- Buyer's Guide
A Modular Hardshell Backpack for Travelers and Photographers
Sometimes, but not often, brands will think outside of the box. When they really push boundaries and don’t hang on to the tried and true traditions, the results can lead to real innovation. In this case, Xcube Design out of Los Angeles began thinking outside… the shell. Or maybe we could say, inside the shell? To pull this off successfully, serious experience is necessary. And these folks have a Red Dot design award and an iF design award under their belt. A bit like Thomas Keller experimenting with a brand new cuisine using all-new techniques… we’re confident it’ll taste great. Xcube Design appears to be the first brand to execute this concept really well. Introducing the Xcube modular hardshell backpack for photographers and travelers.
This isn’t just a backpack, this is a new way of thinking. But let’s get right to the obvious thing here… this pack has a shell. And what a shell it is. Xcube decided to toss out the idea of using fabric and stitching from the Neolithic age, and instead use a thermoformed hardshell. Why? Well, for a variety of functional and aesthetic purposes. First and foremost, it allows for an ultra-clean sleek exterior that’s smooth, minimal, elegant, and handsome. It maintains its shape when not entirely filled out. From our perspective, that’s a big win as some halfway-filled soft bags can look really, really sad. It’s 100% waterproof. No stitch lines means no water can get in. A little bonus on that side – it’s super easy to clean. You could even hose it off if you wanted. And finally, it has legit shock-absorbing properties. Their patent-pending hardshell can handle impacts from an astounding 2m. I’m 6’0″ and that means I could drop it from my head down onto concrete and it’ll be just fine. Impressive.
The real benefit of the Modular Hardshell Backpack (available in Carbon Black, Space Grey, and even a third limited colorway for Kickstarter) from Xcube lies beneath the shell. Cracking it open, just below the surface, you’ll see this thing is densely packed full of features for everyone. Whether you use this bag for everyday carry, office commuting, travel, or photography, it somehow seems to check all of these demanding boxes. We’ve seen some fantastic bags out there, but they only accommodate a 13″ laptop… this one supports up to a 17″ beast of a laptop. External water bottle pockets? Yep, you’re covered. A roller luggage pass-through sleeve on the back panel. Lash tabs for large unwieldy items (such as a tripod or dinosaur bone). It even expands in volume, offering you up to 30% more volume, which other primitive hardshell backpack designs do not offer. In fact, Xcube boasts that the Modular Hardshell Backpack offers almost a dozen additional useful features to make your life better. So yes, this isn’t a one-trick pony, relying just on the revolutionary hardshell design. It actually works and works well.
Xcube didn’t stop delivering there. And you might’ve guessed on the last major benefit that the Modular Hardshell Backpack delivers… as it’s right there in the name. It’s wildly modular. First, choose between the 34 (26 liters, expanding to 34L) or the 43 (32 liters, expanding to 43L) size variants of the main pack. Then, you can select between four optional products to make the MHB tailored to your life and/or your mission for that particular day. The clever 5L Cube Pack acts as an internally mounted pouch/organizer and then can convert into a 13.5L daypack by accordion-ing outwards, allowing you to leave your 32/43L pack at your hotel/Airbnb. The 2L Sling Bag acts as additional organization and then, you guessed it, can be removed to be used as a sling for a casual walkabout. They offer Velcro dividers for sensitive electronics (like cameras or lenses) and another modular organizer 9.5L Magic Cube.
Yes, this is actual innovation here. Xcube, a veteran award-winning team, have put together something that will turn heads due to its minimal handsome aesthetics, but that also has a whole lot of hidden features that will improve your carry. Interested in having a look? Head on over to their Kickstarter right now, which as of writing this, has surpassed their initial goal by 10X.
This article was sponsored by the fine folks at Xcube.