Yes, it is Stock Market Week, where we celebrate the best bags of the year here at TechCrunch. And there’s little more satisfying than finding a basic black one that’s functional, stylish, and unique. Fortunately, Canadian urban sportswear maker RYU makes three of these bags, and while each has its own particular appeal depending on what you’re looking for in a backpack, they are also all winners taking the basic black backpack to new heights.
Lux 18L Quick Pack ($ 185)
RYU’s “perfect” offering for me is the Quick Pack Lux 18L capacity bag which is quite perfect as a general purpose day pack in terms of cargo space, and can also serve well for a one or two night trip , depending on how lightly you pack.
The hallmark of RYU, and what makes it my favorite backpack in terms of everyday use in the city, is its profile, a silhouette that is made even better because RYU uses an internal molded shell to ensure it is never crushed or lost. its shape, regardless of how full or empty the bag actually is. This is actually a huge selling point for me, and one that makes the RYU Quick Pack 18L almost certain to become my everyday bag. Inside, there are a few pockets, including a laptop sleeve that can fit up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro, another rarity in a backpack of this low profile.
In addition to the integrated frame, the Quick Pack Lux is equipped with premium materials such as the leather patch on the top flap, the leather shoulder straps, and a polyester / cotton blend outer layer that covers a canvas treated with wax, and nylon interior for water resistance and durability. The materials definitely feel premium, although the outermost layer resembles a type of yoga pant material, and at my house it definitely attracts and picks up my dog’s white hairs that are easily shed with reckless abandon. However, I am more than happy to take out the lint roller every now and then as compensation for how good the bag looks.
It wears a bit long, but tight to the back (for reference when sizing the photos above, I’m 6’2 “and quite a bit of that is my torso). Removable chest strap helps keep the profile pretty perfect, And there is a handle on the top for easy portability when not on the back.
Another unique feature of the Quick Pack Lux is that it opens from the front, with the flap at the top unbuttoned to reveal two zippers that run the length of the bag. Ditch these, and you’ve basically got a duffle-like cargo loading method, which is great for organizing your stuff without having to layer or dig like you would in a top-loading pack.
Locker Pack Lux 24L ($ 215)
The Locker Pack Lux is the most spacious version of the Quick Pack Lux, with an extra 6L volume to pack your gear. It’s designed more for those nights or two-day trips and yet it doesn’t really add much in terms of bulk if you’re looking for something that can flexibly serve both the day and the weekend.
The Locker Pack Lux has the same combination of materials as the Quick Pack, but is slightly longer and is probably more suitable for taller people. It still offers a very slim profile and has the same internal structural components which mean it will hold its shape, but it also has a bit more headroom for expansion, allowing it to pack a surprising amount of stuff via the front load, double stowage zipper and packing flap.
Unlike the Quick Pack Lux, you also have external access to the laptop compartment in the Locker Pack, giving you an easy way to get up to a 15-inch laptop. The top flap with leather details also closes over this compartment to give you some protection from the elements in light showers (RYU also sells a dedicated rain hood separately).
15L Express Package ($ 90)
The Express Pack is the smallest of these RYU backpacks in terms of packing volume, but it’s also probably the best option when it comes to a complete urban backpack that will fit you regardless of height and frame. The extremely minimal aesthetic is great for the city, especially with the polyurethane outer shell that wraps around a middle canvas layer for the body of the bag.
This is a very lightweight bag, but the internal pocket can actually fit a lot of things when needed, and there is a single woven pocket on one side of the outside to store a water bottle. This adds an asymmetrical look that is also quite attractive. Inside, there’s a zippered mesh block and zippered front pocket to separate your sweaty gym gear, plus a laptop compartment that can easily fit in a full 15-inch MacBook Pro.
The bag is comfortable to carry, but it does not have the internal structure of the other two, so if it is empty it will hug much closer to the body. If there’s one thing I’d change about that, it’s the RYU branding, but it actually looks inconspicuous in less direct lighting, and is generally more subtle than it does here.
Overall, RYU’s line of bags is impressive and offers something for everyone. The Vancouver-based company has done a great job of offering highly functional designs that also deliver great style with virtually universal appeal. The company also offers non-Lux versions of both the Quick Pack and Locker Pack, which drop the leather accents and embedded waxed canvas, but also offer some decent discounts if the above prices seem too high for you.