Originally posted on Carryology.
It’s good to see Poler Stuff focusing on their outdoor travel line and flexing their trail muscles in the Orange Label. These larger volume bags offer well padded hip belts and shoulder straps and more organizational options, making them a much better answer to day length outdoor adventures than Poler Stuff’s other offerings. The cavernous main compartments and features like the padded laptop sleeves and internal stretch mesh pockets also make them viable as carry-ons and travel bags.
Who it suits: Mountain town chillers, university students, and weekend warriors, these bags are tailored to get you through your itinerary and look good while doing so.
Who it doesn’t: Folks who need a pack for higher intensity day hikes, these ones are still house cats. Commuters, these bad boys are a little big for public transit.
These both carry wonderfully. They really do. With barebones loads to and from work, to full days on the trail, they’re very comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised by how plush the shoulder straps and the hip belt are. The ventilated mesh and foam would be warm in higher temps, but for causal adventures and cooler weather, it’s really quite nice.
The organizational options are also good. There’s a pocket for everything you carry and then some. Both the Ruck and Roll have internal stretch mesh pockets, padded laptop sleeves, and smaller pockets for everyday essentials. My favorite thing is the zip pockets located high up on the side walls. That’s the most underutilized space in bags, and it’s a perfect spot for smaller fragile items: keys, phones, small point and shot cameras, etc.
The roll top has main compartment access via a side zip and the ruck has a main compartment access zipper right down the front. I found myself using these more and more as I carried them. Both the bags also feature a removable hip belt, which is great for transitioning between workweek/weekend.
What’s not so good?
- The compression straps could be better placed. The bottom compression straps on both bags are nearly useless. They’re way too far down to compress anything, though you could use them to attach a pad or blanket to the outside of the pack. The vertical compression straps that attach to the roll top are sewn into the face fabric half way down inside the stretch mesh side pockets and interferes with you from cleanly packing anything inside of them. The top strap on both bags covers the small zippered pockets high on the side walls making storing or accessing anything in those pockets a real pain if your Fidlocks are engaged.
- The face fabric provides almost no water resistance. I don’t believe it’s even been PU coated. Ironically, both bags are covered in PU coated zippers. On two separate occasions, my party took ~¼ inch of rain and my contents were noticeably wet. So lesson learned: use the included rain cover at the first sight of rain.
- The Fidlocks are asymmetrical. This was really upsetting to see on a roll top. The compression straps could pass with them, but the roll top must be rolled an even number of times for the male and female components to align with each other. The more I used the bag, the more frustrating this became. Also, it’d be nice if the roll top had one male and one female component so you had the option of mating them together dry bag style. You’d just have to switch one set of the components on the vertical compression and it would still work two ways.
- The vertical pockets on the front face are way too narrow to hold anything substantial. My buddy managed to cram a small flexible tripod in there. I use it to hold my spork. It could work as a pens/cords pocket. I’d like to see the same front pocket lay out as the roll top, even if it was just one full face pocket rather than two, and move the main access zipper off to the side rather than right down the center.
- The shock cord netting on the bottom isn’t really going to get used. Most of the time that netting is on the front face of the pack so that when you set it down, you’re not dropping your jacket right into the dirt. I tried to attach my pad there, but that proved too difficult. This is another case for switching the pocket layout to what the roll top has going on. Move the front access zip over to the side, on the other side go full face pocket, and that frees up the front face for the shock cord netting.
- Some of the daisy chain bar tack stitching on the vertical compression strap failed. I don’t know when it happened, but I carried it for month and had it out of the trails twice. I also noticed that the Fidlock attached to this same piece of webbing was routed and then sewn in incorrectly. I tried to reroute the webbing through the ladder lock correctly, but the Fidlock had been backed off and the doubled over webbing wouldn’t fit through.
How does this improve my experience?
For all the short comings these have, they do carry pretty well. If I were a frequent traveler, or lived in a mountain town with less rain than Seattle, I think these might work as a weekender. There are other bags out there in that 40L category though, that I think would ultimately handle the adventure travel role better.
Between the two—the roll top is definitely the way to go with usable volume and pocket layout. The more I use the bag, the less I like the Fidlocks for the compression buckles. That’s a huge pain to manipulate in less than ideal situations, especially on the roll top. I found myself using the side zip on the roll top for main compartment access, and just leaving the flip top disengaged on the ruck because the Fidlocks are such a pain to open.
Disclosure: Poler Stuff provided Carryology with these bags in exchange for my review.