Road Tests :: Osprey Flap Jack | Part 2
The last ten days has seen the Flap Jack on my back at least twelve hours a day, sometimes more. We were inseparable through airport security, on the flight to Montreal, through heavy downpours, crowded trains, and countless miles of the subway and walking the city streets.
Through it all, I have been very impressed with the bag, but as with most things in life, there were also a few small shortcomings…
Water resistance: The moment I got into town, it started pouring heavily. I quickly put on a jacket but the bag was exposed on my back. Thirty minutes later at the hotel, it was completely dry. This scene was repeated numerous times during the trip and the contents on the inside of the bag always remained perfectly dry as expected. What surprised me was how quick drying the outside was. Between the rain and the warmth, I was concerned how the bag would smell after a full day out on my back in 85 F degree weather. I am happy to report that there was nary a smell.
Durability: I must have opened the buckles and adjusted the straps two dozen times a day. I have not experienced any sort of breakage nor can I detect and stress marks in the plastic or canvas.
Comfort: What drew me to the Flap Jack was the hope that it would be more comfortable than the messenger bags I am used to. It is. Having two straps distributes the load much more evenly, saving your neck and back. The size was large enough to accommodate anything I wanted to carry without being so big that I felt overwhelmed by it. I carried a 13.3″ notebook in a sleeve in the laptop compartment, two digital cameras, video camera, books, magazines, fleece jacket, rain shell, and more! The Flap Jack never felt overloaded or top heavy.
The back part of the pack has ribbing under a mesh which allows ventilation as it sits on your back. This gets rid of “back bath” syndrome which is never a sexy look.
Useful Details: What sets Osprey apart from many other pack-makers is their attention to detail (trekking brands are great for this). The Flap Jack is a great example of this. For instance, it comes with three pairs of straps (of varying colors) that you can use to customize your pack. It has a pretty neat system that allows for quick changes. You simply insert the adjustment ring through a slit in the rubber section, then you twist it so it lays flat and perpendicular. The ring never comes out. They use the same system for the chest strap which makes it easy to adjust it to three different heights, depending on the torso length of the user.
The flap of the bag as well as the end of the front straps have small reflective squares which are highly reflective when a (head)light shines on them but looks matte otherwise. There’s also an attachment point for a blinking bike light. These two things show that Osprey is catering towards the bicycle commuter.
The inside front compartment has a few webbed pouches, one labeled with a set of headphones. There are cord guides that lead out of the pack over the top of one of the shoulder straps. This places your earbuds right at ear level. I did not try this out since I prefer to hold my MP3 player or leave it accessible but I liked the thought put into it.
The laptop compartment is secured with a simple Velcro strap, it’s padded, and sits elevated off the floor of the bag so when you put down the pack, you don’t slam your laptop into the ground.
Cavernous interior: The Flap Jack is has a really generous main section, big enough to swallow helmets, jackets, or even that pumpkin come Halloween time. Lots of other packs miss this in the quest for more sections.
Cavernous interior: Well, more specifically its depth. This is perhaps a bit nitpicky and might be due to the way the bag was designed and shaped, but I felt it was too deep at times. It’s about 18 usable inches from top to bottom. I carried documents and when I went to retrieve them, it was like reaching into a pit. Of course, there’s an upside to the size – you could really stuff it full. Which brings me to my next point…
Drawcord Weather Protector: This one is a bit difficult to explain so I’ll try my best. On the top of the bag there is a half circle piece of material (connects to the back panel) with a drawcord through it. The idea is that you could pull it tight and it’d offer an additional level of protection. Remember, the bag’s contents are already covered with a large front flap. The only time the drawcord protector was even relevant was when the bag was fully loaded. That means carrying multiple jackets or large volume items. Other times, drawing the cord tight did absolutely nothing. Even at the tightest, you could fit a fist through the opening. Unlike some camping packs where the drawcord goes in a complete 360 above the bag, this design does not make much sense to me. The upside is it really doesn’t hurt anything.
Front Pouch: If you load up the main compartment, it pushes tightly against the front compartment and crushes anything there. This is not a question of damage, but of accessibility. My pens, Moleskine, mp3 player were basically held hostage in the front pack. I could fit a hand in if I tried, but good luck trying to identify or retrieve anything.
Accessibility: The Flap Jack looks more like a messenger than most packs, so I was hoping that it would be great for access on the go (as messengers are). Disappointingly, this didn’t really turn out. When I was in the city, it was pretty annoying to have to un-shoulder, swing the pack around, unbuckle two straps, then flip over a large flap before I could grab a camera, pen, or map. It got so bad that I started leaving the pack unbuckled, which, in turn, always left me uncomfortable on the subway or crowded city streets.
The only externally accessible pocket is a large deep side pocket which works great for water bottles, but due to how deep it was, anything shorter (like a camera) is hard to reach. I’d love to see some discreet external pocketing worked out for access on the go.
Strap Retention: I have a small to medium sized torso according to Osprey yet most packs I wear have a large amount of excess shoulder strap. The Flap Jack is no different. Two fourteen inch straps flapping around and getting caught in seats and doorways was definitely a nuisance. A simple Velcro loop would help to keep things tidy.
Poor Velcro Positioning: I did not even notice this until I was flying back to California but there’s a piece of Velcro that helps keep the front pouch open loosely closed and secure. The problem is it is positioned in the top center of the compartment, right over the two pen sleeves. I don’t carry giant pens, just regular sized everyday ones and they both fully block the Velcro, rendering it completely ineffective. My front compartment stayed open the whole trip.
Best suited to:
Folks who work in casual offices: I work in a dot com and this is my daily work bag. I carry it from the apartment to the office. I don’t need to grab anything on the way and when I am at work, it sits on a chair by me. I reach in a few times a day to grab something but I don’t need constant access.
Commuters: Perhaps an offshoot of the previous category, the mesh back panel, padded laptop compartment, and great weight distribution makes this a perfect pack for commuting. The flapping straps can get a little daunting (be careful when you are cycling), but overall it’s a great pack for walking, cycling, or riding the metro to work.
Not suited to:
Accessibility fiends: If you always need to grab something from your bag, this is not for you. The large front flap covers everything and is great for security and to keep things nice and dry but it also blocks off all your gear. The one accessible pouch is too deep to hold anything besides a water bottle in an easily reachable way.
Suits: I personally really enjoy the looks of the Flap Jack. It’s subdued and looks urban yet sophisticated. However, compared to a leather attache or bag, it really looks too young to follow you into a high-rise office building.
I am a huge Osprey Packs fan and am glad they have finally started to tap this market of casual daypacks. Their expertise in technical packs has clearly shown it’s influence in the Flap Jack line. The packs tout features inherited from its older brothers while demonstrating some new features and details of their own, which make them more approachable to the city dweller.
The pack is fun, comfortable, and looks great. It has been a joy to carry and while it does have some minor annoyances, they are just that – things that, if designed differently, would be better for me. At Carryology, we try to give you all the details so you can reach your own conclusions. Tell us if this pack appeals to you in the comments!