When I first received this bag, I was happy with the form factor. The pack feels slim and compact. It has a very clean yet boxy silhouette, with a utilitarian and understated aesthetic to it. The ballistic nylon makes the bag feel dense and rugged, and I like the choice in lining as well. Not only is it a light gray to improve visibility, but it feels very durable. Lining is an often overlooked part of bags and DSPTCH knocked it out of the park here.
The zippers on this pack are phenomenal. They glide easily and the size they chose feels perfect. They also use these nice zipper pulls that are easy to grab and have a contour to them that makes them comfortable to hold.
One thing I noticed is that the front vertical zipper doesn’t close all the way, so there’s a tiny little hole there. Other than the possibility of water getting inside, this doesn’t really cause much of an issue besides it not looking perfect. I would like to see some sort of hood for the zipper to rest in at the top, making it look a bit nicer when closed and potentially protecting it from water, but that’s just a slight nitpick.
The laptop compartment perfectly fits my 16” MacBook; however, I do have to be careful to not let the zippers scratch it since the fit is so tight. The laptop easily slides in and out and it’s suspended. DSPTCH killed it here.
The front vertical pocket is good but falls prey to common issues that vertical pockets tend to have, such as being hard to access. The zippered mesh compartment is a little tough to get into, so I wouldn’t put anything that you need to get to quickly in there. They also have some elastic webbing that I believe is meant for cables; however, I do wish the elastic webbing in the front pocket had another loop further back to better secure pens.
The handle is minimal but killer. At its core, it’s just a piece of webbing that’s been folded over itself. If that was it, I would be really disappointed, but what makes it good is that it has Hypalon stitched onto it that gives the handle some structure and grip. I’d imagine it may not be comfortable to hold onto for long, but that’s not what it’s designed for. If you just need to grab your bag quickly, or briefly move from one place to another, then this handle is solid.
The water bottle pockets are good too. They don’t get in the way when not in use due to some elastic mesh that keeps the pockets slim when you don’t have stuff in them. However, I do wish that they were a little lower towards the bottom of the bag because when you have a water bottle or umbrella in the pocket, it can obstruct the zippers for the main compartment.
Speaking of, the compression straps also get in the way of the zippers as well. Now, you can unclip one end of the straps, but then it would be left dangling. Since this bag isn’t too large, I don’t really think the compression straps are necessary, so I could do without them. Perhaps something DSPTCH can do with a future iteration is to make them fully detachable or have a way to anchor them down when you unhook one end.
My primary, maybe only, pain point of this bag is the straps. The straps themselves aren’t the problem. They’re wide and comfortable, maybe a bit stiff for some, but for me it feels solid. The issue is with how they’re attached. DSPTCH made this pack so that the straps can be taken off, so they’re connected via a plastic clip. This clip is somewhat small and it can twist when you’re throwing the bag on your back. Then you have to spend a few seconds figuring out which way to twist the straps so that they’re sitting on your shoulders properly.
This is strange because the bag doesn’t seem to be suited for use without the straps since there’s no handle on the side. I think a better solution would be to make only the bottom end of the straps detach and then maybe include a sleeve on the back panel for you to tuck the straps in. Another issue with the straps is that the webbing on the strap is sewn a few inches below the top end, so when you put the bag on your shoulder, sometimes the strap folds into itself.