What do the Bible, £50,000 and 20 servings of lamb curry have in common?
Or perhaps a laptop, 2 tomahawks and a spare change of underwear?
Well, these are all things that at some point have been in my rucksack over the last year. Some of them are in my backpack essentially everyday, others have been a one-time-only occasion (don’t worry – I don’t regularly carry large amounts of cash or throwing axes).
The point I am trying to make here is that a backpack must be able to handle a wide variety of payloads. The nature of commuting is that it must not only handle a variety of payloads but must also be suitable for the myriad conditions that are faced on my UK-based commute (essentially different levels of rain). Also, any cycling backpack must be comfortable to ride in both in how it fits and what level of sweat patch mitigation it affords.
Enter one of the original urban cycling companies, Chrome Industries, who have sent over their Barrage Cargo Backpack for us to put it through its paces in their attempt to fulfil these criteria. They describe it as their “most rugged all-condition backpack” and it is one of their bestsellers.
Barrage in Name and Nature
Upon taking it out of the box there is a tangible sense of toughness, to be expected from a brand that was born for the rigours of stateside urban bike couriering.
The outside of the bag is made from abrasion resistant 1050 denier nylon. For those of us less familiar with the language of industrial haberdashery, this is the same stuff they make motorbike jackets, kayaks and even the protective backdrop of Wild West style quick-draw competitions out of. It was invented in WW2 to deflect shrapnel. In other words it is very tough. Chrome are so confident in their build quality that they offer a lifetime guarantee as standard with all their bags.
Most of the straps on the bag are made from seatbelt fabric and lots of buckles that on other bags would usually be plastic but are industrial-grade metal here. To summarise, Chrome have made this bag tough.
Is the Chrome Barrage Backpack Waterproof?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that changing into wet clothes is one of the worst feelings known to man. This is closely followed by the horror of realising that your expensive electronics are really quite damp after your morning cycle commute in the downpour. As such, a bag being waterproof is fairly high priority.
The bag has a roll top which accommodates a large number of load sizes and is much more preferable than zips when it comes to waterproofness. Having tested this bag thoroughly in the driving Manchester rain, everything inside was kept Atacama level dry. This isn’t a surprise given that the Barrage Cargo’s main compartment is lined with a waterproof 22oz truck tarpaulin with welded seams. Simply put, stuff inside will not get wet. Adept in a variety of conditions, check.
One of the unique things about this bag is the cargo net. It is adjustable, versatile and secure. As always, in true Discerning Cyclist fashion, we went to great lengths to test this rigorously. The cargo net was found to securely hold a helmet, pizza box and my sister’s violin (not concurrently). There are 5 points of contact and the net is made out of super strong seatbelt fabric. There are also pockets on either side of the bag – perfect for locks or water bottles.
Inside the main compartment there is an interior sleeve which can take a 15” laptop and my 15.6” laptop also fits. The bag has a volume of 22L and weighs 3.3lbs which is relatively hefty. This makes it perfect for my day bag and it is also big enough for an overnight bag. Ability to handle many payloads, check.
Comfortable Backpack for Cycling
In terms of wearability, this bag is quite comfortable. There is an EVA foam back which means it sits very comfortably on the body and is still fairly breathable. This goes a long way in sweat patch minimisation though it is not perfect (but I doubt that is even possible in a backpack).
The shoulder straps took a while to adjust to sit comfortably on the neck but once I had done that they held the pack in a riding-friendly position. These straps are well padded so even when carrying a considerable amount of weight, it is still relatively comfortable and much more so than my other packs.
While cycling, this pack naturally sits quite high on one’s back which is where you want the weight to be. However, it isn’t too high that it makes it difficult to lift your head up while riding on drop-handlebars. Comfortable to cycle in, check.
Chrome Barrage Cargo Backpack: In Summary
When all is said and done, this is a really good backpack. There is a reason that this is thousands of bike messengers’ and commuters’ go-to bag. It’s tough, versatile, waterproof and comfortable. What’s more, Chrome have guaranteed that this bag will outlast you.
The Barrage Cargo bag weighs in at £170 / $160 which might sound like a lot of money but it isn’t that much for what could essentially be an heirloom. It comes in Green/black, all black and navy blue.