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Road Tests

Road Tests :: Trakke Wee Lug

by , April 25, 2014
8.2
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A visually stunning messenger with versatility to match...

On the very first day of the Wee Lug’s arrival on our doorstep, it did strange things to people: some craned their necks, others leaned back on their chairs, gawking, semi-horizontal, with keyboards soon being abandoned and crew milling around, stroking the fine waxed cotton, oohing and ahhing at it like it was a newborn bub.

lug01

Then, I knew it was something special and quickly threw down dibs on the review (you have to abuse your power whenever possible) and ran the Wee Lug as my plush work bag for two glorious months of home-tram-train-office-home and repeat. And being in Melbourne, the Wee Lug copped the full breadth of Melbourne’s infamous weather, known locally as the ‘four seasons in one day’, and relished it.

Granted, the Lug took home our Best Active Messenger Award and could have excelled in a rigorous testing environment like cycling or skiing, but I went with a work scenario for two reasons: 1) the closest I get to being active is watching my girlfriend do Yoga and 2) The Lug is crazy versatile and is at home in both the active and work environments.

WidescreenBW

Specifications

  • Name: Wee Lug
  • Brand: Trakke
  • Format: Messenger
  • Measurement: 34 × 30 × 18cm
  • Capacity: 18 Litres
  • Weight:
  • Zippers: PEX
  • Material: Wax Cotton Canvas
  • PriceUS $420

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Who it suits

The Wee Lug’s an all-rounder with fine details and will appeal to a sweeping range: uni students, professors, architects, workers in a more casual office environment (if they’re donning the more subdued colorways).

Really, anyone who has a thing for fine craftsmanship and softgoods that hold that "classic" look for eons will purr over this.


side shot

Who it doesn’t suit

If you’re looking for a cheaper price point or budgeting because you’ve got a clan of kids whittling away your savings, this isn’t the messenger for you. These are beautiful materials, beautiful treatments, and that stuff adds up when it comes to opening your wallet.

When it comes to weight it’s a little on the heavy side. If you’re conscious about being weighed down then bypass this and look for lighter messengers made from synthetics and Everest-ready outdoor fabrics.

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"This is effortlessly classic from day dot"

Design

Looks 

As they say in the classics: the Wee Lug is damn fine! It somehow feels current, while also harkening back to a golden age when things were made with that special type of pride and care.

The buckles give off a utilitarian feel, it has a beautiful little duffel toggle, a whole bunch of really textural materials, and all these little touches that compound into a very well considered vibe.

buckle

tiggle

When I had it slung over my shoulder on packed trains it stood out amongst the carriages of work carry like a glimmering gem, drawing envious looks from commuters on the regular.

BWtrain

We’re total suckers for carry like this. A lot of brands try and add personality to their carry by worshipping heritage and in turn become slaves to it, while the Lug only tips its hat to heritage and gives a cheeky wink. This is effortlessly classic from day dot.

"The pattern work is dialed"

lug03

Construction

It looks good; I didn’t notice any loose ends whilst combing over it. The stitching is tied off well and the reinforcement is all right where it should be.

The main opening runs a beautifully consistent curved taper, leaving the main flap to fold over with no Gorby Gap whatsoever.

The pattern work is dialed, and there’s just enough square to the base so it stands reasonably well when you lay it down (but not perfectly).

As I said, there’s a bit of weight in the bag: heavier materials and more solid hardware, which means you’ll feel some extra weight for that robustness of construction.

Hardware

A total highlight: the custom-made closures are awesome and far nicer than crappy plastic buckles. Admittedly, they were a touch fiddly when I first got my claws on them but with a little focus and persistence I quickly developed a knack for handling them and the process became fast and intuitive.

buckles1

The AustriAlpin Cobra buckle is becoming something of a default for high-end messengers (looking like something straight out of Stargate), and is one of the most robust buckles out there: you can hang from it, belay, make your own flying fox with it...it’ll do anything and then some.

cobra

There’s still a little bit of Velcro on the inside when you open the flap and it has that slight naff rip sound which may be something that bothers you. But it's not as bad as some and there’s little Velcro on the outside so it won’t gather lint and fluff and end up looking like a cat’s scratch pole.

And every bit of steel hardware has been rumbled, so you don't have that hard edge that stops stuff running sweetly.

All in all, this hardware will age beautifully; it’s well resolved and well finished.

velcro

"The waxed cotton canvas is super lush"

Materials 

Trakke have been able to source almost everything locally from Scotland. My favourite: the waxed cotton canvas is super lush and all about developing a refined patina.

If you like that super sharp, sterile ballistic nylon aesthetic you’re not going to dig it. This material will change, age and move with time – but we love that look.

materials

While there are more waterproof fabrics than waxed cotton canvas, the Lug adds a synthetic layer on the inside for greater moisture protection. This layer is not as luxe as I’d like and not quite as beautiful as the rest of the bag, but makes sense and makes a real difference to protecting the contents.

waterproofzip

To make sure of this Trakke throw in a waterproof zip on the external zip, which tells us they take their weather protection seriously.

As far as the webbing, it's quite structured from its tight weave so it doesn't flop about much and suits the core utility vibe that they're shooting for.

webbing

strap

strap3

Features

The Lug is not as much about features as other things - there are still great elements here but there’s also room for a little improvement.

Ambidextrous Strap

It has an ambidextrous strap which is awesome, allowing you to swap shoulders to your preference of left or right and helping you share the love if you feel you’ve been neglecting one half of your shoulder squad and it’s time for a welcome change.

The broad strap sits well, has a good angle on it, comes with a U-Lock holster and is made from reasonably structured foam. In terms of adjustment there is the D-pull quick release on the strap, which is easy and awesome. The strap sits well against your neck and it's almost as comfortable as a Mission Workshop (but not quite).

There’s also a stabilising strap if you need that extra bit of support when getting active. It patches to either the left or right and is made from the same quality hardware. I didn’t need it for my work commute, and it hangs down otherwise, so I just removed it and went a little more streamlined.

External Pockets

The external zip pocketing is simple and well resolved. They fill outward and don't push in and invade your key space, and the big central gusseting means they behave themselves and only grow until you need them to.

expockets

There’s a great side access zip pocket for things on-the-go (although I’m not sold on the purple zipper pull) and it’s perfect for your coins, wallet or phone. The deeper side access toggle pocket works well for a bike lock, spray jacket or even small umbrella (this quick-access pocket is not watertight).

sidepocket

insidpocket

Internal Pockets

When it comes to the inside again Trakke keep it simple, but maybe a little too simple. The pocketing suits someone who’s not a massive stickler for organising, and for me that was fine. I’d just throw in the essentials in my nonchalant way and head out the door while gnawing on my breakfast, but it’s possible that those who fiend for that higher level of pocket organisation just might be left wanting here.

IN3

INSIDEPOCK

And I’d also love to see some high up interior side pockets (taking things away from crush zones), but they’re not included (very few messengers have these) and there’s room for a small module or organiser case to again nudge the interior layout up a notch.

LSLEEVE

It has a laptop sleeve, but the laptop rests against your back with a thin layer of cotton canvas between you and it, and that's not something I love. For the Wee Lug mach #2 I’d definitely recommend Trakke think about running a floating laptop section.

Comfort

For the vast majority of the time I had the Lug slung over my shoulders I loved it and the cushiony shoulder straps wrapped over me like a blanket, but at times there were niggles.

Early on, I found that because of the laptop sleeve's positioning my Mac would slap steadily on my side when striding along, and when you have bony hips – similar to that of a baby giraffe – like myself, it’s not ideal, and soon I stuffed two notepads in between me and the laptop to ease the impact. A jumper or jacket would work also – if you’re okay with crinkles.

notebook

And despite the Lug’s nice, broad strap, I did find that when it wasn’t completely strapped snug to my back in ‘bike-mode,’ the very tip of the Cobra buckle would occasionally rub a little on my collarbone, but it wasn’t a big deal. A few extra inches of shoulder pad positioned beneath the buckle would fix that.

strap6

Weatherability

The Wee Lug was made in Scotland and feels at home in the wet. The waxed cotton canvas does allow for a little bit of saturation on the exterior when rain hits, but thanks to its smart multilayer construction (synthetic interior) my gear never came close to getting flecked with water or worse, and I felt totally confident when heavy clouds crept over.

wet

For those who need security there is an option to slap on additional canvas treatments if you really want that water to bead.

Alternatives to consider

Bedouin is the first brand that springs to mind. Both are UK brands playing in a similar space: beautiful, high-spec hardware and fabric that can go to work or get active. Bedouin leans a little more towards a deluxe vibe and pimp with their leather and amazing printed lining, while Trakke is a little more utilitarian, more everyman, grounded in that working class aesthetic – they’re both awesome options, it just depends on the look you’re going for.

Another option is the Mission Workshop Rummy and their VX version of it. It's a little more technical in aesthetics, rather than classic, so you’ll know which vibe you prefer.

The Mystery Ranch Outsider is also in the same league, trumping the Trakke with weight and layout, but using a much more tactical aesthetic to achieve those.


Conclusion

I loved this messenger and so did everyone who crossed paths with it. It has that x-factor, and carries with it a certain status and air that makes you feel warm and mooshy on the inside. It’s comfortable, 100% classic and it will age and wear beautifully as time goes on.

The external pocketing, external materials, hardware and access are the highlights.

There’s still an opportunity to improve the interior organising, find a better laptop solution, and maybe replace the internal synthetics with something a little sexier, but we are pretty picky consumers.

The Wee Lug is a worthy winner of our Carry Awards and we look forward to seeing what Trakke comes up with next.

* The Wee Lug will be available in waxed cotton in the first week of May.

[Editor's Note: The bag utilised for this road test was supplied by Trakke.]

THE GOOD

  • Top spec fabrics and hardware
  • Looks great at work or play
  • Nails all the basics of comfort
  • It has that x-factor that is all too rare

 

THE NOT SO GOOD

  • Basic internal pocketing
  • Laptop Sleeve needs repositioning
  • Buckle rubs occasionally when not strapped tightly
  • There’s a bit of weight to it

 

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
9
Build, Materials & Hardware
9
Features
7

Stoke (Experience)

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

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