Out of the half a dozen of projects that I have backed on Kickstarter/Indiegogo (e.g., Orbitkey, MVMT watch), the Bomber Barrel Duffel Bag is probably the one I was most excited about. it is a small/medium size duffel bag that is water-resistant, lightweight, and good looking 😀
My main purpose for the duffel was travel. I have always been a light traveler, so one medium size laptop backpack is all I need for a week-long trip. However, I got tired of having to empty out my backpack in the hotel room in order to use the backpack throughout the trip (KEY: washing and hanging in the hotel room is critical to keeping my load as light as possible). Also, I can always stuff this into my backpack in case I ended up needing more space on my return-trip (you never know if you see a good deal you can’t pass up while traveling :p).
I set out to look for a light weight duffel that can (1) store all my clothing and leave my backpack more ready-to-go once I get to my destination, and also (2) be used for outdoor activities (e.g., beach, picnic, canoeing), where my I’d rather not use my everyday backpack (usually carrying my laptop).
The Bomber Barrel Duffel Bag fits these two descriptions, so I backed the campaign. The bag arrived last month, and so far, I’m quite happy with it. In addition to the two uses I planned to use it for, it also serves as my light gym bag (when I don’t need all my sparring gears).
Although the Bomber Barrel looks “round”, it has some padding in the bottom to add more structure to it even when the duffel is not full. I like that the shoulder strap can be shorten to a point where the bag doesn’t swing around when I’m carrying it on my back (usability +1). All zippers are waterproof, the fabric is water resistant, and zipper pull are all paracord ties (durability and ease of use +1). Strong metal clips for shoulder strap is also a plus (durability +1 again).
This is how it looks when it is filled up. And not even to its full capacity yet.
What I look for in a carry bag (e.g., backpack, duffel, sling pack that I’ll carry around town, on foot)
- Durable and light – Although durability and weight are usually negatively correlated, there are bags that uses material that are more durable than others, while keeping it light. Weight is “key” because a heavy bag automatically makes me not want to carry it.
- It is made of N4004-AC2 Nylon 6 rip-stop fabric. Great, what does that mean? Well, its lightweight and strong. Outdoor gear companies like Arc’teryx uses it for some of their packs that comes with a much higher price tag.
- At 390g, the Bomber Barrel is light weight 😀
- Good hardware – The easiest parts for a bag to break is often the hardware (e.g., zipper, clips), which would render it not usable even if the fabrics are still holding strong.
- Waterproof zippers. It was added as a stretch-goal of the kickstarter campaign. I was very happy with that addition.
- “Military-grade” clips for the shoulder straps. These are very sturdy. I don’t foresee having any issue of clip detaching or breaking.
- Paracord zipper pulls that are very handy to pull.
- Compartments – I like to organize my things, but also don’t need 100 pockets for 100 different pens/tools.
- Roomy main compartment
- Outer pocket to slip something in quickly.
- Inner pocket to store my keys, phones and wallet (this is a must for me if I’m looking for a duffel bag)
- Price – Ideally under $150 is how much I’m willing to spend for a good quality bag that is durable, light and well-designed.
- When I backed this at Kickstarter, it was $89 for the duffel bag, a dopp kit (which I was also looking for at the time), and a paracord bracelet. The price after the campaign is $99, but there is a 15% off code, so basically $85 for the duffel bag. Definitely less pricey than comparable bags from bigger companies.
Here are a few configurations I have used it for:
Going for a light workout (no full sparring gear)
Packing for conference travel (electronics are in my edc backpack).
The dopp kit is part of the campaign, and made of the same material and water proof zippers.
The company putted names of backer of the project on it. I thought that was pretty neat, and definitely something that would only happens when you are supporting a new and small company.
Quality Control & Customer Services
I backed the Kickstarter based on the criteria I listed above (material, hardware, design, and price), but there is one thing that you won’t know until you get the bag, quality control. The original bag I got actually had some frayed stitching around the zippers (main compartment and front pocket), and apparently, this is not a one-off issue. Stitching is usually the “weak point” of a pack, as in it is the first spot to break. Other than choosing the type of thread, the quality of stitching is entirely dependent on the factory that is making it. You can choose the best material, but quality control is often not the forte of a newer company.
However, good customer service gave me a great first impression for this new company. When I contacted Bomber & Co., after seeing the pictures (see below), they agree that it is not acceptable quality and replaced it with a unit with better stitching (if I have to very picky, I can probably still find a thread loose, but definitely not as bad as the pictures below).
Bomber & Company did a great job in informing the backers the status of the project, without a feeling of spamming your email every time they got a new sample or something. The production was completed earlier than expected (quite rare for a crowd-funding campaign). Therefore, although the shipment got delayed due to the west coast port strikes, I still got the bag in the estimated time.
A bag needs to go through the test of time to really earn its “durability” reputation. But in terms of construction, design, and price, there is no reason why I wouldn’t recommend this at this point.