Backpacks

Road Tests :: BOgear – Chunky Toad

by , November 16, 2012

Johnson lives on his bike. From work to gigs to art school and back again, it’s 2 wheels and some panting all the way. So it was pretty obvious that he should test the ‘Chunky Toad’ from BOGear. Here’s his take on the bag… 

Since starting in late 2008, Brisbane Outdoor Gear (BOgear) has become a strong part of the Brisbane cycling community and by extension, the courier and bike polo scenes. With company founder, machinist & designer Dave “Ranga” Bell being heavily involved in the community he has had the perfect testing ground for all his products prior to going into production. From the first “Papermunky” messenger bag out of the BOgear Studio to the “Strap-On” foot retention system straps to the mammoth short run backpack “The Singularity”, the products coming out of BOgear are setting standards for boutique bag companies with quality material, construction and innovation.

Up for the Carryology Road Test this time is BOgear’s first backpack in production, the “Chunky Toad”. But to set this review about I have had access to a standard production model (Multicam) and my personal custom Chunky Toad (Orange X-Pac).

Highlights

Firstly, the materials. BOgear only uses quality high grade 1000D nylons, webbings and threads. Everything they use is thoroughly tested by the ever-unrelenting Abuser Team which field tests all BOgear prototypes before they go into production. Nothing but the strongest gets past these guys, and it shows in the final product.

The Chunky Toad is no exception to this as well. The standard production model boasted a 1000D nylon outer which can take a massive amount of punishment and ages very well. Inside is a 420D nylon liner that just adds to its water resistance. As a note, consider the lighter colors for liners as this bag can become a cavern and items can become difficult to find in low-light places, as with any dark liner bags.

The interior of the standard has a front and back full size pocket which can fit a 17” MacBook in the back one and if you don’t use a protective case, a 15” MacBook in the front. The tub is tapered towards the base, making it feel more comfortable on your back when it is full so the bottom doesn’t just have everything sink there and bulge out. There is a secret pocket too but I will let you figure that out.

For my custom Chunky Toad I chose something different. Living in Brisbane, rain and storms are part of life (not currently though, but summer is coming) and you need to be prepared for it to get wet and not stop for the next two weeks. I chose an X-Pac material that is different to the standard model’s 1000D nylon in a few ways. It is double sided, with a 1000D nylon on the outside and a 70D lining in the inside. This helps waterproof the bag and its contents. In between the two layers is also an X weave which strengthens the fabric against tearing and stretching.

A big difference between the standard and my custom model is the large amount of webbing on the custom model. This is because I like to be able to attach pouches or other quickly accessible or long items as my routine and use for the bag requires it. This is an additional option you can request for an extra cost.

The front pleated pocket is a perfect size. Literally. Not so small you can only put your wallet, keys and phone in there and be left with no extra room but not massive enough that you spend five minutes running your hand along the edges looking for that pen you know you put in there two days ago. Also on the front panel of the backpack is a great addition which has seen previous use in BOgear’s messenger range, a d-lock sleeve. This allows you to tuck your lock away into your bag securely and not have it bash against your other items in your bag. Plus you’re not testing fate by letting it stick out of your back pocket.

Also on the front panel for the standard model  are four strips of webbing. I am a big fan of webbing. I find that it can be a dealbreaker for me and bags (look at the orange bag, littered with the stuff) . It lets you customise and attach extra gear you may find is needed. This has been added for the above reasons. You can attach keys, rigiding, tools, pouches, whatever you desire. Whilst traveling I need to have everything on one bag for convenience, so I bought some 1.5 meter straps to lace in the webbing to hold my water bottle and my sleeping bag.  And on the subject of pouches, BOgear will soon be releasing a line of pouches for their webbing system, so keep an eye out for those.

Lowlights

Although the Chunky Toad is made strong and comfortable, it isn’t the prettiest backpack out there. But in this game function over fashion is key (in my mind anyway). The silhouette of the bag looks a little odd with the tips of the folds for the flap when the bag has little in it. But when you have a bag with the word “toad” in the name, what do you expect.

One thing that took some getting used to was the U-Lock sleeve. This feature is great for the cyclist market but with no ability to adjust after purchase it can be annoying trying to remember which shoulder to swing the bag around in a hurry and awkward if it is swinging to the unnatural side for yourself. But you adapt over time.

As I have mentioned, a lighter-colored liner is probably the smarter way to go with this bag also. It is pretty deep and with the interior pockets items can become difficult to find in low light.

Aside from those few issues, it is hard not to really appreciate this bag. And over time you will figure out more and more useful advantages of its construction.

Best suited to

To put it bluntly, cyclists. BOgear started out as a messenger bag company so why wouldn’t they take what they have learned and adapt it into a new product range. As short-sighted as that sounds, this bag is great for a medium to large EDC and weekend trip. I have been on five-day road trips and this was my only luggage. Customised Chunky Toads have also been adapted for other outdoor activities like rock climbing.

Not suited to

Anyone trying to keep their commuting luggage as minimal as possible. Compared to some other bags on the market, this guy can seem overbearing and large even though it really does sit on the large side of a medium in my mind. As a side note, BOgear also has two smaller models in the works so keep an eye out for those.

Any niggles/annoyances

Only that the d-lock sleeve is one side accessible. Other than that, it is hard to have niggles about a bag you choose then add custom options to in order to suit your needs. If I was to add something else it would be that the X-Pac material I chose for my custom Chunky Toad isn’t as rigid as the heavy duty nylon and lost its firmness reasonably fast. But that is nothing wrong with the overall product, just a consideration to bear in mind when looking at fabric choices.

Similar options out there

For this style of bag your options are becoming more available, with cycling bag manufacturers starting to produce more full-flap style bags. There are also a few out there that match the size of the Chunky Toad too. The short list for this comparison would be the Mission Workshop Vandal and Skingrowsback’s Medium Backpack. Both excellent options but not as versatile as the Chunky Toad

Price & where to buy it

The Chunky Toad standard model retails for $250 with an additional waistbelt available for an extra $25. You can buy one off the BOgear Web store or through a number of distributors within Australia. Custom builds are also available at an extra cost.

Overall conclusion

I have had my custom pack for about 18 months and it is still holding up extremely well, almost as new. In this time it has been with me on interstate trips, grocery & market runs, being a pack horse, car crashes, week-long tours, and as a school bag. No other bag I own has seen this much variety of activities and I daresay no other bag could handle it.

I can’t deny that this is a quality, well made, thought out backpack. Every basic feature you would hope to find in a backpack is here, made with highly resistant materials. This is definitely one of those bags you come across from time to time that, if you manage to not set it on fire or have it become the victim of your destructive family pet, will last you a lifetime.

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