Sunday, February 28, 2010

Boblbee Backpacks

Two things I really appreciate in the "stuff" I own is the ability to be repaired if it breaks and the ability to be modified or customized. Though, I'm not necessarily a customization fiend, especially if the modification compromises function. One item I have had for years that seems to really embody that ethos is my Boblbee backpack. It's an early silver Megalopolis I bought in Japan more than a decade ago right when they came out. It's survived just about every environment imaginable and come through like a champ. Air travel literally took a chunk out of the shell the one and only time I checked it but other than that it's been great.

It keeps my delicate camera gear safe and actually makes me feel a bit more safe as well. A weird and disturbing thing pickpockets were, probably still are, doing was slashing open travelers backpacks while they were on their backs and then making off with whatever fell out. Good luck with a hardshell. It also sheds water pretty well until the top gets really soaked. A rain cover would solve that but I never bothered.

When they first came out the design wasn't patented and it was just the name that was protected by copyright. That led to at least one company making a near identical knock off still available today. The Ergo Tech copy of the Megalopolis was initially pretty close but quickly fell behind as it's production was cheapened and the Boblbee improved. None the less if you want something close with a substantially lower price tag you could google them up and find one. They show up on eBay sometimes. If you do decide to go that route the add ons and parts are interchangable on the early models but I don't know about later Ergo bags. The Boblbee was essentially designed right the first time and hasn't needed to change much. Though, if you are like me, you'd get the cheap copy and not be satisfied until you had a legitimate Boblbee.

My veteran bag is finally showing some wear on the harness and I've slated it for an overhaul. You can get parts from Boblbee or you can find them with a simple web search. Some companies offer custom painting options but any automotive paint shop can match a shell to your car, bike or scooter. While my silver bag does look a little too much like a Paris Metro trash bin, yeah that was weird, it also easily matches helmets and doesn't clash with the various vehicles I've had over the years. (Friendly FYI, that isn't my image but rather one from a Flickr user. I'd have named them but they use a symbol instead of their name.You can see their photostream here.)

One word of caution, it is not the most aerodynamic backpack you will ever own. Boblbee markets it for motorcycle use but the shape lends itself to a lot of drag at more than about 35 or 40 mph. It was a real surprize for me the first time I accelerated up to highway speeds on a ramp and had the bag yanking me backward. I've never experienced that with any other backpack and while you can account for it and "get used to it", I'm not sure it would ever be very safe. Luckily the bags easily strap down to seats and tanks where they aren't a problem at all. I do wonder if I had a different style of harness with a more convex shape at the top if it might solve the problem. Though the overall shape is a lot like the familiar airfoil shape we see on all sorts of wings, aka "lift surfaces".

All in all I still think it's a great backpack and the range of add-ons and options is without peer. Considering how long mine has lasted it seems well worth the somewhat high price tag.

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