Friday, January 9, 2015

Topo X Howler Bros. Klettersack

If there's anything I dig as much as fly rods and reels, it's bags. Backpacks, waistpacks, slings, vests, you name it. And as a hopeless bag fetishist, I've been hungrily eying the bags from Topo Designs for a while now, and when they collaborated with a favorite company of mine, Howler Brothers, the time came to somewhat prematurely retire my current commuter bag, a Deuter bike backpack.

My first impressions:

The bag is solid. The 1000 denier cordura is bombproof, and is combined with a thick packcloth inner liner. The plastic clips and solid YKK zippers are heavy duty, straps are seatbelt-like material, and the horween leather base and lash tabs are thick yet supple. Simply said, the bag is quality, and perfectly illustrates why it's worth paying a premium for something handmade in Colorado.

The bag looks awesome. The brown canvas and the buttery leather combine with the orange and teal accents to make what is hands down the best looking bag I've ever owned.

The bag wasn't as small as I had feared. 15 liters is by no means big, but it has more than enough room for use as a commuter bag or day hiker. Mine has no problem carrying everything I need for work (ipad, kindle, notebooks, cables, batteries, chargers, little med kit, etc), lunch, running clothes, and there's still plenty of room to spare. Minimalist packing and creative use of the leather lash tabs can extend the use to a weekend trip, especially here in Switzerland where a dense network of alpine huts negates the need for a sleeping bag, tent, camp stove, meals, and extra water, but if you need to carry that much stuff you'd be better served with one of Topo Designs' larger offerings. A Klettersack (climbing bag in German) is by definition a bit more minimalist than your average pack, so don't expect 17 pockets, an integrated rain cover and hydration bladder, and countless zippers. This pack features a large main compartment, a padded laptop sleeve, a zippered top pocket, and two side water bottle pockets. That's it. I use smaller, zippered pouches to organize smaller stuff within the bag.

This limited edition version of Topo Designs' 15 liter Klettersack is ostensibly also designed for fishing, with a special D-ring designed for a net, and the possibility of sticking rod tubes in the side water bottle pockets. I don't see myself taking it on a dedicated fishing trip, to be honest. A day hike during which I'll wet a line, sure, but it can't really compare to my Orvis guide sling or Fishpond Wasatch tech pack in terms of fishing-specific features. Also it's just so nice of a pack that at this point, I'm hesitant to expose it to the elements, or risk dunking the leather. Of course, like any new fly rod or reel, once it gets that first ding or scratch I'll breathe a sigh of relief and put it through hell. Until then, I'll continue to admire the the flawless expanse of leather and the unstained canvas, and dream of the adventures that this bag and I will share, and all of the glorious stuff that I shall put in it.