- Buyer's Guide
Within the carry community there are bags that come along which seem to generate so much hype that you simply have to stop and wonder why. To really appreciate this pack you need to understand that the man behind Alpha One Niner, Helmie Ashiblie, intently listens to feedback from his customers and consistently seeks to iterate and revise his products to make them the best they can be. The Evade 1.5 is no different. Technically being the third iteration, it has now been refined to a point where there’s very little left to critique. So, does the Evade merit such fanfare? I got my hands on one and set out to discover what the fuss was all about.
As a Graphic Designer by profession, the assortment of stuff I tend to use and carry throughout the week is heavily tech-focused, which means that for my needs a bag has to provide adequate protection and organization for that equipment. As such, my thoughts on this bag will be centralized around using it as a daily carry for work in an urban setting.
- Name: Evade 1.5 Full
- Brand: Alpha One Niner
- Format: Backpack
- Measurement: 12“ x 19” x 7"
- Capacity: 25L (22L Lite also available)
- Weight: 4.4lbs (in 500D)
- Zippers: YKK #8 RC
- Material: 500D Cordura (other fabric choices available)
- PriceUS$180–240 (depending on fabric choice)
Who It Suits
Anyone looking for a pack with excellent comfort, durability and organization to carry a 13–15"+ laptop along with other gear in a daily carry or travel setting. It is highly appropriate for anyone interested in packs with a tactical design (both aesthetically and functionally), as well as for anyone with an interest in smaller brands that make meaningful connections with their customers.
Who It Doesn't
If you’re not a fan of tactical-looking packs, want something super lightweight or if you don’t need or want to carry a laptop (if so, consider the Lite version) you might want to look at other options.
The overall silhouette of the Evade 1.5 looks as though it would be most appropriate in a tactical application; it’s got a lot of straps, it looks chunky and in this Multicam Black colorway, it’s not exactly subtle. That may sound like a negative, but one of the best things about this bag is simply how customizable it is. All of the exterior compression straps and lash straps can be removed or reconfigured however you like and the exterior shock cord is easily removable if you want to stow it in the bag for extra external storage of a jacket as needed.
During my testing, I experimented with these customization options and found that the most useful setup for me was to remove the bottom compression and lash straps and reverse the top compression straps which orients the buckle closer to the front of the pack. I kept the shock cord stashed in the front pocket as it was very easy to attach quickly when needed and could remain hidden when it wasn’t.
The Evade 1.5 has a full clamshell design which allows for easy access to the main compartment when packing. Additionally, the entire rear wall of the pack has PALS webbing which is also covered in loop material throughout so it’s extremely customizable in addition to the interior pocketing already present.
On the Full, the rear laptop compartment has excellent access and can easily carry a decent sized laptop and notebooks or other important documents. It’s worth mentioning that though the laptop compartment is padded, it does not have a false bottom so you will need to take care when putting the bag down.
Materials and Hardware
The Multicam Black material on this Evade 1.5 is a 500D Cordura Nylon. This is an excellent choice of fabric as it's both extremely durable and also slightly less abrasive than its somewhat more famous 1000D sibling. The buckles and strap adjusters are all plastic, but made by Woojin and will likely hold up to strenuous use. The zippers throughout the pack are YKK #8 Reverse Coil which are sturdy and smooth, but as a personal note, I would have liked to have seen #10 zips on the exterior compartments. Alpha One Niner supports their packs for five years post-purchase and one need only contact them if there’s a concern or if something gets damaged.
I mentioned this earlier, but this bag is a tinkerer's dream. You have so many options to customize and tailor it to your needs that it can truly be made to be yours. The front pocket has a very decent admin panel, which is also completely removable if desired which would expose another full loop panel so you can attach whatever you like.
The external bottle pockets can easily swallow a large 40oz bottle without eating into the internal capacity and if desired, can be held snugly in place by the compression strap.
The quick-access pocket on the front panel is lined with Nilex, which is a super-soft material so as not to scratch your sunglasses, phone, or in my case, Game Boy. Another pocket I want to call out is the concealed compartment on the back panel, it features dual side access and has a full wall of loop material which would allow one to attach pouches or to store a tablet or slim items.
When I first received the pack, one of the first things I noted was that not a single stitch was out of place. Everything was perfectly constructed and felt exceptionally well made. All of this durability does come with a weight penalty however; at 4.4lbs empty, this is not a featherweight pack. In use though, I found the weight barely a concern due to the excellent harness system, which combined with very easy access overall makes for a pack that is really a joy to use.
Now this is the area where I just want to heap praise onto this bag. In fact, my one-liner description for this entire review is “comfort without compromise”. The harness itself has just the right amount of padding and adjustability without being too stiff or requiring a break-in period and you’ll also find adjustable load lifters which aren’t always necessary on a pack of this size but do help if you really pack it to the brim. Couple that with the ample padded mesh zones on the back panel and it makes for a very comfortable pack on your body. The reason I find this so appealing though is that I happen to be 6'2" and fairly broad shouldered; this often makes it rather difficult to find a pack that fits my body well. The one negative area I would call out is that if you pack the bag out normally but leave the laptop compartment empty, you may find the weight pulling away from your body which can feel a bit unbalanced (this would be a non-issue with the Lite variant).
The fabrics used for the Evade 1.5 are technically not weather-resistant and the zips are not the AquaGuard variety, so some care will need to be taken if you are going to be in an extensively wet environment, though Cordura typically holds up fairly well in light-to-moderate rain. I did get caught in a light rain shower during my review and though the bag got quite wet externally, no water managed to soak through, but your mileage may vary.
· Excellent adjustability and comfort
· Fit and finish is top-notch
· Able to be easily configured to the user’s liking
· Organization is adaptable and thorough
· Excellent exterior bottle pockets
Not So Good
· YKK #8 RC zippers throughout. Smooth operation but all the zippers and pulls are identical so it might be nice to have some variety for rapid pocket identification. I would also appreciate a #10 zip for at least the main compartment.
· Not a “weatherproof” bag
· Heavy at 4.4lbs empty
· Depending on personal preference it’s a fairly "deep" bag so it is quite thick on your back. It is compressible but still thick.
· Aesthetics may not be for everyone, but the various fabric choices are plentiful.
I began this review talking about the hype this bag has received across multiple carry groups and my inherent suspicions of anything with too much hype around. This is one scenario where it is totally deserved and I think Helmie Ashiblie deserves some real praise for this evolution of his Evade line. At this price point, you are getting an excellent and well thought out pack which can easily serve your EDC and travel needs. Additionally, you have numerous fabric choices, two different styles (Full and Lite) and loads of accessory attachments to choose from to really make this pack yours.
This article was written by new contributor, Abram Goglanian. He's a product designer based in San Francisco and has an affinity for mechanical cameras and black coffee. You can find him on Instagram here.
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