- Buyer's Guide
Road Tests :: Red Oxx Safari-Beano’s PR4
I’ve been using Red Oxx’s Safari-Beano’s PR4 duffle bag for a year or so now, but unfortunately this won’t be a typical road test. It turns out that the bag looked good enough for someone to smash a window and steal it with a bunch of camera gear inside. As a result, this isn’t nearly as thorough a review as I’d like; thanks to the folks at Red Oxx for sending over some photos of the bag in use. Protect your gear, folks!
- Make: Red Oxx
- Model: Safari Beano’s PR4
- Price: $175 USD
- Materials: 1000D coated Cordura, #10 YKK self-locking zippers, #92 bonded Solar Max nylon thread
- Place of Manufacture: Billings, Montana, USA
- Claims to fame: Overbuilt, rugged, and sensibly laid out for adventurous traveling
First, a short primer: I am not generally a fan of duffles and weekenders. I find a good backpack better for larger loads, and a good messenger more convenient for smaller loads. People seem to buy duffles and weekenders as a fashion item that looks cute for the 30 seconds between their apartment and their car on the way to the cabin for the weekend, and that’s downright ridiculous.
With that being said, I was excited to try the PR4 because, on top of challenging my many biases from time to time, the PR4 boasts some fairly unique selling features. It packs a ton of tech, it’s designed to work with a rolling bag for two-bag travel, it’s ridiculously overbuilt, and, unlike most in this genre of bags, its plain but purpose-driven looks don’t scream “curated by some hipster-hitler-haircut fella in Portland using reclaimed/vintage/selvage/recycled materials.” In short, the PR4 is advertised as a bag for doing stuff, and I like doing stuff.
General Purpose Pocketing
With two spacious end compartments, two flat end pockets, and a front flat pocket, the PR4 has good pocketing for a variety of uses. The end pockets swallow a surprising amount of gear; I often kept essentials like a book, tickets, headphones, et cetera in the right-hand end pocket for quick access during travel. The best thing about those end pockets is that they zip halfway down their sides for easy access while your bag is stuffed under the seat in front of you.
Although the pockets are great for general stuff, the PR4 isn’t designed with devices or small item organization in mind. You won’t comfortably fit an iPad in any of the external pockets (though an iPad mini will fit), and anything larger than a 13″ MacBook Pro won’t fit comfortably into the unpadded main compartment either; there’s also a lack of organizational features like pen holders, notebook slash pockets, et cetera. Although it’s a travel and adventure bag, those kinds of details would be nice to see.
Another welcome addition would be a larger internal compartment for footwear or laundry. While the boots in the PR4 press photos that Red Oxx sent over look awesome, mine are usually dirtier.
Construction & Materials
If this bag were a tool it would be a hammer – an effective, sensible, multi-purpose, even sleek hammer, but definitely a hammer. Every seam is double-stitched and bound with #92 bonded Solar Max nylon, the 100oD Cordura is treated for weather resistance, the chunky #10 YKK zippers are self-locking so they don’t open inadvertently, et cetera. I suppose when your warranty is an “unconditional lifetime guarantee” (seriously, their entire warranty is three words; that’s awesome) then you’re bound to overbuild your product.
In the real world, I beat the shit out of this bag. It got stuffed way past capacity for extended travel, it got clipped to the front of my camera backpack for rainy photoshoots, and it got taken on a super-fun little car trip up the Oregon Coast. It got used hard and put away wet after a Red Bull exploded inside it unnoticed, and there were no mildewy smells after I cleaned it out; I’m not sure if it was luck or the urethane coating they use on the Cordura, who knows! There wasn’t a hint of stress or wear on the bag either, though I carried an uncovered saw inside it for trailbuilding, my cable cam rig, and other random/sharp/angular junk on a regular basis.
Even though the bag carries a deceptively large amount of cargo, the hardware is overkill. I’d rather see smaller, slightly less expensive hardware. While I appreciate the “I can rebuild civilization with this bag” aesthetic, I’d appreciate additional pocketing details even more.
The other downside to the bag’s bombproof construction and gigantic hardware is that it weighs a bunch. A claimed 3.35 lbs might not sound like much, but it’s certainly noticeable both in daily use and on ever shrinking airline weight restrictions.
The “No-Slip Adjustable Claw” shoulder strap works as advertised and is very comfortable to boot. It does look a bit S&M-esque though; Bruce Willis would be proud that I took to calling it “the Gimp Strap.”
The pass-through double zippers on the back of the bag are a great way to drop the PR4 onto a rolling bag for an awesome air-travel combo. This bag counts as your personal item on most flights, and I didn’t have a problem using it in conjunction with a rolling carry-on camera bag. The double zippers also double as an additional pocket when not being used as a pass-through.
This bag’s compact size is deceptive, as it carries a ton of gear. Brawny types might be tempted to go up a size for larger loads, but for my tastes this is about as large as I’d want to go with any bag that doesn’t have rolling wheels or a suspension system; plus, one of the most attractive parts of the PR4 is its carry-on legality.
Sure, it misses some features that, given its price tag, would be nice to see, but what it lacks in organization and refinement it makes up for in pure badassery. Yep, badassery; this kind of quality and straightforward, dependable design doesn’t come cheap.
Ultimately, if you’re the type of person who works hard, plays hard, beats the hell out of your gear, and doesn’t mind paying for non-disposable stuff backed by a serious warranty, then the PR4 is worth a long look.
- Surprisingly versatile, carries lots of your things
- Good general purpose pockets and layout
- Bombproof materials and hardware
- Designed and made in the USA
- Lacks organizational details, pocket sizes not quite right for modern devices
- Overkill hardware and bombproof construction make for a heavy bag
- Not cheap
- Looks good enough to smash a truck window for
Consider it if
- You like doing stuff right the first time, buying American, and not looking like a college prep kid
- You watch Doomsday Preppers just a bit too much
Skip it if
- You like organizing your many Apple products neatly into separated pockets, and have weak shoulders (check out Tom Bihn’s Tri-Star or similar)
- You’re looking to impress at the coffee shop (something from QWSTION or KILLSPENCER maybe?)