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Road Tests

Road Tests :: Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

by , June 19, 2015
7.8
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The Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch is a bag that gets us really excited for the way it makes us rethink what a bag can be. For years, backpacks have been associated with school bags and getting away from that has been hard. They’ve been either these boxy or dome, simple school bags or they’ve been really technical outdoor packs. And often when people try to make a backpack in leather or something like that, it just doesn’t quite work. We have a saying in Carryology that a stylish backpack should look like a good winter jacket – it should be tailored and built in similar ways. It should show a respect to flowing fabrics. It should work with lots of different outfits, be subtle enough in color and hue, but use texture to create interest. It should use interesting folds. It shouldn’t have been obviously designed by an industrial designer who’s looking to make everything hard and controllable. It’s a lot nicer when if you’re looking for a stylish backpack, it looks like it’s been designed by a fashion designer who understands folds and darts and gussets and ways of creating flow to fabric. Côte&Ciel bags look like they've been designed by fashion designers. And then they go in and insert just enough organization and tech and more traditional product design approaches to make the bags quite usable.

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Who It Suits

This is a bag that turns heads. If you’re a style cat, if you’re working in a nice, casual office environment, if you like to look sharp at uni, this is the bag that simply looks great. It also works as an overnight bag; you can even fit a couple of nights' clothes in there and a pair of shoes. There’s a reasonable capacity so it works for all those things.

Who It Doesn't Suit

It is not an active bag. You can definitely take a casual ride on your bike with it, but if you thump through the city streets and sweat and get really active, there are better bags for you. If you really bend over, if you run, there are better bags for you. There are no waist straps or sternum straps. This is not an outdoor backpack. It’s fighting against that.

Côte&Ciel Twin Touch Isar

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Specifications

  • Name: Isar Twin Touch
  • Brand: Côte&Ciel
  • Format: Backpack
  • Measurement: Length: 37 cm / 14.57, Depth: 21.5 cm / 8.47, Height: 68 cm / 27.77"
  • Capacity:
  • Weight:
  • Zippers:
  • Material: Varies - Cargo Canvas; Leather & Grid; Memory Tech; Poly-Wool blend
  • PriceUS$ 265.00

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Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Design

Looks

We’re so excited to see such different formats in the carry world. We think there’s a lot that bag designers can learn from this. We don’t think the way to make an office bag is to use black ballistic nylon and hard rigid forms, with exposed zips and that sort of thing. We think this looks great in a stylish office environment, and if you’ve got to go out to dinner afterwards, you even don’t feel silly carrying a work bag because it looks like a beautiful casual bag.

"This is a bag that turns heads."

The Isar series has lots of different fabrics and lots of slight tweaks on format. So, as of the time of writing, there’s still two formats to this bag being sold. One format puts the laptop and work section under the straps and the other format puts it in front of the straps. There is a 15-inch and 17-inch version and this is the 17-inch. We generally recommend only if you’re around 6'1", 6'2" or bigger to go with this 17-inch. It needs quite broad shoulders, otherwise it can slip off. We generally recommend the 15-inch is much better for most people, unless you are really a bit of a hulk.

Materials

As mentioned, there are several fabric options for this backpack and the various fabrics change the feel of the bag a lot. The thicker, heavier gauge fabrics have their own structure and support more. The lighter fabrics are much softer, drape more, and change the nature of the bag.

"...this looks great in a stylish office environment, and if you’ve got to go out to dinner afterwards, you even don’t feel silly carrying a work bag because it looks like a beautiful casual bag."

Construction

In terms of construction and build, it’s again really interesting. On the 17-inch where the zip is tucked in behind, there’s a bit of flaring that happens. That’s not super well-controlled. If it’s on you and pulled in a bit tight, that sort of goes away. But, again, you’re not cranking these straps up because this is a more casual backpack. So it kind of works but it’s not fully resolved.

The yoke and shoulder spread is not quite dialed; we think it’s built just a little too big for most people. However, the handle is great. There’s no grip on it and it runs the surface fabric underneath as well, which makes it beautiful. But it is quite a slippery fabric which doesn’t help with it slipping off your shoulders.

"The yoke and shoulder spread is not quite dialed..."

There’s no air mesh or ventilation, but there is a lot of padding. So again, this is not a bag that you get active in; this is a bag you wear to the office. You get so many comments; you turn heads left, right and center. It’s a really interesting bag that a lot of people like.

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Hardware

The hardware is actually a let-down on Côte&Ciel. They’ve designed all this stuff that looks really lovely, but unfortunately it’s not resolved enough. So the zippers are not the quality they need to be. It’s great that they run a large #10 and you think it’s awesome, but then there’s just a bit of sticktion in it. It just doesn’t flow smoothly enough. That may just be the powder coating they’ve run on that zip head, or it may just be the zip design - we’re not sure. But there’s just a bit of sticktion and it doesn’t flow as smoothly as it should.

"The hardware is actually a let-down on Côte&Ciel. They’ve designed all this stuff that looks really lovely, but unfortunately it’s not resolved enough."

The compression buckles are the main issue. They look great, but they haven’t rumbled them. They’re sharp-edged and the webbing they’ve chosen, which is quite a soft webbing, grabs on the sharp edges of the buckles, so it’s actually quite hard to use. They catch, they freeze. They're not at the level they need to be for compression that you do end up using a bit. And that’s the same with all of the buckles. None of them move smoothly enough. That’s partly the webbing and partly the sharp edges. They’ve just got to rumble them, knock those sharp edges off a little bit in manufacture and then coat them. They're also powder-coated, which means they do start to chip and age. There are other ones that are anodized that should hold up a little bit better than the black powder-coated versions.

Cote et Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Cote et Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Cote et Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Cote et Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Performance

Pockets and Organizing

In general, this bag is split into two sections. The front half is generally for clothing, soft things, a bit of food and the like. The back half is generally for work tools and rigid things. If you have the version where it’s under the straps, it is a bit fiddly to fold them over, but there are two useful benefits to that setup. Number one, it's harder for pickpockets in an urban environment to slip a laptop out without you noticing; the second is you get this softer, draping appearance without the zips showing. It really hides them all away, so it’s more stylish. However, if this is a bag you access many times a day this might drive you nuts.

The work tool section is really interesting because it kind of cascades out or accordions out. The laptop sits against your back – again, that’s fine for a work bag. If you’re riding a bike, it locks up your back a bit, so it’s not perfect. There’s a lot of padding between your back and the computer, so it’s okay. It’s just not ideal. But your laptop in there gives you easy in-and-out once you’ve got the bag open. In addition, the pocketing is interesting and reasonable. There is a mid-level pocket and a higher pocket and then there’s no pocketing down in the crush zones. It works pretty well, rather than really well.

"In general, this bag is split into two sections. The front half is generally for clothing, soft things, a bit of food and the like. The back half is generally for work tools and rigid things."

With this model, again, the interior fabric makes a lot of difference to how the bag sits and drapes. We love the elasticated format that automatically compresses it in a little. But there’s not actually enough structure in the fabric to properly work, so you do get a little bit of drape and it doesn’t quite work. In some styles though, there’s a bit more structure on that internal fabric and so that works a bit better.

The front section is much more the stuff you’d take on an overnight or weekend trip. It’s more for your clothing or organizing stuff. There are straps to lock down clothing so it doesn’t get too tangled. There is also a high pocket that works for sunglasses and an outer pocket – again, delicates, a bit of organizing, some toiletries in there. That all works really nicely for overnight trips, a gear change, toiletries or clothes for the day - jumpers, jackets and that sort of thing. You can lay it on the bed and organize it all. It does mean that on-the-go access is a bit fiddly though because you just have one zipper and then you reach in. But, it actually still works pretty well.

Compression comes through a side strap and a bottom strap, which is again just a really interesting take. It’s subtle, nice and just creates a really different fold. Overall the bag works well when empty, and not quite as well but still fine when full.

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Weatherability

The bag's weatherability is just reasonable. It depends on the material you’ve got. These aren’t waterproof zippers. However, because most of the zippers are tucked away, it generally does fine in a light shower or anything like that.

Cote et Ciel Isar Twin Touch


Alternatives to Consider

Some people may want to look to bags with a heritage vibe, such as those from Kletterwerks or Topo Designs and similar brands. They’re trading off the outdoor heritage when times were simpler. That works, but again it’s a different vibe to this backpack.

Other options include European brands like Teddyfish out of France. They have quite interesting soft aesthetics. Brands such as Hard Graft and others in that same kind of space are worth considering too. This is more along the lines of a European fashion house design that you’re looking to compare to.

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch


The Good

  • Beautiful aesthetics that stand out from the crowd
  • Two separate sections for separating work tools and non-work items
  • Stylish choice of fabrics and colorways

The Not So Good

  • The 17-inch version is too large for most people, with the potential for the pack to slip off your shoulders
  • The hardware needs improving, removing sharp edges and giving it a look that will age better
  • The interior fabrics require further refinement to provide better structure

Verdict

The Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch provides a welcome change to bag aesthetics, bringing something new and fresh to the scene. It totally turns heads. Plus Côte&Ciel are really nailing it with a number of great exterior fabric options and beautiful colorways.

It also works pretty well with the work zone and the casual zone. This design means you don’t have to expose clothes when you reach into the bag during a work meeting.

However, there are some things that could be better. Avoid the 17-inch and opt for the 15-inch instead unless you have a large build, as the bag is simply going to be too big. In addition, better hardware would fix those little niggles that just get in the way of pure enjoyment using this bag. Better hardware, better zippers and just nailing the interior fabrics a little bit would go a long way to making this a bag where you didn’t have to compromise to have something really attractive and awesome.

Overall, it’s a great bag. We really enjoyed reaching for it every now and then. However, when we’re living on the road for a long time or we’re in stressful or uncertain environments, there are different bags we’ll reach for instead.

 

Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access
7
Organization
8
Comfort
7

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
10
Build, Materials & Hardware
8
Features
8

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
5
Brand experience
7
Value
8
X Factor
10

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