Like many of us here at GeekDad, I’m constantly on the lookout for the perfect urban backpack. Recently I’ve settled into a reasonably contented relationship with a Timbuk 2 Uptown. While I’m mostly happy with the Uptown bag, it’s a bit too bulky for quick outings around town. I’ve started searching around for a smaller bag, ideally a cross-body sling bag with a good amount of storage that would be able to carry a laptop and maybe a full-frame DSLR. A tall order, I know.
Then, during a recent deep dive into the latest Kickstarter offerings, I came across the X-PAK™ (pronounced “cross-pack”) from product design firm Code of Bell. I was smitten. The campaign offers two versions, the X-PAK ONE™ and the X-PAK PRO™. The Pro seemed like just the bag I was looking for.
While relatively small (it has a carrying capacity of 10 liters, expandable to 17 liters), the X-PAK Pro can hold a lot of gear (including a laptop up to 13″) and offers a ton of useful features. It has twin rear-concealed pockets, a useful stash pocket in the adjustable and stowable shoulder strap, quick-access zippered pockets, a readily accessible key clip, a roomy main storage compartment with a cool vertical rolltop closure, YKK zippers (weatherproof where needed), numerous attach loops, and the ever-important expandable water bottle pocket.
The X-PAK’s well thought-out design allows for quick and easy access to the main compartment without having to take the bag off, a design feature that really appeals to me.
The X-PAK One, the Pro’s smaller sibling (with a carrying capacity between four liters and seven liters), also looks like a great bag and has many of the same features but without a water bottle pocket. It’s also too small to carry a laptop, although a small tablet like the iPad Mini will easily fit inside. In addition to a being worn as a cross-body or single-shoulder sling, the One can be worn as a (rather large) waist pack.
Both versions of the X-PAK are part of Code of Bell’s Carrywear™ line, and they look mighty durable. They’re constructed from a combination of 1680D ballistic nylon and X-Pac (hence the name), a lightweight, laminated ripstop fabric based on sailcloth technology that comes with built-in waterproofing.
Hands-on with the X-PAK
After a short time debating if I really needed another bag, I decided I did and backed the project. But the decision to commit to a Kickstarter always comes with a little trepidation. I wished I could get my hands on one of these bags to see if it was something I could (or would) really use. I noticed Code of Bell was based in Los Angeles, so I dropped them a line to see if I they had a prototype I could take a look at. The company’s founder, Shiro Suzuki, quickly responded that they did indeed have a prototype and invited me out for a hands-on look at the two X-PAKs.
A few days later I was in the Code of Bell office, and I got to see all the hard work that’s gone into developing the X-PAK. Code of Bell has been working on developing the bag for the past 18 months. The design has gone through a number of iterations and beta-testing before they were happy with it. It was really interesting to see all the different variations the bag went through before they arrived at the final, Kickstarter-worthy design.
As for the hands-on demo, I was very happy with how both bags looked, felt, and performed. They easily exceeded the expectations established in the Kickstarter video. Numerous subtle touches—like custom ITW Nexus buckles as well as zipper pulls and gear attachment loops made of Hypalon (a durable, synthetic rubber)—show off the thought that went into every aspect of the designs.
A Word on Fulfillment (Or, “I’m going to get my stuff when?”)
The fine folks at Code of Bell are no strangers to Kickstarter—they helped 22 Studio with the successful launch of the 4th Dimension Watch. With that project, they just handled the digital aspects of the campaign. With the X-PAK, however they’re taking care of everything from design to campaign to fulfillment.
The finished X-PAKs are projected to ship in June 2018—which is perfect timing for the summer travel season—but Shiro mentioned that the six-month window might put some potential backers off. But he didn’t want to offer an earlier delivery date that the company would have to rush or cut corners to meet. Instead, he wanted to give a realistic ship date that would allow them to maintain their high standard of quality they’ve set for the X-PAKs.
The bags are being made in China, and when dealing with overseas manufacturing, everything comes down to timing. All the components and materials for the X-PAKs are scheduled to be delivered to the manufacturer right before Chinese New Year. Most of the factories shut down for three weeks or so during this time, so that means production on the X-PAKs won’t likely start until March 2018. After allowing 60 days for manufacture and 30 days for delivery to Los Angeles, Code of Bell will start shipping out orders as soon as the bags arrive in June.
Both bags are available in black or white as well as a unique black camo design. The X-PAK One is $129 ($149 for black camo) and the X-PAK Pro is $159 ($189 for black camo). The suggested MSRP for these bags is $180 and $230 respectively. After seeing and playing around with these bags, I can tell you the Kickstarter prices are a good bargain.
Additionally, Code of Bell is offering a number of add-ons with the campaign, including a detachable handle grip ($16) that turns the X-PAK into a briefcase-style carry, compression straps ($15 per set) that allow for even more flexibility and carrying capacity, and bike strap kit ($20) that will turn the X-PAK One into a handlebar bag.
As of this writing, the X-PAK has $57,200 in pledges, easily exceeded its funding goal of $25,000. But if the X-PAK hits $70,000 in funding, that will unlock the stretch goal for a packable rain cover for all backers.
If you’re in the market for a unique urban adventure pack with a fantastic user-friendly design, give the X-PAK serious consideration. The Kickstarter campaign runs through December 18.
All photos courtesy Code of Bell.