Road Tests :: Lexdray Tokyo Pack
When the Lexdray Classified collection premiered on the major sites, it got our attention. With over 150 subscriptions in my Google Reader and a handful of them featuring at least a few bags per day, I come across bazillions of collaborations, old favorites, and new kids on the block. This makes it really difficult to stand out, but that’s exactly what Lexdray has done with their introductory release…
Despite lacking any formal design education or training, Alex Dray has thoughtfully assembled a set of bags that combine Japanese sensibilities with tactical features. Each one is limited to an edition of 550 and share a similar aesthetic. I was sent the Tokyo Pack, one of two backpacks in the collection, to put through its paces.
For the past two months, I have been using the bag as part of my EDC (everyday carry). Like a boy scout, I always like to be prepared. And, like our readers, I like to look good while doing it. The Tokyo Pack allows me to do both. The bag looks standard enough at a glance. It’s not attention grabbing, which is a good thing. It’s black on black on black, including the zipper pulls, zipper rails, and stitching. There is no branding or colors save for a small four-color tab in the rear of the bag that’s pretty discreet).
The approach to features
Upon closer inspection, you start to realize how many features, apparent as well as hidden, that Lexdray has packed into this bag. For example, the zippers in the front compartment are non-locking. The idea is in a situation where your hands are full, you may need to get the bag open quickly to access something (I totally see myself storing my boarding pass in that compartment and while I am at the airport, I might swing the backpack to my front to access documents).
In contrast, the larger main compartment utilizes locking zippers. This area holds your laptop and you don’t want the zipper coming open. Also, say you decide to carry a tennis racquet to the fitness club… with the handle exposed, you don’t have to worry about the zippers coming loose. They’ll stay snug against the racquet.
It is clear from using the product and talking to Alex, that he sweated the details with every element of the bag.
More on those features
Another example of fun yet functional design is the small key compartment on the inside of the left shoulder strap. It took me a few days to actually discover it, as it’s not visible to the wearer or any bystander. It’s just a small pocket, about 1×4 in., perfect for a door key or flash drive.
All the zipper pulls are custom, made from either leather or plastic, depending on the size of the zipper an the compartment it serves. The obligatory top carry handle is present, but is improved upon with a (removable) padded neoprene cover. I love the snap buttons which allow you to put a finger under for leverage. Let’s not forget the rain cover hidden above the underside of the cowhide leather bottom.
Comfort: I noticed that in my reviews, I spend a lot of time focusing on specific details of a bag and how they perform. However, it’s important to take a step back and look at the whole picture. How does the bag perform overall, as a collection of its features? I have to say the Tokyo bag is extremely comfortable. The weight distribution is great, even when loaded and the lightly padded back and shoulder straps prevent any pressure points on the wearer.
Though it lacks a waist-belt, I think it does fine without one and to be honest, this is not a running bag or a commuter bag so there probably isn’t much swaying in your future. The chest stability strap is totally sufficient and has a totally cool and unique feature.
The Chest strap: Unless I am hiking, I only use a chest strap maybe 10% of the time. It’s on when I am running to my gate or walking around for extended periods, but when I am going to work or a meeting, the strap is never on. I think Lexdray must have realized this because they put in such an obvious feature, I wonder why I haven’t seen it elsewhere. When the chest strap is unbuckled, you can snap it into a buckle attached to the same side, keeping it out of the way. I leave it in this position most of the time and I really appreciate having it unobtrusive yet available. The buckles are also just the right size to find without looking and the release and locking tensions are not too high so the operation can be done with one hand.
Full featured compartments: I love pockets. I won’t lie. I like simple, clean design but I also think it’s better to have too many choices than not enough. Externally, the Toyko Pack has eight compartments, counting the two large pockets in the center and the hidden pocket in the middle. Moving to the smaller of the two large compartments, you find three pen slots, two notepad sleeves, and a zippered compartment. There’s also a neoprene sleeve that acts as a separator. You won’t be short of organising options.
The main compartment has the most luxurious and best fitting laptop compartment I have ever seen. It also happens to be the best designed, save for a small issue (more on that later). The compartment is designed to hold up to a 15” Macbook Pro. It is lined with super soft fleece, and has considerable padding. Unlike most designers who try to accommodate a wide range of laptop, Lexdray made the conscious decision to pick a size and stick with it. This means the sleeve has just enough give but holds it’s shape. There isn’t excess slack to allow your laptop to bounce around. I use a 13.3” laptop and it fits just as snug as a 15” Mac.
If the hidden compartment nestled between the two main compartments doesn’t make you giddy, wait until you reveal the back compartment. Using a dual zipper design, attached with a thin strip, the entire back panel opens to reveal six more compartments plus two detachable key rings. The largest pocket, with a button closure, works a treat for your passport; something you want to have with you all the time but don’t necessarily need out. I use the key rings to hold flash drives and keys I don’t need daily (e.g. bike lock, laptop security lock, safe) but want with me.
Design of certain compartments: There are some compartments that still need a little resolving. For example, the zippered compartment directly behind the pens…
If you use the pen slots, the top of the pens will interfere with the operation of the zipper. This is not a big deal and sure, you can just bend the flap in a way to get around the pens, but it is a niggle.
Also, each time I slide a laptop in or out of the sleeve, the zipper of the main compartment rubs against the back. Sure, the zippers are plastic and even with frequent use, I have not seen any scratches on my metal-bodied Macbook or plastic bottomed ASUS laptop, but it’s still is a little worrisome.
Material choice: Speaking of the pen slots, I don’t think neoprene was the best fabric choice for them. The material is naturally thick and pillowy and simply doesn’t hold a pen well. You have to make an effort to pull out the clip to accommodate. I appreciate the use of neoprene in certain areas such as the front and side compartments but would have preferred something different for the pen and notepad sleeves. I also think that document and periodicals don’t really slide in and out of neoprene as well as nylon. In my opinion, nylon is great when you purposely want flex but is not good when you want some semblance of form or structure.
But hey, as far as niggles go, these are all pretty minor.
Best Suited To
Travelers: That’s it, my search for a carry-on backpack for traveling is complete! The Toyko Pack has plenty of compartments, is comfortable to wear, and the contents are easily accessible. Right now, I have my Zune HD, custom IEM’s, Kindle, tablet, laptop, pens and notepads in there. Throw in a boarding pass and travel pillow and I am ready to board a plane. [Ed's note: I keep forgetting that non Apple people exist…].
The bonus is that despite its heavy focus on functionality, the look and vibe of the pack is great in most environments. From the airport to urban and play settings, it totally looks at home.
Business professionals: I can totally see a professional in a busy city like Melbourne or New York wearing this to work. Sure, it’s not as professional as a leather briefcase, but really, not many of us need that level of conservatism. It won’t draw attention as you walk from the entrance to your office, and is actually more unassuming than a briefcase when you’re on the Metro.
Not Suited To
Core Cyclists: The bag works for a short commute, but it’s not purposely designed for longer commuting cyclists. There’s no waist belt for stability. The air mesh padding in the back is comfortable to wear but does not offer any real ventilation or air circulation features. The water-resistance is not as extensive as some.
Carrying a lot of large items: While the bag is designed to carry a lot of items spread across all its various compartments, the two large compartments really are not that large. Remember, this isn’t like a Jansport backpack with a large main interior. It’s a bag with lots of pockets and sleeves. If you are thinking about fitting a thick package inside this bag, it’s not going to work.
The poor student: These Lexdray packs are not cheap. With so much going into them, you’re getting well into the hundreds. The Tokyo pack has an RRP of $450.
When I opened the box, I saw a white cloth drawstring bag. I looked inside and saw that the entire thing was fleece lined. That’s how the Tokyo Pack arrived. When you get a strong introduction like that, it sets the bar high. Luckily, Lexdray delivers on the promise. For its intended purpose, the Tokyo Pack is the nicest backpack I have ever used. It boasts a lot of very thoughtful features and has a pocket for every item you’d want to throw at it. It’s made of weather-resistant fabrics and has plenty of neat hidden features. It does all this looking stealthy and conservative as to not draw attention. What more could you ask for?