Project Co-ordinator of Sinar Project and independant Project Consultant with broad experience in managing, developing and implementing tech for open governance and civil society using free and open source software and best practices in Asia-Pacific.
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My time to work on open government and transparency for Sinar Project is currently limited while we source for organizational and donor funding to be able to work full time on it. I'm currently working on it voluntarily. My current area of focus is building an open extensive database or persons and organizations of interest starting with politicians and government linked companies, and track unresolved accountability issues from public news reports, court cases and Auditor General reports. Donations when there are no current funding or grants available allow me to keep working on these projects without doing other jobs.
I prefer buying slightly more expensive, but quality products that will last a long time. Especially if these are the things I have to use all the time. Once I'm happy with quality of a brand, I tend to go back to them. So when I needed a backpack, I went back to look for a Chrome bag, and after a lot of research I settled on the Chrome Barrage Cargo.
I used to use cheap backpacks, which work great, until later when I find that for work a messenger bag works better, especially if you have to quickly take things in and out quickly while having two hands available. Especially important with kids. For overnight trips or when carrying heavier things though, a large messenger bag is just not comfortable to lug a lot of stuff around. So my current system is to have a small messenger, which can be packed into a backpack, or to have backpack used by itself as a daypack.
- Be able to carry everything for extended travel (2 weeks or longer) in a bag that can be taken aboard airplane as carry on luggage.
- Waterproof, and enough space to pack rain gear for getting off at rural/small airports in rain. Then be able to take motorbike taxi, cycle, hike or boat in rain.
- Carry all digital gear needed for work
- Carry enough clothes including work (smart casual) clothes, with enough change for continuous laundry cycle
- Carry walking shoe when wearing water shoes
- Modular so that things can be mix and matched depending on type of trip and work requirements.
- Fit medium size packing cube filled with clothes. You would fold the small one for day use when not needed
- Waterproof or water cover. Most hiking bags / urban commute bags have this feature.
- Wet/dry separation, so dirty laundry, wet shoes are in separate compartments. Most hiking bags have this feature
The Cargo Barrage is 22L with the rolltop folded all the way down and about 34L when it's extended. There are limitations when it's at 34L which I will touch later.
The front has the cargo netting, which is adjustable to carry a wide range of bulky things. Usually I use it for shoes, but I also used it to carry small boxes, and 5L drybag. The middle straps at the bottom are not that long, maybe about 25cm, so if want something to sit snug at the bottom of the net and not come out of the sides, it cannot be too deep, or it has to be tall to be strapped securely. Still it's a brilliant idea and a key feature of this bag, that allows you to carry far more than the small bag that it looks like. The bottom comes in other colors, black and red. I inititally wanted the black, but only white was available in stock at the retailer I ordered it from. On hindsight, this was not such a bad choice, the top strap that doubles as a reflector is very short and ineffective when the bag is filled up and the rolltop area is used up. The white bottom helps with visibility at night.
The back has nice molded foam that makes it very comfortable to wear. The straps felt a bit thin, but were not uncomfortable. There are no hip belts. There are two velco holder straps as usual for Chrome, but surprisingly they don't sell many accessories that could fit on it. There is a nice Chrome buckle for the chest strap.
The rolltop is a great feature. When you don't need the space, you roll it all the way down in similar way to dry bags. When fully extended you don't get the benefit of being waterproof, but you do get a lot more space. Note that the top strap just barely covers the top when fully extended. Don't expect to tie much more at the top when fully extended. I tend to put rolled up jacket or jumper to cover the top when it's filled up. It also means you lose the benefits of the reflective strap. You don't get that much more space if you intend to roll it at least once to seal it. It's less box like and more prism like. At the t op is also where the zipper to the front separated section is. The main comparment is like a waterproof bag. The front zippered section allows you access to the inside part of the bag, but outside of the waterproof compartment. Useful for putting things like bags of dirty laundry. It's not fully waterproof, and take note the entry is not that wide. I tend to put things like reusable shopping bags in this space.
The side pockets are not that big and not covered. Small 500ml or 1L water bottles can fit in here, maybe a small U-Lock
Straps and Buckles
The main top strap that ties down the rolltop works really well. It has the better quality reflective strip you see on the Night versions of Chrome Bags which don't come out or get damaged by velcro. The main buckle and side buckles are plastic. I haven't had a problem with these breaking yet despite repeated use and they feel solid. The side straps for the cargo netting use similar easily adjustble straps and plastic buckles.
The spring loaded metal buckles for the shoulder compression straps though work really well. It is really easy to adjust one handed so that you get the perfect fit. Very useful when the bag is fully loaded and you're on the move, you don't need to stop and take of the back to easily adjust the length of the shoulder straps. Press, adjust and release.
What it can carry
This is one combination of things I carry that fits in this bag while still being able to seal rolltop. 13" Laptop, 2 small size Muji packing cubes of clothes, 2 nylon bags of cables and chargers, a pair of running shoes, headphones, packed lunch and small mirrorless camera.
I wish the bag would have been a little bit bigger. Wider or deeper (front to back). Just 10-15cm more Than it would be perfect. There is also no place to put anything like boarding passes, phone or passport for travel that is easily accesible.Chrome doesn't sell any accessories that fit into the velco strap either. Right now I think if you want to use this bag for travel, you would need the Shagg Bag M from Timbuk2 to attach the one of the velcro straps.
I got my mine from Always Riding UK, one of the few retailers that still ship to Malaysia.