- Buyer's Guide
Road Tests :: Chrome Ivan Roll-Top Part 1 & 2
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Road Tested | Chrome Ivan Roll-Top Part 1 & 2
We’ve had this backpack for some time, so thought we’d roll parts 1 & 2 of the road test together. We can’t promise that this will make the review twice as good, but we’ll try…
The Ivan is one of three sizes in Chrome roll-top backpacks – there’s also a smaller Pawn, and the larger Sultan. They are all built the same way, just with a different scale applied.
This is a great bag, and also one that helped kick-start a new style of backpack. So here goes with our thoughts on it…
The first time I saw a Chrome roll-top, it was on one of those uber cool cats we’d now label a hipster. He was running a red light, so I only caught a lightning quick glance, but the bag won me over immediately. I wanted one. I also wanted to be uber cool, but had to settle for the backpack instead.
Look: We’ve always had this idea that a good bag should look like a styling winter jacket – nice texture, clean lines, and not overly techie. While on offer in some messenger bags, this has remained all too rare in the world of backpacks (which usually look more like a Christmas tree).
The Chrome looks like a great European jacket, which ticks a big box for me.
Durability: While you may pay a small price in weight, you win it back in durability. These packs should last longer than your cat. There’s over-sized components, large amounts of bar-tacking for reinforcement, and plenty of care in the sewing, all of which lead to a very durable pack.
Construction: Bags built in the States have a look to them. The pattern makers are perhaps not as experienced as they are in Asia, so you end up with simpler patterns and less sophisticated volumes. But the bonus is that the simpler construction has less to go wrong.
Roll-top: We love roll-tops. They feel more relaxed, and make you think of adventure each time you use them.
Water-resistance: The suspended main tarp section in this bag is all time. Thick welds, thick fabric, and loads of roll in the top. You’d really have to try to get water in here.
The front section tarp is stitched rather than welded, but it’s hidden behind a layer of what looks like PU backed 840D Polyester, so it should be fine for all but the worst storms.
Zip Avoidance: For all the progress we’ve had in zippers, they are still a weak point in most bags. The Ivan has only 2 straight zips, and both are over-sized. It’s done well.
Seat Belts: Chrome were one of the early bag companies to resurrect seat belt buckles for their messengers, so it’s nice to see some seat belt webbing making an appearance on the straps. It is backed by velcro, so you can attach radios, additional pockets, or your favorite teddy bear.
Ginormous main section: If you’re coming over to the backpack world from a messenger, you’ll appreciate a huge main section.
Daisy chain: It’s only a small trick, but the daisy chain and a small sleeve let you attach your bike light or gear carabiner. It helps.
Unresolved Front Pockets: These will work a treat for crew that don’t carry many bits. But for those of us that do, these pockets can be like small black holes, swallowing items for weeks at a time.
Add to that the way the flaps curl up, and the not excellent waterproofness, and we think there’s room to improve here.
Lack of Organizing: Again, if you carry a few more bits, you’ll need to supplement this bag with some organisers for sunnies, a camera, and all your digital tech. The front hanging section works quite well for a laptop, but will need you to add a laptop cover or some padding at the base.
Discomfort When Loaded: The Ivan has a really neat-looking 2D construction (there are no side panels creating depth). The issue with this is that when full, it really rounds out and ends up pulling back on your shoulders (even with the sternum strap in place).
Lint: I love the matt fabric, but dog hair, shag-pile carpet, and blond mistresses all leave their mark on it.
Fixed Waist Belt: We often don’t use waist belts on bike bags. If you have any rigid items in the pack, the waist belt will lock you to those and stop your back bending. Unfortunately this belt is not removable, so kinda dangles, gets in the way, and can get stuck on your seat post.
Air Mesh: Almost every pack is guilty of this, so we almost have this as our standard clause. Air mesh scratches on bare skin, fills with snow, and lacks durability. But this is not really Chrome’s fault for doing what everyone else does.
Intimidation: This is a big and heavy pack. I think my wife is a little scared of it. I kinda like it for reinforcing my man points, but it may be an issue for some.
Best suited to:
Big people – This is a wide pack that suits broad people.
Bike people – It looks soooo good on a fixie, and can fit better than many packs in an office environment (it looks grown up).
Me – I like it.
Not suited to:
Tech-heavy carry folk.
Just the stuff listed above. But there are no deal breakers there for me. I still like using the thing.
None. It’s been bomb-proof so far.
Any envy for a similar bag?
The Mission Workshop Vandal is a more versatile pack, which can carry more and offers a touch more organizing. However if looks matter, the Chrome still pips it. As mentioned in our Vandal Road Test, there are also the T-Level and Sag backpacks for a neat bike-inspired bag.
I have listed a bunch of compromises that the pack asks you to deal with. But like all beauty, you put up with the pain. It’s a really different, really neat-looking pack that will survive a rain blizzard, swallow a panda suit, and win you over that girl you ride past each day. I’m stoked to have it in my bag quiver.