There is something so frustrating about looking for reviews of new bags.
I Hate “Reviews” of New Bags
For starters, I was very recently searching on the Google Machine for “review chrome barrage backpack” and got dozens and dozens of “reviews” that were actually just reprints of the press release and/or the very product description and recycled photographs of the product that are already available on the Chrome Industries website. That bothers me almost as much as the very notion that Rick Santorum was a serious contender for President of the United States!
This is compounded by most manufacturers of bags not addressing some of my most pressing questions about their products on their website, so finding dozens and dozens of websites that just parrot the same information wastes valuable time. I’m going to my part as a citizen of the Internet and give some thoughts about the new Chrome Barrage without repeating the same list of specifications and same ol’ photos in the hopes that someone looking for information about this bag beyond the most fucking obvious facts and figures will appreciate it.
Over time people get the bags and start doing what I’m doing; namely putting Words on the Internet about them. This is an uncomfortable silence for the bag-happy folk, for sure.
Types of Bags
I own several bags of various styles. I have some shoulder-carried musette style bags, some messenger bags, and some backpacks. My life-long dilemma is that I prefer messenger bags ((being able to get access to the contents without taking the bag off is the best feature)) but also finding them uncomfortable for extended wearing due to strain on one shoulder and uneven distribution of weight. I find backpacks more comfortable but they aren’t without some compromises. You can’t get things in and out of them very easily without taking the bag off, they can get much hotter in warmer weather causing Unsightly Back Sweat, and they can be unwieldly on public transit if you aren’t careful.
The Chrome Barrage is a backpack with two interior storage sacks and an external cargo net for odds and ends. The inner-most section is welded and waterproof, you can pour liquids in there and it isn’t going anywhere. There is a modest pouch opened up on the side closest to your back that can accommodate a laptop, notebook, iPad — I keep a Retina MacBook Pro (in a hard shell case) and a padded envelope with my iPad in that back pocket, and some other bits too. The other side of the bag is under a zipper in the roll-top flap, and is largely water-resistant but isn’t completely watertight like the welded part. It’s where you can shove a wet towel and not get anything important damp. I put a dry sack containing a spare change of clothes and diapering supplies for my daughter in there, and a spare grocery bag.
Since the main storage compartment is essentially one giant semi-shapeless sack like a lot of messenger bags give you, it helps to have some sort of organization in the way of pouches, rolls, and small containers for things you want to be able to fish out by touch.
- Cargo net section is dope. Perfect for a windbreaker, tripod, helmet, and anything irregular that you can keep somewhat exposed.
- Nice zipper pull on the roll-top.
- I love roll-tops like this because they’re less fussy than zippers and snaps and are better at keeping water out.
- I like the molded back padding on this bag, but it doesn’t seem to keep my back much dryer than an air-mesh back would. It certainly looks a lot better though and is more comfortable.
- Sternum strap with the iconic buckle is adorable.
- Shoulder strap adjustment clips are great. Good hardware, nice design. Much better than plastic.
- I don’t like that the side pockets are somewhat small and don’t accommodate a large water bottle (e.g. the Black+Blum eau good or the Camelback Groove)
- I also don’t like that the side pockets don’t have flaps or a zipper. I worry about small things falling out or being easily accessible by people other than myself.
- One more thing about those side pockets: the strap for the cargo net lines up with the top edge of the pocket, so sometimes it feels like you’ve got a strap in the way, on account of having a strap in the way.
Just Plain Whining
- I wish Chrome would use some alternative materials in their bags. The Cordura® is resilient and all and I can understand the appeal but I really love seeing bags using sailcloth and other materials; and I especially love the VX fabric that Mission Workshop uses in some of their bags.
- I wish Chrome used a more diverse color palette. They do special editions of things and custom bags, but Black on Black isn’t appealing to me. I would have ordered my Barrage in the Ranger option but it sold out fast. Know why? Because Black with a splash of Red or White is kind of boring. It looks good, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some other options.
- Very few backpacks address the access issue for contents while wearing the bag on one arm. It would be great to have a nice, stylish and practical bag with sideways access on either end for easy access without taking the whole thing off every time I need to grab my camera or something else.
I like this bag a lot and will be using it regularly. I’m never 100% satisfied with any bag and opt to diversify my bags rather than demand a perfect one. I will have more thoughts on it to share after some more use, I’m sure. It is clearly well made, in the United States, by the skilled craftsmen at Chrome. It holds an awful lot and the unstructured messenger-bag roots will either frustrate you or delight you, and that largely depends on what you carry and what methods you have available to keep them straight.
Special shout-out to Hank the Customer Care Guy, who did me a huge solid on shipping and was pretty awesome in general.