- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Lexdray Mont Blanc Pack
Alex Drayer is back again with another feature-filled bag; this time it’s the Lexdray Mont Blanc, his take on a hiking-inspired pack. The specs list is as long as my arm and the price of admission is nothing to scoff at. Did Lexdray check all the boxes? Is this a bag that you’ll be carrying on your next flight, hike, or jaunt around midtown?
When I first heard about Lexdray way back in 2009, it was a revelation to me. The first thing that stood out was of course the price. Lexdray was selling packs that were over $300 a piece, at a time when the idea of luxe packs were practically unheard of. In fact, companies like Topo Designs were designing and selling bags with a mantra of less is more and bang for your buck. It takes something special to disrupt the market and that something was Lexdray. Mind you, the idea of expensive bags were not new and Lexdray certainly didn’t invent the space, but it certainly shook things up when the first season was introduced, which included the Tokyo Pack which we reviewed.
Since then, we’ve looked at the Boulder and have been keeping an eye on the company. Leveraging relationships in many different industries, Lexdray has produced speciality bags that provide solutions for the style-conscious business traveler to working DJ. Despite this broad product line, Alex Dray’s distinct design still runs true in the DNA of each bag, including the Mont Blanc I was sent to look at.
At 28L and measuring 13”W x 23”H x 6.5”D (33cm x 58.4cm x 16.5cm), the Mont Blanc is Lexdray’s largest backpack. Those numbers might not sound like much, but in person the bag is quite large and reminds me of packs I have from Osprey and Gossamer Gear which are used for backpacking. I have the black version, though an attractive olive option is available as well. Like the rest of the line, the Mont Blanc is primarily made of ballistic nylon with a PU2 backing which has fairly strong water-resistance properties. The bottom sports waterproof 1000D TPE which steps up the waterproofness even more, to keep those puddles out of your pack.
As I’ve mentioned, the bag is designed to mimic a hiking pack. This means a single cavernous interior with an extended “sock” opening and draw-closure. What this means is you could stuff the pack higher than the traditional top of the bag, and cinch it tight. The top flap is bulbous and can easily accommodate an additional six inches or so of over-pack. I counted seven sets of straps which might seem like overkill, but with a bag of this size, you might need them to tame any excessive packing.
Besides the large main cargo hold (which actually has two small pockets and a larger zippered one around 6″ x 7″), the Mont Blanc boasts a bevy of compartments to make any organizer giddy. From the front: we have a pair of neoprene bottle holders flanking the right and left side. Their flaps are secured with buttons when not in use, and when open can hold a normal-sized water bottle or thermos but would probably have trouble with anything Nalgene-sized. Front and center, we have three pockets, all secured with waterproof zippers. In fact, all exterior zippers are of the waterproof variety, which are quite lovely. The bottom horizontal pocket is fairly shallow, but long, so it’d be perfect for pens or cables. The vertical pockets mirror each other in the vertical axis, but interestingly one runs the (center) width of the pack, going under the other pocket. I love this design, because it gives you more storage real estate, versus splitting the area evenly down the center.
The top flap hides two storage pockets; one on the inside and one on the exterior. The latter was the pocket I was searching for the moment I unwrapped the bag. You see, all Lexdray bags have a velvet-lined pocket, perfect for keeping those Persol’s safe. This one is in a handy position up high and in the rear (imagine swinging the bag on one shoulder, to your front. What’s the easiest place to access something?). This same pocket also has a detachable keyring as well as a detachable clip. I’ll explain later why I think this is a strange choice.
Speaking of the rear, the sides open up to give access to a padded laptop compartment capable of supporting up to a 17″ laptop. The other side gives you access to the main compartment, perfect for pulling out that sweater during a flight. As with the Toyko and Boulder packs, the rear of the Mont Blanc also has a hidden flap which is accessed by pulling down dual zippers. Behind the flap, you’ll find a few more slots, an elastic lined larger pocket and a buttoned documents pocket which is perfect for a passport or other flat travel documents.
Finishing things off, storage-wise, you have a pair of compartments on the waist belt, which is quite beefy and, again, removable.
The zipper tabs are all custom branded with the Lexdray logo. All compartments that are not zippered usually have a pair of buttons. Again, we see the signature Lexdray design, with a slot for a finger to fit behind the button for easy closure. The only metal hardware, if you don’t count the zippers and buttons, are the removable keyring and clip. They are both high quality and have the same matte finish that we see on the rest of the bag. Lastly, the rear of the bag, including the hip belt, is made of an airmesh material designed to keep things cool. Some Carryologists aren’t fans of the mesh design, but I’ve always found it works fine for me.
Who It Suits
This bag is perfect for the type of traveler who might otherwise use a large backpacking bag. The type of traveler who does not have a checked bag, but instead carries enough for 3-5 days inside their carry-on pack. This would also be great for someone exploring a city, but with a base to return to, such as a hotel or hostel.
Who It Doesn’t
Despite what Lexdray says, this bag is absolutely not for hiking or backpacking. At 4.5 pounds it is fairly heavy. As someone who was somewhat obsessed with Ultralight packs, there is no consideration for weight in the design of this bag. Everything here is about luxury and comfort. This bag is also not suited for anyone who does not have a lot of stuff to carry around. It’s a huge bag that holds a lot of content. Strangely though, what it can hold in the non-main compartment is fairly limited and specialized. What I mean is the pockets are relatively flat and often shallow so if you were to take it hiking, it’d be better equipped to carry maps, rather than something like a stove. Finally, this bag is overkill for someone using it as a standard everyday daypack or a pack to carry to the office. I could see carrying something of this size if I were using it as both a work and gym bag, but this design does not lend itself well to that purpose. There are better bags for that.
For me, this bag excels in the small details that seem very simple but are real timesavers or headache-reducers. The straps all sport military-grade buckles, slack retention loops, and some are even removable or hideable. That’s right, you can remove the entire hip belt if you want and you can tuck away the top and bottom horizontal straps if they aren’t needed. When hidden, the straps truly are not visible and it actually looks quite good. This is an example of good design that I’ve come to appreciate in Lexdray bags.
All the buckles on the Mont Blanc are of the Stealth variety and I absolutely love how quiet the engagement and release is. In addition, the buckles don’t slam shut with any violent force, unlike what I experience with the Crafted Goods Carrera. As I’ve mentioned, all the buckle straps come with slack loops which I am a huge fan of. The sternum straps can be clipped vertically, keeping them out of the way, if you are not a fan of that extra piece of security. We’ve seen this before in previous Lexdray packs, but it’s still appreciated.
I appreciated the waterproof zippers and like that they are on all exterior pockets instead of just a few, which would force me to decide which of my items I value over others, and want to keep dry. I love the hefty hip belt, which I found really took the weight off a heavy bag. As always, I love the top carry handle which is something I will keep mentioning to bag makers. I love the padded pocket in the rear of the top cover and the documents section in the rear, especially the iPad Mini/passport pocket is the best. I only saw one loose thread on the entire bag.
The Not So Good
The first thing that struck me was I had two zippers split in the middle. Both were exterior waterproof ones so either it’s a coincidence or there’s something a little finicky about them. Once I got them back on track, I haven’t had any issues but it seems like they might need a more gentle touch.
I like the idea of the side water bottle holders but I am not really a fan of the pocket design. I find pockets which are open, with an elastic top are easier to manipulate one-handed. Also, at least on my review sample, the side pockets didn’t seem to sit exactly on the sides. Instead, they crept into the front view.
Despite having a large number of pockets, I found myself scratching my head figuring out the purpose of some of them. For example, the rear compartment has a stack of shallow slots, for business or credit cards. I am not sure why I would even want to store either type of card in such a difficult-to-reach location. Earlier, I mentioned the awesome velvet-lined compartment in the rear of the top flap. With the choice of such a soft material, you’d think this area was designed to keep something scratch-free such as sunglasses or a smartphone. Why then would there be a keyring and clip here? I don’t want my dangling sharp keys anywhere near my expensive glasses, phone, or even a camera.
You are able to access the rear of the padded laptop case and even “detach” it partially from the rear of the pack, but you can’t entirely remove it. Basically, it’s a suspending laptop sleeve which is actually a great idea. You don’t want your laptop hitting the ground if you were to drop your bag down hard. However, it creates this confusing “space” behind the sleeve. Turns out that this is an ideal spot for the rain cover, though it’s not very intuitive.
If it wasn’t obvious, I really like the Lexdray line and the Mont Blanc is no exception. Since 2009, the bags have maintained a high level of sophistication in design, employing high-end materials. I am a bit at odds with the Mont Blanc, especially with the $450 price point. On one hand, it really screams luxury and has the feature set to back it up. On the other hand, it takes a unique customer to truly value the bag’s features at the asking price. So there you go, if you checked off the boxes in the Who It Suits section and didn’t check off any (or at least not too many) in the Who It Doesn’t section, you might want to consider the Mont Blanc as your next bag. If you need something smaller but with the same design cues, take a look at the San Diego pack, which I haven’t tested but love the look of since it reminds me of the classic JanSport silhouette.