There’s an ocean-chilled wind casting its icy mood all over SLO these days, and temps have stooped to the 30’s and 40’s. ‘Round these parts, it’s triple-layered parka time with extra woolen baselayers. And that’s just for riding on our indoor trainers. But it seems that lately I’ve been hearing a lot about Wisconsin, and this makes me feel a kinship for their sheer showing of fortitude. There just isn’t an end to the cool bikes and gear and culture that emerge from that state. From crazy bike parks to industry visionaries, the hits keep comin’.
Not the least of which is the Outlier Backpack from BiKASE (makers of the SuperBand, which we reviewed a few months back). A do-it-all solution for commuters who want versatility in the way they carry their gear.
BiKASE Outlier Backpack Review
Colors: Black, Orange, Red
Dimensions: Approx. 15″ x 8″ x 10″
Upsides: Really strong construction make this backpack feel sturdy and solid on a rack or your back. Seriously cool in its ability to morph into backpack, pannier, or top-rack mounted trunk bag WITH a built-in rain cover. Yes. The rain cover stows in its own compartment and pulls over the whole bag easily. The helmet holder on the outside is also quite a plus, and keeps your lid secure, which surprised me based on the simple strap-over design.
Downsides: The shape is a bit more square than I like in a backpack, and it feels a little bulky on my back. Something to be mindful of if you’re also a smaller framed person. The size does have an upside; however, in that it fits a pretty good sized stack of books as well as up to a 15″ laptop, but I did find myself wanting a lined sunglass pocket. Finally, while I love the helmet holder, it’s a bit difficult to clip in with a larger, commuter style helmet. The hooks can tend to dig in a bit in the helmet’s foam sections, so you’ll want to be careful where/how you attach them.
Why I Like The Outlier
Commuting is something of a chore if you’re planning to get to work or school while still toting around things that will make you smell nice once you’re off the bike. And if you aren’t a fan of wearing backpacks while riding (one of my least favorite things), but you don’t want to leave your books, laptop, clothes, everything on your bike once you’ve parked it, the Outlier is literally stow-and-go with you. The shoulder straps fit into their own compartment in the back, which reveals clips that allow you to snap the bag securely onto a rack. So. Dang. Ingenious.
What It’s Like As A Backpack
As a bag, the Outlier is a pretty decent pack. Lots of loops and reflective straps let you attach blinky lights, locks, helmet, jacket, etc to the outside. If my count is correct, there are 15 different places on the outside of the backpack alone for hooking things. The two mesh side pouches fit water bottles, small u-locks (about 5″ wide), or whatever you want to stash there.
Inside the pack, you’ve got 3 zippered pockets. A padded laptop compartment fits a computer up to 15″ with relative ease. The main pocket is pretty large and holds a pretty large load of books or clothes or gear. Finally the front zippered compartment has a clip for keys, a divider and a couple of loops. This is definitely engineered for bikes–stowing flat-fixing kit is easy. One final pocket at the top fits a wallet or keys or a pump, etc.
How It Functions As a Pannier/Trunk Bag
I was able to pack the Outlier pretty full, and it still didn’t lose its functionality as a pannier. You’ll want to remember to adjust the clip straps to best fit your panniers without snugging up the top of the bag. Otherwise, the clip system holds pretty fast when properly secured onto a rack. Even heavy bumps only jostled the back a little; although, this is somewhat dependent on how heavily it’s packed.
The attachment system isn’t too difficult to use. Once you get the hang of it, the bag transforms fairly rapidly from backpack to pannier. One small note I had with the backpack straps is the plastic fasteners–I’m not sure how long these would last under daily commuting abuse. That having been said, I didn’t have any trouble with them during the testing phase.
The rain cover. I’ll say it again. Awesome. Super easy to use and stows in its own zippered pocket at the base of the pack when its not being used. Also adds some hi-viz yellow to your game when the weather is gray and lousy.
Overall, I’m digging the BiKASE Outlier Backpack. It gets an A+ in versatility, and it functions well as both a backpack and a pannier. You can see a little more of the Outlier in action via the BiKASE official video below, or get more info at bikase.com