It’s amazing how heavy a bag can become when you throw in a few gadgets. Backpacks are by far the most comfortable way to carry heavy loads, but they do have a few drawbacks.
First, they aren’t the most convenient of things to access. If you want to pull out your iPad or a camera, for example, you have to remove the backpack and either put it down somewhere or awkwardly hold it in one hand while wrestling with zips with the other.
Second, they can be a liability in crowded places, taking out innocent bystanders on public transit when you turn around. Third, those same very crowded places put your valuables at risk from theft as access is behind your back, out of sight. Finally, you have to remove the pack if you want to sit down.
There are existing solutions to these problems, but none work as well as the Wolffepack …
I’m something of a bagaholic, and have tried a lot of different bags over the years. Sling bags are the usual attempt at giving the best of both worlds – carrying the weight on your back while allowing you to swing it round in front of you for access – but these are nothing like as comfortable as a backpack. The whole point of a city backpack is that you can walk around all day while barely feeling the weight, and sling bags simply don’t achieve that.
The Riutbag I reviewed earlier in the year tackles the theft issue, and is slim enough to pose minimal risk to people as you turn around, but does nothing to facilitate easy access.
So when a friend spotted the Wolffepack, I definitely had to give it a try.
To all appearances, it’s a conventional-looking black backpack. There are two models, one with an 18L capacity, suitable for 13-inch laptops, the second with a 22L capacity, designed for 15-inch laptops. I tested the larger of the two, which has a slimline design, so doesn’t look at all out of place in the city. It’s a standard water-resistant ripstop nylon fabric, though with color accents provided by red stitching.
There’s an airflow back system common to most premium backpacks, designed to allow air to circulate between you and the backpack to reduce the sweatiness you otherwise tend to get while wearing one.
The swivel mechanism
The selling-point of the Wolffepack is that you can lower the backpack behind you, then swing it round in front of you for easy access, where it clips in place. This is ideal for public transit or anywhere really crowded, allowing you to keep your valuables in front of you where you can see the bag.
Fast-forward to 35 seconds if you want to skip the sales-pitch and just see the bag in action in the company’s promo video.
The only small clue that there’s anything unusual about the pack is the black plastic handle on the right strap. Unclip this from its holder, press the red button hidden on the reverse, pull down the handle and then allow it to retract up into a slot by your shoulder and the backpack lowers down behind you.
The first couple of times I tried to use it, I was convinced it was broken. It lowered down fine, but wouldn’t lock back up. Watching the company’s instruction video solved that one. There is definitely a bit of a knack to it, but once you have it, you’ll wonder why you ever found it tricky – it’s simple and reliable once you know how.
The three secrets to reliable use are: keep the button pressed throughout, pull the strap down as far as it will go and then allow it to retract all the way into the hood at your shoulder before releasing both the button and the strap. It sounds far more complicated than it is, and once you’ve mastered it the whole process takes just a couple of seconds.
Inside, the bag is well-appointed for gadgets. There’s a main padded section suitable for a 15-inch MacBook Pro, as well as a second padded section ideal for an iPad. On the other side are a couple of open pockets that can accommodate things like a power pack or compact camera. There’s also a zipped pocket suitable for easy-to-lose things like USB keys. That still leaves the main compartment free for a sweater, file folder or similar.
The outside of the bag has two more zipped compartments. The larger of the two also has multiple compartments, and actually felt like overkill to me, while there’s a smaller one suitable for a small bottle of water. Finally there’s a compact umbrella slot on the side. I personally didn’t need to use any of the exterior pockets.
Pricing and conclusions
As you’d expect, the unique feature of the bag means it isn’t cheap. Both 18-litre and 22-litre models are identically-priced at $179. I’d recommend the larger one, as it doesn’t take up much more space and has a slimmer, neater-looking profile.
But although it’s relatively expensive, I’d say the price is justified. It works really, really well. I was able to easily access things on the move, and it was great being able to swivel the bag around to the front as needed without sacrificing any carrying comfort. Suffice it to say that the Wolffepack has become my new default backpack.