- Buyer's Guide
Chrome Industries Kadet Review
I have a soft spot for Chrome Industries. I remember seeing their Citizen messenger bag back in the late 90’s. I was so enamored with the buckle design that I headed to a junk yard and cut a seat belt out of a beat-up Ford Pinto and proceeded to sew it onto my own bag. I eventually got the real deal, and the Citizen became my everyday bag, on and off my bike. When founders Bart Kyzar and Mark Falvai left the company in the late 2000’s to start Mission Workshop, I worried about what would happen to Chrome Industries.
In the years that have passed they have laid those fears to rest. Partnering with other brands like Dickies and working with artists like Russ Pope, the brand kept their unique voice in the industry. Most importantly, they have evolved their mainline offerings with new materials and expanded their market with completely new bags that focused on expanding their reach beyond the hardcore bike messenger.
In this review I will be taking a look at one of Chrome’s more popular offerings, the Kadet. When Chrome released the Kadet in 2015, their gamble of expanding their market had seemed to pay off. They had found a way to pair their bike messenger roots with mainstream offerings. The idea behind a sling goes counter to the usual bike messenger “bigger is better” mindset but they managed the marriage beautifully.
Who It Suits
I scoffed at slings when they were just popping back up. I lived through the 80’s so I remember the first wave of fanny packs and wasn’t looking forward to a comeback. Last year while on an island vacation my wife picked up a Kavu rope bag from a beach shop. I found myself a bit jealous of her new sling. My bag seemed too big for when we were just running out for an hour or two. I was sold on slings once I had a chance to see one in use.
The Kadet is made for the on-the-go person whose everyday carry doesn’t exceed anything larger than a Nalgene or a tablet. People who want to access their stuff often, and easily. If you have a crowded public commute and don’t want a bulky pack bumping into other people. Perfect for festivals or vacations, comfortable and well-built enough for everyday life.
Who It Doesn’t
Anyone who is a fan of understated design, if you are looking for something subtle this isn’t it. If being lightweight is important to you then this bag shouldn’t be on your list. Coming in at 1.34 pounds, the aluminum version of the signature buckle cuts down the weight from previous bags, but it is still a weight tax. I would put this bag on the bigger end of the sling spectrum, so if you are looking for just a bag to hold your wallet and phone, this would be overkill.
MVPs here are the shoulder strap and the compression straps. The shoulder strap is comfortable and sturdy. If you are doing something active, then the sternum strap is great, and easily removable if you are just grocery shopping. The quick-release hardware makes swinging the bag around to access the contents a breeze. The four compression straps make sure your stuff stays in place and keeps the profile of the bag slim. The compression and sternum straps all have reflective material to keep it visible for night excursions.
Two main zippered compartments are the body of the bag. The front zipper is a minimal gusseted pocket, great for slim items like a notebook, phone, or wallet. The main zippered area has a waterproof zipper, organizational slots for pens and a large pocket, and a loop for keys.
The cross-body and sternum straps have an elastic keeper built on the end of them so that the excess strap doesn’t just swing around. I love this addition and think it should be standard for any bag that can have a lot of slack on the straps.
Not So Good
The buckle adds style but weight. Depending on your tastes this is a plus or minus. I like the buckle, even if I rarely take the bag off that way.
The bottom compression straps could do double duty if they were clasps. As they are, they work great for compression, and you can roll up a jacket or umbrella and slide them through the straps, but doing that is awkward and cumbersome. If they were clasps you could just unclip them and reclip them, which would feel more secure and functional.
Chrome bags always seem to be hot on the back. Luckily the Kadet doesn’t take up the same real estate as a Citizen, but a more breathable backing would be welcome. The back does have a slot to fit a U-Lock, but I don’t own or use one. The slot feels more like a vestigial limb of the bike messenger company that Chrome was, it could be better used as padding or another functional pocket.
I’m thinking of this bag as a “sling plus.” It’s not as minimal as the Aer City Sling, not as big as a Chrome Vale. It is a perfect day bag if you don’t carry much. I found the 9-liter limit a strength in the long run.
A bag is as good as what it carries. When packing some of my bigger bags I just put everything I might need in them, which makes them a bit too bulky and heavy. Having a more limited space made me think about different loadouts depending on the day. My load for drawing has sketchbooks, watercolor paper, a travel watercolor set, a pencil bag and markers. My load for skating and hiking has a water bottle, snack, dog bags, wrist brace, a small Bluetooth speaker and a skate tool. I never ran across a setup where the size was prohibitive to what I wanted to have on hand.
Reviewing this bag amidst a pandemic was interesting, because it quickly became my constant companion. I always had some gloves, a face mask, and disinfecting wipes with me in the bag. Whatever your personal feelings about masks, having the ability to carry a few extra items with you in a way that feels unobtrusive is great.
This article was written by new contributor, Nick Folz. He’s a graphic designer, illustrator, and office supply enthusiast based in Cincinnati. You can find him on Instagram @nick_folz or at thepenaddict.com reviewing art supplies.