It’s back-to-school season, so backpacks might be one of the first things on your mind before heading back to classes. Wouldn’t it be great to own something one-of-a-kind that will have everyone on campus wondering where in the world you managed to find it? The Solid Gray backpack should do the trick. Boasting hardshell sturdiness fit to protect all your back to school gadgets, is this the right backpack for your new year? Come along on this hands-on to find out.
Look and feel
Made of a single sheet of copolymer, the Solid Gray backpack is, first and foremost, extremely lightweight. The weight feels comparable to a tablet, which, considering the size, means it’s pretty thin. The origami-meets-armadillo-meets-ninja turtle design is certainly strange and unique, and it almost makes you look like a stormtrooper student heading to class.
Opening the bag is also quite odd. There are two levers at the top that you push up to release and down to close. Since the copolymer material isn’t particularly plush, it takes a bit of pushing to get the levers to move. Inside, you’ll find the base lined with foam. Unfortunately, only this bottom level is lined, which makes us wonder how this bag is supposed to protect your gadgets in their entirety.
Since the bag is designed to look so pretty crazy, it comes as no surprise that wearing it isn’t particularly the most pleasant experience. What do they say… beauty is pain? So is looking like you’re from the future, apparently.
Don’t expect cushions of cloud wrapping your shoulders and back — although the straight back does have two flexible slits to help it bend better, the bag does little to conform to the body. Especially on a female body like mine, the bag barely followed the curves of my back and behind, making it feel a little awkward to wear and sit during commutes. But then again, comparing copolymer to fabric is quite difficult. This is why we’re not surprised the bag isn’t exactly the most fun thing to wear. It feels as if the bag wants to help correct my posture instead of carry my stuff.
Solid Gray can accommodate a volume of 15 liters, or approximately four gallons. It will also fit a laptop up to 15.6-inch in screen size. This is plenty of volume, but the strange shape of the bag is hard to adjust. Much of the weight of the bag, once items are stuffed inside, falls in the extruding part, which does little to evenly distribute weight. Again, this isn’t fun to endure if you’re aiming to travel heavily with this bag. Did I mention the edges of the bag are also a bit sharp? Be careful when opening and packing the bag as you might end up scratching yourself if not careful.
Being that Solid Gray is a hardshell, it also makes quite a noise when you swing it around or toss it on a chair. Despite the fact that it’s supposed to be protecting your belongings, the clunk! sound that occurs when it makes contact with anything makes me nervous for my gadgets. The inside also offers just one main strap to hold things down, making it harder for smaller gadgets, such as an iPod Nano, to stay in place.
While the bag does help protect against external elements from reaching your items, I fear that it’s the items rubbing against each other inside that’s the issue. Yes, the straps can hold some things down, but running to class will still cause the tinier gadgets to tumble around. I want to love this bag, but having no individualized pockets is also a peeve. The bag is also just water resistent rather than waterproof because of unsealed seams, so little droplets might still find their way inside the bag if worn during moderate rainfall. Solid Gray offers a separate rain cover for purchase, but who wants to pay extra on top of a bag that already costs upward of $100? It may be marketed as a bag, but it feels much more like a box with straps.
Is the Solid Gray backpack one super-cool looking piece of gear? For sure. If you dig the futuristic, stormtrooper style, you won’t find another bag like it. Is it the most practical bag for back to school season? Not particularly. Those interested in something nerdy and fashion-forward would enjoy this bag for casual wear or packing clothes for overnight trips, but for daily use at school or work, this probably isn’t the right backpack. I would also prefer if Solid Gray incorporated a hook at the top of the bag so hanging it up at home would be easier for storage.
The innovative design is definitely there, and with a few tweaks, Solid Gray has the potential to be an awesome nerd’s accessory. For now, it’s still got a little growing up to do, and a lot more comfort to add. Solid Gray is available now in white with white or black straps, or white with a logo design along the middle, for $170 and $195, respectively.