Back in 2014, I bought my first fixed gear bike here in Tokyo. Until that time—my third year living in Japan—I commuted mainly through the rather efficient public transportation system. But after I joined a small design studio in the heart of Shibuya, I started hanging out with some of my Japanese colleagues—a few of whom happened to be fixed gear bike enthusiasts. They soon convinced me to purchase my first beloved fixie, a Fuji Feather. And I quickly found it necessary to upgrade my everyday carry system into a bike backpack. That was the start of my search for robust, waterproof, handmade bike messenger packs from the likes of Chome Industries, Mission Workshop, PAC design, and of course, Inside Line Equipment.
Specifically, the first contact I had with this last brand was with their beautiful camera pack, the MKII. This photographer backpack was a sturdy 35-40L made out of military-grade canvas, with a roll-top and front access to the camera compartment. The MKII was a unique design, and I had the chance to test it by borrowing it from my colleague and I fell hopelessly in love. Unfortunately, the prohibitive cost (at that time, I was broke) and the necessity for a smaller bag drove me in other directions. But ILE remained my unicorn for a while.
Why am I telling this story? Well, to explain just how excited I was when I got to review one of their latest creatures: the Inside Line Equipment Transit 25L, an X-Pac build, handmade in Berkeley (California) as usual.
For those folks who have never heard of Inside Line Equipment (or ILE), the company started as a two-person crafting company, sewing the first prototypes in their garage around 2012.
Actually, it’s pretty impressive how rapidly such a small company crossed the Pacific and landed in the Japanese market (although Japanese people are incredibly astute at discovering brands). I guess when the quality of a product is so high, “word of mouth” transcends language and distance.