Greg Nelson is back for his Sophomore post (see his freshman post here), this time taking the Ignoble Lenore Capsule on a road test. A very thorough road test. If you’ve been eyeing this pack off, this might be the review that tips you over into a purchase…
Black. No other colour keeps a low profile with such authority and consummate style. US carry brand IGNOBLE have made black the colour du jour in their range of handmade backpacks and the Lenore Capsule is a great example of fashion and function.
Its understated appearance belies a wealth of space and the pack’s dual functionality. Is it a backpack or a duffle? That all depends on your needs but it’s quick and easy to switch between the two without losing any style and that’s a big part of the attraction.
It’s ability to transform from backpack to duffle is not unique but certainly quick and simple. By tightening the shoulder straps, and locking the chest sternum strap through small loops on the back panel, the Lenore Capsule goes from commuter backpack to stylish handheld duffle in a flash. No loose straps to drag around and catch and no compromise in capacity by stowing straps internally.
The placement of the duffle handle down the centerline of the bag allowed for easy and balanced carry and I found that this was my preferred use. The handheld bag never felt so heavy when loaded that I needed to carry it on my back.
The Lenore Capsule has a low profile and blends seamlessly with office and outdoor environments. The ability to grab and go should never be underestimated, whether rushing to work, a departure gate or checking out of a hotel quickly. The Lenore’s easy-loading, wide top opening is a great feature and I was surprised at just how much this pack can hold. Just when you think it can’t take any more, in goes another packing cell or bulky item without distorting the bag’s shape.
The quick conversion method leaves the straps and buckles exposed in duffle mode. Not ideal when the bag is dropped or dragged on the ground and exposed to the rigorous handling of airport baggage drops. This was one of my biggest concerns with wear and tear on the Lenore, but surprisingly it’s held up well despite my preference for using it as a duffle. The D rings on the shoulder strap show the most scuffing and, while a useful option for some, they could probably be removed.
The straps collect dust and dirt from whatever surface they’re dropped on but there has been no permanent discoloration or wear.
The zipper pulls are stylish but noisy, especially the dual pull on the main opening. The leather-look synthetic pull tabs are easy to grip but would be better served if they were connected directly to the slider rather than the metal tabs. I’m impressed that the pulls have not shown any signs of fraying or splitting after extended use and the YKK zippers are solid, as always.
The stitching along the base is the only aesthetic compromise in the bag’s construction. It distracts from the pack’s otherwise clean lines, but it’s only on display when carried as a duffle.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
The Lenore Capsule is a soft pack made from woven 1680D ballistic nylon and lined with ripstop nylon. While not enjoying the same reputation for wear-resistance as tighter woven 1050 has, it escapes the rigidity and weight limitations of a military grade cordura. In the Lenore Capsule’s case the pack is yet to show any noticeable signs of piling, fraying or significant wear after six months of solid use. Perhaps this reflects the quality of construction more than the material used. It’s even survived light rainfall without exposing the contents to water.
The design of the pack is sharp and stylish. Did I mention that it only comes in Black? The four cinch straps and two external pockets are well placed and the bag has a clean shape and sleek appearance despite its large 27L capacity.
The pack is ideal for someone who likes to move between travel and work without needing to repack or carry a bag that looks out of place in an office or airport lounge. It makes a great weekender and is suitable for bicycle commuters, business travelers and gym-goers who want a stylish bag as opposed to a cheap-looking branded sports pack. For frequent flyers, I preferred to take the Lenore Capsule as carry on whenever possible and it’s fully loaded size and shape was never an issue for stashing overhead or under the seat. The low profile doesn’t draw unnecessary attention either. It’s also good for those who prefer a strong black pack without going down the tactical path which brings me to…
While marketed for its military grade construction, it is not suitable for those who like to load their pack with bricks and run through mud on weekends. You know who you are so stop reading now. It’s also not ideal for people who carry a lot of loose gear requiring copious amounts of internal organisation.
PRICE AND SUPPLY
The Lenore Capsule is available from the IGNOBLE website for $US250 and comes with a lifetime defect warranty and relatively cheap international and domestic shipping options. The price is on a par with the bags above but it’s worth noting that it’s also due to the decision to hand-build them in the US. At a time when local manufacturing and craft is under threat from multinational companies with large-scale offshore production facilities, it’s admirable that small-run manufacturers are passionate about their products and strive to design and build at home. According to Dean Hinds, one half of the founding team behind IGNOBLE, their goal is to produce gear that people love. Small-scale manufacturing in the US allows better quality control and the opportunity to design and develop multiple bag designs while growing the brand. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra cost to us as consumers to support makers like IGNOBLE who strive for quality with passion and dedication.
From backpack to duffle with the flick and tuck of a strap, this bag adapts to the demands of commuting and travel with ease and provides ample storage and versatility.
My initial concerns about the structural integrity of the back panel design were dispelled with use. With a soft pack the contents determine the shape and when fully packed the bag was comfortable to wear. It fits snugly and the load doesn’t shift when walking or riding. When half-filled, smaller loads sink to the bottom and the weight is distributed lower on the back but side compression straps and the padded shoulder straps minimize any movement or discomfort. The internal ripstop lining has done exactly that. It’s undamaged from carrying a variety of camera equipment and packing cases. There’s quality stitching throughout and no frayed edges. I had to search hard to find the only evidence of frayed threads and even that was tiny.
For all its reported faults, the use of air mesh offers padding and comfort. The configuration on the back panel is more about the duffle conversion and stowing the straps than facilitating airflow but there was certainly less heat build-up than similar convertible packs. Looped ends on the straps allow for easy cinching, especially with gloved hands. A chest strap helps keep the bag comfortably placed. There’s no side-to-side movement when walking or cycling. And let me stress, this pack is very comfortable and stable under load.
Internally, a zippered pouch at the top offers space for smaller carry items such as a phone, keys and charger. Below that an open sleeve offers separation for a laptop, folder or books. The pocket is large enough to hold a 13 inch laptop in a rigid sleeve but in duffle mode it’s worth remembering that the laptop will be on the bottom of the bag with the contents on top. There is limited padding in the air mesh on the underside of the pack but nothing to protect it internally from other contents.
The aforementioned side straps are handy for compressing a minimally loaded bag and also offer the option to attach long objects, such as a tripod or heavy coat, to the side of the pack. Excess strap can be tucked away beneath the cinched shoulder straps.
Triangular stash pockets on the side are large enough to hold a small water bottle and secure enough for larger bottles too. I found them useful for smaller items like a passport and phone that need to be accessed quickly. Their shape also means that heavier items are easier to lay hands on when you reach in as everything falls toward the apex.
In keeping with the pack’s low profile, branding is minimal. The IGNOBLE brand can be found on a patch on the outside and a small tab on the left shoulder strap. Inside there is only one label on the hanging pocket and a small tag denoting the bag’s manufacturing origins.
I like to be organized when it comes to travel. I’m a proponent of the previously described ‘Inception packing’ method. I like to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place, ready and within reach when needed and easily transferrable. By stacking packing cells, I was able to place the open pack on a hotel shelf or dresser and use it as a set of soft drawers. Great for staying organised on long trips.
That said, sometimes you just have to scoop things up and run. To that end, the Lenore is great at holding everything thrown into it in a hurry and hitting the road. I was constantly surprised at how much the pack could fit and expand while remaining comfortable and easy to carry. This is a great advantage over rigid bags and packs.
The IGNOBLE was a great go-to bag for a range of uses. Useful as a carry on for short getaways, a gym bag, a hold all for photography gear and a great commuting bag. Comfortable, easy to hold or wear, stylish, convertible and black. The Lenore Capsule is IGNOBLE in brand name only. A fine and versatile pack, its comfort, usability and stylish design have made it a valuable addition to my carry quiver.