- Buyer's Guide
Remote Equipment Charlie 25 Review
I’ve been keeping this pack secret for longer than I’d like to admit. You see, I have a history with this bag. I was lucky enough to spend 3-4 months last year with a prototype Charlie 25 that Philip lent me to provide feedback and my general two cents. As a fan of design and lover of the development process, I said yes! And now I’m happy to have played with final unit and have the opportunity to review the Remote Equipment CHARLIE 25 officially.
Full transparency, I was not paid nor have any stake (financial or otherwise) in the pack. I just love packs (that’s why I write for Carryology!) and wanted to help make something great, maybe even better.
Now to the review. The Charlie 25 is everything you’d expect from Remote Equipment: built to last, feature-rich and super versatile. A pack with a silhouette compact enough to use every day while having the expandability to be an all-day bag.
Who it Suits
Someone who needs adaptability based on the context, so you can easily move from work bag to gym bag to daypack to errand bag without much effort.
Who it Doesn’t
The Type A, hyper-organized person who likes or prefers a compartment for everything.
Let’s start with the design. For me, I love the technical yet minimalist approach of the bag’s duel-access design. The first thing you notice is the two primary access points: via the cinch top or the vertical zipper that runs down the main 25L compartment. Because the nature of the bag being a big stuff sack of sorts, the main zipper is there to grant access to your entire contents.
Inside each side panel are two mesh pockets with a velcro backing that lines the entirety of the panel. They just so happen to perfectly fit the Org Kits (sold separately) or really anything you’d want. What impressed me about these side pockets is that they didn’t significantly stop me from packing out the interior cavity of the bag.
Speaking of storage capacity, the bag has a minimum 20L capacity which then can be expanded to 25L with the lid and over 30L with both pouches. All of this is made easy with the removable top compartment which gives you covering from the elements (as it covers the cinch top) and a few extra places to stow essentials.
One of my biggest pet peeves are bags that force me to take the bag off to get some essentials stowed within arms reach. I’m happy to report that the back zipper is easily accessible on-body and the perfect place for your keys, wallet and other items you might need in a pinch.
A few other design details worth calling out: the interior has two sleeves perfect for your laptop (15” laptop stretch pocket) and favorite tablet accessory.
The laptop sleeve doubles as a hydration pouch where you’ll notice a couple of key details. For one, there is a hydration bladder loop so that you can have both the laptop and bladder in the bag without each coming into contact with one another. Second, there are left and right passthroughs for the bladder to line your favorite shoulder strap. Third, you see a sewn in loop splitting the passthrough which can serve as a guide for the water line or a different bladder loop holder. Or a clip for your workout / climbing shoes or whatever you so desire.
Each panel contains a daisy chain and accompanying trek loops for your various hiking adventures.
For even more organization, the aforementioned Org Kits also come into play. These two pouches are made to be organizational hubs for first aid, tech organization or dopp kit. These pouches can live inside the dedicated “break-out” pockets, but, when more volume is needed, can attach to the exterior to free up space inside the bag and gain fast access.
Materials and construction. As you’d expect from Remote Equipment, these bags are made to last with the main body in multi-layered X-Pac (main body VX21, base VX42 and the interior is fully white VX07) plus a DWR coating on the top face. The cinch top is made of 210D nylon with Spectra Gridstop which makes it lightweight and easy to manoeuvre. And the zippers are YKK Aquaguard. As a result, you have a bag that’s weather-proofed to the nines. A testament to the thought and care is the use of 420D X-PAC on the base of the bag as that’s the place most likely to get the most wear over time.
Last but not least, there’s a high density polyethylene frame sheet to help the Charlie keep its shape and the fun added detail of removable, reflective bungees that help your black bag stand out at night.
The Not so Good
You’re probably wondering about the hardware. Across the bag you’ll see ITW, Duraflex and Nifco pieces doing their job. The thing is, they do it a bit too well. I struggled in particular with the Duraflex Ghost Eye. The hook worked too well and would constantly get stuck in some part of the webbing. I had to have Philip show me the best way to do it and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a quick YouTube video about it. The trick as I learned, is to create slack and move the buckle up as you open the loop around the hook. Eventually two things will happen: The buckle will wear in and it’ll be easier as I perfect the right arc and motion needed to do it. This is legitimately my biggest nitpick on the back. The reason is simple: the bag, to me, is built around this idea of modality. Changing modes should be easy and let’s just say that this buckle and I didn’t see eye to eye (until Philip showed me the light).
Next up on the list was more of a mental issue that arose than anything else. You see, being designed to be so packable, I grew concerned that my laptop was getting crushed with all the things I was packing into it. This obviously wasn’t the case but it was something I was cognizant of while I packed for an impromptu trip out of town to the Russian River. (This also might be because my work laptop still has that new laptop smell to it so I’m still babying it a bit too much…)
Now let’s talk about the pouches. I am going to preface all this and say that during my initial beta test of the prototype, this was where the bag struggled the most. How do they fit into the flow? In what way are they going to be useful and add value. Philip, to his credit, solved that problem with the production version of the Charlie 25. Between the internal cavity pockets and external carry options, they seamlessly fit into the bag. And they almost become like an adult dopp kit, perfect to throw your Kindle, cables and essentials. (I used them on a hike or two as external water pouches that turned into trash pouches after lunch.) To be honest, I can’t wait to do some real travel and have one pouch be the easy thing to carry through at TSA. So what’s the problem? Really that they will run you an extra $50-60 per pouch bringing the bag to anywhere between $280-$340. Still a great deal imho but worth calling out.
Now a few of the obvious bits: this is designed to be a big rucksack. There isn’t a ton of organization and that’s on purpose. And that hip belt. Even fully loaded out and about, I can’t see myself ever using it. Thankfully it’s removable but it seems a bit superfluous for my taste/needs.
Where does all this leave us? With one hell of a bag at a great price point ($230). With the pouches (even one), you truly have yourself a workhorse ready for anything. The Charlie 25 has shades of the modularity of a Mission Workshop bag, with the durability of a Tom Bihn (or really, any Remote Equipment bag). To me, this bag really stands out in the way in which you can change how you’re using it based on what it is that you’re doing (or need to do). It’s a fantastic offering!