- Buyer's Guide
Meet Luke Daniels, our new contributor…that’s not his real name.
I’m ex-military with operational experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Former Yugoslavia. Since leaving the army nearly a decade ago I’ve been working on various Government security details in the Middle East and Africa. As a result I’ve got a lot of operational experience with using backpacks and knowing what’s good and what’s bad. I’m currently working in West Africa on a security detail (and that’s about as much as I can say) and needed a multipurpose backpack which could also be used as a ‘bug out bag’ (basically a bag I could grab at a moment’s notice and survive from for a 24-hour period). It also had to be low-key so as not to draw attention to myself (although a white face does make you stand out in a crowd in Africa!). Anyway enough about me, more about the backpack below.
The Lexdray Vienna Pack is inspired by Japanese craftsmanship, designed in California, and made in China. Lexdray advertise the Vienna as being ‘Built for modern life’ and an ‘ultimate travel companion’, although my wife might have something to say about the latter! So I put it through its paces in West Africa, in what is deemed from a security perspective a semi-hostile environment.
I’ve used the Vienna backpack in both the office environment and outdoors – walking, running, hiking, in the heat and in the rain. West Africa is notably hot and at times humid, and has a full gamut of terrain from rural farmland to vast urban sprawls, so it’s been well tested in a variety of environments.
I wanted a versatile and multipurpose bag that wouldn’t make me stick out in a crowd and draw attention to me (other than for bag envy or otherwise!). I used it in the office environment for carrying the usual gamut of a computer, pens, notebooks etc. For outdoors I needed a hard-wearing and durable bag, that was comfortable enough to carry, and with adequate storage to enable me to be self-sufficient for a day trip.
Who It Suits
Stylish professionals who want a versatile, durable and multipurpose backpack for work and play. Lexdray states it’s ‘the perfect pack for professionals, creatives and students alike’. I would agree; I believe the Vienna complements a diverse range of lifestyles (though perhaps not for the board room).
Who It Doesn’t
Anyone who plans to use the bag for storing more than 24 hours of kit and likes to carry everything including the kitchen sink! In addition, the Vienna is not the best option for anyone with a budget constraint. It’s also not ideal for running, but it’s not designed for that, I just thought I would give it a damned good thrashing because I could!
The Vienna backpack is modelled after Lexdray’s Boulder Pack, but it’s lighter in weight with an added front zipper pocket incorporating more readily available internal space. It’s also similar to their Copenhagen backpack although slightly larger and with a removable padded waist strap. Lexdray advertises their bags as ‘smarter than your average bag’ and the Vienna is reportedly one of four of their best sellers, with production limited to a run of 500. The Vienna is black with a stylish light grey Lexdray printed lining. First impressions of the bag were good. The Vienna looks pretty cool wherever you go; it’s sleek, modern, with a universal style that seems in my opinion pretty timeless. Lexdray has kept comfort and accessibility at the forefront of their design, ensuring ergonomic support and functionality. Its appearance is of a compact backpack, which is fashionable both outdoors and in.
Primary materials are reportedly (I’m no textile expert): 1680D ballistic nylon, custom nylon twill, a 1000D TPE waterproof fabric and neoprene. That’s the geeky stuff out the way; basically it appears to be made up of military-grade hardware with durable weather-resistant fabrics.
The Vienna is packed full of features including thoughtful, practical details such as secret pockets, adjustable shoulder straps, and an ultra-padded fleece-lined laptop compartment. I particularly love the clip for the chest strap (when not in use), which makes it neat and tidy; no one likes straps hanging around! The Vienna has a plethora of external and internal zipper pockets, some I didn’t discover for days, so do check out every inch of the bag! Notably look out for the back-entry zip compartment and also the ‘secret pocket’ on the inside left adjustable shoulder strap.
The pockets make it easy to store specific bits of kit and enable quick and easy access. There are plenty of pockets and every one appears to have been measured to hold something specific; they are also really well placed and practically accessible. In the front exterior pocket there are also two detachable key rings.
The fleece-lined notebook compartment safely and rigidly protects a 15″ laptop, so it’s big time laptop friendly; there’s also a designated tablet slot which is a real bonus.
In addition to being great for organising your gear, the pack also offers protection against theft – if worn correctly and using both the waist and chest straps it would be difficult to snatch when worn. If the hidden secret pockets are used to store items such as credit cards, it could delay a thief in finding them, providing the user with time to cancel their cards etc.
“The Vienna is packed full of features including thoughtful, practical details such as secret pockets, adjustable shoulder straps, and an ultra-padded fleece-lined laptop compartment.“
The bag’s dimensions are 13″W x 20.5″H x 7.5″D (33cm x 52cm x 17.8cm) – 25L. Once you know your way around the bag you realise you can get more in there than you first believe! It weighs 4 lbs (1.8 kg); it does feel quite heavy when empty for a backpack of its size. The main volume of the bag is relatively limited, but ideal for minimalists. It will accommodate for example a pair of trainers, clothes for a day and a wash bag, but it is capable of carrying heavy items with comfort. There’s an air mesh breathable back panel for ergonomic comfort and support, it’s a little flat though.
The Vienna has an exceptionally useful hidden waterproof cover, so it’s great in the rain, and was well tested during the rainy season. It has a durable waterproof and cleanable base which is ideal for outdoor activities, a real added bonus in the need to keep your kit dry.
There’s also a removable padded waist strap which really adds to the flexibility and comfort in carrying the bag. When I first saw the Vienna I was skeptical that for its size it could ever warrant a waist strap, but after rigorous testing mainly from hiking, running and walking it certainly proved me wrong; the waist strap adds a great deal of carry comfort. It’s both simple and easy to remove and install which is great.
A key feature is the custom zipper pulls which are extremely robust. Good zipper pulls are hard to find on a bag, but with the Vienna there’s a plethora of them and they’re extremely stylish. The top handle is padded with a removable neoprene wrap which makes it very comfortable while carrying a heavy load; this was tested when carrying litres of water when operating in the West African savannah.
“The main volume of the bag is relatively limited, but ideal for minimalists.”
The pack is made well, with strong and hard-wearing materials. I didn’t experience any construction issues. I really tried honestly, but no breakages!
The Not So Good
The backpack is not the easiest to pack. There is limited space so you need to pack carefully if carrying a full load. I would suggest the bag might be better with an extra 5L of storage, but perhaps that will come with the next edition! As mentioned above, it’s also not lightweight for a bag of its size, but the weight makes it strong and durable, so from that perspective it’s worth it. You can’t always have it both ways!
“…it does feel quite heavy when empty for a backpack of its size.”
The bag is also expensive for what it is, coming in at US$ 395.
Others to Consider
My verdict with decades of military/government security experience of operating with backpacks in hostile environments is that the Vienna is practical, functional, stylish and certainly built to last. The Vienna however is not designed for excessive use outdoors (the waterproof base could get damaged when placed onto rough objects). I believe it will age well over time. Each bag is produced in a limited edition so it should also be pretty exclusive, which is pretty cool.
It’s clear that this bag is designed to be relatively slim with a fairly well defined load. Anything more and the Vienna will not play nicely if you try to overpack it! But if it’s a 25L backpack you want, the Vienna is for you. It’s a great quality bag; it’s small and compact which I like, and for a backpack this small it packs a lot of punch. If you need a versatile and multi-faceted bag for both the indoors and outdoors, that looks good and will age well, this is the backpack for you.
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Space & Access
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Build, Materials & Hardware
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