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Backpacks

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack :: Drive By

by , October 26, 2016

Introducing guest contributor, Jono Chee. He spends his time navigating between jazz-era dances, obscure martial arts and wrangling words. You can most likely spot him shredding around Melbourne town on two wheels. 

What’s cooler than Bill Murray from the 80s? Not much.

Seeing Inside Line Equipment’s Default backpack dropped me back into one of my favorite childhood movie memories: the Default’s long, boxy silhouette and the industrial grey (with eye-catching strips of reflector) brought back shades of a Ghostbusters Proton pack. In a good way. 

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

So when you need to commute on two wheels, who you gunna call?

ILE, I guess. Cycling carry is their thing. The cycling connection comes from Inside Line Equipment’s founder Eric Fischer, a cycling enthusiast from way back. The Berkeley, CA studio has taken a lot of inspiration from cyclists and their needs. The Default’s 25L capacity accommodates a large load – about the largest size I like to strap to my back for cycling – while the removable waist and sternum straps are good for stabilizing heavier loads.

To the delight of my inner 80s child, strapping on this bad boy felt good and it drew a stack of compliments from friends and acquaintances – it’s definitely a looker.

Who It Suits

Those who cycle, PT, or trek about in the urban jungle by foot, who regularly need to haul gear with them: gym, groceries, cycling gear, plus work/study essentials. It’s also really useful for rainy climates.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

Who It Doesn’t

If you’re needing a high degree of internal organization or padding for fragile gear, this might not be right for you.

For those of you more regular-sized folks, the Default has a smaller sibling, the Default Mini. Slightly smaller, just as weatherproof, but I can’t vouch for the Proton pack likeness.

If you’re needing a high degree of internal organization or padding for fragile gear, this might not be right for you.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

The Good

What’s respectable about ILE is their devotion to using US-made wherever possible. From the Duraflex buckles, to the XPAC Sailcloth, to the Cordura, down to the ballistic nylon thread. All hand sewn by ILE in CA. Sturdy, well-assembled, quality materials. All of that does bump up the price a little, but this is a bag that is not going to let you down with poor fabrics or craftsmanship: it has the grunt to handle serious use.

“What’s respectable about ILE is their devotion to using US-made wherever possible. From the Duraflex buckles, to the XPAC Sailcloth, to the Cordura, down to the ballistic nylon thread. All hand sewn by ILE in CA.”

One of the first things I noticed with the Default on my back was that it felt like it covered the length of my back – and at 6’4, I have a pretty long back. The official dimensions are 12″ x 6″ x 20″: some people may not like a bag of such length, but I was glad to avoid the tall-man-with-child’s-bag look.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

For four months I ran the Default as my EDC. Schlepping around town mainly by bike, but also public transport, I hauled all sorts of gear through a wet Melbourne winter. The Default did an excellent job at securing (and keeping dry!) the various loads I threw at it, including regular doses of heavy groceries.

“One of the first things I noticed with the Default on my back was that it felt like it covered the length of my back…”

The Default I rolled with features an XPAC Sailcloth outer which has a subtle geometric pattern and is lighter than the 1000D Cordura version that is also available. The Sailcloth finish is crisp and modern, so I loved rocking into work with it in the city. It also scrubbed up pretty well after hitting the dirt a few times at soccer, which is a definite bonus.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

“The Sailcloth finish is crisp and modern, so I loved rocking into work with it in the city. It also scrubbed up pretty well after hitting the dirt a few times at soccer, which is a definite bonus.”

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

The Default’s main compartment does two things well: it accommodates a lot of gear and keeps it dry. Lined with waterproof vinyl, there are no organizational components to be found here – probably to avoid unnecessary stitching through the vinyl that would result in potential water leakage. And yes, while the vinyl is waterproof, submerge this baby and you’ll have a nice bucket with straps.

“The Default’s main compartment does two things well: it accommodates a lot of gear and keeps it dry.”

The Default can carry a heap. For those of us who juggle study, work and play – especially by bike – the Default’s got you covered for carrying capacity. Even with bulky martial arts pads (sparring helmet not in the picture), uniform, jeans (yes, I was wearing bike shorts), lecture notes, Kindle and water bottle, the Default was still less than ¾ full.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

Its dimensions also meet carry-on requirements, and it’s big enough to fit everything you need for a few days if you’re packing light.

Wide, padded straps means heavy loads don’t cut in and weight is distributed better. On the days I had to carry a combination of textbooks, laptop and martial arts gear, the Default was perfectly comfortable the whole day. D rings on each shoulder strap allow clips for hanging extra gear.

“Wide, padded straps means heavy loads don’t cut in and weight is distributed better.”

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

As a cyclist, I love the sternum and waist straps. They’re perfect for stabilizing big, heavy loads and ensuring things are snug when you’re riding hard. Some people don’t like (or need) these straps: the good news is they are both removable. The buckles are easy to manage and the sternum one survived me accidentally closing a car door on it.

“As a cyclist, I love the sternum and waist straps. They’re perfect for stabilizing big, heavy loads and ensuring things are snug when you’re riding hard.”

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

The back padding is flat and meshed. It’s comfortable for heavy loads, and breathes pretty well. It does get warm when riding – great for winter and autumn, maybe not so great for summer. That said, the only way to get around that (in my opinion) are backpacks with suspension systems that actually lift the bag off your back (i.e. Osprey and Boreas packs). 

“It does get warm when riding – great for winter and autumn, maybe not so great for summer.”

The Default’s main compartment has a rolltop that is secured by a flap with two long Velcro strips for adjusting to different loads.

A small, secure weatherproof pocket sits at the bottom of the front of the pack, protected by the flap and also a water-resistant urethane zipper. This pocket is also lined with vinyl, so it’s super water resistant. It’s the right size for wallets, phones, an external hard drive, a passport – the sort of things you want to guarantee are kept dry and secure. The only trouble I found with this pocket was that it could get a little difficult to access when the other compartments are quite full.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

Protected by the large front flap are one deep pocket and two smaller, shallower pockets. Keys, stationery, USB and other miscellaneous things get divided into these simple organizational section and are accessed quickly underneath the Velcro flap.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

The Default also features two deep pockets on either side of the main compartment. I could fit a long, 1-liter insulated bottle in one side and have a pair of thongs/flip flops in the other (good for moving about between martial arts classes). Two sets of two straps on either side help compress an emptier bag and also help secure anything in the side pockets.

The Default’s main compartment has a rolltop that is secured by a flap with two long Velcro strips for adjusting to different loads.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

On a recent shopping expedition I found out the use of the two press studs at the top of the rolltop. I was overambitious with my shopping and my bag was getting very full: there wasn’t much of a rolltop left to roll. Clipping the press studs minimized the gaps that were opening up on the sides of the rolltop stay, keeping the compartment reasonably closed while stopping the elements getting into the bag and my groceries from falling out.

The Not So Good

One minor niggle that I discovered on the same shopping trip was the front flap popping open when I tried to secure the rolltop when the bag was very full. This was not a major issue: with a little rearranging, I was able to maneuver the rolltop to the flap, rather than the other way around.

One minor niggle that I discovered on the same shopping trip was the front flap popping open when I tried to secure the rolltop when the bag was very full.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

Also, perhaps it’s my paranoia, perhaps it’s the thought of having my valuables rained on, but there are little gaps that can open up above this front compartment – again, this happens particularly when both the main compartment and front pocket are on the full side. Seeing as this is where most of the organizational pockets for small things are situated, this is less than ideal. But perhaps I’m worrying over nothing, as I did get caught in heavy rain at least three times and nothing in those pockets ever got wet.

“…there are little gaps that can open up above this front compartment – again, this happens particularly when both the main compartment and front pocket are on the full side.

Hidden under the flap itself is a concealed pocket protected by a water-resistant urethane zipper. Inside Line Equipment say that this will accommodate a 15″ MacBook: I threw my old 13″ MacBook in there with plenty of room to spare. That said, my biggest issue with the Default is on this pocket: there is no padding for my laptop and the pocket reaches all the way down to the ground. This is a recipe for laptop meeting concrete, and is a pet peeve of mine.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

In the end, I never used that pocket for my laptop. Instead I used it for books, papers and a couple of work contracts that had to be kept dry, separate and super secure.

“…there is no padding for my laptop and the pocket reaches all the way down to the ground. This is a recipe for laptop meeting concrete…”

Value for Money

While a bit pricey, you know that your gear is going to be protected from the elements – and that in itself is valuable. The materials and craftsmanship are excellent (and backed by a lifetime warranty), so you know this is an investment that will last.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

Verdict

As somebody who rides regularly and has an eclectic lifestyle, I often have to haul a range of different gear with me. Melbourne, being the original four-seasons-in-one-day city, is prone to unpredictable rain. The Default is a great mix of function, weather resistance and comfort, with a style that I can carry from office to cafe, dojo to soccer pitch. With a proper protective laptop pocket, this would rock my socks off.

The materials and craftsmanship are excellent (and backed by a lifetime warranty), so you know this is an investment that will last.

Inside Line Equipment Default Backpack

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access
7
Organization
7
Comfort
8

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
8
Build, Materials & Hardware
8
Features
7

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
9
Brand experience
8
Value
7
X Factor
7

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