So the backpack range is a long time coming (check out the previous sample here!). Everyone knows we are working on it, but I can still hear you ask "why is it taking so long?" It is simply because we are not content to release a substandard design; we want to release the best we can.
So we have been testing the hell out of the bag, and have had it in the hands of our Abuser Team members for well over two months (around three for some!). And feedback has been flowing in steadily.... so here are the updates so far.
Firstly, this is my own personal pack which was constructed for my honeymoon travel. So of coarse I had to add a big logo! This probably won't be standard on the bags, but can easily be added upon request.
The exterior of the bag remains relatively unchanged visually. The top of the bag however is no longer rounded, but rather flat. We found that a rounded top caused a big gap to appear at the corners of the flap. While this did not let any water in on any of the tester bags, we felt that this wasn't good enough, and deserved a better design.
The flat top design reduces this gap considerably, and in turn reduces the likelihood of water entering the bag. I personally used it for 6 weeks in heavy snow conditions and had no snow enter the bag.
The back of the bag also remains visually similar, however we have now installed non-removable backpack straps. The removable straps previously were a nice addition, however it was found that hardly anyone on the Abuser Team removed or adjusted them. Feature not necessary? It is now gone!
Backpadding is also fixed/non-removable, which solved an issue of the backpad semi-separating from the back of the backpack (around the shoulder blade area). While this didn't fall off during use, it still meant there was a disconcerting ripping sound as the velcro semi-came undone. Hardly anyone removed the backpadding, so the velcro was not needed! Problem solved! Although the padding is not removable, there is a removable HDPE framesheet, which stops interior contents digging in to your back!
The backpack will not come standard with a hip belt, but it can be added. This hip belt is removable, and can also be run separately with an additional pouch, turning it into a bum bag, or simple sling bag. You will also note on the photo below that the hip-belt now has an angled d-lock holster (on both sides). This angles the D-lock away from your legs so your pedal motion is not impeded. If not used as a d-lock holster, you can use it to mount extra pouches or a hip-pack!
This additional pouch (which can also be run on the hip belt) won't come standard with the bag, but if chosen can be run on top of the d-lock sleeve, and below the outer pocket. We are playing with a few different pouch options, with the one shown quickly whipped up for prototype purposes.
It is quite hard to see in the previous images, but the main shoulder strap webbing is now replaceable. As this webbing sees the most wear (we had an Abuser Team member, who is also a courier, wear his quite quickly) we thought it would be a neat feature to be able to replace it over time. This would thus extend the usable life of the pack.
While on the topic of webbing, some Abuser Team members commented that the webbing was quite stiff and hard to tighten and release, particularly on the shoulder strap adjustment. We noticed this, and are trying to source a more pliable webbing which also exhibits some of the strength and wear characteristics of our current webbing. In the interim however, we have increased the pull tab size on the shoulder strap, as well as included a d-ring to assist with loosening/adjusting the straps quickly.
The main front panel of the bag has changed quite considerably. We'll have a look at it from the bottom upwards. Firstly most of the Abuser Team members commented that there were no front flap clips, and no tie down points. Given that they wanted this bag to be an everyday, go-to bag, they felt the clips and straps would allow the attaching of extra packages or a random set of wheels should the need occur.
Upwards to the D-lock panel you can see a double strip of 25mm webbing useful for tying down random sized packages which wouldn't fit inside the bag. This is also the same webbing that is used to attach the removable pouch. Behind this panel is the D-lock sleeve which has proven very popular in both this backpack and our courier bags!
Upwards again we have our large external pleated pocket. This previously used to run the entire length of the bag, over the top of the d-lock sleeve. Because of this it was quite deep and a "semi-black hole" from which small items would not return. In addition once the D-lock was in place it was hard to access stuff at the bottom of the pleated pocket. Because of these two issues, the pocket has been shortened, but still carries a surprising amount of gear!
Upwards again you will note that the pleated pocket flap is slightly narrower than the previous Abuser Team bags. This tended to get in the way and so was narrowed for simplicity. The pocket now also has dual strips of webbing. Again, highly useful for strapping down extra gear to the outside of your bag.
Looking at the main flap, you will note that there is extra flap width. This is designed to wrap around slightly so no water enters the bag even when empty. Side tie down points have also been included (again for rigging up weird sized packages!) This side tie down point will also become a compression system should it be needed.
You can also see how the D-lock is easily accessible.
And here you get an idea of how you can attach additional removable pouches and tubes to any of the tie down points (on top of the d-lock sleeve (where keys are), or on top of the pocket flap!)
Probably the biggest difference between the Abuser Team pack and the current design is the removal of billboard lining. The billboard material proved to be a massive manufacturing issue as it was too stiff to work with. Due to the design, there were also too many layers at some points making it next to impossible to sew (I literally broke around 5 needles in the small Abuser batch, let alone a proper production run!) We are trying to source a recycled material, but are having considerable difficulty. This stems from our unwavering insistence on strong and durable materials, coupled with high minimums. For the time being, the material is a 420D nylon which is incredibly tough.
As we no longer use billboards, the bag is no longer guaranteed weather proof. However it is still quite water resistant! Rather than relying on a material which is impermiable to water, we are now relying on a coating on the backside of both fabrics (the exterior and the liner). This means water wont get through until the coating starts to break down, which can take a fair amount of time depending on usage and abuse.
We are still experimenting with the interior pocket organisation of the bag. We want to keep it simple, but like the addition of extra pockets (particularly as the front pleated pocket has now been reduced in size). In my own personal bag I installed a front pocket, and a rear pleated pocket. And after 6 weeks of constant use, I believe this will be the configuration to stay!!
The rear interior pleated pocket would also be useful for water bladders (for all those Camelbak users out there!) or for laptops and book segregation from the main interior pocket.
Colours and materials are still being finalised. At the moment we have constructed the bag from 1000D nylon for the exterior, and 420D nylon for the interior. This results in a super tough bag, but also a heavy bag. We are experimenting with 500D Nylon for its lighter weight, yet negligible difference in abrasion resistance (from a practical everyday usability perspective). Given the massive weight differences, we are leaning heavily towards the 500D outer option, reinforced in key areas with 1000D nylon.
And so there we have the updates and almost finalised bag! It will become available for pre-order very very shortly. Interested in grabbing one? Make sure you sign up to our Mailing List to hear about it and get into the queue FIRST!