Chrome Industries 37L Rolltop Excursion Backpack

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An Excellent Urban Alternative to Your Standard Dry Bag

I wanted a dry bag that looked a little more sleek than your average sports outlet offerings.  I’m glad Chrome came out with a the Rolltop Excursion because it’s a hell of a bag.  The materials are top notch, it’s lighter weight than a lot of the laminated and plasticky feeling bags out there on the market and it looks so sleek.  You can kayak in style with one these, this isn’t just a waterproof bag to get you through those downpours on your bike.  Let’s take a look some of this bag’s features.

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The main weight saving feature this bag has is the knurled Welded seams which truly makes the bag water tight even at the seams where most bags suffer from water penetration.  With Knurl Welded seams, it looks like the sides and edges of the bag aren’t sewed together, but pressed together extremely tightly with an interlocking pattern which utilizes the 50% more surface area between the 2 meeting fabrics.  This saves material which saves weight, but also creates a bong between the two fabrics that’s 1.5x stronger than your usual seams.  I guess the saying “becoming undone at the seams” will never apply to this bag.  As Chrome says, this bag is bombproof, waterproof and overall, life proof.  I would have no qualms taking this bag to go kayaking and even dropping it in the water because I know nothing inside will get wet.  Additionally, the inside of the bag is lined with a rubbery material.

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Here’s a closer look at what Knurled Welding looks like.  There are 2 types of fabric used to create this bag.  One is your standard 600 Denier Cordura fabric that is also TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) coated.  This treatment makes the back more abrasion and heat resistant than non-TPU treated bags.  In other words, you can drag it across the ground and it will be really hard to to tear this type of fabric.  The Cordura makes up the upper half of the bag.  As you can see from the photo, the bottom of the bag is made with a different type of material with slightly more sheen to it.  This is Hypalon which is a really cool water proof, heat proof and UV resistant material that is used in US Coast Guard life rafts, kayaks and even in roofing.  It stays a deep black no matter how much you’ve used it or exposed it to sun.  You can let the bottom sit in water for years and water will never get through.  I really like the feel of Hypalon because its texture is smooth with just the right amount of roughness to give your finger some resistance if you slide it along the fabric.  It’s a little bit tacky to the touch.  I can’t really explain it, you’ll just have to try out the bag yourself.  In a way I wish the entire bag was made out of Hypalon, that’s how cool the material is.

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We’ve got the iconic Chrome logo at the bottom for good measure the white on black is a very sharp and gives a the bag a nice edgy look to it.  It’s a lot cooler than some dry bags out there that have really bright colors and the name and logo of the company splashed across the entire bag.  Chrome Industries is subtle and understated, giving it just the right amount of cool.

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The back of the bag is padded and it seems like there is a sheet on the back which keeps the bag flat and items from poking into you.  The padding on the back is comfortable and the raised areas on the padding I assume are for airflow to prevent my back from getting too sweaty.  I hiked a few miles to the location I needed to be with the bag fully loaded and the straps were relatively easy on my shoulders.  I wish the straps were slightly more wide, they just seem a little bit narrow for a bag this wide and large.  The miniature seat belt buckle for the chest stabilizer works like a charm as well and adds a really cool artistic touch to the entire set up.  Even the adjusters for the shoulder straps are metal.  I forgot to take a picture of them, but they sort of resemble a metal claw clamp that bites down onto the fabric in order to prevent it from moving at all.

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I think the only gripe I have about this bag are these wannabe “MOLLE” loops in the front.  I’ve used real military MOLLE loop bags before and I don’t know how this even resembles one of those legitimate tactical MOLLE systems.  A true MOLLE system has interlocking straps that let you cross weave other MOLLE system bags very securely together with the existing bag.  I don’t know how these supposed MOLLE loops on the Chrome Roll Top Excursion are to work with existing MOLLE bags.  These are just some random loops where you can put a bike look through or something.  There is no way to attach another bag onto the Rolltop Excursion via these loops.  They do seem pretty strong though so putting a bike like into between them and perhaps a carabiner with your keys is an effective way of using them on this bag.  Other than that, they are just for show.  I guess they needed some texture in the front to break up the front of the bag a little bit.  If Chrome is planning to develop some smaller bags that will allow you to use the Roll Top Excursion like a modular bag, that would be awesome!

So what can it carry?  This thing is a beast and will swallow your kitchen sink and a couple small children.  The bag can hold a whopping 37-43 liters worth of gear.  There is also a slot inside where you can fit a 13inch laptop, a notebook and some pens/calculator.  The top of the bag rolls down and on the sides of the top, there are 2 plastic fasteners that let you pull the top tight once you’ve rolled it down to ensure maximum waterproofness.  So what did I decide to put in it?

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An entire reflecting telescope system that weighed 35lbs.  The Chrome Roll Top Excursion was able to hold the tripod, counterweights and the main telescope easily.  That’s how incredible this bag is.  I only wish they made a size that was in between the only 2 sizes they currently offer which is a 18L and a 37L.  The one that I bought for this review is much to big for my daily purposes.  It’s not like I go camping in the woods every single month or need to carry this much gear on a weekly basis.  Perhaps this bag is good for someone who does that, but until then and for the price, I’d be better suited to the cheaper 18L version, which I’ll be returning this one for!  I hope this review helps you make a decision in your quest for a dry bag.  Give the Chrome Roll Top Excursion a try, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Reproofing your Rummy Waxed Canvas the Right Way

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I bought an awesome Mission Workshop Rummy Messenger bag made from waxed canvas last year.  Rode through many rainstorms with it strapped to my back with all my important papers, electronics and a 17 inch Macbook pro inside of it.  The contents inside never got wet.  In the last downpour I rode through, I discovered that it started to leak a little bit on the inside with the inner lining getting a bit damp.  Some of my papers were damp as well.  This was due to water penetration on the outside, through the cotton fabric.  But this wasn’t any type of cotton, this was a nice 10 oz. wax cotton from Mission Workshop.  This means that the cotton is impregnated with a type of parrafin/linseed oil wax that creates a water resistant barrier.  I didn’t quite know what to think of it but soon realized that the wax from the factory was starting to deteriorate and dry out over time.  This was probably due to the fact that the wax cotton fabric was sitting in the factory for a while before it was purchased and turned into a bag, or maybe because I tend to beat up my gear from heavy use.  Either way, I needed to remedy the situation fast because when it rains in the South…it really comes down hard.

Mission Workshop itself does not sell any prodcut for you to rewax their cotton bags so I had to do a little bit of research on the internet.  I came down to 3 choices.  Otter Wax, Barbour Wax or Filson’s Oil Wax.  From what I’ve read about Otter Wax, it comes in a bar and doesn’t go on very well even if you use a blow dryer.  I wasn’t so sure how well things would work by just rubbing a dry bar of wax onto a bag.  I didn’t want my bag to have a light coat of wax, I wanted that stuff to soak through the fabric and really get in there.  Barbour was an excellent choice, but it’s made in Britain, would take a long time to get here because multiple vendors didn’t have it and I just wanted to go with American made.  Filson’s was a bit of an anomaly.  I’ve never heard of Filson’s and the name “Oil Finish Wax” made me a bit reluctant because I was afraid their wax would give my bag a permanent oily touch, you know, like those old school wind jackets that sailors would cover themselves with back in the day that constantly looked wet even when dry.  After more research, I decided to give Filson’s a try just because they’ve been in the business for so long and they’ve been making all sorts of waxed cotton/ water resistant items since the 19th century.  I’m glad I did, Filson’s Oil Finish Wax worked like a charm on my messenger bag.  I would say that it went beyond “water resisting” the fabric, it waterproofed it.

That water stayed there for hours upon hours.  It did not seep through the fabric, that’s how great Filson’s Oil Finish Wax is!

I’m going to run through how you can reproof your waxed cotton once the existing wax has worn off.  It’s a very simple process but a bit time consuming because there are certain steps you must take in order to get the process right.

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Here is the bag, a can of wax and a cotton rag.  If you can, take the strap off the bag in order to make it easier to work with and get into the nooks and crannies of the bag with the wax.  Give yourself a nice flat area to work with either on a floor or a nice big table.

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First, you’re going to want to use some cold water to wipe the bag down and clean off any dirt or caked on gunk from your adventures.  You don’t want any abrasives on the bag while reproof it, the surface needs to be completely free of debris before you start.  Think of it like waxing a car, you always clean your car before you wax it!

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Next you’re going to want to heat the wax in really hot water until it is completely melted.  What I did was place the tin of wax in a plastic bag and placed the entire thing in a pot of boiled water for about 20 minutes.  You want the wax to be completely liquid so that it can absorb itself into the fabric.  Preferably, the fabric should be heated to in order to really open up the pores and microscopic spaces within the cotton for even better absorption.  The pros at Barbour and Belstaff use a heated table heated  but who has one of those at home?   I simply used a hair dryer at semi close range and went over the messenger bag a few times to get it warm and toasty.

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Now, dip your rag into the wax and start rubbing the wax into the messenger bag, a small section at a time in a circular motion.  Be sure to overlap because wax can’t really be spread easily once it’s in the fabric, you’ll have to overlap your sections in order to get every part of the messenger bag to absorb the wax.  This is the most time consuming because you’ll have to get the wax on and then also use a hair dryer to insure that the area you’re around is warm.  Liquid wax begins to harden very quickly.  Even after a few minutes of taking it out of its tin, the wax starts to become a bit creamy.  Even after I took the wax tin out of the bag, I kept it in a shallow bowl with hot water.  If you do this, be sure the water doesn’t get into the wax.  Keeping everything hot and liquid might be overkill, but I wanted the wax to really get in so that I didn’t have re-wax my bag every few months.  The fabric will become significantly darker  and look almost oily because of all the wax that it is absorbing.  This is completely normal and that dark wet finish will eventually go away after a few days of drying.

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I was a little shocked at first by how oily the thing looked.  At this point I was thinking…man, maybe I should have gone with Otter Wax, ha!  When you’re done waxing, hang the bag up in a warm room and let the bag naturally air dry over 24 hours.  Immediately after waxing, the bag will be sticky to the touch and just overall, a bit gross but like I said, that is completely natural.  Don’t attempt to take it out immediately into the rain or drag it through the mud.

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This was 24 hours after the bag has dried.  It still has a little bit of sheen to it, but it’s well on its way to drying completely and looking like how I got it from Mission Workshop…only a little better.  Filson’s wax will give your bags a slightly darker look to with a bit of sheen, like leather.

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After a couple days, the bag will basically be back in brand new condition and fully weatherproof as before.

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This is how good Filson’s wax is!  The wax is so strong that if this cotton material were larger, I could use it as a rain tarp for camping.  Before waxing, water soaked into the fabric after a few minutes, but now it just sits there.  These are 2 truly great products used with each other.  Keep in mind that for ultimate water protection, I don’t think anything beats Gore-tex or Cordura, these are just simply fabrics made with newer technology.  But if you have an appreciation for how things were done during days gone by, wax canvas bags and jackets can offer equally good protection as long as it is maintained properly.

Leave any comments if you have any questions about the re-proofing process. Thanks for reading!

 

 

My Thoughts: The Chrome Citizen *Night* Messenger Bag

A Great Messenger Bag with Clever Urban Camouflage

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The Chrome Industries Citizen Messenger Bag, what else can I say about this that hasn’t been said before?  While there are a lot of reviews on the interwebs and youtube by hipsters and fixed gear fanboys touting the greatness of this bag,  I’ve yet to really come upon a review that gives a dispassionate take on its merits and shortcomings, besides Carryology.com.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a fixed gear fan boy myself but I also value functionality of my gear and not just what everyone else says about this bag.

So here goes, I used the bag for a month but realized that it just wasn’t suited to what I needed.  There are some great things about this bag that I really liked, but there were enough downsides for me that I ultimately sold it on ebay for a slight loss and got a Mission Workshop Rummy instead.  Now I’m not saying that bag is perfect either, but it was more suited for my needs.

I’m going to go over the great things about this bag and there are a few technical details and innovations that Chrome Industries got perfect with the Citizen Night.  I LOVE the way it looks.  The outline of the bag is modern and sleek, the big reflective stripe running across the front flap is bold and really makes the bag pop.  I like the placement of the Chrome’s logo on the front as well, the black and white fastening straps and the reflective area on the lower flap.  Aesthetically, this bag is beautiful and it really has the classic rectangle and rounded corner  bike messenger shape.  The densely woven ballistic nylon is also weather proof.  It’s not waterproof persay since water will eventually soak through nylon if it sits on there long enough, but the bag is also protected with an 18oz tarp liner which will definitely keep everything inside dry.

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My favorite feature of the bag is the camouflaged reflective surfaces.  Chrome used a special type of 3M reflective paint that appears silver/white during the day, but turns into a extremely bright reflective strip at night when any type of specular lighting or head light shines onto it.  The entire bottom half of the flap is dotted with this paint also and gives off a bright shimmering reflection as your riding in the dark.  I wish more bags had this function or used this paint, it’s simply amazing combined with the sleek and modern look of the bag.  Love Love Love this feature!   But there is also a caveat, despite how great this paint is.  For some reason on my bag, the paint started to chip off after just a couple days use of tightening and loosening the fastening straps.  I thought that was really strange for a higher end bag like this and it didn’t sit too well with me.  I had a strong feeling that the paint could potentially flake off after a couple years of heavy usage and that just wouldn’t be worth it.  I’ll never know if that will really happen, but the fact that it started flaking off so soon after a couple thunder storms didn’t sit too well with me despite how awesome and helpful it is at night.

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The inside of the bag is compartmentalized very well with separate compartments for your water bottles, notebooks, tablets and keys.  The problem with the Chrome Citizen is that when the bag begins to fill up, it gets harder and harder to reach for the items on the outer most compartments because the inside if pushing against it.  It’s best to use this bag at slightly less than its full capacity or else it will be hard to pull out your smaller, but no less important items.

The aesthetics inside are also beautiful.  I love the waterproof tarp lining which can be separated from the outer wall of the bag so you can potentially store clean clothes/soft items that you don’t want to get dirty or wet.  I wouldn’t suggest putting anything delicate in that spot because without the liner, all that is between that “item” and the ground is the nylon fabric which probably won’t do a very job of protecting it.  Items in the tarp liner get an extra bit of protection due to the liner’s thickness.  But by no means can you toss your 17 inch Macbook around in this and expect it to not break.  I always set my bag down gently on the ground.

This bag can store a ton of stuff, approximately 27 liters worth.  It can’t really store much more than that because doesn’t really use a roll top design.  So as you store more items in there, you raise the top flap more and more which will expose the interior to the elements.  Even with the bag at less than full capacity, shown above, rain water was already getting into the inner flap of the bag.  It is easier to “pull stuff out in a hurry” with this bag due to the lower front lip, but you have a higher risk getting your items wet during a storm.

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At full capacity, your pens are definitely going to get wet 😛

One of the features that everyone likes about the Chrome Citizen is the seatbelt buckle.  I’m actually not a huge fan of it because it’s so heavy and swings like a pendulum when disengage it.  No matter how careful you are when you take it off, it will find something to bang against make a racket.  When I used it, I usually just threw the bag over my head to take it off.  Another thing that I didn’t like was the fabric used for the strap.  It’s supposedly seat belt material just in appearance, the webbing is actually very supple and it doesn’t feel very strong.  There were many times where it got tangled and twisted up in the buckle as I was using the quick release to lengthen and shorten the strap.

The major downside of this bag is the design of the strap.  It is thick and comfortable, but that’s only when the bag is at about half capacity.  Due to the way the strap is attached to the bag, items will start to protrude into your back since the strap does not allow the objects to away from your back.  It’s a bit hard to explain, but you’ll find out when you purchase the bag and decide to really fill it up, it’s just not very comfortable and does not hug your back when fully loaded, the way that the Mission Workshop Messenger bag does.  Because of that I had to pass it down to someone who didn’t fill it to the brim all the time.

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Overall though, it’s a good messenger for students, parties (since there’s a built in bottle opener on the front buckle) and a trip to the beach.  The major downside is that it’s just not that comfortable to wear once it’s fully loaded and that was disappointing because I really love the way that this bag looked.  Agree with me, don’t agree with me or have any questions? Leave them in the comment section below!

Review of the Mission Workshop AP Rummy in Waxed Canvas with Arkiv Hardware

IMG_2496Here’s an honest review of a great messenger bag…I spent a long time thinking about whether to go for this,the tried and true Chrome Citizen or the exquisite Trakke Mule.  I decided to go with the Mission Workshop Rummy in Wax Canvas mainly due to its slightly more elegant design and price point.  The Chrome Citizen was too ubiquitous and the Trakke Mule was far too expensive.  So here are my thoughts…First off, I wanted to show this bag in its element, being an everyday carry that’s capable of withstanding the elements.  Yes this bag does look pretty sleek in Mission Workshop’s official product photos because they probably lined it with filling to make it look more rectangular than it is.

This is a cotton bag, much different from its nylon “normal” Rummy counterpart.  The waxed cotton is softer and much more supple.  Because of that, it’s also less structured than the VX fabric or Nylon Rummys so it will pretty much take on the shape of whatever you put into it.  In the above photo, it’s loaded to the brim with groceries, toiletries and some beer so now it looks more like Santa’s gift bag instead.

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This bag can definitely hold a lot of stuff , 27 liters worth but it can probably hold more due to its roll top design.  Simply unroll the top flap and you can literally fill it to the brim as I did here with laundry, books, etc, anything that you can think of.  To keep it all secure and water tight, the VX hardware buckles that come with the Waxed Canvas Rummy can extend via 2 elastic bands that can reach all the way to the top of the unfolded flap as you can see here.

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Yeah…not really what you see on Mission Workshop’s site anymore right?  Well, this is the functional side of the bag.  It can look quite snazzy with just a few books and a lap top inside, but it is equally functional with a load of dirty laundry when you’re making a bike trip to the cleaners.  Oh, did I mention that it’s also a water tight bag?  I’ve ridden through snow and heavy thunder storms and the waxed cotton combined with the inner waterproof liner managed to keep everything inside completely dry.

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In its compact form, this is a handsome bag where you can use it in roll top mode or flap down mode.  Aesthetically I like how it looks when the flap is rolled up and also because it allows for quick access to my bike lock, pen and notebooks located in the inner compartments.  This was one of the big reasons why I chose this bag over the Chrome Citizen and Trakke Mule/Wee Lug. Instead of using a normal plastic clip to secure the flaps, the Rummy Wax Canvas shares the same hardware as the VX Rummy.  It uses a metal buckle  fastener which simply slides on top of a tab, this only requires a simple one handed motion to attach and detach the buckles.

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Here is a closer look at how the buckle attaches onto the tab.  It is a lot quicker to operate than the standard plastic snap fasteners used on most bags on the market, not to mention it looks really cool as well with its brushed steel.

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I would say that the bag is quite comfortable, but that depends on how you load it.  Because this bag isn’t as structured as the “heavier and thicker” nylon and VX fabrics, it takes the shape whatever you put into it.  It also isn’t padded as well as the other Rummys for some reason…I think the ballistic nylon and VX fabric used in the other Rummy is also thicker.   The best thing about the Mission Workshop Rummy bags is their strap.  It’s very well designed such that it attaches to the outer edge closest to the rear of the bag.  That causes the contents of the bag to push away from you when you begins to fill it up INSTEAD of INTO you which is painfully uncomfortable.  The Chrome Citizen does that and that was another reason why I chose the Mission Workshop Rummy over it.  So even if you put a big square box into this bag, it is still comfortable to ride with it because it’s resting on top of your back instead of digging into it.  Another great thing about the Rummy is the fact that it can be worn over the left or right shoulder with the simple switching of sides of the strap.

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Because this is a cotton bag and therefore not scratch proof, this bag will wear compared to its VX and Nylon Fabric counterpart.  That is wholly up to you to decide whether you want a bag that looks sleek all the time, or a bag that will eventually look well worn, beat up and full of character…I chose the latter because I like how waxed cotton develops a certain patina, as it ages, that is unique to how you use it.  I do have a gripe about how the top flap is wearing though…

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There are some very wrinkly spots that developed after running the bag through some heavy rainstorms.  I wasn’t expecting the cotton to wear like that and personally it’s a bit unsightly.  I think it might have to do with how the black pieces were sewed onto the cotton.  I’ve tried ironing them out but to avail, it stays wrinkly.  If any readers have any advice about getting them out please leave a comment below.

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Overall, it’s a great bag that can hold a ton of stuff.  With all that shown in the above photo, you can also still fit a whopping 17inch laptop and charger in there as well.  At that point though, it gets pretty heavy on a single shoulder so I’d recommend only doing that for short 1 hour or less rides or using the bag as a weekender.  It keeps all your contents dry in heavy rain and even dust storms as there is no gap between the flap and the opening of the bag.  It’s comfortable as much as a messenger bag can be with all that weight on one shoulder.  The Mission Workshop Rummy tries to make it easy for the user by using a wide strap that can help disperse the weight.  The only big gripe I have about this bag are the wrinkly parts that have developed on the top flap and the lack of padding or a laptop compartment.  That makes carrying a laptop a bit dangerous as it is susceptible  to bumps and drops as the cotton and inner liner, despite being waterproof, is actually very thin.  I would also not recommend putting a small laptop or a tablet (unless it was in a protective sleeve) in the front compartment either since the fabric is also very thin there.  I hope you enjoy this review, please leave any questions or comments you have below.  I know choosing a premium messenger bag can be quite a process especially since these can get quite pricey so I am more than happy to answer questions or even take more photos for anyone who wants to know more about this bag.