Froth turns to… not froth
While still kinda new to the carry scene, Lexdray has found fast favour amongst the online blog community. Lots of tech and details, some great shapes, and some really slick branding make for some pretty catchy blog candy.
So when our friends at Huckberry offered us a Boulder pack, we started to froth a little. With a shape inspired by the super photogenic Visvim 20L pack, the Boulder takes a big EDC brush to this silhouette, adding a tonne of pockets and parts. The pack arrives in a nice fleece lined bag, and almost all the parts and components are a pretty high spec (hence the slightly scary price tag of $460 – but man, do you feel a million bucks walking around with it on your back).
So how did it fair in a week long Drive By? Hmmm, not great. Read on and we’ll explain.
Yep, it’s sexy, in a bit of a grown up boyscout way. A great silhouette is kept a touch on the small side (perfect size for office life), adding to it’s visual tightness. If you pull out the waist band and the top grab handle cover, it really slims it right down. Lot’s of texture changes keep the black thing interesting, and many of those pockets are hidden inside so as not to distract overly from the shape.
The whole kitchen sink
It’s rare that you get a pack with very few cost compromises. The Boulder has a rain cover, a trillion million pockets, expensive zips and components, expensive fabrics, and a lot of options for almost any small bits you need to carry. Heck, even the bag it comes in is fully lined in a deluxe fleece (which we flipped inside out to use as a pillow for office naps). It’s built well, and looks like it will last well.
A few small touches
While nothing new, neoprene gussets can help fit that last little bit into your pack by stretching to help you get the zip closed. Not many makers use them on backpacks, but we like.
There’s also a keeper for the sternum strap when not in use, some elastic side webbing for wrapping a sweater or jacket around the pack, and a very nice laptop section (max 15″ laptop fit). The size and padding on the straps makes for a comfortable ride, even when full.
OK, here’s where we start to shatter some of the fantasy. We REALLY wanted to love this pack, but there are some fundamental flaws that mean it needs another generation of refinement before it will get there.
The simplest way to explain the issue is to quote the late great Steve Jobs:
“When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple, you don’t really understand the complexity of the problem. Then you get into the problem, and you see that it’s really complicated, and you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s sort of the middle, and that’s where most people stop….
But the really great person will keep on going and find the key, the underlying principle of the problem—and come up with an elegant, really beautiful solution that works. That’s what we wanted to do with Mac.” Steve Jobs, from Insanely Great.
Yep, the Lexdray stopped in that middle complicated bit. But let us get more specific…
Grid zips work great on wetsuits. They look tough and are tough. But the second you ask them to go around corners, or get pulled on a less than perfect angle, they get notchy and catch. When you add some locking zip heads to the equation, this gets even worse. For most of the zippers on the Boulder, you really have to concentrate to use them. So while they look great, some of them can drive you crazy – the back panel in particular…
When you add every feature to a bag, weight becomes a factor. We measured almost 5lbs on our dodgy travel scales, which might be a touch too much for a small daypack. Pardon the poorly put-together pun, but that sort of weight can weigh on you.
There’s a lot of pockets in this pack, and most of them are neoprene. Neoprene can work well for shock protection and stretch, but these are mostly internal pockets that are already protected from shock, and they are then often mounted low in a section, which is a squash point for packs, so you’d never put anything delicate down there anyways. Hmmm, for us (even though we’re neoprene wearing surf freaks) it was a bit of neo OD.
The press button closures are mounted on webbing which stops the stretch, and the pocket covers often have non-stretch nylon backing. So you get the extra weight and bulk, without much of the expansion benefit. They are also grouped into many different zones, which makes it tricky to work out what you put where.
The lash tab is a fake hypalon, so can’t hold a lash without tearing. There’s a few areas of the TPE fabric already showing wear, there’s airmesh (which scratches on bare skin), the waist belt is OTT for the pack’s non-load bearing fixed height design, and the whole back panel section and twin zip access is really hard to operate.
The neoprene cover for the top of this back section also has a nylon backing which stops any stretch ability, but will smell lots as the neo’s nylon fronting jersey absorbs your back sweat. Then if you fill the pockets in this rear section, you can’t close it, and either way there’s some unusable dead zones created by the internal pocketing. The rain cover section zip is on a high wear area, and it’s a bit odd making a lovely top handle to then hide it under a removable neoprene wrap.
[Addition: Justin pointed out that the sternum strap is not height adjustable for females or different height users (females often have to raise a sternum strap up above their boobs). That's a pretty big issue for anyone not a male between 5'9" and 6'0" or so]
Similar bags to consider
If you’re digging the look, you can check out the Visvim 20L (more expensive and probably not as high quality) or KILLSPENCER Special Ops (cleaner aesthetic but not as much organizing). If you’re digging the organizability (new word, we’re keeping it) check out the Arc’teryx Blade 24 or the very full-on Acronym 3A-7TS. If you like versatility and ability to blend, check out the Goruck GR1 (and maybe add a couple of internal modules to it).
This is a great looking pack that everyone in the office wanted to try out. It’s a neat size if you’re an office guy or want something a touch smaller, it’s well put together, and the materials are (mostly) of a high standard.
Sorry Lexdray, we really wanted to like this pack, but we almost all retreated back to other bags after just a few days. If you carry lots of small things, it should provide you with all those pockets you’ve always wanted. But for us at least, we are looking forward to the next generation with some of those issues refined out.
Oh, and a big thanks to Huckberry for providing the pack. You should check them out, as they offer some of the best carry brands around.