This backwards backpack befuddles pickpockets and carries all the gear and gadgets you need.
Scared of wandering around a big city with a backpack on, because an unscrupulous thief could unzip a pocket and steal your phone? If so, the RiutBag backpack could be for you, because it completely reverses the basic backpack design. Riut placed all the pockets and zippers up against your back, so that the openings are never exposed to the masses behind you.
After its recent £160,000 Kickstarter success, the RiutBag range is about to ship out to backers, and we got the chance to check one out. While other backpacks with pockets up against the back do exist, the new RiutBags stands out with its cool design and the ability to hold a ton of equipment and belongings inside. It looks like the ideal bag for the urban traveller, so is it?
Sturdy, but weird at first
The R15 has 15-liters of storage space. It’s made from a tough and stiff material, with a plastic covered base, so that you can put the RiutBag down on a wet or damp surface, without worrying that moisture will start soaking through to the items inside. On the front, there’s the company logo and not much else. The sturdy handle on the top is well padded and sensibly stretches from one side of the bag to the other, so that it‘s less likely to become annoying when the bag’s heavy.
On either side is a pocket for a water bottle, but my umbrella fit inside without a problem, too. However, it’s secured in place with a stretchy neoprene-type material and the opening is big, so a small umbrella does wobble about. The pockets invade the interior space, rather than poke out the sides, keeping the overall shape neat, simple, and uncluttered.
Turn the backpack around and the rear is covered in soft, breathable padding. I wore it on a freezing day when I was all wrapped up, and it didn’t get overly hot underneath — a test that should see a similar result during the summer. The whole of the back panel can be unzipped using a pair of zippers, then folded down so it sticks out like a big tongue. This is where things do get a bit awkward at first, because the straps are right in the way. They’re big, thick, strong straps as well, so folding them out of the way isn’t all that easy.
Inside the pack itself, there’s a massive amount of space.
After a few days use, the straps loosened up, and it became easier to open the pack. I had to retrain my brain, because opening it backwards feels odd and unnatural at first. My initial reaction of “there’s a reason why packs open from the front, because otherwise the damn straps are in the way,” passed, and it became more natural.
The RiutBag is comfortable worn over one shoulder or both, and can be secured in place with a plastic clip around the chest if you feel the need. Adjusting the straps reveals the lengthy strap excess that usually flaps around in the wind can be neatly rolled up and held in place by a piece of elastic. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t really work. The elastic has too much stretch to keep a mid-size roll of excess strap together, and not enough to double over. It’s a shame the company didn’t work out this kink.
Cavernous, but expensive
It is a huge 15-liter backpack, so let’s start filling it up. There’s space for a 15-inch laptop in a rear pocket, which has two elastic straps to keep in from falling out. I carry an 11-inch MacBook Air when I’m out and about, and it fit perfectly. In front is another pocket made for carrying A4 documents, and a full-size iPad slotted in nicely as well, while an iPad Mini disappeared inside it. The zip pocket is thickly padded, and good for storing cables.
Inside the pack itself, there’s a massive amount of space, and I could pack a change of clothes for a weekend away inside the bag without any problems, along with a small selection of toiletries. There are two mesh zip pockets as well, two more hidden zipped pockets in the straps, and another just above the main compartment. It’s hard to imagine running out of space under normal circumstances.
Did it work? Well, nothing has been stolen out of it, for a start. That’s hardly a regular occurrence anyway, but any backpack wearer is going to be conscious of their belongings being relatively exposed. The RiutBag removed that nagging fear. I wandered around London, travelled by train and bus, then squeezed on to the Tube, and not once did I worry about someone rifling through it while I was looking in the opposite direction. Habit made the thought of security enter my mind, but the RiutBag’s design quickly made it disappear. For that reason, the RiutBag fulfills its purpose, and offers value to those who need this type of bag. It’s not gigantic, either, so you can maintain a relatively sleek profile when it’s worn on the back, which is handy in crowded places.
Riot produces two bags, the R15 and the smaller, 10-liter R10. They’re priced at £90 ($135) and £80 ($120) respectively, which is quite expensive for a backpack, regardless of the innovative design. The grey version seen here is listed as sold out on Riut’s website following the Kickstarter campaign, but a black version can be pre-ordered for a February 2016 delivery.
Putting a price on peace of mind and security is hard. The RiutBag costs twice or even three times that of a normal backpack, but it’s many times more secure. If a backpack is essential to your life, and you’ve either been the victim of crime or are concerned it may happen soon, the RiutBag could well be a solid investment. You certainly won’t be disappointed with the quality or amount of gear it carries.
- Tough exterior
- Water-resistant base
- Very secure
- Plenty of room
- Awkward at first