Like a DJ, the NuSport Duffle-Pak remixes your bag stereotypes...
May 5, 2011 (Updated May 5, 2011)
Review by Abraham Shield
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Multiple function-modes, lots of pockets, secure and safe laptop storage, replaces 3 bags with one.
Cons:Backpack mode doesn't succeed, can take a few tries to really utilize all bag functions.
The Bottom Line: Looking for a jack-of-all trades bag for your active lifestyle? Check out the Duffle-Pak and it might match your shopping-checklist. I thought it couldn't be done, but NuSport surprised me!
Recommend this product?
Nothing is more difficult than trying to decide on a new laptop and utility bag. I usually carry more with me than just a laptop sleeve can hold, so I try to find a bag that protects my Apple MacBook and still holds my Bose headphones, charger, and occasionally a change of clothes. No, really! :)
I recently got the chance to do a long-term test on the NuSport Duffle-Pak which is really a change from any bag I've ever had a chance to use. My previous bags were more traditional, a Brenthaven Shoulder Case, the Timbuk2 Laptop Messenger I still use years later, and my current laptop vault, the InCase Sling Bag.
Unlike my other bags, the Duffle-Pak is a combination of a backpack, duffle bag, carry-on luggage, and laptop sleeve. Whether or not it satisfies your needs really depends on what you want in a bag and what you're willing to compromise on. It's intriguing to see a company try and market a cross-platform bag that comes together in a way that almost makes it a 5-star product. I'll explain the different "modes" you can use your bag in below, hopefully this will help you decide if this bag is right for you.
First a quick overview of the bag design: Exterior of the bag is a padded "ballistic nylon" design that's very wear resistant and resists stains and water pretty well. Yes, I have unofficially tested its stain-resistance already! :( Outside texture is very similar to the nylon Timbuk2 line of bags if you're familiar with them. That's a good thing indeed, my Timbuk2 Messenger has endured many falls, scrapes, and a few 18MPH pavement impacts (always lock your shoulder strap)!
The center of the bag is devoted to a huge center storage compartment (14"L x 11"W x 12"H) which opens via a double zippered flap. This gives you plenty of access and a large opening to load and unload. Both inner sides of the main comp. have pockets for securing small to large objects.
On the right end of the bag there's insulated padding for retaining heat or cold; perfect for keeping lunch cold (or hot) and there's even a separate pouch for sliding in a small freezer pack to chill down your eats. Thanks to the metallic foil type lining it's easy to clean if you spill food inside, yes it's happened. :)
Left end of the bag is the accessory station with loops to secure your sunglasses, two media pockets for ipods, phones, blackberries, etc. A small port in the end flap allows headphone cables to sneak out the bag without jamming them through the zipper.
Both outer sides of the bag are are actually large flaps which have their own zippers to keep them close and tight to the bag. Underneath you'll find a plethora of pockets including a large mesh one for wet or damp clothes and a deep security section for keys, pens, money, and more media devices. This is very nice if you're using this as carry on luggage since you can be sure your most important stuff is behind two separate zippers!
Finally, the bottom of the bag is devoted to a double-compartment hidden laptop sleeve. It's only accessible when the side flap is unzipped and lifted up, so it really is a secret vault!
--- Ready, set, TRANSFORM! ---
(Duffle Bag - 4 Stars) The best mode to use every day is this one, just like every other duffle bag you'll have two straps that come up the sides and meet at the top. NuSport provides a handy velco padded grip which you can wrap around both straps for extra comfort and easier carrying. A large center compartment will hold a several changes of clothes, or two basketballs, maybe a case of beverages and cold salads for the picnic, the list goes on.
My favorite use for this bag is my after-work grab bag. I'll throw in a set of clothes, my frisbee or running shoes, a cold bottle of water or sports drink and some snacks stashed in the end pockets complete the kit. This way I can get off work, change out of my uniform right away, and have the gear to do whatever activity I want without having to go home.
Of the 3 carry modes (Duffle, Backpack, Shoulder strap) this is by FAR the best in my opinion. The pack is very well balanced and quite a heavy load can be toted around with minimal effort. Kudos to NuSport on creating a tough duffle that can multitask for quite a few different needs.
(Laptop Sleeve - 4 Stars) Ok, to be honest I didn't like this bag at ALL for carrying my laptop the first few times I used it. It seemed too big and bulky and it was a pain accessing my laptop underneath the bag every time. After a dozen trips or so to my local downtown WiFi spot it started to grow on me in many ways. I was able to haul everything I needed, legal pad for notes, nice headphones, charger, and I even started stashing a small umbrella and light jacket in the main compartment due to Michigan's bi-polar spring attitude. The upper slot in the laptop compartment is very well padded and it's thick enough to keep even a 3" thick laptop secure. Underneath the main pocket is a second sleeve for folders, notes, or other documents... surprisingly it will fit 8.5"x14" paper which is a bonus if you work with Legal sized documents.
(Carry-On Luggage - 5 Stars) The Duffle-Pak does a great job as a Carry-On bag, I haven't gotten a chance to fly with it yet however it definitely has the nod for my next trip by them fancy aero-planes! The tons of pockets, private stash areas, easy flaps to stash boarding passes and documents in, hidden area for keys, money, and media devices, and the hidden laptop sleeve that doesn't scream STEAL ME... all excellent features when traveling. My bag is a dark navy and grey combo, perfect for subtle and easily ignored by potential thieves. To be honest, this bag is super-low on sexiness... I mean it's a duffle bag with extra straps! Bingo, just what I want while in airports and hotels. Good Job NuSport! :)
(Backpack - 1 Star) Well, here's the first fail in my opinion... I really don't see myself ever using the backpack mode in the future. I know, that's a pretty tough thing to say but I have good reasons. The two biggest features a backpack MUST have are good padded straps and a comfortable surface resting against your back. I know, I know, I'm not taking the Duffle-Pak on the Appalachian Trail or even an overnight backpack trip! However, those issues still matter even if the pack is used for 30-60 minutes. When I have a backpack style bag or laptop tote, I'll head into town and walk around for 30 minutes then settle into a coffee shop. After a couple hours I'll head out and stroll by the water then go find dinner or meet up with a few friends. I don't think I'm too far out of line as far as potential Duffle-Pak users, so here's my complaints.
• First of all the straps are thin nylon webbing about 1.5" wide with only minimal padding on the shoulder area. Initial comfort is decent, however due to the design of the Duffle-Pak and its shape, there's two very distinct pressure points created right at your shoulder blades. Very soon the minimal padding is very noticeable and the subtle ache begins. Granted, I did have roughly 13lbs in my pack both times I wore it backpack style, however I was able to do this using my InCase sling bag without any trouble at all.
• 2nd issue is the bottom design of the Duffle-Pak. It's a flat, nylon surface with no padding other than the nylon itself... and it has four plastic feet for resting on floors or other hard surfaces. The rigid bottom doesn't conform to your back at ALL and again, pressure points and aching.
• 3rd beef is with the convertable strap system. It's a little hard to make a duffle-bag style strap system work well as a backpack, in this case it shows up in ease of use and comfort. Getting the straps fished out from the bag, slid through the outer flap slots, and adjusted properly to ride level and straight is (no joke), about a 4 minute process. There's no sternum strap to keep the two vertical straps from working down your shoulders and adjustements for bag ride height are nonexistant.
• Lastly, I'm not keen on resting something against my back that most of time sits on floors or public transportation! I had on a beige shirt the 2nd time I backpacked around the city, sure enough there was a slight grey tint on the back when I took it off that night.
(Shoulder Strap - 3 Stars) Just a quick mention about the shoulder strap option, it's a pretty good system but again... too light on the padding! The strap clips which attach to the bag are very nice and seem heavy duty, however I haven't had it on very much. I took off the NuSport shoulder strap and moved over the 2" wide strap with thick shoulder pad from my Timbuk2 Messenger bag and love it. I can now carry the 10-20lbs of gadgetry, food, and clothing I usually do in total comfort. Say you'll never carry that much weight? Apple MacBook & charger (8lbs), sandwich snacks and drink (4lbs), books and other paperwork (easily 4lbs), see how fast it adds up?
--- Bottom Line ---
While it is definitely a "Swiss Army Knife" in the bag market, I've been pleasantly suprised by how much I've come to like and use this bag! It honestly took me four different days of playing with features and modes to figure everything out, but now I use it 3-4 times a week. Last month it was my gym bag, this month it's turned into my grab bag for work and takes me to the coffee shop or to a lunch by the water then frisbee golf after work.
Does this bag succeed at "doing it all" and doing it well? I would say a conditional yes, in every area except the backpack mode I would definitely recommend the Duffle-Pak!
I'm only critical of the backpack mode because I currently own 2 dedicated backpacks and my other back-mounted laptop bag. I know what a good backpack can and should feel like, whether you're hiking for the day or just schlepping around town. And to be honest, I usualy choose backpack style bags so I was looking forward to using that mode quite a bit. I will say this, I don't believe it's NuSport's fault, you CAN'T make a great backpack also be a great duffle, shoulder bag, carry-on, etc. It's just a design issue that sacrifices have to be made somewhere.
If you're in the market for a new multi-purpose sporty bag that can fill multiple roles and do it quite well, ladies and gentleman... Here is your bag! If you're not quite sure how all the features I have described actually work, NuSport has a very good video explaining the features of their bag. You'll find it at the address below:
Note: The Duffle-Pak is available in many different color combinations and the outer panels can be monogrammed with your company logo or design for a nominal fee. Volume discounts are available if you purchase multiple bags, check the NuSport site for current pricing.
Thanks for reading and feel free to comment!
© Openroad 2011
Full Disclosure: I was provided this bag by the manufacturer at no charge for using it and providing my honest opinion.
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