I like to consider myself a backpack connoisseur, although I might not sit around Friday nights, sipping brandy, and discussing high-grade carabiner clips. Even so, I’m overly concerned with backpack design: what’s included, what’s not included, and why.
The Wolffepack Orbital backpack stands out with a feature that lets you easily swing the bag around to your front. Invented by David Wolffe, he appreciated the portability of a backpack but became frustrated with the difficulty in accessing it while traveling. As a father of three, the natural progression was to create Wolffepack Luna backpack specifically for parents as an alternative to the standard diaper bag.
Wolffepack has run three successful Kickstarters before, including one targeted at photographers and another for winter sports. The changes made for the Luna are aimed at making parents’ lives easier.
Covert Diaper Bag / Backpack
Comparing it to a regular backpack, the first thing I noticed is that there are a lot of pockets here. There are seven on the outside, and five more in the main compartment. Normally backpacks with that many pockets have at least two or three that are too small to be of use. However, each pocket has been carefully designed, and only added because they could do it properly.
There are pockets here for almost everything. While there are a few places you could fit a laptop, there is no suspended pocket to hold it safely when you put the bag down a bit too firmly. There’s a small amount of padding at the bottom of the pack, but nothing to stop the edge of your notebook from hitting the ground when you put the bag down. While the primary purpose for the Luna is a diaper bag, being able to safely toss my laptop or a tablet in there would give me one less thing to worry about.
While there are two color designs for the Luna, we tested the charcoal grey pack with brown faux-suede zipper pulls on every external pocket. The ease of visibility and access of the zipper pull is excellent. The color contrast helps one find the needed pocket quickly during a diaper change. Both the main compartment and secondary compartments have horseshoe zippers with two zipper pulls each. Every external pocket has a zipper to prevent losing what goes in.
The strap structure that remains on your back when the pack is released is well designed. I have broad shoulders (size 44), but the straps fit comfortably over my back. The bridge between the two didn’t rub on my neck as is the case with many backpacks. The chest strap is made from a stretchy material but was too short to connect properly for me. I don’t usually use one, so that’s not a big deal.
There’s comfortable mesh on the back to allow airflow. Since the straps are a separate structure from the pack itself, I can hike or ride my bike and the main compartment is safe from getting sweaty.
*Diaper Pad Included
Inside the main compartment is a diaper change pad held in its own pocket. The pad is extremely minimal by design. There are change pads on the market now have pockets, wings that fold out, and even baggie dispensers, so I asked our contact about their design decision to go minimal. I was assured that their designers considered both a change pad with pockets and one without. Since the Luna was designed with a variety of pockets and loads of storage on the pack itself, they found that a more elaborate diaper change pad would add unnecessary bulk.
Parents do have the option of buying a different change pad with the features they like and storing that in the diaper pad compartment instead. Given the great thought that the Wolffepack designers have put into storage, I would like to see their take on a more capable diaper change pad.
Testing the Orbital Release
The most eye-catching feature of any Wolffepack backpack is the Orbital function. With the press of a button and pull of a cable the pack portion disconnects from the straps and drops low on three high-strength cables. The pack can then be swung around and accessed with only one hand. Since it’s a major feature of the backpack, the handle at the top of the pack is built into the frame so it can never wear out and break.
During my test-run, I found it complicated to keep the pack far enough away to do the diaper change while still attached to my back by the cables. Afterwards, I realized that there are gunmetal clips on the front of the straps that let me hang the pack on the front straps. And herein lies the problem for someone like me who doesn’t like to read the instructions.
When I received the product for testing, there was an instruction page with a five-step process for using the Orbital feature (including one labelled “IMPORTANT STEP”). There were troubleshooting suggestions and helpful tips. However, even with the link to an instructional video, I just put on the pack and started using it. Don’t do that. Use is not entirely intuitive. Once I went back and read the instructions, I learned how to use all of the features and the full impact of the Wolffepack Orbital backpack was much clearer.
Pick a Hand, Any Hand
Any and all functions can be managed one-handed. The handle for release is on the right side, but I was able to release, access, and return the pack using only my left hand. The Wolffepack Luna has clearly been designed with one-handed use in mind. Using the gunmetal clip on the front straps means I can get that second hand back when changing a diaper.
One-handed use is not just demonstrated by what you can do, but by what won’t happen by accident. At first I was concerned with the lack of panel-opening pockets which allow the backpack to fold open and be completely spread out. However, given the targeted function, pockets that risk opening completely also risk doing so when it’s unwanted. All compartments (including the two vertical pockets on the front panel) have zippers that stop at least a couple inches before the bottom. There’s little risk of opening the pocket too wide and having the contents tumble out.
Premium Quality Materials
The backpack is made from high quality materials. Wolffepack used high grade water-resistant 500D Kodra nylon melange for the shell. The straps are held to the pack with Dyneema cords and the contraption includes Kevlar and carbon fiber. The Orbital system should last many repeated uses.
The side pockets are insulated with a PEVA (non-PVC) material. They are only juuuuuuust tall enough to hold my travel coffee mug, but have ample space for for a full-sized baby bottle, and even my fat 500mL water bottle without stress.
There is a learning curve to fully appreciate the unique Orbital feature of the Wolffepack backpacks. Once I read the instructions, I was quickly able to develop the muscle-memory that let me release the pack, access what I needed, and return it to my back with only one hand. Although the handle is on the right side, I found that I could operate it smoothly with either my right or left hand. Replacing the handle to the magnetic clip after retracting the pack is a little awkward, though, and I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of doing it.
The included diaper change pad is a bit minimal for my preference, but if you have one you already love, then there’s a pocket built into the Wolffepack Luna to hold it. There are enough pockets here to have a place for everything, and everything in its place. The side pockets are insulated and perfect for baby bottles.
The new Wolffepack Luna for parents brings all the necessary features of a diaper bag into the convenience of a backpack. The pack has many well thought out pockets, each with lots of space and comfortably stored on your back. One-handed access to everything in your bag is indispensable when you’re out with a child, and the only reason I’d normally consider a shoulder diaper bag. With the quick release and premium design of the Wolffepack Luna, you get the best of both worlds.
The Kickstarter for the Wolffepack Luna begins today, and there are early bird discounts if you’re quick enough.