Space and Access
At 32L the Db Element Rolltop offers very good versatility, confidently occupying the niche of an EDC bag and also competently handling the one-bag travel scenario.
The side access to the laptop compartment is a very welcome feature and arguably should be considered a default way to access the laptop in a backpack.
The top and side access to the main compartment makes the day-to-day interaction with the bag a smooth and pleasant experience (which, sadly, cannot be said for many rolltop bags on the market).
One gripe I have with the top access is that the top of the roll is not secured with anything. No magnets, zippers, snaps, or even Velcro to keep it securely closed. It is not an issue 95% of the time. But when the bag is jam-packed with stuff and you need to fully unroll the top your stuff can fall out or get wet. To secure the top, at least 2-3 full rolls have to be made before closing the bag with Cobra buckles. It would be prudent to add a YKK AquaGuard zipper on top of the roll for those rare cases when the bag is overpacked and cannot be closed with stock buckles.
The lack of an external water bottle pocket might be an issue for some people. Personally, I was fine carrying it inside the main compartment. The side zipper to the main compartment made it convenient to access the bottle.
Pockets and Organizing
Don’t expect the Element Rolltop to dazzle and overwhelm you with pockets and built-in organization. The bag offers the essentials and if you are someone who uses pouches and organizers, you’ll love it.
On the outside, there is only a quick-access pocket on the front of the bag (great for small flat objects such as keys, a wallet, phone, power bank, etc.) and the aforementioned laptop compartment accessed from the side of the bag.
Inside the bag is one giant compartment with a small zippered pocket and one open stretchy pocket. And that is all. No pen slots, key clips, document and tablet sleeve – just a big expandable main compartment. As someone who is constantly using packing cubes, tech organizers, pouches, etc., the simplicity of the Db Element Rolltop is liberating and appreciated. It is also handy in case you rotate multiple bags on a regular basis. Trust me, it is easier and faster to take out the “default” pouches with your EDC essentials instead of painfully emptying every pocket of the bag and relocating your stuff into a different layout/pockets of another bag.
I found the comfort of the Db Element Rolltop to be generally great. The straps are wide, contoured and despite not offering much padding, they are quite comfortable even under a heavy load.
The back panel has no air channels nor mesh, but I had no issues with a sweaty back. Granted, I mostly used the bag in the dead of winter.
The sternum strap is…puzzling a bit. First of all, the stock orientation was off – too high and with attachment on the right-hand side (the majority of bags either lock the sternum strap in the middle or on the left side). But this was quickly rectified by repositioning the strap lower and inverting it. What did surprise me was the male/female buckles. Traditionally the male buckle is located on the longer strap while the female part is placed on the shorter strap. The Element Rolltop has the opposite which is different from all the bags I’ve tried before and am using currently in rotation. It’s a tiny detail but when you open/close the sternum strap dozens of times per day you notice this. I would much prefer the standard placement of the male/female buckles.
The Hypalon top grab handle works well with the general aesthetics of the bag but falls short in being comfortable to use when the bag is heavy. With no padding and a thin profile, it simply digs into the skin which is far from ideal. The handle is fine to lift the bag but I don’t recommend carrying/holding the bag by the top grab handle for extended periods of time.
PU coated ripstop nylon, YKK AquaGuard zippers, rolltop construction – all of these elements come together brilliantly to create one of the most weather-resistant bags I have ever tried.
To further reinforce the water resistance, all zippers on the bag have a zipper garage on top to seal the bag even better.
As mentioned already, the bag is secure from the elements only if closed properly (at least 2-3 rolls made and closed with the Cobra buckle). If not done correctly the water resistance is out of the window, so be mindful of that.