Commuter bags and backpacks occupy an odd place in the world of design. They need to be tough enough to stand up to the elements, yet comfortable enough to be worn fully packed and for hours at a time. They should be able to endure years of use and abuse, yet have to be made from comfortable materials. Oh, and it’d be nice if they looked good too.
In short, making a good bag is a balancing act. With each decision, a designer is trying to find some equilibrium – a way to allow two seemingly opposing qualities to work together. Balance isn’t just acquired, it’s something you have to work at consistently. We all did it when we learned to walk, and again when we got on a bike for the first time. Adam Shock found his balance in the world of backpacks after working as a designer for brands like Nike, Quicksilver and New Era. Only after doing this work for years did he set out to create his own line. The fruits of his labor are all evident in the Colfax Design Works SDP_01 Standard Issue Daypack. It is an incredibly adjustable, sturdy pack that manages to meld all of the qualities you’d hope for in a rugged roll-top bag and then some.
Action Ready Fit
The first thing anyone does when they put on a pack is adjust the straps to try and find the right fit. With the SDP_01, there are a lot to choose from.
The first two straps are where you’d expect them, towards the bottom of the main shoulder-straps. Two more are connected up at the top of those same straps, allowing wearers to tighten the bag to their upper back. In addition to those four, the SDP_01 features a sternum strap and an optional lumbar belt on the bottom for support and security while riding or for extended wear while hiking.
In a lot of ways, this part of the Standard Issue Pack is reminiscent of top tier backpacking and trekking bags. Not only is the bag from the Huntington Beach-based designer easy to adjust, but it is equipped with some of the most high quality buckles and shoulder straps we’ve had the pleasure to throw on our backs. The shoulder straps are rigid and light, but manage not to dig into you in an uncomfortable way even after hours of wear. Even the most unremarkable parts of the bag’s hardware – like the sternum strap buckle – stand out. An ITW Nexus anti-load quick release buckle, it is quite possibly the most unique pull-to-release that we’ve come across.
Built For The Commute
While this bag is not exclusively intended for motorcyclists or bike commuters, you can tell that it was made by someone who spends a lot of time on two wheels.
One persistent problem with roll-top bags is that the top canvas roll can at times sit too high above the shoulder. As a result, the top portion of the bag ends up rubbing the back of your helmet making it hard to check your corners as you move through intersections. One real accomplishment of the SDP_01 is that it even while it sits snugly on your back – the top of the bag doesn’t restrict the rotation of your head. This is partly due to the manner in which the bag’s top rolls down and is secured by two exterior clips on either side, and partly a result to the fact that the top of the bag sits somewhat further away from the straps on the bag thanks to the 15-inch laptop compartment situated immediately against the back. It’s a small detail, but it’s a really meaningful one for people who get around on motorcycles and bicycles.
Another feature that cyclists of both stripes will appreciate on this bag is the waterproofing. Unlike other waterproof bags on the market that feature a truck tarpaulin exterior, this bag has an X51000 Cordura canvas outer that is lined on the inside with a laminated PET waterproof membrane. By virtue of keeping this waterproof lining on the interior, alongside the tough tear resistant X-Ply, users get not only a better looking bag but one whose waterproofing won’t be subject to the wear and tear that comes along with daily use.
All of the qualities that make this bag a good pick for wear during daily commutes also recommend it for use out on rigorous hikes. We’re not just saying that. In addition to riding with the SDP_01 on our backs, we also took this with us on a hot 12 mile hike up a mountain – and it preformed perfectly. At no point did it chafe, hurt the shoulders, or feel uneven on the back. It had plenty of storage for food, water, and gear, and while it was in the low 80s and in early September – it was nice to know that if the skies opened up at least our gear wouldn’t get soaked.
Storage And Modularity
Rolltop bags are aimed at volume but what they often fall short on is easy access and compartmentalized storage. Colfax’s fix for this problem is a particularly effective one.
Coming stock, the bag offers two top-access compartments that open and close by virtue of the YKK weather guard zippers in addition to the main 21-liter compartment. The laptop compartment is large enough to fit a Macbook Air, and even a few magazines, while the secondary zipper can fit two or three mid-sized books, and the second interior pocket could fit a knife, wallet, keys -really any of your everyday carry essentials.
Under that secondary zippered compartment is something that anyone who enjoys hitting the trails during the warmer months will appreciate – an integrated storage area for a hydration system. To use it, you simply need to flip up the secondary top access compartment, slide your bladder in, and snake the hose out through the built-in access point. Just like that, you’re ready for a long trek into the desert.
Most designers would stop there, but Colfax pushes it further. For those who don’t constantly want to clip open two buckles and roll up the top of the bag in order to access a few choice items, the bag’s built in Advanced Modular Cargo System (A.M.C.S. for short) provides for the addition of the SDK_01 or MDK_01 dopp kit add-ons. Essentially small waterproof pouches, they securely clip onto the molle exterior of the bag, making it easy to set smaller items aside for fast access.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Colfax also manages to get an often overlooked but critical feature right on this bag – the color and material of the compartments.
Large rolltop bags with no compartments can often be dark and hard to find items in. Thanks to the gold color of the 210 Denier ripstop liner, that isn’t an issue. Keys, knives, flashlights, and other items are all that much easier to find.
The SDP_01 Standard Issue Pack is by far one of the most impressive bags we’ve gotten our hands on. Colfax Design Works may be a small and young brand, but the creative director’s background working with large and renowned brands really shows through here. Everything that people talk about when they use the phrase ‘American made’ is present in the backpack. It’s sturdy, reliable, and built to last. And yes. Like other USA made products, this bag is on the higher end price-wise. For guys who commute to work on two wheels or are simply looking for a bag that’ll last them for a long long time, we think it is a reasonable investment. One upside of buying items from smaller brands is that you know you’re not paying for a name, all they have to offer is quality, and this pack is nothing but.
© Photography by HiConsumption