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.
Originally the product of a successful, £160,000 Kickstarter campaign, the RiutBag has been available since the beginning of 2016. There are two versions, the larger 15-liter R15 and the slightly smaller 10-liter R10, and we’ve tried them both out. While other backpacks with pockets up against the back do exist, the RiutBag 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?
RiutBags are made from a tough and stiff material, with a plastic covered base, so that you can put them 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.
Each comes with reflective, clip-on tags, ready for use when you’re on a bike or want to be spotted walking around at night. They’re optional, so if you don’t want to light up like a Christmas tree, you don’t have to. Turn the backpack around and the rear is covered in soft, breathable meshed padding. Most pockets are secured — inside and out — by zips, each with a tiny Riut logo on it, and they have been faultless on both bags. A chest strap can be used, but we found it restrictive and uncomfortable, despite the ability to adjust it.
The whole of the back panel on both bags 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. 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. There’s a knack to the Riutbag, and that’s to fold the straps around the front of the bag before opening it up.
It still looks as good as new, with almost no wear and tear visible at all
The R15 is the larger of the two Riut backpacks, with the R10 existing alongside it for those who don’t need as much space, and prefer a sleeker overall style. We’ve been trying out a revised version of the R10, in a gorgeous navy blue color, to see if the slimline version is equally as practical and desirable.
The 10 in the model number denotes the amount of storage in liters, which is large enough to take a 15-inch laptop and a variety of other everyday gear as well. We took the RiutBag R10 to IFA 2016, the annual technology trade show held in Berlin, where it would be assured of a good workout.
Daily it carried an 11-inch MacBook Air, various smartphones, a tablet on at least one day, plus a notebook, some snacks, my wallet, change, and other little things like hand wash, earphones, and tissues. It handled all this without a problem, but anything too bulky — smartphone-sized boxes are sometimes collected during the day — pushed it to the limit with everything else already inside. By comparison, the RiutBag R15 handled the Mobile World Congress trade show earlier in the year without a problem, where the extra five litres of space definitely proved useful.
Slim and sleek
Although it’s slimline, the R10 retains the same rear-facing opening, ensuring it can’t be opened surreptitiously by someone creeping around behind you. To this design it adds a new pocket. It’s down at the base of the bag, and opens out to reveal spaces for business cards and enough room for a wallet. It’s positioned at the small of your back, but it’s never uncomfortable, and is actually easy to open and extract your wallet without removing the bag at all. The wallet pocket has been added to the updated R15 Riutbag too.
Riut has fixed an annoying problem from the older R15 on this updated R10. The elastic straps that keep the excess strap left over after adjustment are much stronger, staying in place throughout the week at IFA without issue. Inside the bag there are fewer zip compartments, and on the outside the very handy drinks bottle holders have been removed, all in the name of keeping the bag slim and sleek.
The R10 spent a week in aircraft, on coaches, on the subway, in and out of taxi cabs, and wandering IFA’s massive and confusing halls. It has been used less often since I returned, but has still been called into action for some trips and meetings. It still looks as good as new, with almost no wear and tear visible at all. If you really look for it, there’s more crease at the top of the straps than when it arrived, but you’d hardly notice. This is one tough backpack. Best of all, it doesn’t look like a “tough” bag. It looks fantastic, and the thinner style is more pleasing to the eye, less awkward when it’s on your back, yet still carries a wealth of equipment.
The R15 is the R10’s big brother, has 15-liters of storage space, and a few design differences to the smaller bag. 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.
The mesh covered rear is excellent. I wore the bag 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 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.
Inside the pack itself, there’s a massive amount of space.
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 on the R15 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 here, but it’s cured on the new R10 bags.
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. 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.
Super secure, for confident traveling
Did it work? Well, nothing has been stolen out of either, 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’ve 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.
The RiutBag R15 is yours for 100 British pounds ($126), and the RiutBag R10 is 90 British pounds ($115) respectively, which is quite expensive for a backpack, regardless of the innovative design. We love the navy blue R10, but a slightly more subdued black version is also available through Riut’s online store.
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
Article originally published 02-01-2016. Updated on 12-06-2016 by Andy Boxall: Added in impressions of the revised RiutBag R10.