- Buyer's Guide
Road Tests :: Outlier Ultrahigh Backpack
The Outlier Ultrahigh Backpack is a different bag for us. It really grew on us and it ended up being a bag loved by many people in the Carryology camp. Yes, it’s expensive. But it really has charisma and some great benefits.
- Name: Ultrahigh Backpack
- Brand: Outlier
- Format: Backpack
- Measurement: Width: 12 inches; Height (closed): 19.5 inches, height (open): 24.5 inches;
- Capacity: Open: 28L; Closed: 20L
- Weight: 490 grams (383 grams without frame sheet)
- Zippers: YKK Uretek
- Material: Ultrahigh Dyneema NWC: Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene encapsulated in BoPET with a polyester outer face
- PriceUS$ 375
Who It Suits
This bag is for someone active who travels a lot. We found it works best as a daypack in that classic sense of a lightweight simple pack for travel or a trip around town, or jumping on a boat and going somewhere. You can use it as a commuter pack, although be aware there’s very little organizing in it so you’ll need your own organizing solutions. It suits someone looking for a backup pack. It’s so lightweight that you can take it with you with very little burden in your pack space. And it suits someone looking for a unique brand that’ll get a bit of attention.
Who It Doesn’t
This isn’t a great bag if all you’re trying to do is get to work and back and organize your work tools. It’s not spec'd for heavy loads, so if you’re carrying heavy weights you’ll find that limiting. It doesn’t suit tactical folks who want lots of features and pocketing. This is a minimalist pack made in a crinkly different fabric with Fidlock closures. So if you’re conservative, if you’re very much focused on the price you pay for a pack, you probably should look elsewhere.
The looks are attractive in an Outlier sporty sort of way. The fabric is unusual, quite a wrinkly look, and it moves differently. This is laminated with an external polyethylene outer face which means you start to see the patina and uses and crinkles coming through it; it’s almost like this marbling effect. The look, we dig it, loving rounded silhouette. It looks like you might be riding your bike or running through rainstorms with it, but it actually fits fine in an office environment because of its subdued styling and soft and interesting drape. So you can also get away with it in quite cool settings or in an interesting office environment.
The construction is top-notch. There are a few little tweaks we’d do to the patterning that might just make it a tiny bit more usable but we didn’t see any loose stitching etc. The interior is all seam-sealed, this is quite a reasonably-high watertight pack. The bag is well put together which is a hard thing to do with these materials. So nice job Outlier.
This is alternatively called sail cloth, or space suit material, or polyethylene fabric. You either love this kind of material or you hate it. It's very water resistant and very abrasion resistant. It's also very lightweight with an incredibly high tensile strength and strength to weight ratio. It does make a little bit of noise. It rustles, it crinkles; it's not a very subtle fabric. It's quite a technical fabric.
The hardware is quite minimal other than the side Fidlock buckles which are a magnetic latch buckle. You pull down on it to release and then it comes up. A couple of small issues with that in that the mounting for the Fidlock is on a soft panel without structure, so if your bag’s quite empty, when you go to latch sometimes the housing sort of moves away from you. So it’s a little bit fiddly there but as you get the hang of the Fidlock you kind of settle into your rhythm and you end up forming a good relationship.
In terms of features, you can remove the back panel frame sheet in this and roll the pack up into a tiny space. It’s ultra-light. It’s an incredibly light pack. You don’t understand how pleasurable that is until you’ve spent a couple of days walking around with this. When you start to realize that so many backpacks now weigh over a kilogram, just losing that and having a pack that weighs almost nothing - especially if it’s little trips about town or while you’re away, little boat trips - you start to delight in that lightweight feel. You understand why the straps don’t need as much padding, why you don’t need a waist belt, because there’s just less weight in it.
"This bag is for someone active who travels a lot. We found it works best as a daypack in that classic sense of a lightweight simple pack for travel or a trip around town..."
Take it away with you when you go traveling; roll it up, shove it in your suitcase or the pocket of another bag. When you get to a new city you can take it out and throw in a jumper or a water bottle or a couple of snacks. It’s amazing for roaming a city. You won’t look like a tourist, you won't be paying a weight penalty. This is basically one of the best ultra-light backpacks we’ve ever used for that sense but it’s robust and durable enough that you can also use it in a daily setting.
Having said that, if you do want to carry big, bulky items or you’re often lugging around an old-school MacBook Pro or something, there are better packs out there for those purposes.
Space and Access
In terms of space and access there is a large main opening. You’ve got external side pockets and a small front pocket. Really, you’ve got to bring your own organization to this. You probably want your own toiletry bag inside, you probably want your own organizing cube or whatever. There’s a slip. You can pop a smaller laptop in but you probably even want your own laptop sleeve if you want to carry one in here.
However, we love this mostly as a daypack and as a pack that you’re not bringing huge amounts of organizing with you, so in that way it works. It’s a long top opening, but because the pack’s fairly small you generally don’t lose things at the bottom of the pack.
In terms of pocketing, the front pocket doesn’t have its own gusseting or space and so whatever’s inside will push against the front pocket and limit the usability, so it’s generally better for a phone and maybe some keys. It’s not a highly useful front pocket although it is behind a water-resistant zip.
The side pockets are a great stretch fabric. Our one issue is most water bottles are now a little bit too tall for these side pockets, so they can have a tendency to tip out and fall out. It would be more useful if these pockets had a touch more length to them.
One of the other main issues is the frame sheet is rigid. It’s not a high density foam. It's a self-reinforcing polypropylene and if you have too much back arch you feel that pressing against your back a little bit. That’s one of the main areas we could improve on, swapping to something like a high density foam or something where you don’t just have this layer of the outer fabric and then straight on to the equivalent of a PE board against your back.
But having said that, if you’re not overfilling the bag, if you’re not spending too long on the bike it just works. The light weight is what gives it its comfort rather than padded straps or amazing padded suspension systems or anything else there. The comfort’s reasonable without being amazing because of that.
The bag is very watertight. The other major benefit is with only one minor zip on the bag for the front pocket, it’s less prone to things like corrosion. We took this to the Maldives and we were on and off boats, we were throwing in scuba gear, we were throwing in all sorts of snorkeling gear, took it on surf trips, threw wax in. And you just don’t care about that, when normally zippers might be negatively impacted and metal bits might start corroding. You can just bring this bag everywhere with you and not worry about it. It’s quite a liberating pack in that way. You just take it more places.
"The bag is very watertight. The other major benefit is with only one minor zip on the bag for the front pocket, it’s less prone to things like corrosion."
Alternatives to Consider
You can look at the ultra-light packable packs, there’s loads from outdoor brands like Osprey and REI. The biggest difference, most of those are using things like silicon coated nylons. They don’t have as much structure. They pack a tiny bit smaller but they don’t have that resilient feeling, they won’t be as watertight as this is and they just look like you’re an outdoor person trapped in a city. With the Ultrahigh Backpack though you actually look quite urban and when you get it outdoors it looks great in the outdoors as well. This has more versatility in terms of its aesthetic.
Alternatively you might be looking at other really interesting packs. You might be looking at Côte&Ciel, or other brands that give you quite a different vibe to the backpack.
Then brands like Hyperlite, and ultra high molecular weight polyethylene makers. They’re often more technical bags, with external straps and compressions and bungees, whereas this is a stripped back aesthetic. So you’ll find such bags do well if you want to strap skis to them but the Outlier pack doesn’t. However, they won’t do well in a work setting whereas this pack does.
"The light weight is what gives it its comfort rather than padded straps or amazing padded suspension systems or anything else there. The comfort’s reasonable without being amazing because of that."
- Packs easily into a larger travel bag for use as a day bag
- Versatile aesthetics suit urban and outdoor settings
Not So Good
- Side pockets are too short to accommodate tall water bottles well
- Lack of organization will make this bag too minimalist for some
- The frame sheet can press uncomfortably into your arched back
This bag is not cheap, and it’s not highly resolved with everything absolutely nailed, but there’s just so much charm to it. The resilient, durable but very light style means it’s a package you want to take with you. It’s a bit specialist, it’s a bit of an indulgence, but we love it. It’s a great pack.
*Good news, Outlier have made this pack even more awesome. Here's their update: "The side pockets were re-angled to hold items more securely. The zip pocket was redone using the same US made Tweave four-way stretch fabric so you can squeeze more into it. The webbing ends were redesigned to ensure easier access at all settings. An inner flap was added to help hold the frame sheet in place. Webbing loops on that flap make it easier to clip or lace items to the bag. We even tweaked the back handle slightly to make it more secure"
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Space & Access
Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware
Warranty & Support