What do you need in a backpack?
What do you need in a backpack? Like with everything else these days, thanks to the free market, you have a ton of options. So, if you’re anything like me, how you go about answering that question will probably boil down to a needs versus cost evaluation. Presumably, but not always, the more you need, the more you’re going to have to spend and, conversely, the less money you have to spend, the less of your needs you’ll be able to meet.
With that in mind, I’m in a relatively good spot as I have relatively simple needs. I’m what one might call an “urban survivalist,” which is — as I define it — just a fancy way of saying a city dweller who dabbles in the outdoors when money and time and a discerning girlfriend permits. You know what I mean, the occasional hike in a state park, the overnight stay at a friend’s hunting cabin, and, of course, the periodic trips to the gun range.
Last time I checked I’m not shipping off to the sandbox to fight terrorists nor I’m I planning an expedition into the lost forests of Mozambique, so I don’t need a hardcore, top-of-the-line $400 pack made from unicorn fur. Even if I was doing either mission, it’s debatable on whether I would need to spend that many dead presidents on a bag. Nevertheless, when I ask myself that question, What do I need in a pack? I surmised that I need a durable and comfortable backpack that won’t break the bank. Simple enough.
Specs & Features
- Liters: 34L, 2073 CU in.
- Inner Main Compartment: 18″ x 10″ x 5″
- Inner Secondary Compartment: 16″ x 9″ x 3″
- Outer Top Compartment: 5″ x 8″ x 3″
- Outer Bottom Compartment: 10″ x 8″ x 3″
- Material: 600D Polyester
- Double-Stitched Grab Handle
- Heavy Duty Zippers and Utility-Style Cord Pulls
- Side and Front Load Compression System
- Ventilated Mesh Padding for Strap & Back Area
- Durable Polymer Buckles & Anchors
- Made in China
- Price: $45
The Bravo is a 34L in total size with five zippered compartments that are cleverly situated. You have the main compartment, the secondary compartment, a front “stash” compartment, a front “admin” compartment and a back “hydration” compartment.
The main compartment zips all the way down to make it easier for you to load it up. In the main compartment, there is a mesh pocket on one side and zippered pocket on the other to help you keep things organized. That’s a running theme with the Bravo; you have: compartments, and pockets and straps, oh my! Plenty of room to place stuff, to organize it, and secure it.
The secondary compartment is smaller than the main. But it too has mesh pockets to help you organize items. The front stash compartment, the smallest of all five, is great for putting keys, wallet, sunglasses — items one needs at a moment’s notice. Underneath the stash pocket is the admin pocket, which contains slots for pens, pencils, markers, and such. If you’re a writer, like me, it’s a great place for your notepad as well.
Lastly, there is the back hydration pocket, which is nicely padded so that your back sits comfortable against it. The hydration pocket is designed to contain one of those bladder systems or, if you’d like, your computer (because of the padding).
The outside of the bag is decked out in the PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing to military specification with 1″ tall webbing and standard 1″ spacing. If you need even more compartments or modular capability with MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) gear, the PALS webbing allows one to add-on pouches and accessories.
The outer shell of the pack is made from 600 Denier Polyester (Denier is a measurement for an individual thread of material. In terms of thickness, the human hair is 20 denier. So, we’re talking about pretty thick fibers of polyester). While not as strong as some higher end material, like waxed Scottish canvas or 1000D Cordura, the 600D polyester holds its own in terms of toughness and durability. There are seven compression straps, two along each side, two on the bottom and one that goes vertically down the front of the pack. Additionally, there’s also a waist strap and a chest strap to help secure the Bravos to you and balance a heavy load.
What I Love
On the whole, I have to say that I’m really impressed with this backpack. Without a doubt, my favorite part of the pack are the padded shoulder straps. They are incredibly comfortable! If you’ve read my last bag review, you know I’m a “murse guy,” that is I typically carry a one-strap computer bag when I travel to shows and conventions and such. But, tell you what, I may be a convert to a two-strap situation because my other one-strap bags have nothing on the Bravo. You may be thinking, wow, what an incredibly trivial feature to praise. To that I say, try on a Bravo and then talk to me. It’s night and day in terms of comfort compared to my one-strap murses or, for that matter, the two-strap bookbags I carried throughout high school.
Shoulder straps aside, the Bravo is a great companion for almost any journey. Since I received it in the spring, I’ve taken it on several road trips, a flight, a hike, to a half marathon and it’s held up perfectly through all that traveling — no rips or fraying, no zipper issues, no broken straps or buckles, no damage to report. None of those would be considered “hard use” jobs, but like I said, I’m not a soldier or a mountaineer.
The layout of the Bravo is also great. All those pockets really come in handy. See, I’m a guy who likes to keep things segregated. So, when I travel with the Bravo, I keep my clean clothes in the main compartment and dirty clothes in the secondary compartment. I keep my computer in the hydration compartment and the cords for the computer in the main mesh pocket. My travel kit (containing my toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, etc.) goes in the stash pocket or admin pocket, depending on how much other stuff I’m bringing on the trip. Anyways, that’s probably more than you needed to know about my packing habits. However, my point remains: there is plenty of room to store things however you see fit.
Lastly, all those compression straps really aid you in minimizing the size of the pack when space is an issue. When you fly, for example, it’s great to be able to condense the size of your bag so it fits in that tiny space below the seat in front of you or in that indubitably-crowded overhead bin.
I can usually find a drawback in almost anything I review. I’m very picky. But with the Bravo, it’s hard to fault-find, especially at its $45 price point. It really is. That said, if I had to point out anything, it wouldn’t be about the bag itself but about the absence of a warranty on the website.
To get to the bottom of this issue, I emailed the ad company representing Exos-Gear and asked about the warranty, to which he kindly replied, “As of this minute they do not have an official warranty policy but you can imagine they take care of any issues customers might have.”
I believe that response. I’m sure they would send you a new backpack if it malfunctioned or if there was a defect, but it’d be nice to have it in writing on the website itself. I think we all like when a company explicitly stands by its product. They’re a newer company, though, so maybe they just haven’t gotten around to it.
Anyways, that’s the one complaint I have. Well, if I had to lodge another, it would be my color choice. I should have opted for gray or black. The coyote tan makes me seem like a wannabe soldier. I don’t want to be accused of stolen valor by carrying a para-military looking backpack.
In my last pack review, one of the commenters mentioned this phenomenon. He was a civilian that carried a tactical looking backpack in a color reminiscent of a solider’s (probably olive drab or coyote tan), and people would thank him for his service when he was traveling through airports. Pretty funny. But it undoubtedly put him in an awkward situation. I mean, what do you say? “Thanks!” Or, “No, I never served.” That whole predicament sounds like the premise to a Seinfeld episode.
If you ask me, for 45 bucks, it’s a no-brainer! With the holidays around the corner, if you need a solid gift idea, check out the Exos-Gear Bravo Series Tactical Backpack. It’s functional, comfortable and affordable! I mean, what else do you need in a backpack?
Click here to check out the Bravo on Amazon.com.