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Road Sack Backpack

The Road Sack High Visibility Motorcycle Backpack

by Glenn W. for webBikeWorld.com

wBW Reviews Home  |  Owner Comments (Below)

Summary
The Road Sack is a "right-sized" backpack with a unique shape and a (sort of) built-in back protector.

The special fabric is designed to be highly visible during both day and night.

Background
Backpacks like the brutish and indestructible Chrome Messenger Bag (review), the Roadgear Commuter Max (review) and others are fine, but I like my backpacks more reasonably sized.

I'd rather not feel anything hanging out the back as I'm riding, and anyway, I only need enough room for water, a windbreaker or waterproof, maybe a sweater and an extra pair of gloves.

And don't forget the rain pants.

The problem with those Bluto-sized backpacks is that unless they're stuffed to the gunwales, they get all kinds of floppy and saggy.  And when they are stuffed like a cannoli, they shift the center of gravity aft and a beam wind will nigh blow ye right off course.

OK, sorry about the clumsy nautical lingo, which came to me from my early Mobjack days, but the point here is that sometimes smaller is better.  And it just seems more rational to carry a well-stuffed smaller backpack than a half-empty monster.

The Road Sack definitely scores on that account, but don't let this deceive you -- the Road Sack can hold about 3.5 gallons (~13 liters), according to the manufacturer, although I wouldn't suggest pouring in that much water to find out if it's true.  But imagine three one-gallon jugs and you'll get the picture.

The Road Sack backpack has a unique design that serves two purposes: first, it has an organic shape, tapered on the sides leading up from the bottom.  This helps make it more aerodynamic than many, most or all other backpacks I've tried.

And the shape really does work -- I honestly can't even feel the Road Sack on my back when I'm riding, and that's a good thing.

The second is that the tapered sides and bottom optimize the surface area of the pack, to best show off its high-visibility yellow special fabric, both in day and night.

Road Sack Backpack - Daylight configuration
Three views of the Road Sack Backpack

Road Sack Backpack - Night time reflective material
The special material on the Road Sack backpack is highly reflective at night.

You can see from the animated photo at the top of the page and the day/night comparison photos below that this baby really lights up!  The yellow material is some type of special fabric that is completely and highly retro-reflective at night.  We had the camera lens stopped down all the way to f25 at 1/250 of a second to take the photos, which believe me, is a miniscule amount of light in a pitch-black room, and the thing lights up like Christmas at Harrods's.

Oh, and by the way -- there's actually a third reason for the Road Sack's shape, now that I think about it.  When it's not stuffed, those gunwales help maintain the overall shape, so it doesn't get all saggy and baggy.  I don't really know how this works, but there must be some trick to the design and the lining I suppose, because the Road Sackdoesn't look much different whether it's empty full of those virtual 3.5 gallons.

This is a nice feature, because it helps keep the Road Sack from flopping around when partly full.  There's a side benefit also: you, the rider, can always look cool, just like you're on an important mission to deliver some high-priority goods.

Now just because the Road Sack seems smaller than other backpacks (and it really isn't) and it has such a unique design doesn't mean the Road Sack is a wimp-ola when it comes to carrying capacity.  It will still hold our benchmark, the HP d2000dv computer, which is now becoming rather a beast when compared to today's netbooks.

Road Sack Backpack - Outer pocket cover attaches to the body of the backpack with Velcro; elastic is used in the seams.
Outer pocket cover attaches to the body of the backpack with Velcro; elastic is used in the seams.

Inner compartment of the Road Sack backpack. 
Inner compartment of the Road Sack backpack.

Pockets and Storage
The small flap at the top of the Road Sack is in a handy location for the small stuff, like keys, MP3 player, the wad of bills used to bribe the gate guards or pay the squeegee man... 

Open that small flap and the external pocket extends nearly all the way down the pack.  See in the photo on the back of the Road Sack, where the black piping forms an egg-shaped circle?  That entire circle outlines the outside pocket that is accessible through the top flap.

Another brilliant design feature is in the way this external pocket expands.  You'd never know it by looking at it, but as the pocket gets filled, the yellow strip down the middle expands.  It's designed with some clever accordion-like folds on either side, and these allow the pocket to bulge, but they also keep the material tight against the body of the pack when the pocket is empty.

One of the potential downsides of the overall Road Sack design is the zipper entry for the main compartment, which only runs about half-way across.  You can see it in the photos; it's the black band that forms the top of the egg-shaped "O" of the external pocket.

But it's still wide enough to slip in most gear, so it's a good compromise.  Speaking of the zipper, the yellow fabric has a relatively fine weave, so the zipper can occasionally catch an edge (photo below). 

There's a bit of a simple trick to holding one finger in front of the zipper, pushing the fabric out of the way so it won't get caught as the zipper is closed.  Also, the very bright high-visibility yellow fabric can become soiled rather easily.  I haven't tried to clean it yet, but I'm hoping that a normal light soap and water mixture will do the job.

Road Sack Backpack - Main compartment zipper
The zipper to the main compartment can sometimes catch on the reflective fabric.

The internal compartment is a bit deceiving; it's probably bigger than it looks, although the side photos more accurately illustrate the dimensions.  There are a couple of pockets on the back side of the flap for pens or notebooks or such, but the main compartment is what I use.  It looks smaller than it is when the zipper is first opened, but looks are deceiving, and the Road Sack will expand a bit to fit many items, or at least the junk I want to carry.

The Road Sack is contoured, so it fits closely to the rider's back.  It has a bit of padding all around and the entire back is made from what the manufacturer says is 1.5 mm HDPE (high-density polyethylene), which is slightly flexible and I suppose acts as a sort of poor person's back protector (many other backpacks use cardboard), although no such claims are made by Road Sack.

It adds some body to the backpack though, and hopefully will at least prevent penetration from, say, a pen if you fall on your back.

Road Sack Backpack - Shoulder straps
Road Sack backpack shoulder strap configuration.

Road Sack Backpack - Close-up of shoulder straps
Close-up of material and shoulder straps on the Road Sack backpack.

Straps and Connections
The strap system is pretty basic motorcycle backpack fare, with padded shoulder straps, a chest strap and waist strap.  Everything is adjustable, of course, and a couple of additional plastic or nylon "D" rings on the vertical shoulder straps can be used to hang a keychain or ID holder.

The waist belt is a bit short for me, especially if I'm wearing an overstuffed jacket.  I'd say at full length it probably fits a 38" to 40" (96 to 101 cm) waist, including jacket.  Road Sack is aware of this and I think will include an extension belt section with future orders.

[UPDATE:  Road Sack informed us that they have updated the purchase process to include waist size description. 
Customers can now choose between ordering a up to 40" and a 40-50" version.  They also said "We've also clearly described the fact that the waist belts are actual length and that customers should consider their own waist size PLUS a couple of inches for jacket.  The 40-50" version will include the extension belt, which are in stock as of today where as the 40" version comes without the extension belt."]

Otherwise, the strap system and comfort is about average for motorcycle backpacks.  But the curved shape and overall tapered design fits comfortably and feels like it has a close center of gravity, so it shouldn't get in the way of those hang-off maneuvers.

Road Sack says the backpack is "designed to be used in all weather conditions", which I assume includes rain.  I haven't tried it in a full downpour (although we've had more than our share of them this year), but I think the backpack will at least keep out the majority of water, based on the design.  Anyway, drive 65 and you won't have to worry about the water collecting behind your back!

Conclusion
The Road Sack has a couple of out-of-the-ordinary features going for it: the shape, comfort and the high-visibility fabric, along with the surprisingly bright night-time reflectivity, that actually makes the fabric look like it's glowing from inside.  Very cool and obviously a good safety feature. 

Now that motorcyclists seem to be finally aware of the importance of visibility, the reflectivity and visibility of the Road Sack should be an excellent selling point.

webBikeWorld Review:  Road Sack Motorcycle Backpack

Available From:  Road Sack Suggested Retail Price:  $99.95 AUD; $150.00 AUD to U.S. and Canada; $155.00 AUD to Europe and UK.  All prices include shipping.
Colors:  Fluorescent yellow and black. Made in:  Unknown
Review Date:  June 2009  Notes:  Weight - 1276 grams.  Product sample provided by the manufacturer for the review (more).

Note:  For informational use only.  All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC - 2000-2011.  All rights reserved.  See the webBikeWorld® Site Info page.  NOTE:  Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions.  Always check before purchasing.  Read the Terms and Conditions!

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