Review: Chrome Yalta Backpack

One of the things I have a hard time giving up is my backpack. I know that I could probably get to work and back, more comfortably too, with just a seatpack with tools for flats. But I can’t let go of all the superfluous stuff I like to have handy, so many of you may recall my recent review of the Mission Workshop Vandal backpack. Well, shortly after that review I was asked to test out the newly released Chrome Yalta pack. I’ve owned their messenger bags, and their shoes are still holding up as my shop shoes after a year, so I was pumped to try it out on my commute. Check out my thoughts on it after the jump…

The Yalta was a holiday season addition to the Chrome backpack line, offering their famous design and quality in a more affordable package. Unfortunately, that cost savings comes at a cost; producing these bags overseas in China. However I did not notice any major, glaring quality difference from their previous products. (That’s not to say, of course, that there is not a greater monetary value in keeping folks in California employed… unless of course, you hate Californians. To that, I would ask, “but why?”). It features one main roll-top compartment, one small zippered outer pocket and a side loading laptop… well, sleeve I guess. I cannot call it a pocket, because it is not really one. The side zipper exposes the inside of the bag, where you can see the “outside” of the floating main compartment, and reveals built-in laptop sleeve with a Velcro tab closure. (I put my vintage laptop in there, otherwise known as a book and notebook.)

Why yes, that *is* Ten Points by Bicycling Magazine editor-at-large Bill Strickland, borrowed from the library. Yes, I am enjoying it quite a bit, thank you for asking.

Feed me, Seymour.

I was quite surprised to learn that the bag was nearly exactly the same dimensions/volume as my Vandal, as it appears to be much smaller due to its shape and layout, or maybe that it tapers a bit more at the top… Moving everything over to the new bag was challenging, given it is basically one big pocket, but once I got settled, it was not as bad as I anticipated. Even my cell holder was easily strapped into place with their excellent shoulder strap design. Strapping the bag on, it is immediately noticeable how light the bag is, and how well it fits against your back. It is very easily adjusted, and my only complaint in that department was that I had a lot of excess straps flapping about, especially on the chest stabilizing strap, which it took a while to figure out what to do with.

Riding with this bag was really wonderful. It did not move about very much, staying relatively firmly planted against my back and it did not feel heavy, although I never really overloaded it. It also was nearly invisible when peeking over my shoulder, because of the taper towards the top, and the thinner opening/roll-top. Although I was able to feel the pattern of padding on the back, I felt that the “channels” it created did a decent job of aerating that area and helped to keep the effects of SBS (Sweaty Back Syndrome) to a minimum. On an entirely less useful note, using the side zipper for my book worked smashingly on the train, giving easy access when sitting with the bag on my lap  (and my bike * practically* on my lap). Overall, I was becoming pretty stoked on the bag. That was, until…

…the rain.

I just need to point out that this was almost entirely my fault. Chrome does not make any claim that this bag is waterproof. They state that it is “weatherproof,” which is clearly not the same thing. I made an assumption, based on my experiences and twisted library of knowledge, that this bag was waterproof, based on its appearance, and never even questioned the fact I had just invented. Yeah, well, that’s just like, your opinion, man. Turns out, it is truly weatherproof, in that when I rode in the rain on the first day it was fine. However, by day three in the rain, it had sprung some leakage and moistened some things. I should be clear, that my vintage laptop (not the library book, it was one of my own at the time) was included in said moistened items, therefore, should any of you decide to put a modern laptop in there and ride yourself through the storm of the century, well… you have been warned. This pertains solely to the zippered areas, as I found that it is the zippers themselves that are not watertight. I did not experience any issue with the roll-top main pocket, which is where Chrome would advise you to move anything of damageable importance, should you find yourself in some nasty weather.

In the end, I did like this bag. The positives of its performance outweighed the negative of not handling weather most people wouldn’t have ridden in anyway. I think it is a perfect choice for a light commuter, student or any fair-weather cyclist looking for a comfortable pack with lots of room that is (here’s my NorCal nod) hella affordable. However, if you live in, say Portland or Seattle, and/or ride no matter the weather… well then perhaps you should keep saving, and keep shopping.

PS- Functionally, I think one of  my favorite parts of the bag was the stainless steel buckle. I don’t know the origin of this style, but I see it occasionally. I was blown away with how effective and quickly that buckle works.

Details:

Weight: 3.5 lb.
Fabric: 1,000 denier Tarpaulin outer shell, 18 oz. truck tarp liner
Product Source: Guangzhou, China
Flat Dimensions: 14” wide, 21” high, 6” deep
Volume: 29L
Features:

  • Weatherproof 1,000 denier Tarpaulin outer shells for maximum water resistance
  • Stainless steel hook rolltop closure
  • Floating bucket liner for added wetness protection
  • Laptop compartment, fits up to 17”
  • Front zippered pockets for extra organization
  • Ergonomic EVA foam back panel with air mesh shoulder straps
  • Industrial metal cam lock under arm compression buckles
  • Cross-chest load stabilizer

MSRP: $120

Comments

Nick Burklow - 01/29/11 - 2:05pm

I have been commuting with a Chrome Soyuz for over a year now and I really like that bag. It has held up better than I thought it would. My only complaint is that, due to the second compartment for a laptop, the bag doesn’t expand very much. I often find myself grabbing my timbuktu messenger bag when shipping even small to medium sized packages. Otherwise, the multiple front pockets are great, and keep all my superfluous stuff in. Chrome seems to make a pretty quality product. Nice write up Chris. I do have a feeling that the Vandal will be my next back though.

Ghost Rider - 01/29/11 - 10:39pm

As a librarian by day and bike blogger by night, I have a few words to say: “hooray for library books!”

Good review — not too different in layout from the Timbuk2 “Swig” I scored just before last year’s Interbike — but for me, a backpack HAS to have a waistbelt, not just a chest stabilizer (the Swig has neither). A backpack just rides better with a waistbelt…and I wish more of these companies would realize that.

[...]  Chrome has been busy cranking out new products.  We recently reviewed the Yalta, put up information about the new Kursk Pro, and now they tell us their product line up has grown [...]

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