- Buyer's Guide
Into Carry Cafe Racer Review
For many of us, consumption is an unfortunate part of our carry hobby. Slowly, larger brands like Patagonia and Arc’teryx are pushing the idea of “repair, don’t replace” but even with some of these industry giants making steps in the right direction, new years bring new bags, new versions, and small upgrades that make us want to ditch the “old and busted” and get with the “new hotness”. Into Carry is a small Australian maker based in Melbourne that believes we can use alternative materials and modular components to allow our bags to be repaired and upgraded as our needs change instead. And they've designed a pretty compelling first bag to prove it.
We were thrilled to be able to get our hands on the Cafe Racer and a few accessories to take through their paces. Over the last few weeks, they’ve accompanied us to work by bike and by foot, and around town between grocery stores, errand runs, and business meetings. Make no mistake about it, this isn’t a technical trail bag for rowdy singletrack, but it’s targeted at someone looking for a sleek, modern-day pack that can be adapted for the office, the classroom, or a quick trip on the train.
Into Carry’s design philosophy means that everything they make is based around re-purposed textiles, mostly polypropylene, which is used to make short-term homes for large trees in nurseries before they are planted. These bags are cleaned, deconstructed, and transformed into an entire product line that folds flat for easy shipping and storage. The team also makes limited runs of products using materials ranging from denim to salvaged leather and even offers the ability to send in your own well-loved material to get a one-of-a-kind piece.
- Name: Cafe Racer
- Brand: Into Carry
- Format: Backpack
- Measurement: 47cm x 30cm x 11-13cm
- Capacity: ~ 17 liters
- Weight: ~ 880g (pack only)
- Material: Recycled Textile, primarily polypropylene
Who It Suits
Daily office commuter or around-towner who needs a bit of flexibility, likes a unique aesthetic, and cares about sustainability.
Who It Doesn’t
Large load-outs, technical pack junkies, anyone who likes PALS or high amounts of organization.
The most striking thing about these bags is by far the materials. We’re big fans of seeing new textiles where we wouldn’t expect them and the polypropylene is a surprisingly awesome choice. While the bag almost looks like a flour or coffee sack kind of material, it’s smooth to the touch, water-resistant, and distributes load very well when used as part of the harness. The whole kit snaps together easily using high-quality metal hardware and what looks like a 3D printed base that allows the entire bag to stand up on its own (a favorite feature in our community).
The whole thing is brought together with Fidlock button fasteners that make use of literally the most superior way to open and close a bag: magnets.
The approximately 17-liter space is perfect for a day at work or running a few errands, and the accessory pouches are well sized for electronics, cables, or other small comfort items you might not want rattling around in the main compartment.
While being functional is always important, we all know that life is often about looks, so we should touch on aesthetics. Recently, more bags have gone for the classic school-bag-style look and we think the Cafe Racer nails it (especially with a medium pouch). If you’re into the hip, slightly future-retro vibe, this is a fantastic choice.
Into Carry centers their system around a base unit (consisting of either a tote bag or the Cafe Racer) and then varies with smaller, specialized pouches that can be attached to expand and specialize your carry. The accessories range from medium size pouches to laptop sleeves and are incredibly well designed. Unfortunately, they can really only be loaded one at a time onto the front of the Cafe Racer. It would have been great to see some internal modularity as well so that I could have my laptop case hanging safely inside the bag with a small pouch on the outside, and maybe a detachable bottle pocket to the left and right.
Each pack or pouch is built with metal snaps that can be undone so the bag can be deconstructed and folded flat. According to Into Carry, this allows for easier repairs and definitely cuts down on shipping costs. While they also indicated that it would allow you to carry extra accessories with you to expand your loadout as you go, it was hard for us to find a use case where we would carry a folded pouch with us to use later. Maybe if there were more external attachment points we would have been able to make use of this feature more. Regardless, the bag-origami is a slick feature and it definitely would make it easy to stow away in a suitcase for a weekend trip.
Much too often we find companies use “new” or “innovative” materials that end up not holding up to the test of time, and although it’s meant for the soft city life, we dragged this bag through back allies, splashed it with mud from passing cars, and left it in the break room to take all the abuse it could handle.
How did it do? Miraculously. This is not surprising because the original purpose of the polypropylene bag was to hold thousands of pounds of dirt. Hard to beat that, even with the most brutal of carry tests, and the hardware it’s been paired with easily withstands the same trials. In short, this is one tough bag that looks awesome.
Now, I know we said that looks are essential a few paragraphs earlier, but you can never underestimate comfort. Ever. Spend a few hours with a thin strap bag digging into your shoulders and your eyes will be tearing up so much you won’t be able to appreciate the beautiful, functional lines of said bag.
With the Cafe Racer, we’ll admit that we were a bit worried when we first saw the harness system. Surely those straps are too small and thin to be comfortable?
Luckily, the same woven polypropylene comes to the rescue here: it seems to expand when you put on the straps, easily distributing the weight and making even the thin weave feel luxurious. Unfortunately, after a few uses the straps tended to bunch up, but by spreading out the weave before every use, we could get back to the cushy, supported feel.
- Stellar design concept
- Super unique material that holds up to abuse and looks great
- Just enough capacity for work or play
- Surprisingly comfortable for such a minimalist design
Not So Good
- Would have loved more modularity and attachment points for accessories
- Main compartment closure can be finicky
- External, even optional, water bottle pockets would have really added to the use cases for this bag
- A sternum strap would increase overall comfort for longer use
Overall, the Cafe Racer and the entire Into Carry lineup is worth a look if you’re someone who needs a small-ish daypack that draws attention and holds up to abuse. At $220 for the base and anywhere from $30-$90 for each accessory, it’s definitely not a budget buy, but these packs are made to order, by hand.
In short, if the aesthetic, design innovation, and green-thinking appeals to you, this city pack is well worth the price. If you’re not looking for cottage industry or prefer something more technical or compartmentalized, maybe keep shopping.
This article was written by Jeff Wayland, trail runner, backpacker, cyclocross racer, fledgling paragliding pilot, and wannabe DIY pack maker.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Space & Access
Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware
Warranty & Support