Back in December 2012, I spent an afternoon with the guys at Blaq Design, touring their recently opened store front and production facility. They were kind enough to send me home with one of their Blaqpack flattop backpacks. I have spent the past 9 months using this bag daily. This handmade, quality bag has held up amazingly well, with hardly a sign of wear and tear. It’s hauled everything from a weekend trips worth of stuff to a week’s worth of groceries. It’s seen a few beer runs. It’s been through rain and shine. I’ve taken it on vacations, used it as a carry on for flights, and it’s seen the woods while camping. And most importantly, it’s been on my back while riding my bike, a lot.
Find out how well it performs past the jump.
But first, the details. The Blaqpack comes in both a flattop and a role top version. It’s constructed from 1000d Cordura, and the main compartment is lined with an18oz truck tarp to keep things dry. The bag features two side pockets (one mesh, and one standard with a drain), three front organizational pockets, a loop for clipping things to, a front zippered pocket, and a large main compartment with a sleeve pocket and two more organizational pockets against the back. There are two compression straps per side and two at the bottom to cinch things down with. A chest and waist strap are present. There is a quick grab handle at the top. And last but not least, the main straps are sewn in using a single yoke, have accessory loops, and they have a dog leg at the end to help wrap them towards your side for comfort. All hardware is plastic (minus the YKK zipper).
Upon receiving the bag, my first impressions were high. The quality of construction is great. There doesn’t seem to be a stitch out of place. You can really tell a lot of thought was put into the design and layout of this bag.
On the daily I make good use of all the pockets. I keep spare tubes and rain gear in the bottom of the main compartment. Stacked on top of that goes lunch and anything else I may need for the day. In this case, my camera. The organizational pockets hold my tool pouch and hip pouch (more on those later), and the sleeve behind them gets the iPad or laptop when needed. Should I stop at the store on the way home, there is plenty of room for a bag of groceries.
The main compartment is certainly big enough to pack a weekends worth of clothes and then some however, thanks to the expandable flap. It really does allow the bag to swallow a ton of stuff when needed. Plus, the compression straps expand out, allowing you to wrap the flap around a parcel or wheelset, or etc. The best part though, is that this bag doesn’t wear like a typical large pack. Thanks to good design, it cinches down to carry just your daily needs like a smaller bag, and your stuff doesn’t bounce around in a cavernous compartment.
The external zippered pocket is typically filled with riding gear such as lights, gloves, and a hat. My headphones and other electronica live in there when it’s dry out as well.
The front organizational pockets hold a bottle opener, pens, and chapstick.
The mesh side pocket is great for holding keys because the mesh “grabs” them. The non-mesh pocket, with its drain, gets a bottle from time to time, and its the permanent home for my Abus U-Lock.
In use, the bag is fantastic. It sit in the sweet spot on my back, and whether fully loaded or not, it’s comfortable, despite the straps having no padding. The straps are designed with comfort in mind. The single yoke at the top, plus the dog leg at the bottom cause them to contour to my body well, and I have no complaints about the way they fit.
On the bike the bag performs great. WIth my daily carry, I keep the compression straps cinched in and make use of the waist and chest straps to keep the bag stable. It rides like a much smaller bag this way. I have no trouble seeing over the top of the bag when I turn my head to look back. Should I need to portage a larger load, I can easily expand the bag out. The comfort is still there, however. The way the bag sits on my back, the waist strap hits me just above my hips and really helps to support the weight of larger loads. I never have an issue with the bag swaying from side to side while riding, no matter what it’s packed with.
Off the bike, the bag has done no wrong either. I used this as my carry on for our trip to Denver for NAHBS. I was surprised when the bag fit under the seat in front of me on the plane, and didn’t have to be stowed in the overhead bin. Loaded with only the essentials, I carried the bag around the show floor for six hours and experienced much less fatigue that expected. Again, the waist strap really does help to support the bag.
As far as weatherproofness is concerned, the bag is weather resistant, but not full on waterproof. While the Cordura will do a great job of keeping the rain out, it’s not 100% waterproof. The seams are well stitched, but not taped. The main compartment does have a truck tarp liner and will work great to keep the stuff housed in it dry. The flap covering it however, is not lined. That said, the top folds over on itself when closed, and I have yet to have water show up inside the main compartment. This wouldn’t be my first bag of choice in a monsoon, or even in a really heavy downpour. Using the bag in the regular rain here in Portland however, the wet stuff hasn’t made it’s way in. If it’s raining just plan on keeping that electronica in the main compartment.
As for the pouches Blaq supplied, I love them. The large grey one is perfect for carrying all the tools needed for repairs. It has one main compartment, with a small pocket that is also covered by the flap. It slots into one of the organizational pockets in the main compartment perfectly.
The hip pouch has been stuffed with random smalls such as ibuprofen, my inhaler, hand sanitizer, spare headphones, etc. It fits into the other inside pocket as well. It has two passthroughs on the back, allowing you to wear it on a belt and carry a U-Lock. There are two side pockets, one front pocket, and the main inside compartment that is covered by the flap. It’s great having these to keep all the miscellaneous things I have to carry secured in one place.
To sum it up, the Blaqpack is one of those magical bags that seems to fit many roles without many downsides. The bag holds all of the things well, and does it with comfort. It holds just a few things well without feeling like the large bag it really is. I’ve been using this bag for 9 solid months, day in and day out, and there is no signs of wear and tear yet. I have a feeling this one is going to be hard to kill. Plus, it’s made to order, you can customize the colors and graphics to your liking. If you’re on the hunt for a new bag and have $224 in the budget, check out Blaq Design’s Blaqpack.