Published on September 8th, 2009 | by Greg0
Bag Crazy: BBP, CamelBak, and prAna
Hold on to your hats (and boots, and laptops)- we’ve got a month-long set reviewing baggage and luggage and item-carriers of all sorts. We missed posting this on Labor Day, but for a good cause, as we were out enjoying the last of summer and testing backpacks and camera cases and laptop slings. Hard work for sure. Today, we’re looking at three companies bringing their own fairly unique styles to the world of bags: CamelBak, prAna, and BBP.
The CamelBak Presidio is perhaps the most conventional of today’s set. From the makers of a great variety of hydration packs, this one is a daypack aimed at a more general audience. It’s still got fantastic distinctive stitching- ours was solid black with ‘bombay’ orange though a grey/chocolate combo is available- and manages to fit in a very large amount of room (37L) into a pretty light bag (a bit over two and a half pounds). Upper and lower cross-straps ensure even balancing and distribution of weight, and the padded internal pocket fits even large laptops (up to 17 inches). Side zippered pockets are pretty standard, but these are larger than almost any others we’ve seen. We liked the lined top pocket, perfect for your iPod or phone, but weren’t sure about the divider splitting up the space. It’s also hard to access- good for deterring thieves perhaps but a bit of a pain for quick access when your phone starts ringing.
The Presidio also boasts of a nifty feature, likely best used by bicyclists- an overflow storage pouch that is safely stored at the bottom of the bag but quickly snaps on and allows you to snugly hug your bike helmet to the bag (or other items) to the outside of the pack. The straps are decent, and padded, but aren’t quite as good as many others and are pretty stiff. A similar note on the zippers, which are pretty solid but tend to catch a bit. Overall, we don’t hesitate to recommend the CamelBak for those looking for a straight-forward bag with plenty of carrying space. At $90, it’s a decent deal.
Less conventional is the prAna Slowboat Duffle. Maybe the odd capitalization gives it away, but they offer an array of yoga and meditation gear, and offer a no questions, full-price promise on all of their items. And did we mention that the bag is made from 100% recycled materials? It’s available only in espresso, but looks sharp for both men and women. And it can be used as either a duffel or backpack (but is a bit awkward either way). Sharp decorative stitching, a volume of 42L that exceeds even the Presidio, at a weight under 2.5 pounds- lots to love on the Slowboat. Giant side pockets hold your water bottles, and compression straps double as yoga mat straps (or vice versa, depending).
We loved the velcro-sealed sunglass (or valuable) pouch that was easily-accessible, though not felt-lined like many others. A trade-off was present in the main compartment as well- you can certainly have too many dividers and such, but the Slowboat offered none (in true duffle spirit). This frees up a lot of space to use as you wish though. Only a single, upper cross-strap is present, and the straps themselves are not well padded- nor is the rest of the bag, so this isn’t a great laptop carrier. And our main problem was that for such a large bag, that ostensibly will be carrying a fair bit of weight, the primary duffel handle is completely unpadded, quite rough, and very small, making for uncomfortable carrying any way you try it. If you’re carrying large volumes, and low weight, the prAna Slowboat is a super-attractive, environmentally-friendly bag, with some extras that add points if you meditate or practice yoga. At $84-$125, it’s reasonably-priced as well.
Finally, we have two BBP items- the Breathe Sleeve for netbooks and the large Hybrid Hamptons bag. Obviously, the two we’ve been using aren’t necessarily aimed at the same person- the bag can hold up to a 17-inch Mac or 15-inch PC laptop, while the netbook sleeve is available in a 10-inch size. You can get the sleeve in larger versions- 13, 15, or 17 inches- and the bag in other sizes- from the small that is aimed at folks with 12-inch laptops to the XL that holds larger PC laptops. We’ll touch on the sleeve first- neoprene adds padding, the breathe technology adds, well, ventilation, and the mini pockets for USB thumb drives and a USB or Firewire cable are a nice addition. The zippers are surprisingly good, and the overall effect is pretty sexy (as long as you like black). Our only issue was the hand strap, which didn’t work too well- we would’ve preferred something a bit more serious or removable perhaps. At $25, it seems priced about right too, and perfect for the eeePC or
Hybrid might sound a bit scary when talking about your food, but BBP doesn’t stray into agriculture. The Hybrid Hamptons bag is a bit of a freak though- folks might not notice at first, but when you show them, the response is usually ‘brilliant!’ Conventional messenger bags have one long over-the-shoulder strap and are wider, while backpacks have the traditional two straps- this one uses a clever system to allow you to convert between them, called the Bak2Pak. Now, most folks will want to settle on one or the other, and have a preference, but it’s nice to know the option exists should you grow tired of a particular orientation. A normal top handle is available too, though again, relatively unpadded. Three readily-accessible front pockets hold your gadgets, and we liked the cute modified latches that are circular rather than the typical clasps. It looks a bit geeky and awkward- as a backpack, it’s quite wide, and as a messenger bag feels a bit unnatural. It is well cushioned though, and has sternum and waist straps (almost critical for balance here), and a nifty luggage handle pass-thru allowing you to easily slip the bag on your wheeled luggage handles. Several nicely laid out pockets, as well as two side pockets, complete the package, which is available for $90.