- Buyer's Guide
Colfax Design Works TOAD Review
SoCal-based Colfax Design Works might be a new name to you. But we suggest you keep an eye on this relative newcomer, who has been cutting their teeth with the big boys since their launch in 2015. They even earned a Highly Commended Award in our 2019 Carry Awards, a seriously impressive feat for only four years in the game. I personally first discovered this brand via their Instagram account, displaying photos of their badass carry gear strapped onto a Ural sidecar motorcycle adventuring through rugged romantic landscapes. Yeah, I’m a fan of the simple things. Well, I’m glad I dropped the folks at CDW a line (super friendly folks, by the way!).
Let’s dig in. The T.O.A.D. (Tactical Operations Amphibious Drybag) is a fully ultrasonically RF welded bag that’s adaptable to any environment, “from aquatic to arid”. Yes, that means it’s legitimately waterproof, but we’ll get to that later. Surprisingly, even with the heavy-duty 500D Cordura with waterproof TPU coating and the extreme waterproof construction, this bag is shockingly lightweight. Coming in at 1.7 lbs total, this makes my comparable YETI Panga waterproof duffel feel extra heavy at 5.2 lbs. So you’ll only have to worry about the weight of the stuff you throw in here. Fun fact, this is my first Multicam bag…chosen specifically for its form factor and I’ve got to say that it’s growing on me. But hey, it’s also available in black, which if you’re on our Carryology Classifieds Facebook group, you’d know is my favorite.
Despite being lightweight (which can often mean “light use”), this is a serious gear duffel for your domestic or international travels. That being said, don’t expect all kinds of extra pockets to organize your stuff everywhere. For me, this isn’t a negative, since I’m a big fan of Inception Packing, where I’ll have all my gear divided up into their own respective pouches. There’s a big beefy YKK AquaSeal waterproof zipper that runs the length of the bag, providing full access to the cavernous interior compartment which eats up 40 liters of goodness. Having no divisions or small pockets means you can shove large and bulky items in here with ease.
Being in the bag design game myself for a dozen years or so now, it’s a mind-boggling feat to me that such a small brand can manufacture these bags in the USA. Particularly because of how they manufacture these “military inspired technical travel goods” with high-end materials and expensive (and hard to find) methods of manufacturing within the borders of the US. I’ll say, materials-wise, they nailed it. How about the hardware and trim?
ITW military spec hardware keeps everything nice, strong, and adjustable on the carry handle shoulder combo straps. I’ll admit that at first, I was wary of the non-padded straps, but surprisingly, when being worn in backpack mode, the thick and wide military spec nylon webbing straps distribute the weight of gear comfortably and evenly. Sure, they’re simple, but in some cases, like the end use for this product, that’s a good thing.
As mentioned in my opening paragraph, I’ve used this thing across a variety of environments and methods of travel and it was a pleasure to use. But CDW was making bold claims about the T.O.A.D., stating that it has an IPX7 rating (1 meter below water for 30 minutes without a single leak). Well, we wouldn’t be Carryology if we didn’t try to see if that claim held up. So my friends and I took a hike up to the 272-foot Watson Falls in Oregon’s Umqua National Forest to get this thing dirty and wet.
Putting a whole lot of trust into the T.O.A.D. (and maybe I was a little lightheaded from the freezing cold hike), I put my high-end camera gear into the bag, the YKK AquaSeal sounding like an angry hornet as I zipped it up tight, made sure it was fully inflated via the included exterior locking buoyancy valve, said some final words, then sent it down the fast-moving creek originating from the waterfall above.
I held my breath and my buddy Cole Fazio snapped photos as it bounced off the jagged rocks and down several 1-2 foot drops over rapids for about a quarter mile or so. The bag almost snuck by me, and would have likely continued on to the Pacific Ocean, but I did manage to nab the heavy-duty grab handle and pull it up to safety for inspection.
Well, folks, the bag came out unscathed. My gear was pristine, dry, and the T.O.A.D. casually brushed it all off like it never even happened. If you ask me, that’s a serious win. Since then, the bag has seen rain and ice and continues to hold air, even when I give it my heaviest and hardest bear hug to check for leaks.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that one doesn’t always need waterproof…but for that extra peace of mind, the Colfax Design Works T.O.A.D. ($345) delivers as an ultimate adventure duffel backpack for those who are serious about gear. Whether it’s strapped to a Ural sidecar motorcycle in a stereotypical PNW downpour or floating down a fast-moving snow-melt creek with expensive camera gear inside, it will keep your gear bone dry…and in my opinion, looks pretty badass while doing it.