I hated backpacks. I mean: they’re ugly, right? There is nothing sexy or classy about a person wearing a two-strap-hinged bag on her back. Exceptions might be: a violin, a sniper rifle or, if you like fedoras, a hard-shell pack. Scratch that, those are actually the worst.
In most other occasions there is litte more unflattering like a backpack. I know I’m not alone on this. Even Mens-Blog extraordinaire put-this-on thinks backpacks should be forbidden by law. Yet, people love them and buy them for their every day carry, as well as their once in a lifetime, million mile hike around the world.
The main reason being that backpacks are generally a good way to hoist around your stuff, from light to heavy weight. Especially when luggage gets heavier, backpacks also provide an unparalleled advantage for your spinal health. The only thing better for your back would probably be to give your stuff to someone else to carry.
I myself used to be a strong believer of the pro-grade messenger bag. Nowadays, every hipster on the planet can get himself a Chrome Citizen or, if he feels like going more authentic, a Chrome Metropolis. If you like a bit more style, you can buy a Mission Workshop Bag, and if you just want to go crazy with color, Bagaboo from Hungary might be of your liking. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a bag, that will last you a lifetime.
Being a man of not overthinking these things too much, I got myself a the comically huge Chrome Metropolis (i use a superlative here, but it’s by far not the biggest messenger you could get). It is brilliant: It’s well built, can carry a LOT of stuff. The strap is very well made, it’s waterproof. It really is a proper bike-messenger bag.
So why did I buy a rucksack then? Comfort.
Try carrying a laptop, a bottle or anything else thats bulky or chiseled for more than an hour and you’ll start to feel every centimeter of the thing that is filling up your bag and almost directly pokes into your skin, since most of those bags don’t have padding in the back for different reasons. One of them might be the much needed maximum flexibility that these bags need to have, in order to serve their professional users to carry whatever they want.
But as I said, that is a huge problem for a lot of people, especially normal office-hours working minions like me, who don’t want to hurt their backs even more than we already do, sitting in those stupid chairs, that some proctologist in some 90s magazine claimed were healthy. So here I am, being old and giving in to the potential damage my messenger could do to my back.
Looking for the backpack I wanted was actually not too difficult. Most options are either ugly or far from what I actually want. My bag should: carry a laptop without an extra sleeve, have some pockets, be durable, be small but still have enough room to support me having clothing for a few days. Many bags do that, but the Rostov was one of 2 bags that I also would not be ashamed of carrying around on my back all day. I’m looking at you GoRuck. I really don’t want to look like I’m going to war.
So let’s finally start from the outside in:
(The Rostov is available in 3 colors. I’ve bought the black one but be sure to check out the other ones, if you feel a bit more adventurous.)
The Rostov looks sleek. It’s made from black Cordura®, the zippers are under rain covering. The most predominant thing on the front (or back, if you will) is the white Chrome logo rubber-thingy. Complaint number one: it’s not been sewed on very nicely. Some of the seams stick out wich makes this small area look cheap. The rest of the back is very pretty though. On the bottom are two straps, perfect to hold your rear-light. On the top, you’ll find a handle to hang your bag, or carry it around in the subway (be cool, kids – set your rucksacks down). Second complaint here: The handle could use a little bit of rubber, to make it feel nicer in the hand. On the sides are 2 tightening straps on either side, to tighten your bag when its not empty. On the right side is an extra pocket for a bottle or your u-lock or whatever you want to carry outside of the bag.
Turn the Bag around and you’ll find 2 shoulder straps wich have a lot of „range“, so even some bigger girls and guys can carry the Rostov easily. On the straps is some reflective material, wich to me, would have probably made more sense on the other side of the bag, but whatever. The two straps are connected on the top wich could be a problem for some people. If I pull the bag all the way to the top of my back, the „bridge“ actually rubs against my neck wich doesn’t feel nice at all. But at the same time there wouldn’t be any need to pull it that high, so not a real issue, I guess.
Let’s open it up.
On the front is a smaller compartment wich is easily accessible if you swing the bag around your right shoulder. Place your wallet and keys here. The only other zipper is at the top and opens the bag to a quarter or so of its height, wich is nice, so it won’t drop open and it doesn’t give water too much area to access the bag.
Talking about water: The Rostov seems to be really well waterproofed. The Cordura® on the outside is very durable and water resistant. Touching the bag really gives you the feeling of it lasting a lifetime! All Chrome products do that and that’s probably why I’m still such a big fan. (Right here I have to point out that someone mentioned, that the front compartment is in fact NOT entirely waterproof.)
As I mentioned, the main compartment opens about a quarter of the backpacks height. Inside you’ll find some light-grey-ish padded Material. All the seams of the inner padding are outlined with some pretty nice bright orange material. All of this is supposed to help you find your stuff more easily in the backpack and it kind of does.
The padding in general is pretty good, but if you throw your 13 inch Retina MacBook Pro in there, it wobbles around in kind of an unsettling fashion, thats why I still keep an extra sleeve in there for extra protection. That being said, there is so much room, that a 15 inch Laptop probably still fits inside that compartment easily. I just didn’t have one around to actually test that. There are also some smaller pockets for sunglasses, pens and a notebook or an iPad mini. The rest of the bag is surprisingly big. A guy or an efficient girl could go travel with this bag filled with a weekends worth of clothes easily. Probably not for a week, but im no travel expert, which leads me to my next point:
I traveled with this backpack and a big ass suitcase for 3 weeks in Paris and London for work. The Rostov was my constant companion as an every day carry, als well as the bag for all the stuff I’d need on trains and planes. Would I have been using my messenger bag instead, my shoulder would have probably fallen of by now. As expected it distributes the weight of the souvenirs, cameras and work items way better than a single-strapped bag ever could. It’s very lightweight itself and my stuff generally feels save in there. Safer also, because in a bike messenger bag your stuff tends slide to one corner of the bag, but in a backpack it generally stays put.
As of now, I’m very happy with my Rostov. If something would break, Chrome will have you covered with a „lifelong“ warranty (general wear and tear excluded). As of the little issues I had so far, the Rostov seems to offer a lot of bang for your buck. When I put something in there, I’m sure its safe and dry and how much more would you actually want from a small biker-ready backpack anyways?