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Sanctioned

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I’m mixing it up today and left the Barrage at home to be a little lighter. This is my Mission Workshop Rambler, a smaller rucksack (1000 cc) but with better division of space in that it had more than one flap to separate thing one from thing two.

There is a larger version of this bag called the Fitzroy, but I don’t know that I’d want it, considering I already have a Rambler which expands to a monstrous cargo hold as needed.

In My Bag: the Odds and Ends

While writing about the Chrome Barrage recently I mentioned having pouches for odds and ends is very helpful so that you can find what you’re looking for in an expansive damn-near-bottomless bag.

Odds and Ends

Many messenger bags are designed to provide one huge space for things you carry and maybe some smaller organization pockets here and there, but it’s almost impossible to find one that offers either enough organization without assistance and when you can do it better there isn’t that much of a need for it. Sometimes you find satisfaction in changed expectations.

Pouches

WaterField Designs

WaterField makes the very finest laptop sleeve cases and they also make great pouches for carrying just about anything in your bags. That’s why they’re getting their own section in this list.

  • One small Gear Pouch
    • Pens, pencils, pillbox, lip balm and tissues
  • One medium Gear Pouch
    • Dental floss, bandages, a small roller of my custom-blended cologne, anti-bacterial towelettes, batteries, over-the-counter medicines
  • One small iPod Gear Pouch
    • iPod Classic with a lot of music, podcasts, some favorite episodes of my favorite TV shows, a couple of movies, and every single episode of Shaun the Sheep ever made
    • Folding on-ear headphones, wrapped-up in-ear headphones that I find awkward and painful for extended use
  • One medium Cableguy
    • Camera shutter release cable
    • A/V connection kit for Dock Connector devices like my iPad and iPod
    • Small multi-tool, set of lockpicks
    • Retractable USB Extension with USB, Micro, Mini USB adapters
    • Lightning-to-DockConnector gizmo
    • Dock Connector SD card reader to get photos to my iPad
    • a Square for accepting monies on my iPhone or iPad

Dry Bags & Stuff Sacks

Something wet and you don’t want to get other things wet? Something dry and you want to keep it that way? Packing for a weekend trip and want to stuff as much as possible into as little space as possible? I have a couple of these I use pretty often for just such occasions.

  • Cascade Designs eSeries 13 SealLock™ pouch
    • Postage stamps & postcards
    • Scraps of paper, notes, 3×5 cards
    • my Comment Cards, Apology Notes and other stationary
    • sometimes my Midori Traveler’s Notebook (Passport size)
    • can keep my iPhone safe from harm should the need arise
  • Sea to Summit Ultra-sil Drybag (small)
    • Smaller drybag, rolls up very compact, into a buckle that you can use as a handle. I keep my camera’s Gariz felt bag inside of it when I’m on a boat.
  • Sea to Summit Stuff Sack
    • Diapering supplies and a spare set of clothes for my daughter most of the time, with plenty of room to spare. I fold it over itself and shove it into the bottom of my bag and find ways to use it as a bumper or pad for my back in some cases.
    • I can fit nearly three days of clothing for myself in there if I’m careful about it.
  • When I am going swimming and don’t want my clothes or towel to get funky, I have a Sea to Summit mesh stuff sack that works great.

Other Carry

  • In a rare moment of frugality I keep my iPad in a bubbled mailing envelope made by 3M that I bought at CVS for a dollar or something. A little roomy but works well.
  • Cocoon Grid-It
    • I don’t use this very often at all because it isn’t as useful as you’d think it would be. The irregular things it’s perfect for are better kept in a pouch in my experience. It also weighs more than it should, and you run out of usable room quickly. I don’t recommend it at all.
  • When I am going swimming and don’t want my clothes or towel to get funky, I have a mesh stuff sack that works great.

An Actual Review of an Actual Chrome Barrage Backpack

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 bags1 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.

Photos

Do like

  • 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.

Don’t like

  • 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.

Bottom Line

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. 


  1. being able to get access to the contents without taking the bag off is the best feature