Today I was attacked by the Wolffepack, a backpack that becomes a chestpack at the pull of a lavatory chain. It isn’t often we get something truly revolutionary in back luggage: A new pocket here, a zip there, an organiser to end all organisers inside: It’s pretty routine stuff most of the time. It is therefore refreshing to see some ingenious lateral thinking.
For the past couple of years I have been enthusing over my Tom Bihn Synapse. It’s probably the best backpack I’ve ever owned, well made, strong and very utilitarian. But it suffers from simply being a backpack. It’s always on the back, with all your stuff out of sight and difficult to get to.
When I read last week about the new British-designed Wolffepack—a successful Kickstarter project—I just had to try one. So earlier today I went to the Wolffepack pop-up store under the Shard at London Bridge to try one for size.
I don’t use the word lightly, but this backpack is unique. It’s actually very difficult to describe but the video makes it simple. Essential, the main body of the pack is connected to the harness by means of three high-strength Dyneema cords which are controlled by a “lavatory pull” handle attached to the right-hand shoulder strap by means of a magnet.
Just detach the handle, press the red button and the main pack is released from the back harness on its three cords. Practice makes perfect, but it is then a simple matter of swinging the back round to the front where it can be hooked on to the shoulder straps by means of two small straps. It’s really very easy, although a bit long-winded to explain.
The Wolffepack overcomes the biggest problem of wearing a backpack: The need to take it off when sitting down or needing access. Already I am hooked on the concept of swinging the bag to the front when finding a seat on public transport; and I love the ability to bring the bag round for access to my cameras and lenses. The built-in organiser is so much more useful when you can get to it without unshipping the entire pack.
I can see the Wolffepack becoming popular with photographers. Slot in a padded bucket from a camera bag (such as my Billingham Hadley Small insert) and you have a serviceable home for your equipment which can be worn front or back according to the situation.
For instance, with several thousand pounds of equipment inside, a backpack can be a danger when worn in crowded places. With the Wolffepack you can keep your gear to the front and keep an eye on it.
As a travel pack, this innovative design takes some beating. By wearing it on the chest you can navigate airports with all your documents at the ready instead of inaccessible on the back.
The interior contains an unusually large number of pockets to accommodate all your day gear. There is a soft padded laptop or tablet sleeve while the main compartment does a good job of holding your camera equipment, folders, books and spare clothing. There are internal organiser compartments for documents, phone, pens, plus a key hook. I particularlylike the strap tidies which allow flapping straps to be neatly folded away and which demonstrate the attention to detail that has gone into the Wolffepack.
About the only negative aspect I can see on first acquaintance is that the release handle tends to be visible from the front when the retaining cords are released to bring the bag round to the front. It sticks up like the whistle on a lifejacket and looks a bit goofy. But I’ll excuse that small aspect because the Wolffepack is so versatile.
There are two versions of the pack. The Metro holds 22 litres of stuff and is made from a traditional high-grade ballistic polyester (very similar to my Tom Bihn) while the slightly smaller Escape holds 18 litres and is fashioned from a more shiny ripstop nylon.
Both versions are in black with red feature stripes and a red interior. Both are the same price, £99.95. I decided to buy the smaller Escape which accommodates the Small Hadley “bucket” perfectly and which has the advantage of the slightly sleeker profile. If I like it, as I hope I will, I could be tempted to the larger Metro for use when travelling.
See full details here. The pop-up store is located in the Shard shopping arcade near London Bridge station. I will be publishing a full review when I have done more mileage with the Escape Wolffepack.