At the end of July Chrome Industries—the outfit known for its messenger bags and other urban biking gear—released its latest hauler, the . Good timing: I commute by bike, and my right shoulder was sore from the weight of all the items I lug to and from work in an old Lacoste messenger bag.
For the past few weeks, both shoulders shared the load as I hauled all sorts of stuff around Manhattan in the Barrage—up to 32 pounds' worth, which is near the upper limits of what I'd want to transport in a backpack without a waist belt. Even at that weight the backpack felt stable as I slalomed around potholes and pedestrians. The cargo net was expandable enough to handle, on one outing: a tennis racket, a can of tennis balls, a JBL cylindrical portable speaker, a bunch of magazines, and a manuscript. The bag's dual interior compartments would make sense if I wanted to haul a 15-inch laptop (my Macbook Pro's 17-inch screen disqualified it from the test) safely alongside wet gear. Frankly, I never figured out a use for the heavy-duty Velcro shoulder straps.
I was eager to test Chrome's claim that welded seams, a military-grade, truck-tarpaulin liner, and rolltop closure render the backpack waterproof, even though it doesn't seal with a Velcro strip and multiple folds the way that a canoe or kayak dry bag would. Fortunately for me but unfortunately for this test, New York has been enjoying fantastic summer weather, so riding in the rain was a no-go. Instead, I stuffed the backpack with laundry and took it into the shower to replicate monsoon conditions. Score one for the Barrage—the laundry emerged dry, and the backpack's 1000-dernier nylon outer shell dried quickly.
Likes: The sternum strap's mini-seatbelt buckle with the Chrome logo.
Dislikes: I could have used a shallow zippered pocket near the top of the compartment for my wallet, house keys, and phone. Maybe I was just being overly cautious, but given my bumpy rides on city streets, I never felt confident enough to put that stuff in the pack's side pouches. Also, under heavy loads the chest strap slipped, which I fixed by simply knotting the strap.