Of course, none of these upgrades would have been possible without the valuable feedback of the Abuser Team. Not aware of the Abuser Team? It is a unique collaboration we have here which provides cheap gear (before being available elsewhere!) in return for feedback, analysis, and suggested improvements. The Abuser Team has been invaluable in the past with our FRS Strap Ons, helping us develop our straps beyond merely a webbing product, into something more refined!
This time though, most of the credit towards the feedback sits firmly on a local Brisbane courier, Brett, who has been using our V1 bag religiously for over a year. Despite looking a little worse for wear the bag has held up quite well given it is used both professionally and over the weekend (12hr + days, 7 days a week, 365+ days!) We received Brett's V1 back for repairs, so decided to document it to show you the major changes between the V1 and V2 pre-production!
Before we delve deep into the differences between the V1 and V2, I thought I should mention a few things about Brett's bag. First cab off the rank, Bretts bag was constructed from a very light weight PVC liner, coupled with a heavy canvas outer. The PVC is highly degraded, and could leak given a heavy shower. However, coupled with the canvas outer (which is pretty water resistant!) Brett mentioned that he hardly worries about things getting wet. We don't use this light weight PVC anymore, because as the images show, it ages quite quickly! Instead we use a combination of linings, from medium 420gsm, right through to heavy weight 900+gsm truck tarp material; and of course, all of these linings are 100% reclaimed!
The second major thing you may notice about Brett's bag is the black binding tape. It is torn, and completely missing in some parts. After 365 days of wear, we discovered that this tape was too weak for the purpose. Abrasion from hook velcro causes it to wear prematurely. Upgrade? You bet! New tape is used throughout all our bags. Although not impervious to the catchy claws of velcro, it lasts a heck of a lot longer than our old binding tape.
So lets have a look at the major differences between the V1 and V2:
The biggest thing you will probably notice is the increased flap length and width on the V2. This provides more protection from the elements when completely empty, as well as when full.
And although not really visible in the above images, the V2 has increased in volume; capable of holding 52.92L of gear! Talking in terms of Bundy bottles, the V2 can hold 10 extra bottles over the V1 (41 in total!). What does this mean? Well, it can swallow an archive box/bankers box, and still have room to spare!
It is also slightly hard to see from the above photos but the V2 is symmetrical, while the V1 asymmetrical. The justification behind the asymmetrical V1 shape was to try and centre the majority of the bag weight over the hips. Although comfortable and valid in concept, it was found that the interior volume was a little hard to manage. It required some forethought for packing efficiently, which is hard to do when you are constantly on the run (time is money right?!)
It might be easier to see with the base shot below:
As you can see, the V1 base is slightly asymmetrical. However because of the explanation above, the new V2 is now symmetrical. Biggest advantage? More usable interior volume, as well as the ability to run the bag over either left or right shoulder.
Oh, and while looking at the base, I should mention that the V2 now comes standard with two base compression straps!
Let's just take a look at the above image again. The V1 has its strap inserted into the side seam (on the left), while the V2 has its strap attached directly to the back of the bag. This V2 modification serves two purposes. Firstly it allows the bag to be run over either shoulder, while secondly it allows the bag volume to expand and contract given its load size.
It was found that the V1 was comfortable when empty as it hugged the body. However when full, it tended to "round out" like a barrel, pulling the straps away from your body and being slightly uncomfortable. The V2 fixes this, as regardless of load size it will always provide a flat surface area for your back. Essentially the bag volume pivots around this point.
While on the topic of volume, you will notice that the side seam of the bags differ. The V1 is a three-piece pattern, consisting of two sides and a flap/back/base/front. This means it is constructed rather like a box. The V2 on the other hand is a modified one-piece pattern. This means it has no "sides" as such, and instead is held together via one seam, rather than the two found in the V1. It looks like a triangle when viewed from the side, rather than a box.
Firstly this pattern change means the bag wont "sag" when empty. Secondly it means that the usable interior volume of the bag is adjustable. If you don't carry much, you can compress the bag so it is more "triangle-like" when viewed from the side. This means the bag will wrap around your body and be quite comfortable despite its large size. Planning on carrying a large load? Release the shoulder/hip compression straps so the bag is more "box-like" when viewed from the side. Now the interior volume has increased, without causing the bag to "round out" on your back.
We briefly touched on patterns previously, and although not wanting to go into too much detail, I will mention that the new pattern is much more efficient, and with less wastage. I can now hold all the off cuts from an Elephantitus in one hand. Previously it would have been two hands, with some still left on the table. It may not sound like much but this efficiency reduces the amount of scrap left over. And I know we don't throw this scrap into the landfill, but still it is better to waste less!
A major issue noticed with Bretts bag was some threads breaking in critical areas. The thread chosen for Bretts bag is a polycotton blend, with a cotton exterior and a polyester core. This was chosen for its strength (which seemingly wasn't enough!) as well as its ability to "swell" when wet reducing the likelihood of water entering the bag through the seams. As you can see from the above photos it simply did not cut the mustard. We have since upgraded all our threads to a M40 bonded nylon which is incredibly strong. In some critical key areas we also use a M20 thread which almost looks like a rope! Although overkill it guarantees a strong bag and a seam unlikely to fail.
This thread upgrade alone would be enough to stop the damage occuring above, however we also went as far as to examine the strap attachment point to the body of the bag and adjusting this. Previously all the weight was put directly onto the stitching. With the new V2 design although the thread still holds weight, most of the forces are transferred on to or through the webbing. Instead of working against the thread, the design now works with the thread, using it to its advantage.
Each of these solutions alone would solve the issue seen in Brett's bag, but we weren't happy with a patch solution. Instead we realised that the thread needed upgrading, as well as a design solution to never let this issue occur again.
The front pocket of the Elephantitus was a favourite feature in the V1, and as such has increased dramatically. Although big in the V1, it is now massive in the V2. Depending on how much you want to cram in there, you can fit between two to three phone books! And no matter how much you do cram in there, interior volume of the bag is not reduced!
The front panel of the V2 also received a lot more strips of webbing. These can be used to tie down bulky or oversized objects, as well as attach pouches to. In particular, the two strips of webbing on the pocket flap are spaced for use in holding down poster tubes.
The front panel of the V2 also receives a dedicated drink bottle holder, a little touch that usually doesn't see many water bottles, but rather beer bottles! This was added after noticing Brett placing a bottle between the liner and the outer. Need to stay hydrated people!
So... bigger, badder, and better than before, only this time you know exactly why!
Again, big thanks go out to Abuser Team member Brett for all his hard work and critical feedback. He makes a living using this bag so it is fantastic that he was willing to thrash it around even if it could lead to less work. Again, his feedback was invaluable, so thank you Brett!
I mentioned previously that I will soon do a comparison between the V2 "Pre-pro" and the finalised V2 after being handed to the rest of the Abuser Team, so stay tuned for that installment!