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 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.


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. 

the Opinel No. 8


To this day, there is a village called Albiez-le-Vieux in Maurinne, in what used to be known as the Savoy. Savoy is in the Western Alps between Lake Geneva and Dauphiné, and in the 16th century it occupied a portion of what is now Italy. The region has a long story of strategic and geographical importance for the Roman Empire and the French Republic; up until the 14th century it was the territory of the House of Savoy, which was the most venerable royal house in all of Europe and a portion of Savoy was eventually annexed by France in 1890. In modern France, Savoy is part of the Rhône-Alpes region.

What Albiez-le-Vieux looks like today

I don’t know a lot about the history of France beyond the obvious things they teach American children in school, which consists primarily of Bastille Day and how the French saved our asses from the British and then sold us the flyover states for $USD 15M ((A pretty tidy sum compared to some of our country’s other acquisitions involving beads and broken promises)). I attempted to learn some of the history of this corner of the world recently and hopefully I managed to condense it without getting all of the details wrong; there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to French history, and so much of it is connected with that occured here in the United States that it’s really a fascinating rabbit hole to dig even for someone like myself with the attention span of a toddler.

Many years after the American Revolutionary War, there was war in France. There were several revolutions occurring across Europe, but it was the class struggles leading up to the 1848 Revolution ((révolution de Février — the petite bourgeois and labor interests aligned momentarily)), that lead to the creation of a provisional government established by labor and the petite bourgeois, only to see labor edged out and marginalized. The working classes were dissatisfied with the participation given in the new Government ((They were of the opinion that all sections and classes in their society were entitled to the same representation)), and took to the streets to ensure their demands were heard. The property owner class (finance bourgeoisie, industrial bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie), became fearful of losing their control and influence. They turned on their former allies the workers, and moved to suppress a labor uprising. This didn’t help matters at all, especially for the petite bourgeoisie who were already in a strained economic position to begin with and who were now all but exhausted after accumulating vast debts to stay in business, thousands of whom couldn’t pay their rent on shops since February.

Homeland Defense

The worker’s revolt of the June Days was put down, but ultimately that proved to be the beginning of the end of the 1848 Revolution and Second Republic ((The business owners themselves were given a stay of execution by financiers who stalled collecting back rent and debts only to turn on small business once things had stabilized after the June Days. Sound familiar?)) In 1851, a coup by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte occurred, seizing control of France, and it was during this coup that Savoy was briefly held by the French Second Republic forces. The French Second Republic dispatched Corps from Lyons and invaded the capital of Savoy (Chambéry), and once word got to the people of Savoy living outside the capital, they converged on Chambéry and chased out the Corps. Quite mercilessly from what I read.

In 1890, Savoy joined France, and so that is where we truly begin this story; with Joseph Opinel creating a folding knife in twelve sizes, each numbered one through twelve.

Joseph Opinel was the son and grandson of an edged tools maker. In those three generations his family spanned revolution, war, and their home has changed hands by declaration of treaty. Three generations of Opinel smiths working forges, a family tradition that miraculously survives to this day.

Opinel No.8 — Griffe - 1

the Opinel Hand and Crown

Thirty years later, Joseph Opinel registered a trademark for his cutlery, and following the old tradition established by King Charles IX, begins stamping his blades with an emblem of a crowned hand. ((The hand signifies the blessing of St Jean Baptiste, with three fingers raised and two folded downward. It also appears on the coat of arms of St Jean de Maurienne. The crown exists as a reminder of the old Duchy of Savoy, and I interpret the entirity of this emblem as being a not-so-subtle reminder that Joseph Opinel considered himself a Savoyard, even though at the time this was apparently a pejorative. That is to say, I suspect today Joseph Opinel may, while sitting on the steps of his cottage and sipping from a bottle of cognac, refer to the prepostorous utterance of a friend with an incredulous “Savoyard, s’il vous plaît!”))

Opinel No.8 — Griffe - 2

virobloc from the side

From there it’s a whirlwind — local shops and door-to-door sales establish the brand two years later and bring his knives to Italy and Switzerland in two more. By 1920 he moves production to Chambéry, and in 1939 he has sold 20 million of his knives. The only real design change occurs in 1955, when the “virobloc” safety ring is added to the knives in order to lock the blade in the open position. It doesn’t change again until 2000 when the virobloc mechanism is changed to also allow the blade to be locked in the folded position. And that’s it. From 1890 to 2013. A mere five pieces are used to assemble the Opinel Classic.


Opinel No.8 — Griffe - 3

virobloc locked closed, front

The Opinel knives were trusted tools for Pablo Picasso, who used them to carve his sculptures. There are also noteworthy alpine guides, mountaineers, sailors and yachtsman who also carried an Opinel over mountains and across seas, and many chefs use Opinel cutlery in their kitchens and gardens as well.

Joseph Opinel himself managed the company up until 1960 with the help of his sons. In 1974 his grandson and great-grandson took the helm keeping this tradition in their family across four generations now; totalling six generations of craftsman. Several other families of knives made by Opinel come into their catalog, but the Classic model is the one that has spanned all of these generations.

My Opinel

It was three weeks ago when I saw Patrick Rhone mention Bespoke Post in a post on After checking out Bespoke Post a bit, I saw one of their shipments included a really beautiful knife made by Opinel called the Classic, and shortly afterward I was on Opinel USA‘s website and was completely shocked at how affordable ((a No. 8 with a beech handle will cost you less than USD$30)) these beautiful knives were. They are practical, minimal, and timeless. I quickly ordered one for myself, as well as a filet knife for my father that I later gave him on my recent fishing trip.

This is my No. 8 (Classic) by Opinel, in walnut:

Opinel No.8 — Griffe - 4

Opinel’s Classic line of folding knives are not tactical flashy knives with rivets, drilled holes and aggressive styling. They are not built for an imaginary knife fight with a Taliban warlord or defending yourself against rogues in an alley. They are, however, unquestionably beautiful tools that are quite clearly purpose-built for people that use knives. They have an iconic design that has served as a symbol of a life in the French countryside, and a simpler time where hand-made tools were commonplace. It was heralded as a design masterpiece by MOMA New York in 1985, joining works of art like chairs designed by Eames.

The weight of the No. 8 is barely noticeable in your pocket and it feels featherlight in your hand. The blades can be made in carbon steel or stainless steel and I chose stainless mainly due to the minimal maintainence required. There is some slight flexing in the stainless blade that I think would be more obvious in larger lengths beyond the No. 8. The fact that it doesn’t require regular care to stay sharp and shiny more than compensates for this in my opinion. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t mind performing regular cleaning, drying, and generally being vigilant for corrosion, the carbon blade is going to hold an edge better and be stronger.

That isn’t to say the stainless blade is weak or gets dull quickly. I sharpened it before a trip and used it play at carving pieces of stray wood, opening packages, cutting lines and rope on a boat while fishing, and then slicing fruits and vegetables with ease and precision.

Engraving is an option from Opinel at the time of ordering, and it doesn’t add a delay to your order at all. I placed my order for two knives, both with engraving, and they still shipped the same day. I went the Game of Thrones route with mine, and gave it a name. It’s a small sharp thing that fits in my hand, so I used the French word for claw.

Opinel No.8 — Griffe - 5

The Opinel Classic would be a bargain at twice the price. It is delightfully simple, timeless, reliable and exceptionally lightweight. It is likely to be a reliable tool for the rest of my life, and those are the kinds of purchases I rarely regret.

Quick Review: The Yard Works Electric Mower Sucks

This Mower is a Piece of Shit
This Mower is a Piece of Shit

This self-propelled lawn mower is electric, and easy to use. It also failed after one season of mowing successfully and no longer starts, in spite of the battery showing a full charge. I think the battery just needs to be replaced, but I’ll be damned if anyone can get ahold of anyone at ANY contact number. I even have the store I purchased it at (Menards) trying to reach the manufacturer to ask about a replacement battery or something, but have gotten nowhere.

This mower may be great, but the battery they use and the company that makes it is a sick joke. This is probably one of the worst purchases I’ve ever made in my life, and I bought a 34″ direct-view HDTV in 1998.


10/10: the Last of Us

PlayStation 3 isn’t only well-known for its number of exclusive games, but for the sheer number of quality exclusives. That’s what makes The Last of Us even more impressive, because not only does it join the ranks of Uncharted, Killzone, God of War, Infamous and more, but it bests them all. In short, Naughty Dog has crafted a game that impresses in virtually every way. The Last of Us is a true feat.

Now that I’ve finished my Mass Effect Massive Play-through ((Octavia Shepard the Adept saved the entire crew in Mass Effect including the Rachni, uprooted and defeated the Collectors and destroyed the Human Reaper in Mass Effect 2, miraculously saved the Geth and the Quarians in Mass Effect 3, and finally chose to join with the invading Reapers to save Earth and the rest of the galaxy.)), I am really looking forward to spending time in this post-pandemic United States. It is rare that a game receives this level of praise — and since I just installed a hybrid SSD in my PlayStation 3, I’m not even going to have to make tough decisions to install it.

Edit: I went to purchase this on PSN tonight and realized it isn’t released yet, so I have a little while to wait until it gets downloaded onto my console and I can’t wait!

The dystopian future of The Last of Us
The dystopian future of The Last of Us

a brief review of Hotel Marlowe, Cambridge MA

Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge is a fantastic hotel and a tremendous value. We stayed two nights of our New England tour in this hotel and as you may imagine I’m … fickle.

I have never stayed at a Kimpton hotel before, but if they’re anything like Hotel Marlowe, I’ll keep my eyes out for them. I’ve never really had a preference for a hotel before, so it seems kind of weird to me that I even care enough to say a few nice words about this one.

When I say that Hotel Marlowe is a tremendous value, I mention this because the expectation isn’t that it will be like checking into the Plaza or the W for a few days. We were traveling and trying to be frugal and looking to get the most “bang for our buck”.

Marlowe is a pet-friendly hotel, apparently something all of the Kimpton properties share. When we stepped out of the cab there was a big bowl of water and a bowl of treats for canine companions ready and waiting. If we had checked in earlier, I was informed there is a wine reception for guests checking in, too. In addition to this, the front lounge area had large chillers of water, one with strawberries suspended in the ice and the other infused with pieces of lemon and lime — I enjoyed both.

The staff at Hotel Marlowe are fantastic, everyone was delightfully cheerful and happy and eager to help. We had requested additional pillows for our room at the time of reservation, and they were there. We called down for a heating pad the last night there and it arrived in less than five minutes. The cleaning staff were excellent, and the one of the better parts of our stay at the this hotel was the restaurant downstairs: Bambara.

We had an excellent dinner on our first night, putting our stay off to a great start. Wife had their steak frites (Hanger steak, slow roasted roma tomatoes, arugula, herb butter, peppercorn sauce and fries) and I had a crispy half chicken (Semi boneless Giannone Farms chicken, potato gratin, chard, pan sauce), which was also my first interaction with chard.

The dishes were prepared beautifully and perfectly done — it was hard to declare a winner between the two, the first time we’ve had a tie as far as I can remember. Something worth noting, the french fries from Bambara are some of the best I’ve ever had — seasoned with garlic, salt and i-dont-know-what-else, but I couldn’t stop eating them.

They were french fries worthy of being mentioned thrice, I assure you. They were almost too good. If they had a roasted red pepper mayonnaise to dip them in, I could have set up camp and ordered plate after plate of them until being wheeled out by paramedics. One of my favorite comfort foods are french fries, and I love when they’re done so well.

In light of everyone being so nice and the food being so delicious, I have to give this hotel and their staff a strong recommendation. I can usually find all sorts of negative things to fixate on about nearly anything, but Hotel Marlowe didn’t give me the opportunity.

On the eBay scale, Hotel Marlowe is somewhere near A++++ would stay again territory. I’ll be back someday.