Category Archives: Bags

Topo Designs 30L Travel Bag Review

Topo Designs 30L Travel Bag Review

Topo Travel Bag 30L

Topo Travel Bag – Daypack Mode

Video Review – Scroll down for text and photos

If you’ve followed my blog/YouTube for any length of time, you know I like Topo Designs bags and backpacks

Topo Designs lured me in with the original daypack in… 2011? I followed that up with the Duffel bag, the Mini Mountain bag, the Klettersack (which I oddly never reviewed) and then the original Travel Bag – the full size one, the discontinued Backpack Tote, the Field Bag, The Mountain Briefcase, the Cinch Tote Bag, and the Mountain Pack. In addition to that, my kid carries the Y-Pack to school every day and my wife has the Quick Pack

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

I was going to try and deny being some sort of Topo Designs nutjob… Oh well. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

If I’m a nut for Topo Designs bags and packs, it’s with good reason. The bags are sturdy, long-lasting, and functional. They come in great colors and unique designs. They’re carefully crafted and up until recently, they were made exclusively in the USA. I really, really like stuff made in the USA. While Topo has shifted some manufacturing overseas (I assume to meet with increased demand – they carry Topo Designs at REI now), several pieces are still made in the USA – not just in the USA actually, but right next door in Colorado. 

If any company could be said to have a geographic vibe, then Topo Designs does. Their designs fit perfectly in the Western US – in the Mountains, in the deserts. In the wide open spaces and in quirky (often tourist-packed) mountain towns. That’s not to say they won’t find a happy home in an urban environment or anywhere else in the world, but their mountain heritage is evident in the designs, materials and colors. In the beginning you could have called them “retro.” You can’t call them that anymore. They find inspiration in designs from the 70’s and 80’s, but at this point Topo Designs is doing their own thing – and they’re doing it very well. 

Topo Designs made a Travel Pack several years ago (I (embarrassingly) review it here) – a bag sized to fit airline carry-on restrictions. It came with an optional satellite pack (The Trip Pack) that hooked to the front and came off to serve as a smaller daypack or “personal item,” which is airline speak for the bag that goes under the seat in front of you and ruins what little comfort you may have had. I used the original travel bag for years and while it was a great bag, it had two issues I struggled with. First, it was too large for anything other than travel, and second, it didn’t lie flat when open. Topo has solved both these issues with this new bag – in fact they’ve gone a step further by offering the redesigned Travel Bag in two sizes. Both lie flat when open. Let’s check it out. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

The Review:

Topo sent me the smaller Topo Travel Bag – the 30L. By my measurements it’s roughly 13″ X 7.5″ X 20. It’s perhaps a hair larger than a what you might use for an everyday type daypack, but not terribly so. For example, I generally use the Topo Designs Mountain Pack as my go-to daypack for almost everything, and it’s about 25-26 liters vs the Travel Bag at about 30L. Unless you’re tiny or like to pack really light you could probably use the 30L Travel Bag as a daypack most of the time. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

In fact, using it as a daypack is exactly what I’ve been doing with it. For the last month or so, I packed it all over. I carried running gear, computer gear, and camera gear in it. I hiked a little with it and I slipped it into an overhead bin on an airplane and threw it in the back of my truck. in short, it’s an awesome, well-designed, tough bag that will serve any traveler or outdoor enthusiast quite well.  

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

Frequent travelers will note a few features that stand out as setting the Topo Travel Bag apart from the competition. I love that you can stow the shoulder straps. I drive all over for work and often I just need a bag, not a backpack. Stowing the shoulder straps makes the bag seem much sleeker and more manageable. With the shoulder straps stowed, the bag still has four other options for carry – five if you count the pass through that goes over a larger, roller bag handle. There are three handles sewn into the bag – one on top and one on each side. This means no matter how I put the bag in the truck, I’ve always got a handle I can grab to get the bag out. It’s also got the adjustable shoulder strap. I like that the strap swivels – it rarely gets tangled. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

The location of the pass through for the roller bag handle doubles as the back padding and adds some rigidity to the bag overall. It’s a bag that seems to really hold its shape. The padding for the the back and the pass through slot doubles as padding for the laptop compartment, which is also padded on the other side (the clothing/contents side). If you stow the backpack straps then the laptop compartment is that much more padded. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

If you count the laptop compartment then there’s technically 9 different pockets on the bag. There’s one on the front – with two zippered internal ones, there’s the front compartment with a zipper pouch and two slip pockets, and then the main compartment has two zippered mesh compartments. I’ve always praised Topo Designs for their restraint – they put enough pockets to be organized, but not so many users get confused. I had a small North Face pack once that I hated using because it had too many pockets. I couldn’t find anything in that bag. The Topo Travel Bag has, thankfully, an appropriate number of pockets. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

The laptop compartment on the 30L version of the Travel Bag easily fits my 14″ laptop. Topo claims it’ll fit most 15.6″ laptops, but I’m a little skeptical. I have an older (8+ yrs) 15.6 laptop and it definitely won’t fit. Perhaps a more modern, sleeker 15.6″ will? If you’re on the fence about the 30L version and use a 15.6 laptop, it’s worth confirming before purchasing.

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

It has clips top and bottom for attaching other Topo bags, such as the Y-Pack, or the Trip Pack, so that you’ll actually have two bags when you get where you’re going. This is a great idea. I hate having to empty out all my clothes to use the one bag I brought once I’m at a destination. The more bags I have with me, the better. 

The plastic hardware is WooJin, and while I’d never heard of it before, they feel nice and work well. It’s not cheapo plastic. It’s substantial, clean, and smooth to the touch – no rough edges that I can find. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

The clips that hold the potential separate pack and the shoulder straps and waist strap are a little difficult to unclip. They have a little wire bale that needs to be unhooked from the plastic catch, and I find myself using quite a bit of manipulation to get them undone. Clipping them back together is a cinch. I wish getting them unclipped was that easy. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

The waist strap and the sternum straps are, thankfully, removable. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

There’s a couple little webbing loops at the bottom of the zippers that allow users to tuck the zippers in for an added measure of security. Of course it’s no substitute for a lock or a vigilant eye, but it makes it a little more difficult for someone to quickly and quietly slip the bag open and help themselves. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

And finally, it lies flat. I love bags that lie flat. Once you unzip it and open it up, there’s no hidden corners or areas that users can’t see or access. 

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review

lastly, there’s nothing more frustrating than reaching into and looking for something in a giant black hole of bag. I congratulate Topo Designs for keeping the bright yellow interior.  

Topo Designs 30L Travel Bag Pros:

  • Lies flat
  • Goldilocks sized – not too big not too small
  • Shoulder straps stow nicely
  • Lots of handles
  • Can attach other Topo Packs
  • Design is both bomber and fun
  • Waist strap is removable
  • Sternum strap adjustable/removable


  • Some hardware can be tough to manipulate
  • 30L size probably won’t fit larger than 14″ laptop
  • Foreign Made (although Topo does still produce several bags in the US – one of only a handful of manufacturers to do so)
  • Premium pricing

Topo Designs 30 Liter Travel Bag Review








Patagonia MLC – The Best ONE Bag?

The Patagonia MLC is my go-to bag for travel. It’s been all over the world with me.

Patagonia MLC Review

I’ve been a fan of Patagonia for a while now – since about 1984 if I had to think back. Since then I’ve had about a million fleece jackets and shirts and I’ve destroyed more baggies shorts on the river than I care to imagine. I’ve found what I think are some real gems in the Patagonia line-up – gear they’ve made for years that stands the test of time both from a design and a use standpoint. I think their iconic Snap-T fleece shirt is one of those items. I think the Patagonia MLC is another. 

Patagonia MLC

Here’s my video review of the Patagonia MLC – jump down if you want the old-fashioned experience of actually reading something, 

I bought my first Patagonia MLC (Maximum Legal Carry-On) in the late 90’s? I had it for a while and sold it. I bought another one in about 2005 and sold it about ten years later. I bought the updated Headway 45L version about a year ago, then the Black Hole MLC at the end of the summer. I then actually bought back the one from 2005 (a friend had it)  and now my son uses it. The Patagonia MLC is just that good. It’s really the do-everything bag. 

(Patagonia offers two different versions of this bag now – the Headway MLC in a ballistic nylon, and the Black Hole MLC in a ripstop, trucker tarp style. I show both in the video above, but the photos here are only of the Black Hole MLC.  I’ve fond I use it a little more, although I appreciate the subtlety of the Headway version, which lacks the bold branding on the exterior of the bag.) 

Technical stuff? The Patagonia MLC It’s 22.75″ x 6.75″ x 18″. It’ll fit a 17″ laptop. It has a ton of pockets. If you get the Black Hole version the interior is bright orange, if you get the Headway version, the interior is a more subtle gray. The interior pockets differ slightly on the two versions of the bags, but not in any meaningful way. 

Patagonia MLC

The zippers on the version I have from 2005 are huge – probably overkill. The zippers on the current version are much smaller, but seem to so the job. In fact they seem more in line with the design of the bag than a larger zipper would. The bag in these photos is blue and orange, although sometimes it definitely looks black.

Patagonia MLCPatagonia MLC

The shoulder strap works well and the backpack straps are comfortable. I’ve always loved being able to stow or hide the backpack straps when they’re not being used. While users give up a little comfort for the convenience – dedicated straps and a more complex back pad might be more comfortable over the long run – this isn’t necessarily a dedicated backpack. it’s designed to get you the airport, on the plane, and out again as quick as possible without having to check anything. 

Patagonia MLC

Patagonia MLC

The backpack straps on this version of the Patagonia MLC are a departure from earlier models. They’re a little more… curvy? I’m sure the technical word marketers and sales people will use is “ergonomic” and maybe they are – I can’t really say I find the curve to be all that useful. What I do find useful is the side-release buckles that attach the shoulder straps to the bottom of the bag. These plastic side release buckles are a vast improvement over the older, metal style clips that I always found to be finicky. 

Patagonia MLCPatagonia MLC

The backpack straps can, like all the earlier MLC designs, be stowed in the back panel when they’re not needed. I find this is one of the most useful features of the bag. I love having the straps when I need them, but I hate it when they’re in the way when I don’t need them. If i’m just carrying it from my house to my truck and then into a hotel I’ll just use the (detachable as well) shoulder strap or even opt to leave that off and just use the top handle. 

Patagopnia_MLC_Review_0037Patagonia MLCPatagopnia_MLC_Review_0039

At 45 liters, not the largest bag. I’ve noticed the amount of days I can comfortably pack for with just this bag really varies with two things; the weather, and the level of dirtbag I’m willing to adopt for the week. If it’s summer and I’m going bumming around and no place where flip-flops are frowned upon (my preferred travel style) then I’m all set. I could live out of this thing. If I’m doing more of business casual (argh!) where I have meetings and meals beyond roadside burritos, then I can comfortably get three days of clothes in it. Winter, with a jacket/fleece requirement hits me pretty hard when using this bag.  It’s tough to pack heavy clothes, warm jackets, and winter running gear all at once in this bag. Maybe I should stop running?

It’s got a pocket on the rear that opens to form a pass through so users can slip it over the handle of a rolling bag as well. If you’ve got the shoulder strap removed, and the backpack straps stowed and slip this thing on a wheelie bag, there’s nothing to hang off and trip you up. It’s pretty slick. 


There’s some office-style pockets in the top flap/pocket of the bag, but I rarely use them. I think this bag is better suited to actual luggage than kind of an every day carry bag. Still, they’re there if you need them. There’s a padded laptop compartment in the rear of the bag as well. 


All in all this is just about my favorite bag to use. I have tons of bags – drybags, backpacks, totes, daypacks, etc… but I use this one most for travel.  I’ve had similar bags from other manufacturers, but I usually sell them quick and come back to the Patagonia MLC. 


  • Bomber construction
  • Largely water resistant
  • Simple, time-tested design
  • Useful size
  • Meets Carry-on requirements 
  • Comfortable to carry in all configurations
  • Straps hide away when not in use
  • Padded laptop compartment


  • Small for long trips unless you pack very light
  • Not a great backpack, just an OK one
  • The blue color is really hard to photograph!





CamelBak Ultra 10

CamelBak Ultra 10 Hydration Pack – Comparison Old VS New

CamelBak Ultra 10 Hydration Pack – Comparison Old VS New

I’ve been thinking about getting a hydration pack for some time now. I have an REI Flash 22 that holds a hydration bladder, but it’s more of a daypack that can carry water and for running it’s not ideal. I looked at the Osprey models and some Ultimate Direction ones, but in the end I went with the CamelBak Ultra 10. I found a good deal on the 2016 CamelBak Ultra 10 at Amazon, but after trying the CamelBak Ultra 10 2017 version on locally, I opted for it.  Text below, and a video review below that. 


2016 on the left in blue and the 2017 CamelBak Ultra 10 Hydration Vest on the right. 

The 2017 (black) Ultra 10 Vest is much lighter, weighing in at just 18 oz and the 2016 model weighs over 25 oz. Keep in mind that’s (obviously, right?) with no water in the bladder. If you add 70 oz of water they’re both going to be much heavier. 


I like the fit of the 2017 (black/right) better. It’s lighter, sure, but the material is thinner and seems less bulky all around. There’s a lot less padding between the hydration baldder and the back panel, which is mesh, on the 2017 version. 


The CamelBak website claims there’s about 200 cubic inches difference between the sizes of the packs, with the new (2017) version being a little smaller. To me, it appears to be completely in the bottom three inches of the large, main compartment. In day to day use and with a reasonable load for a long run, I can’t imagine ever noticing a difference. 


The chest straps on the 2017 version (again, black, right) are thinner and the buckles are smaller. I find the buckles small enough to be difficult to manipulate and much harder to buckle than the 2016 version. Both models have the stretchy lower strap and static upper strap. Straps on both models can be moved up and down to accommodate different users. I found the ones on the older model to be easier to move, but I think once users have them set to personal preference they’ll probably not move them much – I don’t think I will anyway. 



The shoulder straps on the 2016 model have an adjustment strap and side-release buckle. Also, the straps on the 2016 version aren’t as breathable as the mesh straps on the 2017 version. The 2016 version requires the straps to be undone when accessing the water bladder in the back (at least it much easier if you undo them) but the water is easier to get to on the 2017 (black) version. 


The zippers on the 2017 version seem to be a bit smaller, although from the photo it’s not obvious. In reality they’re close enough that nobody will probably notice. The zipper pulls are different, but I’m not sure that matters. 


This is the crux of my decision process right here. My phone (Samsung Galaxy S5) fits in the chest pocket on the black 2017 version, where it simply won’t fit in last years’ model. That was the clincher for me. I want to haul my phone with me occasionally, and this is the perfect spot for it. I fact that it fit a little better in the newer model sealed the deal for my. 

Thanks for looking! Good luck. 

Video below: 




Nomatic Kickstrarter Travel Bag First Look and Review

Nomatic Travel Bag Kickstarter First Look and Review 

When the Nomatic Travel bag went live on Kickstarter in the summer of 2016, it was pitched with all sorts of hyperbole (like most Kickstarter stuff). It was supposed to change the way I travel, keep me more organized, and make packing a breeze. Plus it has over 20 new features that, of course, no serious traveler can really live without. 

I wanted one. Kind of. The pitch video was cool, the bag looked usable and clean. I love bags.

I couldn’t justify another bag though. I simply have too many. I have too many and I’m caught up in this “Made in the USA” phase right now that involves Topo Designs, GoRuck, and Tom Bihn bags more than any others. I’m not against bags made elsewhere; I’ve owned lots of them. I have several Patagonia bags I like and tons of other bags made elsewhere. My Strayfoto Youtube channel stands as a testament though that I’m partial to bags made in the USA. I’ll usually spend my money on those over most other options. 

Luckily my buddy wanted this one bad enough that he ordered it. He was kind enough to let me borrow it for a fist look.  Video below, text and more photos below that. 

It’s a decent bag. The zipper to the main compartment is under the shoulder straps instead of on the outside of the bag. This gives it  a very clean look if it being worn backpack style. It looks pretty sleek that way (yeah, I wish I’d shot some photos of that too before I gave it back). Nomatic Travel Bag from Kickstarter

If you’re using it duffel bag style, then the shoulder straps are on the bottom and you’ll have to flip it over to get into the main compartment. It’s not a big deal, but something to consider. Someone pointed out to me on YouTube that I’m an idiot and the duffel straps merely pull through and lift up on the same side as the entry, making the back part of the bag the bottom. This makes more sense than the way I was doing it, and makes the straps seem long enough with no worries. The main zipper appears to be waterproof. Nomatic Travel Bag from Kickstarter

There’s a ton of pockets and they’re well-organized. There’s a fleece one for a phone or glasses, and there’s an RFID one that should block some forms of ID theft. Nomatic Travel Bag from Kickstarter

Shoulder straps are wide and flat with a little padding. I like shoulder straps like that; I find them more comfortable than thick ones. It’s got a sternum strap. The top handle is well padded and seems like you could carry it by that handle without too much trouble. All in all it seems like a well-built, well-designed bag. Nomatic Travel Bag from Kickstarter

Without really having a chance to use it I was cautiously optimistic that it was a good bag. I thought the laundry hamper / mesh bag was a little cheap and the dopp kit or shaving bag matched. These both seemed like afterthoughts rather than quality matching accessories. I know I’d rather have a larger laundry bag than that one and I’d rather my existing dopp kit than the one the bag came with. Nomatic Travel Bag from Kickstarter

All in all though, the Nomatic travel bag seems like a decent attempt at a travel bag, especially from a company that has made only wallets, notebooks and some quartz watches up to this point. 

As of this publication (Feb 2017) I can’t actually find out where to buy the bag. The link on the Nomatic page takes visitors to an Indiegogo page that doesn’t seem current. This is what led to my confusion in the video above. Hopefully the folks at Nomatic can get this cleared up and get this bag to more than just the backers at launch. 



Someone on Youtube asked about a padlock for zipper RFID compartment and whether or not the padlock would work on the other zippers too… I never even noticed the lock.. I went back and found it. Yes. It’s there and it works on the RFID compartment and on the main zipper too. no others though, they’re not the right style. Photos below. I believe any TSA lock would work the same. Enjoy. 





Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack Review

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack Review and Video

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack Review

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

Recently a buddy left his daypack at my place. Because it’s made in the USA, I couldn’t resist the temptation to review it. It’s called the Two Bit klettersack by Ogden Made. Ogden Made is a Utah-based company that has a modest range of gear from hats and t-shirts, to accessory bags and messenger bags. All the bags are made in the USA, and seem to share a simple yet functional design. ( I really want the Camo Snap-Back…)

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

The Two Bit Klettersack is a top-loader design with metal closure hardware to secure the top pocket/flap. There’s two water bottle pockets (one on either side), and an access zipper that allows access to the lower half of the main compartment. The water bottle pockets are on the smallish side, and definitely eat into the interior of the pack. The access compartment, although not really large, opens easily and provides welcome access to what you want – which, in a top-loading pack, is always at the bottom. Every. Single. Time.

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

The measurements on the Ogden Made website add up to make this bag measure somewhere around 33 liters. It’s not really anywhere near that big. As far as comparable daypacks go, I’d say this slots in around the same size as the Topo Designs Mountain Pack, which I reviewed here. The Two Bit Klettersack really wears more like it’s a regular sized 23-26 liter daypack.

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

The computer compartment is accessible from the side zipper so users don’t have to access the top flap to get at the laptop. The back padding and straps are adequate for a pack of this size and not too padded. The straps are flat and wide, which I like.

Ogden Made Two Bit Klettersack

Ogden Made also offers a camera module called the Monte that fits in the zippered access panel at the bottom of the pack. On the website it seems to swallow a modest amount of camera gear and still allow reasonable access. It’s a feature I’d like to try out at some point. It’d be interesting to see how much I like it over several months.

The Ogden Made bag seems like a valiant early effort from a Utah-based company trying to keep manufacturing here in the US, which I admire. I don’t really love the metal hardware for the top flap, finding it finicky and not that easy to engage. It’s not awful, and I agree it’s a welcome departure from the long-standing tradition of ITW Nexus side release buckles, but I which they were easier to use. The Two Bit Klettersack is a decent pack. I wouldn’t call it on par with some other, more refined bags; it falls a little short when compared to some of Topo Designs more recent offerings, or any of the GoRuck bags, but it’s a great start. It actually reminds me a little of the first Topo Designs daypack I owned, and Topo has really matured and refined their packs over the last few years. I hope Ogden Made can experience the same level of refinement and growth. It’s always good to get my hands on some gear made in the USA.

Check out the video below for a better look at the features and check out my Strayfoto YouTube channel for more made in USA stuff and daypack / luggage reviews.

Topo Designs Mountain Pack Review and Video

Topo Designs Mountain Pack Review

I picked up the Topo Designs Mountain Pack a few weeks ago (it was a gift actually) and I’ve been hauling it around every day. It’s a decent medium size daypack. I like the bright colors, and I like the main compartment access from the zippered front panel.


I usually carry a water bottle, a book, a jacket and a first aid kit when I’m out guiding and driving tours, and occasionally I’ll add a camera to the mix. The Topo Mountain Pack has held up well and been comfortable to wear. I think I could easily overpack it and it’d morph into a cylinder and be lame to carry, but as long as I’m careful it’s not too bad.


Like I say in the video review, I think the top panel closure is a little difficult to manipulate. I see these types of closures on lots of bags now, and while I think they look great, they’re a little more difficult to work than the good old-fashioned side release buckles. The shoulder straps too are a departure from some of the older Topo Designs bags I’ve had, and I like the earlier models a little more. The shoulder straps on the older models are actually thinner and a little more comfortable.


The Topo Mountain Pack is great backpack for folks that want a daypack that can do most stuff and still be fun to use. The laptop compartment isn’t anywhere near the level of protection offered by GoRuck, but it’s adequate for careful use. Topo Designs bills the Mountain Pack as as “one pack that can do it all.” I find that the Topo Designs can do just about everything well except be adapted for hydration bladder. A hydration bladder would easily fit in the laptop compartment and really allow this bag to go from travel to campus to the mountains seamlessly. I don’t know why most of their daypacks don’t have this feature. It’s a feature that GoRuck has incorporated into the outstanding GR1, and Topo could easily add this feature to truly make this “one pack that can do it all.”


Other than the lack of a method of putting a bladder in the bag, I really like it. It’s (according to the Topo Designs website) 21.5 Liters and about 11X17X7 inches.

Check out the video above and leave any comments about the bag or let me know if there’s any other bags you’d like to see reviewed.


REI Flash 22 Lightweight Backpack Review and Video

REI FLash 22 Lightweight Backpack Review


Check out the video review or keep reading for the old fashioned way… Thanks.

I’ve got daypacks, klettesacks, backpacks, knapsacks, shoulder bags, messenger bags, laptop bags and camera bags, but I never, for some reason, seem to have the perfect bag for any one thing. A few years ago Leah and I bought a couple REI Flash 18 backpacks for some light trail running. They’re good little bags, they hold a water bladder plus a little food and some light clothing. Perfect, right? No. Because I lost mine. Sure, maybe I loaned it someone or someone borrowed it without asking and never returned it… I don’t know. It’s gone. That much I do know. As much as I love Topo Deisgns bags, none of them are really lightweight and none of them are set up to accommodate a water bladder. I’m usually fine with a water bottle on a hike, but if I’m running I like to have a bladder. It’s easier to access and easier to carry and often it’s lighter once it’s empty – it certainly takes up less room once it’s empty than a water bottle does.


At any rate I started shopping around. Bad idea. Now I’m pretty sure in the not too distant future I’ll have a Nathan’s Vest and an Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 in addition to the REI Flash 22 I ordered. I settled on the REI Flash 22 mainly because of price. It’s cheap. Not necessarily cheaply made, but it’s certainly an affordable bag. I ordered it from REI as a year end closeout and got it for about $38.00. Much cheaper than anything Ultimate Direction is offering.


I waffled back and forth between the REI Flash 18 and the Flash 22 for a little while – the 18 was even cheaper than the 22, but I’d had it (and secretly I hoped (still hope?) that I’d find it again) and decided I wanted a little more room in the pack department. The 18 is (I believe) so named because its capacity is ~18 liters, and the 22 is ~22 liters, so it’s a little larger. Also I was hoping for something that’d do double duty as stuffable, but full-featured daypack for travel. I wanted something that I could put a bladder in and go for a run, but that I could roll up and stuff in a larger bag to travel with – kind of a destination backpack that wouldn’t take up as much room or weigh as much as the 1000 Denier Cordura Topo Deisgns Pack that I usually take with me.


I originally ordered the gray Flash 22, but only because the black was out of stock. I’ve got a thing for black bags. Most of my bags are black and I wanted one that matched. No luck though, as the closeouts were only available in gray. I ordered the gray one and a couple days later I noticed the black one was back on the sale list so I ordered it as well. My original thought was that I’d just return the gray one and keep the black one. I was quite surprised a week later when the black one was going back – not the gray one.


The gray one is so much easier to look inside. One can open the top of the bag and actually see the contents. The black one is dark enough to qualify as a black hole. Anything you have in the bag will never escape the event horizon of it’s mouth – not due to gravity but simply because you won’t ever be able to find anything in the dark. After looking inside both bags (a feature that I tried to show in the above video) I opted to keep the gray one.


It’s a good bag. It’s lightweight, it’s easy to use, and it fits well. It doesn’t bounce too much when running, but it’s not as secure as an ultrarunning style race vest would be. I’ve run with my Camelbak bladder about half full and while I find the sloshing noise annoying, it’s secure enough. The main compartment holds a jacket and some camera gear – enough to keep me reasonably happy. It’s a decent lightweight daypack at an affordable price. I tend to prefer stuff that costs five times as much, comes with some pseudo-ethos and is made in the USA, but this is essentially just what I was looking for, and it was cheap.


Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.

Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase Review

Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase Review

I’ve had the Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase for a little over a year now, and it’s been my primary computer bag during that time. I was hesitant at first to get a bag that was this… loud? The duck camo really isn’t my style, but it’s grown on me and at least it’s unique; I’ve never seen anyone with the same bag. Check out my video review here, or scroll down for more photos.

The bag itself, like most other Topo Designs bags is made of 1000 denier Cordura fabric and the zippers are YKK. The bag, of course, is made in the U.S.A.

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I’ve had good luck with Topo Designs bags, and have bought several over the years. If you ever read my Topo Designs daypack review, you’ll remember I had an issue with one of the early models and they replaced it immediately. It’s nice to buy from a company that’s relatively local and dependable. I saw this bag at the Topo Designs store in Denver and later decided I couldn’t live without it, so I ordered it.

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I’ve used this as a computer bag and it’s about the right size for my 14″ laptop. There’s enough room to pack all my computer gear and maybe one or two extras – like a journal and a point and shoot camera. I’ve also taken everything out and used it as a primary camera bag with a couple Domke inserts, but ultimately found it ill-suited for that duty. I found minor issue with the Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag review I did because I couldn’t fit a large manila envelope in it – or a magazine, or anything larger like that. With this bag that dilemma is solved. One bonus, I found it fits quite well under and airline seat and leaves enough room (mostly) for my feet as well. I like to use the little Topo Designs Accessory bags to organize some of the smaller cords, cables and card readers associated with my computer.

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When it’s full it’s a little heavy, but not uncomfortable. The strap, even with no padding, seems to do its job and the bag is rarely a burden.

I don’t have any real complaints… it’s tough to get it stand up straight when it’s full. It’s not wide enough to balance on its own, but I’m not sure I’d want it any wider. I suppose if you live where it rains a lot maybe the zippers could leak a little because they’re not covered by a flap. This is a genuine complaint I have about the early daypack, and one they’ve addressed in the latest model. It makes more sense to me to have a storm flap over the zippers on a daypack though where you might actually be out in the rain for some time. Seems like a computer bag won’t see as much rough use as a daypack. On the flip side, on the passenger seat in my truck it’s easy zip open and grab something out of it. There’s no water bottle holders on the sides – one of the features I really like on the Field Bag, but if you used the shoulder straps to carry it like a daypack then any side pockets would be worthless (sideways) anyway.

All in all it’s a bag that looks cool, provides a modest amount of protection for my computer, carries well, and is made in the U.S.A.

Thanks for looking.