you’re bag costs $515!!!! Yikes…$$$
I think at $340, just for the bag, it is a good contender if you’re looking for a solid technical premium backpack, but the marginal benefit of adding even just one pouch for $60 significantly reduces the total value of the bag. It’s hard for me to say if any backpack is worth +$400, since my Osprey Aether 70 liter Pack cost around $300, and that’s a bag I take on a multi-day backcountry backpacking trip with over 50lbs (22kg) of gears…
Ultimately, price/value becomes a very subjective topic. If you’re looking for a budget backpack, this is definitely not for you, but if you usually don’t blink an eye spending $400, then I don’t think you’ll regret putting this in your shopping cart.
I love the overall functionality of this bag, except there is one big issue, which is that I primarily use my backpacks for photography, i.e. carrying camera gears. Let me come back to my issue, so first, let me go over why I love this bag. For my weekend trip up Pacific Coast Highway, I was able to carry everything I need, minus my helmet, in just this one bag with one pouch. I was able to fit clothes for two days, my DSLR body with three lenses (one of them being a 70-200mm zoom lens), bunch of camera accessories, mini tripod, my GoPro mount, and my 15inch MacBook Pro. All in all, I must have had aroudn 20lbs (9kg) of gear in my bag.
The roll-top makes the bag very adjustable to how much capacity you need. Because technically, you can fit as much crap into the bag, filling it all the way to the top of the roll-top (I wouldn’t recommend this though). Ideally, you still want to be able to roll the top fully, if not to at least 2/3 of the way.
I also love how all the clips have a pull-release mechanism (see photo below). Generally, you have to press on both side of the clip to release, but for this bag, each clips have pull-strings attached that you can just grab and pull, which releases the roll-top clip and the chest strap clip. This is ideal if you’re wearing motorcycle gloves (or any gloves), which generally limits your fingers’ ability to locate and press small buttons/levers. The bag also has a built in water bladder pocket and tube slot, so you can use that if you want. I didn’t try my water bladder so I can’t say much about it, but it’s definitely nice to have for hikes, or for long off-road rides.
The bag is also comfortable due to its full adjustability. You can adjust the top shoulder strap, chest strap (both length and position), and the shoulder strap length. During my Pacific Coast trip, I wore the bag on my back the whole ride, and didn’t feel discomfort from it. For rides like this, I fully-lossen the length of the shoulder strap and let the bag just sit on the back of the seat.
Now to my issue. As I said, I primarily use my backpack for carrying photography gear and my trip last weekend wasn’t an exception as 80% of my travel gears were my camera gears. As a photographer, I need to be able to easily access my camera, lens, or accessories that are in my bag. The biggest issues for me are: 1) the roll-top with two-clip release system makes it a bit cumbersome for me to open and access my camera. Ideally, a single zipper works best for accessing cameras, 2) the bag only has one way into the bag, i.e. it doesn’t have any size or mid level zippers, which would allow me to access equipments that’s in the middle or bottom of the bag. I wouldn’t call these issues a deal breaker, but it’s definitely inconvenient; however, if I don’t need to use it for photo gears, then it’s a great bag.
I usually don’t do rain tests on gears, but it happened to rain all weekend during my Pacific Coast trip. In that regards, the bag held up great. The bag’s fabric is “X51 1000d Cordura with tear resistant X-ply layer and backed with a laminated PET waterproof membrane”. Whatever that means, it sounds impressive and defiantly kept the rain out.
I wore the bag on my back so it wasn’t exposed to the front hitting rain, but all my gear remained dry and the bag did well even when I threw it around with that much weight in it.
I’m not sure if this automatically makes it a good quality product, but the bag is made in USA. Even if I don’t consider its origin, the bag is very well built with high quality product.
One flaw I noticed this morning while filming my review is that the stitching threads of the accessory-attaching belt loops were starting to come loose (see photos below). I’m pretty sure it wasn’t like this when I got it and I’m not sure what would have cause them to come loose, but it’s definitely a concern, especially when there’s multiple threads coming loose. As a reult, long-term durability test remains to be seen.
CONCLUSION (I’ll be using it)
Overall, this is a good, well rounded bag and I’ll probably be using it on a regular basis. I’ve already used it every time I went off-roading, which has been great and it’s proven to be a perfect weekend getaway bag, so I don’t see a reason why I wouldn’t.
I guess the big question is, should you buy it? I think I already answered that in the PRICE/VALUE section. It really depends.