- Buyer's Guide
- Name: Rover Pack
- Brand: Topo Designs
- Format: Backpack
- Measurement: 18″h x 11″w x 5″d
- Capacity: 990 cu. in./ 16.2 L
- Zippers: YKK
- Material: 1000d Cordura
- PriceUS $139
When Topo Designs, a company founded by three outdoor enthusiasts and friends, entered the industry in 2001, everyone took note. The carry world had its fair share of (some would say it was saturated with) companies making high-end, rugged, technical packs. What it was missing, was company that straddled the line between performance and the actual needs of the weekend warrior. When I received their first bag, the Topo Designs Daypack, I knew we were dealing with a different kind of company. Then, when I read about their design and ethics considerations, I knew that Mark Hansen and his team were speaking my language.
Many months ago, Topo Designs was generous enough to send me a Rover Pack for review. What caught my eye about the bag was the color blocking made possible by the two-halves design of the bag. This was an aesthetically beautiful bag and the features list was extensive to boot. I used the Rover Pack as my every day carry bag for months and over that time I made notes on what I loved about it and the niggles I had with its design.
The Rover Pack is described by Topo Designs as the "Goldilocks of rucksacks." That is, they wanted a bag that didn't stray to any one extreme, but instead, something that was "just right." It features a classic portrait silhouette which mimics the shape of the human torso. This is an important point for comfort. Let's face it, a messenger bag is versatile but it sits on one shoulder and the shape sits almost perpendicular to your spine. The bag has a cinch closure on top, which means more versatile shape storage options. It has an upper front flap as well as a front pocket, both offering generous storage options. Two pairs of compression straps on the sides keeps the package small and contents from rattling and rolling about. The inside is a simple affair with the large main compartment and a padded laptop sleeve. Water bottle side pockets rounds out this every day bag.
- Materials: 1000d Cordura fabric and coated pack cloth
- Heavy duty plastic hardware
- Large YKK zippers with pull cords
- Side pockets for small items or water bottles
- Front and top pockets
- Side compression straps
- Padded shoulder straps
- Top carry handle
Comfort & Usability
I found the Rover Pack to by quite comfortable as long as you kept it within a reasonable carry weight limit. The bag is not meant to be a city or daypack, not a hiking or backpacking bag. The 1000d Cordura fabric choice is a natural one for the bag as it offers durability, water repellency, in a lightweight package. However, it is a relatively thin and flexible nylon, which means it is less suited to carrying heavy loads. I never carried more than 10 to 12 pounds so this was not an issue for me.
Even though I am a sucker for organization, I appreciated the large single compartment of the main body. It was awkward when I only had paper documents because they would sort of get "lost" in there, but adding a cheap manila folder or fancy executive organizer solved that problem. Where it shone was when I had to carry packages home from work. I often get my orders shipped to my work place and having the ability over, say a briefcase, to carry different sized boxes, was nice. A few nights I had to take work home so my 15" Macbook Pro went in the padded laptop sleeve without a hitch. If you are going to be carrying a laptop of that size, it's best if it's naked. It would fit a sleeved laptop if the sleeve were thin enough. I rarely used the side pockets because I do not trust open compartments, though the use of the compression straps would have kept anything water bottle sized, nice and secure.
The compartments that got the most use from me, besides the main one, were the top and front zippered areas. They were such a nice size, measuring about 6 x 10", able to hold everything from my Moleskine notebook and pens, to sunglass cases. I prefer the front, lower, compartment better since loading it with weight did not at all affect the balance of the bag. The top compartment is part of the front flap of the bag, and depending on the size and weight of the contents, could cause the bag to swing and sway while you walked, or when you put the bag down. Often times, my bag would droop down and forward, by my feet, at work; looking a little sad.
The shoulder straps are always a focal point for me and the ones on the Rover Pack are spot on. They are very lightly padded, feature a pair of d-rings, and are sternum strap compatible. There is minimal excess material hanging off the straps, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. Rounding things is the top carry handle which is a must-have for me. All the straps are relatively thin and a standard 1" wide. This might seem too minimal for most bags, for for the purposes of the Rover Pack, it is just right.
Let's talk size for a minute. The bag weighs about a pound and half which is quite light, without making too many comfort concessions. It is also 16L which I feel is edging on the small side of a day pack. I'd prefer anywhere from 18-25 but so far this has worked fine for me. Any larger and you are either carrying excess volume you don't need or you are fooled into filling the bag up with things you don't need on a day-to-day basis. I often fall victim to this as I often carry for "what if" scenarios, rather than "what is".
Wrapping Things Up
- Color combinations very pleasing to the eye
- Size and weight is perfect for a day pack
- Padded laptop sleeve
- Large main compartment and smaller but generous front top and bottom compartments
- Large zippers and easy to grab pull tabs
- Material choice - water and abrasion resistant 1000 Cordura
- Carry handle
- Loading too much weight in upper compartment causes imbalance / droopy fallover syndrome
- Cinch type closure and flap combination do not make for a good waterproofness. Do not carry this in extended showers
- There is not much structure in the body of this bag; does not stand up well on its own if empty; may not be an issue for most
- Buckles tough and high quality but opening and closing is a bit too snappy and "tight" for my taste
Who Does It Suit
- Checking out new cities
- Casual day hikes; exploring local trails
- School or workpack if the load is not too great
- Carry-on backpack for air travel
Not Ideal For
- Students who need to carry a lot of weight
- Any extended hikes or backpacking; this pack is not made to handle a lot of weight and does not have any specialized backpacking features
- Workers who need a more "professional" looking bag
Not surprisingly, I think Topo Designs has another hit on their hands. I was a fan of their Daypack, which brought memories of my school days. I feel the Rover Pack is the more sophisticated sibling of the Daypack. You have a different silhouette, shape, and material choice. The color combinations are much more varied and interesting with the Rover Pack. They've omitted the leather "pig snout" patches which is a love/hate design thing for many. The pack is also about 6 liters smaller than the Daypack which means it's lighter and easier to carry. The Rover Pack is well suited as an everyday bag; something you toss on your back and ride to school with or a bag you take to the bluffs on a photoshoot. Like all Topo Designs bags, it is made in a LEED certified building in Colorado and that's a wonderful bonus. At $140, it's an investment but a worthy one, I think. There are many bags in the space that the Rover Pack occupies, and while it doesn't hit a homerun on every attribute, I think the combination of features and design make it among my favorites.