- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Ethnotek Setia
Introducing a new guest reviewer…
Tegan Ang is an office manager; she organizes stuff like a boss. Oh, and she’s the founder of Batman Tuesday (no, really, it’s a thing).
Ethnotek is a brand that I was previously unacquainted with, but it’s the kind of brand that I can get behind. I like brands that give back to a community in some way, whether through charity or creating employment. It gives the brand, and by extension the bags, personality. And that is what drew me to this bag in the first place – it has personality. When you wear one of these bags, you carry someone’s story.
The Ethnotek Setia was designed based on the call for a smaller, cheaper offering from the Ethnotek faithful. But is it good value?
Who it suits
Day trippers, casual professionals and students looking for a pack at a reasonable price point.
Who it doesn’t suit
Suits and perpetual sojourners (this isn’t the kind of hard-wearing pack that will last a lifetime).
There is so much I like about this bag at first glance.
The threads are truly the highlight of the Ethnotek range, and the Setia offering is no different. Though these threads aren’t detachable and interchangeable like its bigger sibling, the Raja series, you still have quite a range to choose from. I went for the Guatemala because its columns of colour really pop against the black ballistic nylon, and are a nice feature when you open the hood.
Another visual that drew my eye was its sleek, rectangular form. I like a bag that won’t sit as a bulge on my back. The hood complements this design, topping off the bag and giving it a smooth look.
I like side zips; it’s a great feature to avoid slower access from the top. I particularly like that the side zip is partially hidden by a slight black edging.
Finally, kudos to the rain cover. Not a novel idea but in a city like Melbourne, where you’re more than likely to be caught in a sudden downpour, it’s a handy feature. At the first sign of drizzle, I had my bag covered in less than ten seconds. The logo is a nice touch, and stands out brilliantly on black.
The Not So Good
Although there’s side access, the laptop sleeve is only designed for top access. And it became very obvious, on a recent short trip, when I strolled through airport security that getting my laptop out, and past my weekend’s worth of garb, now required a lot of maneuvering. A minute later and I was ready to walk through the body scanner. Another minute later and my laptop was wiggled fiercely back into its compartment – not ideal. A zip or flap access to the laptop from the side would be an awesome add-on.
Also the laptop sleeve isn’t suspended. An accidental drop leaves you with an uncomfortable metallic thud.
The zips work well but are small, maybe a 5. Thus their lifespan is kinda questionable.
The pocket in the hood contains quite a lot of space. You can easily fit your smartphone, keys, wallet, pens, small notebooks and other little carry-arounds in there. But only when the cinch top isn’t in play. Once you’ve used that space, the hood becomes decoration only, needing a stronger layer between it and the main compartment. Try and use the pocket that hides within, and you may meet with terrible misfortune, as I did the day I took it out for a ride to work. My bag was packed similarly to my trip, and I’d decided to fit a few small items into the hood pocket, such as my keys, a small bottle of perfume and my wallet. After getting to work with no problem, I opened the hood pocket to grab my keys to open my bike lock. You can probably guess what happened. Yep, everything was pressed up against the zip so the moment it opened, it all fell out on to the hard concrete floor. Suffice it to say, the perfume bottle is no more.
There’s one last issue: the gusset pocket. Though not explicitly specified as a water bottle holder, it is the first thing I tried to use it for. I own a CamelBak 750ml bottle, and with the zip down, it was a struggle to fit it in. So lesson one: this pocket is only good for smaller bottles. The big issue is that once the bag is full, the gusset pocket becomes almost unusable. It simply lays snug around the bag’s form, even with the zip down. So lesson two: if you want to use the pocket for a water bottle, make sure you put it in first.
There is a slight puckering around the right bottom corner where the threads meet the bag. It’s very minimal but once you know it’s there, it’s forever in your eyeline.
The sternum strap niggled at me because only one side could be adjusted. And with great effort. The other side was either clasped too tightly or obstructed by the little logo label. I tried really hard to get it moving but stopped short of possible breakage. Alas, sternum strap, I cannot give your true worth.
If this bag is used simply, i.e. not overfilled, then it’s a great everyday bag. It’s simple and fun and affordable. I really enjoyed it. But if you need to fit more or carry more, then I suggest looking at other options, like Ethnotek’s Raja or Wayu series.